Photo illustration by Ben Giles
That year we had planned to fish for marlin off the Cuban coast for a month. The month started the tenth of April and by the tenth of May we had twenty-five marlin and the charter was over. The thing to have done then would have been to buy some presents to take back to Key West and fill the Anita with just a little more expensive Cuban gas than was necessary to run across, get cleared, and go home. But the big fish had not started to run.
“Do you want to try her another month, Cap?” Mr. Josie asked. He owned the Anita and was chartering her for ten dollars a day. The standard charter price then was thirty-five a day. “If you want to stay, I can cut her to nine dollars.”
“Where would we get the nine dollars?”
“You pay me when you get it. You got good credit with the Standard Oil Company at Belot across the bay, and when we get the bill I can pay them from last month’s charter money. If we get bad weather, you can write something.”
“All right,” I said, and we fished another month. We had forty-two marlin by then and still the big ones had not come. There was a dark, heavy stream close in to the Morro—sometimes there would be acres of bait—and there were flying fish going out from under the bows and birds working all the time. But we had not raised one of the huge marlin, although we were catching, or losing, white marlin each day and on one day I caught five.
We were very popular along the waterfront because we butchered all our fish and gave them away, and when we came in past the Morro Castle and up the channel toward the San Francisco piers with a marlin flag up we could see the crowd starting to run for the docks. The fish was worth from eight to twelve cents a pound that year to a fisherman and twice that in the market. The day we came in with five flags, the police had to charge the crowd with clubs. It was ugly and bad. But that was an ugly and bad year ashore.
“The goddam police running off our regular clients and getting all the fish,” Mr. Josie said. “To hell with you,” he told a policeman who was reaching down for a ten-pound piece of marlin. “I never saw your ugly face before. What’s your name?”
The policeman gave him his name.
“Is he in the compromiso book, Cap?”
The compromiso book was where we wrote down the names of the people to whom we had promised fish.
“Write him down in the compromiso book for next week for a small piece, Cap,” Mr. Josie said. “Now, policeman, you go the hell away from here and club somebody who isn’t a friend of ours. I seen enough damn police in my life. Go on. Take the club and the pistol both and get off the dock unless you’re a dock police.”
Finally, the fish was all butchered and apportioned out according to the book and the book was full of promises for next week.
“You go on up to the Ambos Mundos and get washed up, Cap. Take a shower and I’ll meet you there. Then we can go to the Floridita and talk things over. That policeman got on my nerves.”
“You come on up and take a shower, too.”
“No. I can clean up good here. I didn’t sweat like you did today.”
So I walked up the cobbled street that was a shortcut to the Ambos Mundos Hotel and checked if I had any mail at the desk and then rode up in the elevator to the top floor. My room was on the northeast corner and the trade wind blew through the windows and made it cool. I looked out the window at the roofs of the old part of town and across at the harbor and watched the Orizaba go out slowly down the harbor with all her lights on. I was tired from working so many fish and I felt like going to bed. But I knew that if I lay down I might go to sleep, so I sat on the bed and looked out the window and watched the bats hunting and then, finally, I undressed and took a shower and got into some fresh clothes and went downstairs. Mr. Josie was waiting in the doorway of the hotel.
“You must be tired, Ernest,” he said.
“No,” I lied.
“I’m tired,” he said. “Just from watching you pull on fish. That’s only two under our all-time record. Seven and the eye of an eighth.” Neither Mr. Josie nor I liked to think of the eye of the eighth fish, but we always stated the record in this way.
We were walking up the narrow sidewalk on Obispo Street and Mr. Josie was looking at all the lighted windows of the shops. He never bought anything until it was time to go home. But he liked to look at everything there was for sale. We passed the last two stores and the lottery-ticket office and pushed open the swinging door of the old Floridita.
“You better sit down, Cap,” Mr. Josie said.
“No. I feel better standing up at the bar.”
“Beer,” said Mr. Josie. “German beer. What you drinking, Cap?”
“Frozen daiquiri without sugar.”
Constante made the daiquiri and left enough in the shaker for two more. I was waiting for Mr. Josie to bring up the subject. He brought it up as soon as his beer came.
“Carlos says they’ve got to come in this next month,” he said. Carlos was our Cuban mate and a great commercial marlin fisherman. “He says he never saw such a current and when they come they’ll be something like we never seen. He says they’ve got to come.”
“He told me, too.”
