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The Ships of Minos

Joe Alex

Ida, Mountain of Our Forefathers, Be Kind to Me

As recently as yesterday, the immortal gods, whose mighty hands grip tightly the veil of the future, refused to reveal to him what events would follow. He had sheltered the night in a desolate shepherd hut in the mountains at the foot of Mount Ida. His mother had sent him to search for herbs at midnight. Some of them bloomed for no longer than a few days and, when properly dried, were used to preserve gutted fish. It was evening when he reached home and entered. His mother was standing in front of the kitchen fire. His father, seated upon some goat skins, slowly lifted his head.

“I am home, mother, and I have brought with me enough herbs for a whole year!”

His mother smiled and nodded but suddenly turned away her saddened face.

His father stood up, lifted the herbs, scrutinized them in the flickering light of the fire, and placed them on a shelf by the wall.

“Did you pick them by night?” his words chimed with natural tranquility, yet Whitehair knew that something was amiss. He looked around the room. Everything was in its place: the goat-skins, the crocks, the table, the bench, and the statuette of Great Mother overlooking the doorway.

“Yes, father.”

“Have you paid homage to Her?”

“Yes, father.”

“By moonlight?”

“Yes, father. The king must have commanded the horses to be driven up north, for as I looked down from the mountain, I caught no sight of them, neither today nor yesterday.”

“The early months of summer bring taller grasses to the regions of the north,” said his father. “The beauty of Trojan horses cannot be equaled. Only the most luscious grasses will do for them.”

Silence fell. His mother indicated the table and placed a crock upon it. He was about to sit down when his father added calmly:


“Yes, they cannot be equaled. The royal herald rode in today on a white stallion. I would give many riches for such a horse—if I had any riches.”

“The royal herald, father?”

These were his only words, for he knew it was wrong to question one’s father or mother.

“Yes. The king wants to build a new wall around the city, or perhaps he intends to make the present one higher. He will need many helpers. Work might last a month, but I tell you that I might as easily not return until winter. You will remain here with your mother.”

“Yes, father.” Whitehair sat down and looked at the food, for he was hungry.

Later on, he lay alone at night and listened to the steady breathing of his parents. They were without winter supplies, and if his father departed, he would be forced to go fishing each day, for it was necessary to dry enough fish to satisfy the royal tribute before they could even lay anything by. Never before had he fished alone. His father was yet to take him to the old man on top of the precipice where a cavern led towards a subterranean lake linked to the sea. It was the place where Poseidon retired whilst roaming his domain, and the old man served as his priest. At the time of initiation, the son of each fisherman entered this cavern and bathed his hands in the water of the lake. At times Poseidon revealed himself to the visitor, and perhaps other strange events took place, but Whitehair could only surmise, for never did the initiated speak of what befell them in the depths of the cavern. The tiring journey from the mountains and the fatigue which now filled his body suddenly overwhelmed his mind. He could hardly believe that his father was really going to lead him to the old man after he returned from Troy.

He was roused by the hushed voices of his parents. Opening his eyes, he saw his mother tying a knot in a white cloth bundle while his father, sitting upon a bench, was rubbing oil into his sandal-straps. And presently, his father departed.

Whitehair strained his eyes. A thread of walls and tiny towers running down a distant hillside loomed out of the morning mist. The day was going to be hot, too hot. He looked into the cloudless heavens and, in his mind, repeated what his father had said: “Now, my son, you may. This is the day you have been waiting for, the day on which you shall go fishing on your own. But remember, always keep near the shore. If the heavens grow dark and threatening, waste no time and turn back.”

He turned and walked along the winding path which ran between the rocks. From afar, behind the boulder beyond which the hut of his parents stood, he could hear the familiar, muffled, grinding sound of the quern and his mother’s soft humming. The tune was always the same: a moiety of lament and laudation: an invocation to Great Mother, the Guardian of life on earth: the Song of the quern. He entered. The quern fell silent, and his mother lifted her eyes.

“Did he let you?” she asked calmly.

