The Old Sea and the Men

The fish was a king. A king fish, that is. And if we were to figure the day’s catch by the price we paid for a half-day’s outing on the “Obsession II,” the 33-foot fishing boat captained by a man named Brent, it would be hefty amount per pound.

But let’s not think that way. Let’s not dwell on the skunking of our luck… the salao of Hemingway’s fishing tale.

Let’s not worry too much about the swelling seas and the pitch and yaw of the boat.

Forget the three of us who succumbed to sea sickness (and the one who spent most of the five hours bent over the side of the boat, yawning breakfast and all the other contents of his insides into the waves).

Let’s not fall into cliché and lament the one that got away, holding our arms out as wide as they’ll go.

No. Let us, rather, celebrate this fish.

The sole catch.

This silver fellow with the sleek three-foot body. The one we took turns posing for photos with. The one that fed us well on Monday night, whose dark green flesh turned flaky white on the grill.

And let us be grateful that we don’t do this for a living:

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. In the first forty days a boy had been with him. But after forty days without a fish the boy’s parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky, and the boy had gone at their orders in another boat which caught three good fish the first week. It made the boy sad to see the old man come in each day with his skiff empty and he always went down to help him carry either the coiled lines or the gaff and harpoon and the sail that was furled around the mast. The sail was patched with flour sacks and, furled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat.

From: The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway, 1951


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