“If you want to try another month, Cap, I can make her eight dollars a day and I can cook, instead of us wasting money on sandwiches. We can run into the cove for lunch and I’ll cook in there. We’re getting those wavy-striped bonito all the time. They’re as good as little tuna. Carlos says he can pick us up stuff cheap in the market when he goes for bait. Then we can eat supper nights in the Perla of San Francisco restaurant. I ate there good last night for thirty-five cents.”
“I didn’t eat last night and saved money.”
“You got to eat, Cap. That’s maybe why you’re a little tired today.”
“I know it. But are you sure you want to try another month?”
“She don’t have to be hauled out for another month. Why should we leave it when the big ones are coming?”
“You have anything you’d rather do?”
“Do you think they’ll really come?”
“Carlos says they’ve got to come.”
“Then suppose we hook one and we can’t handle him on this tackle we have.”
“We’ve got to handle him. You can stay with him forever if you eat good. And we’re going to eat good. Then I’ve been thinking about something else.”
“If you go to bed early and don’t have any social life, you can wake up at daylight and start to write and you can get a day’s work done by eight o’clock. Carlos and I’ll have everything ready to go and you just step on board.”
“O.K.,” I said. “No social life.”
“That social life is what wears you out, Cap. But I don’t mean none at all. Just take it on Saturday nights.”
“Fine,” I said. “Social life on Saturday nights only. Now, what would you suggest I write?”
“That’s up to you, Cap. I don’t want to interfere with that. You always did good when you worked.”
“What would you like to read?”
“Why don’t you write good short stories about Europe or out West or when you were on the bum or war or that sort of thing? Why don’t you write one about just things that you and I know? Write one about what the Anita’s seen. You could put in enough social life to make it appeal to everybody.”
“I’m laying off social life.”
“Sure, Cap. But you got plenty to remember. Laying off won’t harm you now.”
“No,” I said. “Thank you very much, Mr. Josie. I’ll start working in the morning.”
“What I think we ought to do before we start on the new system is for you to eat a big rare steak tonight so you’ll be strong tomorrow and wake up wanting to work and fit to fish. Carlos says the big ones can come any day now. Cap, you got to be at your best for them.”
“Do you think one more of these would do me any harm?”
“Hell no, Cap. All they got in them is rum and a little lime juice and maraschino. That isn’t going to hurt a man.”
Just then two girls we knew came into the bar. They were very nice-looking girls and they were fresh for the evening.
“The fishermen,” one said in Spanish.
“The two big healthy fishermen in from the sea,” the other girl said.
“N.S.L.,” Mr. Josie said to me.
“No social life,” I confirmed.
“You have secrets?” one of the girls asked. She was an awfully nice-looking girl and in her profile you could not see the slight imperfection where some early friend’s right hand had marred the purity of the line of her rather beautiful nose.
“The Cap and I are talking business,” Mr. Josie said to the two girls, and they went down to the far end of the bar. “You see how easy it is?” Mr. Josie asked. “I’ll handle the social end and all you have to do is get up in the mornings early and write and be in shape to fish. Big fish. The kind that can run over a thousand pounds.”
“Why don’t we trade,” I said. “I’ll handle the social end and you get up early in the mornings and write and keep yourself in shape to fish big fish that can run over a thousand pounds.”
“I’d be glad to, Cap,” Mr. Josie said seriously. “But you’re the one of us two that can write. And you’re younger than me and better suited to handle the fish. I’m putting in the boat at just what I figure is the depreciation on the engine, running her the way I do.”
“I know it,” I said. “I’ll try to write well, too.”
“I want to keep proud of you,” Mr. Josie said. “And I want us to catch the biggest goddam marlin that ever swam in the ocean and weigh him honest and cut him up and give him away to the poor people we know and not one piece to any damn clubbing police in the country.”
“We’ll do it.”
Just then one of the girls waved to us from the far end of the bar. It was a slow night and there was no one but us in the place.
“N.S.L.,” Mr. Josie said.
“N.S.L.,” I repeated ritually.
“Constante,” Mr. Josie said. “Ernesto here wants a waiter. We’re going to order a couple of big rare steaks.”
Constante smiled and raised his finger for a waiter.
As we passed the girls to go into the dining room, one of them put out her hand and I shook it and whispered solemnly in Spanish, “N.S.L.”
“My God,” the other girl said. “They’re in politics and in a year like this.” They were impressed and a little frightened.