Approaching, he took hold of the quern-staff and rotated it softly upon its axis. Once more, the stone began to rattle, and once more, it fell silent.

“You knew I would ask him?”

“Fourteen years have passed since the gods granted you life and filled me with the joy of you. After four and ten winters, your father went fishing on his own, just like his father and mine had done. Yet I thought in my heart that he would send you out alone only after his return. Once the winter is over, you will go with him to the old man in the cavern and there become a man. You are sensible and have some knowledge of the sea. He could not refuse you, for the gods have made their decision. Will you fish today?”

“Yes, mother.”

“Then let the Immortals send you fish and fill your heart with joy!”

Whitehair shuddered. As far back as he could remember, she spoke the same words whenever his father went out fishing.

She turned away, quickly wiped a tear from her bashful face, and smiled at him.

“You have grown. You’re almost as tall as he is.”

She reached for a piece of bread lying beside the fire, stripped it of the large leaf wrapped around it, and gave it to him. He started eating and helped himself to some milk from a two-eared pitcher.

They fell silent, for the graver the matter, the greater the attention of the gods, and no mortal ever knew for sure what could kindle their wrath or fill them with joy. He got up and approached the wall, where he inspected the harpoons and tridents hanging there. The noise of the quern continued, and he could still hear his mother humming, but he knew her eyes were upon him.

There were four harpoons in all: each one a powerful oaken shaft tipped with the straight point of a buffalo horn filled with lead.

Whenever he fished with his father, the lightest one served him well. But this time, he merely weighed it in his hand and replaced it on its peg. Instinctively he turned around. His mother was staring at the stone, feigning indifference to his procedures.

Whitehair took another slightly heavier harpoon and skimmed its blade with his fingertips. Next, he tested the strength of the line passed through the opening at the base of the shaft and, at last, deposited his weapon upon the smaller of two sails, lying folded in the corner of the room. Furtively he placed a hand upon his chest, where, beneath his khiton and tucked away in a sheath of goatskin, he kept his timeless companion—a long-bladed dagger. He reached for the trident, a pruned and blackened branch of oak, forking out into three prongs. Three bits of tunny jaw jutted out of its wooden tips. Each was as sharp as a bronze spearhead. Carefully, Whitehair placed the trident beside the harpoon and removed his khiton so that now he stood only in his tight-fitting loincloth. Leaning forward, he picked up the sail and was ready to depart.

“I’m leaving, mother!” Barely had he drawn back the curtain with his shoulder and stood on the threshold when the quern fell silent, and she was at his side.

“A hot morning today,” she almost whispered. “Too hot. Watch the heavens, my son, and observe the mountains.”

Whitehair nodded.

“Yes, mother. Do not worry.”

“And remember, you must pray to the gods.”

“That I shall, mother.”

He went out. The entire surface of the sea was bathed in gentle sunshine, and the wind had died down completely.

Whitehair descended to the fishing-boats. There were two in all: one large and one small. Having unfastened the smaller one, he directed its stem towards the water and set about sliding it down over the sand. For a whole year now, he had done this on his own. But he could never hope to do the same with the large one. He signed, pushed the boat, and jumped in.

He attached the tiny sail to the crosswise slat, tied it down, and, lifting the short oar of large outspreading plumes, touched his forehead with its shaft, stood up, and raised his eyes.

“O grant that this boat returns!”

And then the boat floated gracefully onto the water, leaving the coastal rocks with the push of an oar, but the young Trojan rowed for some time steadily, fearing to look back, lest an evil spirit should hinder him upon his homeward journey. His heart was pounding, but not from exertion: never before had he been alone at sea.

Time passed slowly, and Whitehair remained sitting at the back of the boat. Just in front of him, the drooping sail was rubbing silently against the mast. A dark spine of headland emerged to his left, from where a slight northern wind would push him towards the boundless shallows of the south. It was here that even huge fish could be found wandering close to the surface. Many a time had he visited these vast expanses with his father. But today, he was alone. Be rowed steadily, observing the headland. At last, the contours of an island came into view. It was called Tenedos.

