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The bald man and the sea

by shandypockets 

Posted: 14 October 2005
Word Count: 991
Summary: Veligandu Island, The Maldives
Related Works: Never Mind the Quantocks • 

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There are some times in a man’s life when he has to kill to survive, It’s the primal hunter-gathering gene, the reliance on the instinctive, steely-eyed will to track down your prey, knowing that failure to do so means a night going hungry, the shame-faced return to the tribal elders empty handed, your evolutionary arsenal obviously about as effective as an amoeba armed with a paperclip.

And so it was with the Veligandu Island Resort ‘Cook What You Catch’ nightfishing trip. For the winners, feast; for the losers, famine, or at least banishment to the all-you-can-eat buffet, which, having seen the mutton curry, was much the same in terms of punishment.

As dusk approached, our trusty vessel left port, our only connection to the shore being a promise to return and a selection of state of the art mobile telephones.

Our crew were a gnarly, grizzled bunch, schooled by the cruelties of the ocean as well as several years fixing fruit cocktails in the food and beverages department.

As we sailed out into the unforgiving waters, there was a sense of anxiety. Even at the halfway point of our arduous journey, the meagre supplies we had packed were running low. Drinking water had been consumed too quickly, and I was forced to find sustenance in a lightly-chilled bottle of Corona. It was not quite the perfect serving temperature. These are the sacrifices and physical hardships that must be endured by the fearless explorer.

The shadows were lengthening as our skipper cut the engine, we thought perhaps some tweak of the current or aquatic sixth sense was telling him that we were poised above a fertile hunting ground, though it might also have been that he just wanted to go for a cigarette.

The crew scurried around, a sudden blur of activity as lines, weights, hooks and bait were fixed up and presented to us. We each of us had many questions running through our minds as we prepared to track down our quarry: What would the hunt bring? Which particular fish might prove to be our piscine nemeses? What the hell were we actually supposed to do with our equipment?

Interestingly, the bait was sliced pieces of tuna. The strange thing about fishing is that you have to use fish to catch fish. Sort of a watery honey trap. Except that the lure is a crudely sliced up member of their own species as opposed to an irresistible member of the opposite sex and they want to indiscriminately eat it and not have sex with it in exchange for classified information. But apart from that, virtually identical.

The night was drawing in quickly as the crew tied our lines to posts and threw them into the water. We skilfully sat down next to our lines and deftly waited for something to happen. There was a sense of foreboding – a mixture of the encroaching darkness, the inevitable battles ahead and the thought that we had no idea whatsoever to do if anything actually happened.

Silence prevailed, the boat creakily swaying in the slight breeze. I fixed my stare on the surface of the water, my fingers finely attuned to any slight movement on the line, my mind focussed on what might be happening all those feet below the surface and whether or not the remaining beer might have cooled to a more satisfactory temperature.

Across the bough of the ship, my fellow anglers were already enjoying some success, obviously some kind of fluke upshot of intercepting the fish that were being drawn to my expertly-dangled meaty bait. A couple of admittedly acceptable barracuda had been reeled in, and were enjoying the honourable death of the hunted, one to which all of us can only aspire: flapping around in an old bucket.

I couldn’t allow myself to be distracted, though. I had to focus on the beast I knew to be lurking in the brackish depths. There was a barely perceptible stirring, to which only the true fisherman would be receptive – luckily, one of them came over and pointed it out.

From that moment, sheer primal instinct kicked in. Faced with such insistent tugging, there’s little you can do but submit yourself to its inescapably foamy conclusion.
I had my enemy on the hook. It was now a raw pitch battle between two adversaries, alone with only their wits to fall back on. The monstrous fish with its basic instinct for survival, and me with only my wiles, my cunning, my bare hands and my three or four back up crew to help with the actual reeling in.

The fight was a journey, with both sides fighting for advantage and each losing and gaining the upper hand as fatigue, the endless thrashing of the waves and the need to reach for a bottle opener kicked in.

Finally, though, the head of the behemoth could be seen under the spew of the tropical brine. The battle won, I stepped back and let the crew take over the formality of wrestling the great beast onto the deck. Though to the casual observer it may well have looked like I was balking at having to witness the untimely demise of a docile animal a tenth of my size, as seasoned seamen will know, I was simply moving away to allow the fish some final dignity. I did not want to gloat in victory, to be arrogant in triumph, or to be sick into the bucket.

As the giant Red Snapper lay on the deck and gave up its life, the prize was handed to me, and I held the line aloft at arm’s length, a mixture of respect and not wanting to get dead fish goo on my t-shirt. All was well with the world: the mighty sea serpent had been tamed, the group would eat tonight and we would make it back to shore in time for half price cocktails at the bar.

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Comments by other Members

Cornelia at 18:31 on 15 October 2005  Report this post
I think this could be quite a good story - I was keen to see what would happen next- but the humour got in the way a bit. I don't mean I was expecting Moby Dick, but the relentless cynicism is a bit, well, relentless. Maybe it could be toned down? Maybe it's me. I'm in Denmark, so feeling a bit dour, especially as I can't find the ampersand on the keyboard.



PS Loved the title!

Richard Brown at 09:09 on 18 October 2005  Report this post
It's a grey autumn Tuesday morning here in the UK and this fishy tale cheered my environment considerably. I liked the self-deprecatory touch and the mild mocking of the 'man v.nature' billing of the angling excursion. Maybe a touch over-written in places but this is such a matter of mood and personal taste I find.

Just one niggle. Should not 'pitch' be 'pitched' in relation to 'battle'. I may be wrong but 'pitch battle' makes me think of
fighting footballers and helpless referees whereas 'pitched' evokes soldiers with viciously pointed stakes angled into the ground.


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