In the morning, when the first daylight from across the bay woke me I got up and started to write a short story that I hoped Mr. Josie would like. It had the Anita in it and the waterfront and the things we knew that had happened and I tried to get into it the feeling of the sea and the things we saw and smelled and heard and felt each day. I worked on the story every morning and we fished each day and caught good fish. I trained hard and found all the fish while standing, instead of sitting in a chair. And still the big fish had not come.
One day we saw one towing a commercial fisherman’s dinghy, with the dinghy down by the bows and the marlin making splashes as a speedboat would each time he jumped. That one broke off. Another day, in a rain squall, we saw four men trying to hoist one, wide and deep and dark purple, into a skiff. That marlin dressed out five hundred pounds and I saw the huge steaks cut from him on the marble slab in the old market.
Then, on a sunny day, with a heavy dark stream, the water so clear and in so close that you could see the shoals in the mouth of the harbor ten fathoms deep, we hit our first big fish just outside the Morro. In those days there were no outriggers and no rod holders and I was just letting out a light rig, hoping to pick up a kingfish in the channel, when this fish hit. He came out in a surge and his bill looked like a sawed-off billiard cue. Behind it his head showed huge and he looked as wide as a dinghy. Then he passed us in a rush, with the line cutting parallel to the boat and the reel emptying so fast that it was hot to the touch. There were four hundred yards of fifteen-thread line on the reel and half of it was gone by the time I got into the bow of the Anita.
I got there by holding on to handholds we had built into the top of the house. We had practiced this run and the scramble over the forward deck to where you could brace against the stem of the boat with your feet. But we had never practiced it with a fish that passed you like a subway express when you are at a local station, and with one arm holding the rod, which was bucking and digging into the butt rest, and the other hand and both bare feet braking on the deck as the fish hauled you forward.
“Hook her up, Josie!” I yelled. “He’s taking all of it.”
“She’s hooked up, Cap. There he goes.”
By now I had one foot braced against the stem of the Anita and the other leg against the starboard anchor. Carlos was holding me around the waist and ahead of us the fish was jumping. He looked as big around as a wine barrel when he jumped. He was silver in the bright sun and I could see the broad purple stripes down his sides. Each time he jumped he made a splash like a horse falling off a cliff and he jumped and jumped and jumped. The reel was too hot to hold and the core of line on it was getting thinner and thinner in spite of the Anita going full speed after the fish.
“Can you get any more out of her?” I called to Mr. Josie.
“Not in this world,” he said. “What you got left?”
“He’s big,” Carlos said. “He’s the biggest marlin I’ve ever seen. If he’ll only stop. If he’ll only go down. Then we’ll run up on him and get line.”
The fish made his first run from just off the Morro Castle to opposite the National Hotel. That is about the way we went. Then, with less than twenty yards of line on the reel, he stopped and we ran up on him, recovering line all the time. I remember that there was a Grace Line ship ahead of us with the black pilot boat going out to her and I was worried that we might be on her course as she came in. Then I remember watching her while I reeled and then working my way back to the stern and watching the ship pick up her speed. She was coming in well outside of us and the pilot boat would not foul us, either.
Now I was in the chair and the fish was straight up and down and we had a third of the line on the reel. Carlos had poured seawater on the reel to cool it and he poured a bucket of water over my head and shoulders.
“How are you doing, Cap?” Mr. Josie asked.
“You didn’t hurt yourself up in the bow?”
“Did you ever think there was a fish like that?”
“Grande. Grande,” Carlos kept saying. He was trembling like a bird dog, a good bird dog. “I’ve never seen such a fish. Never. Never. Never.”
We did not see him again for an hour and twenty minutes. The current was very strong and it had carried us down to opposite Cojímar, which was about six miles from where the fish first sounded. I was tired but my hands and feet were in good shape and I was getting line on him now quite steadily, being careful never to pull harshly or to jerk. I could move him now. It wasn’t easy. But it was possible if you kept the line just this side of the breaking point.
“He’s going to come up,” Carlos said. “Sometimes the great ones do that and you can gaff them while they are still innocent.”
“Why does he come up now?” I asked.
“He’s puzzled,” Carlos said. “And you’re leading him. He doesn’t know what it is about.”
“Don’t ever let him find out,” I said.
“He’ll weigh over nine hundred dressed out,” Carlos said.
“Keep your mouth off of him,” Mr. Josie said. “You don’t want to work him any different, Cap?”