“What would my father do now? From Tenedos, he would make for the shallows and fish at their boundary. But he would return long before sunset, for should a storm arise, his craft would be swept away from the shore by an adverse wind.”

And such, indeed, was the case, for, at this time of the year, winds blew from beyond the mountains. If a sudden storm arose, even if the fragile boat were not capsized, it would infallibly be carried out onto the open sea. Even an experienced sailor might never glimpse his native shores again.

Suddenly it crossed his mind that he must return earlier, for a storm could disperse the goats, and if any of them should stray to the fringe of the forest by night, they could easily fall prey to a panther.

Gradually the island emerged from beyond the headland. An agelong forest of oak covered its mountain-side. He had once been to the island with his father. The king of Tenedos was the brother of the Trojan king to whom the entire seacoast and adjacent lands belonged, and it was there that the black warships of both brothers were always guarding access to the city of Troy and the straits leading to the northern sea. It was a formidable fleet, yet at times, by night, a red Phoenician ship or a black fifty-oared vessel of the Achaean corsairs managed to steal its way between the island and the coast and take slaves not far from the city gates. No article of trade was valued more highly or sought for more eagerly than human merchandise.

But during the day, the Trojan waters were safe, and people fished in them without fear. No pirate in the world would venture to draw near the City of Kings in broad daylight.

A breeze drifted over the boat and creased the surface of the sea. A stretch of deep water, dark and green, expanded before his eyes. Somewhat further, the sea appeared to be almost white. This was where the shallows were.

He threaded the harpoon line through the opening at the front of the boat, fastened it firmly, placed the harpoon by his right foot, and reached for the trident. Gripping it with his outstretched arm, he turned to face the shore, but the sun dazzled him and forced him to shade his eyes. He searched out the towering mountaintop looming out of the white haze above a chain of hills.

“Ida, mountain of our forefathers, Great Mother, be kind to me! Behold, now I begin to fish!”

He knitted his brows. No, not a thing had he overlooked. He had uttered all those words a fisherman should utter. And now he turned to look the other way and thought no more of the gods, of the holy mountain, or of his home. Ahead of him were the shallows and in them swam creatures that he would have to slay.

Slowly, as though careful not to startle an invisible fish, he lifted an arm over the side of the boat and, clenching his trident, became motionless.

“I will strike the first one I see. It will be an omen. If I pierce it, my day will be a success.”

He waited a long time. Kneeling down, he peered into the water and tried to penetrate the sun-bathed surface. Suddenly, just below him, a small silvery shape flitted by. Instantaneously he struck the water and raised the trident back up. A small fish was struggling, impaled on one of its blades. He lowered his weapon and eased his catch into the bottom of the boat. The fish leaped up high. Whitehair tapped it gently on the head with the shaft of his trident. At once, it stopped moving. A good omen.

He looked up and noticed that he had reached the shallows. The current was sufficiently strong to draw him towards the island.

Once again, a small fish flitted by just below the surface, and it was soon followed by another.

Whitehair placed the trident down and took hold of the harpoon. Shoals of tiny fish were abundant in these waters.

Possibly, if his father were sitting behind him, he would have taken aim yet again and made a show of his dexterity. But today, he was alone. If the omen was correct, fate would lead him to a greater catch. So he gripped the heavy harpoon-shaft and waited. Suddenly his fingers tightened around the weapon. Some distance off, a tiny fish shot up into the air and, flashing brilliantly in the sun, vanished into the depths again. Closer still, he noticed another fish. And in no time at all, an incessant swarm of scudding, nimble, fleeting flashes surrounded the boat. An enormous shoal of fish was passing with blind impetus, brushing against the tiny vessel and rushing on just below the surface.

They were terrified. And now they fled to the center of the shallows. Watching as they approached in their thousands, he tried to understand what was happening. If the assailant of this panic-stricken shoal was advancing deep down, he would soon be forced to reveal himself as the sea bed rose abruptly under his belly.

