The Old Man and the Scene, Part 2

May 2, 2009

SPOILER ALERT!  (I always wanted to say that.)  This is a continuation of the last post, or rather, the one above it.  Read this if you really don’t have the time to read the book itself.  I do it justice, as much as anyone can do some justice to a great read such as this.

The great fish pulls the boat across the sea, swims in circles deep and out of sight, and flings himself in the air for one perfect moment.  All the while, the old man waits for the magnificent creature to tire and make a mistake.  He waits, awake the whole night with the line cutting into his hands.  He waits, eating bait fish to keep himself strong.  He waits, thinking aloud and talking to himself.

It is the most passive, and the most compassionate, killing I’ve ever read.  He pities that the beautiful fish must die, but knows that it will happen nonetheless, because he is a fisherman and this kill is part of his destiny.

At long last he harpoons it through the head, and the scene relaxes like the book has let out a long-held breath.

But as he sails home, one shark after another follows the blood and eats it away.  By night there is nothing left but the spine and bits of its once-shimmering turquoise tail.  He comes home to his shack, sleeps awhile, and wakes up to see the boy waiting for him.  A tourist comes and finds the fish’s backbone.  It’s 18 feet long.

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