When we saw him we knew how really big he was. You couldn’t say it was frightening. But it was awesome. We saw him slow and quiet and almost unmoving in the water with his great pectoral fins like two long purple scythe blades. Then he saw the boat and the line started to race off the reel as though we were hooked to a motorcar, and he started jumping out to the northwest with the water pouring from him at each jump.
I had to go into the bow again and we chased him until he sounded. This time he went down almost opposite the Morro. Then I worked my way back to the stern again.
“Do you want a drink, Cap?” Mr. Josie asked.
“No,” I said. “Get Carlos to put some oil in the reel and not spill it and put some more salt water on me.”
“Can’t I get you anything really, Cap?”
“Two hands and a new back,” I said. “The son of a bitch is as fresh as he was at the start.”
The next time we saw him was an hour and a half later, well past Cojímar, and he jumped and ran again and I had to go into the bow while we chased him.
When I got back to the stern and could sit down again, Mr. Josie said, “How is he, Cap?”
“He’s just the same as always. But the temper is starting to go out of the rod.”
The rod was bent like a full-drawn bow. But now, when I lifted, it did not straighten as it should.
“She’s still got some left,” Mr. Josie said. “You can stick with him forever, Cap. You want some more water on your head?”
“Not yet,” I said. “I’m worried about the rod. His weight has just taken the temper out.”
An hour later the fish was coming in steadily and well and he was making big slow circles.
“He’s tired,” Carlos said. “He’s going to come in easy now. The jumping has filled up his air sacs and he can’t go deep.”
“The rod’s gone,” I said. “She won’t straighten at all now.”
It was true. The rod’s tip now touched the surface of the water and when you lifted to raise the fish and to reel to take up line the rod did not react. It was not a rod anymore. It was like a projection of the line. It was still possible to gain a few inches of line each time you lifted. But that was all.
The fish was moving in slow circles and as he moved on the outgoing half of the circle he took line off the reel. On the incoming circle you gained it back. But with the temper gone out of the rod you could not punish him and you had no command over him at all.
“It’s bad, Cap,” I said to Mr. Josie. We called each other Cap interchangeably. “If he decided to go down now to die we’d never get him up.”
“Carlos says he’s coming up. He says he caught so much air jumping he can’t go deep and die. He says that this is the way the big ones always act at the end when they’ve jumped a lot. I counted him jumping thirty-six times and maybe I missed some.”
This was one of the longest speeches I had ever heard Mr. Josie make and I was impressed. Just then the big fish started down and down and down. I was braking with both hands on the drum of the reel and keeping the line almost at breaking point and feeling the metal of the reel drum revolve in slow jerks under my fingers.
“How’s the time?” I asked Mr. Josie.
“You’ve been with him three hours and fifty minutes.”
“I thought you said he couldn’t go down and die,” I said to Carlos.
“Hemingway, he has to come up. I know he has to come up.”
“Tell him so,” I said.
“Get him some water, Carlos,” Mr. Josie said. “Don’t talk, Cap.”
The ice water felt good and I spat it out onto my wrists and told Carlos to pour the rest of the glass on the back of my neck. Sweat salted the places on my shoulders where the harness had rubbed them bare but it was so hot in the sun that there was no warm feeling from the blood. It was a July day and the sun was at noon.
“Put some more salt water on his head,” Mr. Josie said. “With a sponge.”
Just then the fish stopped taking out line. He hung steady for a time, feeling as solid as though I were hooked to a concrete pier, and then slowly he started up. I recovered the line, reeling with the wrist alone, as there was no spring in the rod at all and it was as limp as a weeping willow.
When the fish was about a fathom under the surface, so that we could see him looking like a long purple-striped canoe with two great jutting wings, he started to circle slowly. I held all the tension I could on him, to try to shorten the circle. I was holding up to that absolute hardness that indicates the breaking strength of the line when the rod let go. It did not break sharply or suddenly. It just collapsed.
“Cut thirty fathoms of line off the big rig,” I said to Carlos. “I’ll hold him on the circles and when he’s coming in we can get enough line to make this line fast to the big line and I’ll change rods.”
There was no question anymore of catching the fish as a world’s record or any other sort of record, since the rod was broken. But he was a whipped fish now and on the heavy gear we should get him. The only problem was that the big rod was too stiff for the fifteen-thread line. That was my problem and I would have to work it out.