The surface was lifeless. But suddenly—yes! He managed to catch a glimpse of the pursuer just before he plunged again: a huge, sharp fin of an enormous fish. Presently two more emerged, a little to the right. Tunnies!

Huge and voracious, these oppressors had probably encountered this shoal of placid fish quite recently and were presently tracking it down, seizing victims, devouring them instantaneously, and charging on.

“You have come!” He whispered. “You have come!”

These were the largest of fish in these waters, apart from dolphins, which were sacred and which no one ever dared to strike. They gave suck to their young, and therefore, they could well have once been an ancient tribe of men sentenced by the gods to dwell in the waters for evil deeds committed in days of yore.

But a tunny was the most magnificent of catches, a creature that rarely lost a fight. The largest of these exceeded the length of a fishing boat, and only a very experienced fisherman could be a match for them. Their strength was colossal, and failure to slay one with a single blow of a harpoon—which had to enter between their side fin and the gills and pierce their heart—could mean the loss of the weapon, or the vessel, or even of one’s life because the injured fish would whip its enormous tail about in savage agony and could shatter a tiny boat with ease.

Once again, the long, cerulean fin of a tunny appeared before him, far closer now and then, once again, closer still. Then, momentarily, the fish emerged nearly entirely and vanished, plunging after its prey.

Whitehair looked about eagerly. He had almost reached the center of the shallows. If the tunnies continued their pursuit, they would soon appear just below the surface.

Slowly the seabed drew closer and closer, and peering down, he noticed dark seaweed and white sand illuminated by the rays of the sun.

As far back as he could remember, he had always bathed here, and it was here that he had learned to swim. He felt completely safe in the water, safer in fact than on land, for land undoubtedly harbored greater dangers than the sea. He was well aware that this stretch of water was no deeper than the height of three grown men.

A tunny, if found here within striking distance of a harpoon, would have no chance of escaping into deeper waters, for with its body dreadfully torn, it would be forced to push forward with the boat in tow until its strength was gone.

He knew this from his father, who had smitten and slain three tunnies in a single day in this place.

Again he saw the blade of a fin beating the water into a white spray. The tunnies drew away somewhat, still circling around the boat.

They were now in the center of the fleeing shoal, and they slowed down. They kept breaking the surface: one... two... three... four... he spotted four in all. One of them was no further away than just a few spear throws, but suddenly they all swung round and started making for the island.

He sighed and watched them disappear. He had not really believed that the immortal gods might have offered him such a magnificent gift. And yet—they had been so close!

Again, he sighed as they dissolved in the flickering surface, and now he observed the water stretching in front of him.

A few small fish slipped past quickly and scattered in all directions. Undoubtedly the hounded shoal had dispersed, or maybe it was still heading towards the island but had lost this panic-stricken group which now sought to rejoin its companions. There were certain kinds of fish who never traveled alone but always as whole nations. Did such nations have their kings?

He put the harpoon away and took hold of the trident, for he wished to return home with a laden boat. Once again, fish started appearing in greater numbers. They ripped through the water much faster now, all of them in the same direction. Before long, there was a swarm of them. The shoal was returning!

Again he caught sight of a long, white streak of splashing water, plowed with astonishing speed by the dark blade of a fin. Then another, and still one more. The tunnies were coming back!

They were only a short distance away. One had outdistanced the rest. Whitehair seized the harpoon and raised it over his head.

Swimming just below the surface and leaving a bright trail, the tunny approached the boat and, changing direction, encircled it with a wide curve before dissolving in the reflections of the sun. A second and a third one passed by at some distance and pushed on in the same direction. He followed them with his eyes as far as the boundary of the shallows.

Only now did he realize that he had been standing motionless for some time, holding his harpoon above his head. He lowered his weapon. It was time for him to catch as many small fish as possible and return home. Maybe before sunset, some bigger fish would reappear.

He knew that the tunnies would not return the following day, for never did they dwell in any one place for too long. Often he had heard his father say that they wandered from one end of the world to the next and, having reached it, turned round to head back again. These must have just returned from the other side of the sea. Perhaps they may want to bide their time and rest a little after their long journey?