Carlos was stripping white thirty-six-thread line off the big Hardy reel, measuring it with his arms extended as he pulled it out through the guides of the rod and dropped it on the deck. I held the fish all that I could with the useless rod and saw Carlos cut the white line and pull a long length of it through the guides.
“All right, Cap,” I said to Mr. Josie. “You take this line now when he comes in on his circle and take in enough so Carlos can make the two lines fast. Just take it in soft and easy.”
The fish came in steadily as he rounded on his circle and Mr. Josie brought the line in foot by foot and passed it to Carlos, who was knotting it to the white line.
“He’s got them tied,” Mr. Josie said. He still had about a yard of the green fifteen-thread line to spare and was holding the live line in his fingers as the fish came to the inside limit of his circle. I broke my hands loose from the small rod, laid it down, and took the big rod that Carlos handed me.
“Cut away when you are ready,” I said to Carlos. To Mr. Josie I said, “Let your slack out soft and easy, Cap, and I’ll use a light, light drag until we get the feel of it.”
I was watching the green line and the great fish when Carlos cut. Then I heard a cry such as I have never heard a sane human being make. It was as though you could distill all despair and make it into a sound. Then I saw the green line slowly going through Mr. Josie’s fingers and then watched it go on down, down, and out of sight. Carlos had cut the wrong loop of the knots he had made. The fish was out of sight.
“Cap,” Mr. Josie said. He did not look very well. Then he looked at his watch. “Four hours and twenty-two minutes,” he said.
Iwent down to see Carlos. He had been vomiting in the head and I told him not to feel bad, that it could happen to anyone. His brown face was all tied up and he was talking in a low strange voice so I could hardly hear him.
“All my life fishing and I never saw such a fish and I did that. I’ve ruined your life and my life.”
“Hell,” I told him. “You mustn’t talk nonsense like that. We’ll catch plenty of bigger fish.” But we never did.
Mr. Josie and I sat in the stern and let the Anita drift. It was a lovely day on the Gulf, with only a light breeze, and we looked at the shoreline with the small mountains showing behind it. Mr. Josie was putting Mercurochrome on my shoulders and on my hands, where they had stuck to the rod, and on the soles of my bare feet, where the skin was chafed through. Then he mixed two whiskey sours.
“How’s Carlos?” I asked.
“He’s pretty broke up. He’s just crouching down there.”
“I told him not to blame himself.”
“Sure. But he’s down there blaming himself.”
“How do you like the big ones now?” I asked.
“It’s all I ever want to do,” Mr. Josie said.
“Did I handle her all right for you, Cap?”
“No. Tell me true.”
“The charter’s supposed to be up today. Now I’ll fish for nothing, if you want.”
“I’d rather it was that way. Do you remember him going up toward the National Hotel like nothing in the world?”
“I remember everything about him.”
“Have you been writing good, Cap? It isn’t too hard doing it in the early mornings?”
“I’ve been writing as good as I can.”
“You keep it up and everybody is all right for always.”
“I may lay off it tomorrow morning.”
“My back’s bad.”
“Your head’s all right, isn’t it? You don’t write with your back.”
“My hands will be sore.”
“Hell, you can hold a pencil. You’ll find in the morning you’ll probably feel like it.”
Strangely enough I did and I worked well and we were out of the harbor at eight o’clock and it was another perfect day, with just a light breeze and the current close to the Morro Castle, as it had been the day before. On that day we didn’t put out any light rig when we hit the clear water. We had done that once too often. I slacked out a big cero mackerel, which weighed about four pounds, from the one really big outfit we had. It was the heavy Hardy rod and the reel with the white thirty-six-thread line. Carlos had spliced back on the thirty fathoms of line he had taken off the day before and the five-inch reel was full. The only trouble was that the rod was too stiff. In big-game fishing a rod that is too stiff kills the angler, while a rod that bends properly kills the fish.
Carlos spoke only when spoken to and he was still in his sorrow. I could not afford my sorrow because I ached too much and Mr. Josie was never much of a man for sorrow.
“All he’s been doing all morning is shaking his goddam head,” he said. “He’s not going to bring any fish back that way.”
“How do you feel, Cap?” I asked.
“I feel good,” Mr. Josie said. “I went uptown last night and sat and listened to that all-girl orchestra on the square and drank a few bottles of beer and then I went to Donovan’s. There was hell in there.”
“What kind of hell?”
“No-good hell. Bad. Cap, I’m glad you weren’t along.”