Reluctantly, he looked at the water in front of the boat and thought it a good idea to practice a little by tossing his harpoon at a few passing fish.

And suddenly he saw it!

Just below the surface, to the left of the stem, a huge tunny had stopped. It seemed to be contemplating the boat as though confused by the presence of this piece of wood and the towering creature standing on it and staring at it.

Time stopped. The whole world suddenly vanished. Unconscious of his actions, Whitehair lifted his harpoon and hurled it with all his might.

He watched as the line chased after the harpoon. The harpoon entered the water and struck the creature near the semicircular opening of its gills, where its sky-blue back and its white belly-line merged, right next to the enormous side fin, sharp as a dagger and long as an arm.

Suddenly, he was swept off his feet by a colossal jolt that jerked his boat. He shot up into the air and fell into the water on the opposite side of the boat.

Now the sky disappeared, and a bluish-green glow of tarnished sunrays enveloped him. For a moment, he fell in stupefaction: instinctively waving his arms about, he saw the water surface closing in on him.

Emerging, he looked about for his boat, which, to his great astonishment, was so far away that a great fear gripped his heart. How could it have moved away so quickly?

Desperately pushing through the water, he began pursuing his vessel. An enormous, invisible power jerked the boat along, slowing down, speeding up, and at times even stopping.

“The line is strong,” he thought. “I have smitten him...”

But instantly, he realized that the tunny was still alive. The harpoon was undoubtedly embedded deep in its side, for otherwise, the injured fish would have torn itself loose easily. But what if it had enough strength to swim into the distance, carrying his tiny craft away?

He did not look at the shore, for he was well aware of how far the rocky headland was. Maybe he could manage to swim back? But then the boat would be lost, and he would not be able to fish anymore until his father returned in winter. This could not happen, for everyone would then go hungry, and shame would descend upon him for having lost the boat—and that on the very first day he fished alone.

Now the boat stopped moving. Maybe the tunny was resting, trying to regain strength? The wound and the additional weight of the boat may have exhausted him.

Whitehair reached for his dagger dangling from his neck and drew it out of its sheath. The boat was now right in front of him.

Taking a deep breath and moving with the utmost care, he dove under it and emerged on the other side, in the shadow of the boat. He rested his palm gently against the edge of its stem and breathed heavily for some time. His right hand was clenching the dagger.

Slowly he submerged his head and, looking about with open eyes, observed the line running down from the stem and fading amongst the lawn of seaweeds at the bottom, twining up towards the surface. A huge, dark, distant shape loomed amongst them.

Once again, he lifted his head out of the water, inhaled as much air as possible, and dove down.

Easing his way through the seaweed, he moved slowly and with extreme care, keeping close to the bottom. He tried to follow the direction of the line which he could see overhead.

He stopped. The fish was right in front of him. It was floating on one side, sagging a little so that its head and tail were lower than its middle. Streaks of blood poured from its left side and slowly twisted their way up, imitating the undulating flow of seaweeds.

The fish was enormous! Almost twice his own size! Only the end of the harpoon shaft protruded from the wound. The flesh beneath its side-fin had been pierced, this being the exact place where a harpoon should be lodged if, as his father had told him so many times, the king of the sea was to perish.

But had it perished? It remained completely still, swaying gently in the current, yet this did not mean that it was lifeless.

Whitehair felt the air escaping from his lungs and swam to the surface. He breathed in deeply, closed his eyes, dazzled by the sunlight, and plunged back down immediately.

Passing the fish and moving along near the bottom, he turned onto his back and faced the distant sky above. Now he approached the tunny from below, gripped his dagger with both hands, and with a sudden kicking action with his legs, pushed himself up.

Now, clinging to the white and scaly body of the giant, he drove his dagger in deep and tore away at it with all his might. The flesh submitted easily to the merciless blade.

At once, he curled up and plunged straight down, touching the bottom. But the tremendous toss of the body and the violent flap of the tail that he had expected did not follow. He looked up.

The fish swayed passively, and a fresh stream of blood burst forth from its huge new wound.

“I slew him with a single blow,” thought Whitehair. “I struck his heart and killed him!”

One again, he came to the surface and looked at the distant shore, bathed in blazing sunshine. “This winter, when they take me to the old man, Father will speak of my catch, and together we shall lay the head of the beast at the foot of the cavern.”

He was so filled with joy that he remained upon the surface for a little while longer. But he now thought of the vast amount of work ahead of him and returned to the lifeless giant.

He swam up to its muzzle, forced it open, and carving a hole in its lower jaw, pushed through the harpoon and line, and tied a knot so as to lean the harpoon shaft against its head.

Once more, he came to the surface. And only now did he realize how exhausted he really was, for much of his strength was gone, and with a thundering heart, he scrambled onto the boat.

He took a deep breath. Battling with his fatigue—for he was tempted to sink to the bottom of the boat and rest awhile—he started tugging the line. It yielded with difficulty, and he could not be sure whether the tunny was drawing closer or the boat approaching the lifeless form. His hands had grown numb. But gradually, pull after pull, the line gathered in a coil at his feet.

And at last, leaning over the water, he perceived it. The tunny slipped alongside the boat and rolled over onto its back. Its tail remained submerged.

Whitehair secured the line, slipped down onto his knees, and leaned his back against the mast. Sweat streamed down his face, and only a flogging could have matched the agonizing pain which ran through his shoulders. He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, but still, he found it difficult to gather his thoughts. Nonetheless, his half-closed, parched lips constantly repeated:

“I must chop it into large pieces... chop it up and take as much meat as I can... and the head... the head... I can never reach the shore with this body in one piece... Mother will fill the head with herbs... dry it in the sun... Then we shall take it...”

He opened his eyes and stood up heavily. His heart was no longer pounding, but the pain in his back persisted.

He glanced at the spot where the line touched the water. The gentle waves had rolled the tunny over so that it now floated on the surface, its body drooping slightly but its head up high. Its lifeless eyes, almost as blue as the sky itself, gazed blindly into the heavens. There was no more blood coming from its wounds, and the water about the boat started losing its red tinge. Whitehair reached for his dagger and dived out of the boat.

Gritting his teeth, he toiled over his prey and sliced sizeable chunks of pinkish-white flesh, injuring his fingers upon its enormous bones and rock-hard fins. At last, he was ready.

The head had come off with great difficulty and now rocked a little, for it was still held by the line passed through the hole in its lower jaw.

At once, he unfastened the line and swam towards the boat. With difficulty, he lifted the gigantic head and tossed it upon the huge slices of the gory flesh scattered about the bottom of the boat—the boat deeply submerged now, hardly rocking under all the weight.

So wearied was he that he sprawled on the cool, slippery, slithering slices of flesh for a while. Presently he rose and, having taken in the sail, took hold of the oar.

A light breeze blew straight into his eyes. He turned the boat around towards the headland, which appeared to be quite close but, in reality, was much further away. Beyond the headland was his native shore and his mother, who would be awaiting his return. She would see him from afar and descend towards the water, curious to see his catch. And when this monstrous muzzle would meet her eye...  

He broke out of his daydream rather abruptly and looked at the creature’s head lying upon the slices of flesh near the bow of the boat. Quickly dropping his oar, he leaned towards the harpoon, picked it up, and with all his might, pierced the jaw of the tunny, nailing its huge head to the bottom of the boat. Next, he pulled the harpoon line through the aperture at the stem and secured it tightly. No unexpected wave or sudden jolt could now snatch his prize away.

Gradually he started rowing and tried to hum to himself. But so wearied was he that at once he fell silent. He observed the headland as it gradually moved past and awaited the appearance of his native shore.

The sun no longer dazzled his eyes. It had wandered across the heavens towards setting.

“I could almost match a true man, despite my age!” he cried out. “No fisherman would venture to pronounce the solitary slayer of a tunny a mere boy.”