“Tell me about it,” I said, holding the rod well out to the side and high so that the big mackerel skipped at the edge of the wake. Carlos had turned the Anita to follow the edge of the stream along past the fortress of Cabañas. The white cylinder of the teaser was jumping and darting in the wake and Mr. Josie had settled in his chair and was slacking out another big mackerel bait on his side of the stern.
“In Donovan’s there was a man claimed he was a captain in the secret police. He said he liked my face and he said he’d kill any man in the place for me as a present. I tried to quiet him down. But he said he liked me and he wanted to kill somebody to prove it. He was one of those special Machado police. Those clubbing police.”
“I know them.”
“I guess you do, Cap. Anyway, I’m glad you weren’t there.”
“What did he do?”
“He kept wanting to kill somebody to show how much he liked me and I kept telling him it wasn’t necessary and to just have a drink and forget about it. So he would quiet down a little and then he would want to kill somebody again.”
“He must have been a nice fellow.”
“Cap, he was worthless. I tried to tell him about the fish so as to take his mind off it. But he said, ‘Shit on your fish. You never had any fish. See?’ So I said, ‘O.K., shit on the fish. Let’s settle for that and you and me both go home.’ ‘Go home hell!’ he says. ‘I’m going to kill somebody for you as a present and shit on the fish. There wasn’t any fish. You got that straight?’ So then I said good night to him, Cap, and I gave my money to Donovan and this policeman knocks it off the bar onto the floor and puts his foot on it. ‘Like hell you’re going home,’ he said. ‘You’re my friend and you’re going to stay here.’ So I said good night to him and I said to Donovan, ‘Donovan, I’m sorry your money’s on the floor.’ I didn’t know what this policeman would try to do and I didn’t care. I was going home. So as soon as I start for home this policeman hauls out his gun and starts to pistol-whip a poor damn Gallego who was in there drinking a beer and who’d never opened his mouth all night. Nobody did anything to the policeman. I didn’t, either. I’m ashamed, Cap.”
“It isn’t going to last much longer now,” I said.
“I know it. Because it can’t. But what I didn’t like the most was that policeman saying he liked my face. What the hell kind of face have I got, Cap, that a policeman like that would say he liked it?”
I liked Mr. Josie’s face very much, too. I liked it more than the face of almost anybody I knew. It had taken me a long time to appreciate it because it was a face that had not been sculptured for a quick or facile success. It had been formed at sea, on the profitable side of bars, playing cards with other gamblers, and by enterprises of great risk conceived and undertaken with cold and exact intelligence. No part of the face was handsome except the eyes, which were a lighter and stranger blue than the Mediterranean is on its brightest and clearest day. The eyes were wonderful and the face certainly not beautiful and now it looked like blistered leather.
“You have a good face, Cap,” I said. “Probably the only good thing about that son of a bitch was that he could see it.”
“Well, I’m going to stay out of joints now until this business is over,” Mr. Josie said. “Sitting there on the square with the all-girl orchestra and that girl who sings, it was fine and wonderful. How do you really feel, Cap?”
“I feel pretty bad,” I said.
“It didn’t hurt you in the gut? I was worried always when you were in the bow.”
“No,” I said. “It’s in the roots of the back.”
“The hands and feet don’t amount to anything and I bandaged up the harness,” Mr. Josie said. “It won’t chafe as bad. Did you really work O.K., Cap?”
“Sure,” I said. “It’s a hell of a habit to get into and it’s just about as hard to get out.”
“I know a habit is a bad thing,” Mr. Josie said. “And work probably kills more people than any other habit. But with you when you do it then you don’t give a damn about anything else.”
I looked at the shore and we were off a lime kiln, close to the beach where the water was very deep and the Gulf Stream made it almost to shore. There was a little smoke coming up from the kiln and I could see the dust of a truck moving along the rock road on the shore. Some birds were working over a patch of bait. Then I heard Carlos shout, “Marlin! Marlin!”
We all saw him at the same time. He was very dark in the water and, as I watched, his bill came out of the water behind the big mackerel. It was an ugly bill, round and thick and short, and the fish behind it bulked under the surface.
“Let him have it!” Carlos yelled. “He’s got it in his mouth.”
Mr. Josie was reeling his bait in and I was waiting for the tension that would mean that the marlin had really taken the mackerel. ♦
Published in the print edition of the June 8 & 15, 2020, issue.