The headland fell away to his right, and the distant shore opened up before his eyes, unfolding with every stroke of his oar.

In a moment, the hilltop would emerge, followed by the thickets and the huge, white boulder resting beside a low, rocky slope, and not far from the boulder...

He put more effort into his rowing, still more... and beheld a remote, white speck. The boulder and beyond it: his house!

Ceasing the rowing for a while, he rose and lifted his eyes towards the distant summit of the holy mountain, dominating the entire landscape, and opened his mouth, ready to pronounce unto the gods words of thanksgiving, for they had guided him on his hunt and permitted him to return with a good catch.

But his prayer was imprisoned on his tongue. The mountain, he now realized, had taken on a new shape, for just above its summit, he perceived yet another summit, darker and somewhat rounded.

“A cloud?” the thought ran through his mind, and at that moment, a flash appeared before his eyes, blinding white and sharp. So intense was it that even the brilliant sunshine failed to extinguish it.

He froze. A few seconds passed, then a muffled, rumbling clap of thunder reached him from a distance. The sea was calm, and there was no wind.

“Mother!” whispered Whitehair. Overcoming his sudden, heart-gripping fear, he snatched up the oar. “Row calmly,” he said to himself aloud, “calmly, if you wish to save your strength and return to shore.”

Unable to take his eyes off the black cloud emerging above the mountains, he rowed desperately, filled with terror, and his burdened boat crept along slowly, extremely slowly, in the dead silence which had seized the sea and air.

The cloud grew and spilled over the land. And the restless rays of the sun seemed to burn even more.

Whitehair rested his oar for a while and wiped away the sweat streaming down his forehead and into his eyes, making it impossible to see.

The shore drew closer. He could clearly see the familiar outline of the rocks and the contours of mountains, which would shortly be embraced by the murky shadow of the approaching storm.

Undoubtedly his mother was waiting there and could see him. She would be aware of his solitary battle with the still, tranquil water but would have no idea why the boat was so heavy.

“If I throw some of the meat into the sea, I shall make it,” he thought in a flash.

But he knew this was not true, for already the cloud had swallowed the mountain and blanketed the entire horizon to the east. To throw tunny meat away would have meant wasting time... too much time.

A slight breath of wind whispered in the air.

Another flash, bloody in color, appeared upon the fringe of the cloud, and this was followed by a tremendous, shrill peal of thunder that roared across the sea with the sound of shattering wood.

Now a different thought entered his mind: “It will be quicker to swim. Then I shall be saved!” But he hesitated and continued to row with what strength he had.

And then he saw her. There she was, standing beside the water, a mere speck in the distance, growing closer, waving her upraised arms and giving him courage—his mother!

No, he could not jump, for if the storm hit the sea before he reached the shore, he would be too weak to oppose the oncoming, billowing waves, whereas the boat offered him at least a shadow of hope.

Suddenly the sun disappeared, and now the sea was filled with gloom. A gust of wind hit him.

He could still see his mother when the first large wave approached and hit the boat head-on.

Another thunderclap yet again. And then the chain of hills disappeared from view. Too late. Another wave approached, crashed down, and he felt the boat retreating. With an enormous effort, he dipped his oar again, and this cost him the whole of his might. The shore and everything around him plunged into darkness. In the midst of the roaring murkiness, streams of rain lashed across his face, and he fell to the bottom of the boat, covering his head with his hands.

The boat rocked, leaped into the air, riding the crest of the oncoming wave, descended, and once again seized by some unseen force, jumped up and tilted over violently.

Blindly he gripped the loosely lying line of the harpoon, which was firmly lodged in the side of the boat and hardly aware of his actions, wrapped it around his left wrist and grasped it with both hands.

He could feel the boat rising and sinking. A huge wave rolled over his head, choking him and sweeping large pieces of tunny away.

The storm wailed on incessantly.

Lying in the bottom and attempting to catch as much air as possible before the descent of the next huge wave, Whitehair knew just one thing for sure: that the storm and wind were propelling his tiny vessel out onto the open sea, leaving his native shores farther and farther behind.

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