The White Marlin

A mile beyond the edge of the continental shelf, Len Reynolds heaved his guts over the side of a fifty foot game fishing cruiser, a large hand tightly gripping the back of his neck. Len spat a final chunk, and watched his partially digested lunch dissolve into the deep blue depths, knowing that soon he would be following it.

“He done?” a voice asked.

The hand yanked him upright and held him there. Len wanted to wipe his chin, but his hands were bound with coat hangar wire. He never was too good on the water. Knowing he was about to fill his lungs with the stuff didn’t help the situation any. His eyes fell upon the rusted Holden 187 engine block on the transom that was connected to his bound feet with a chain. At least it wasn’t a Ford. Len hated Fords.

Jimmy Thompson gently fingered the four pound line he had in the water, testing that the garfish on the other end was still moving. Jimmy was a keen blue water angler who never missed an opportunity to drop in a line. Even when he was killing someone. He looked out at the dive boats scattered about the reef. The day was perfect; the sky a rich, deep blue, the water clear and flat as a sheet of glass. Jimmy sucked his teeth, and then said, “You tried to fuck me, Len. And unless you’re my wife, I don’t like to be fucked.”

Vince, Jimmy’s cousin-in-law and Samoan heavy weight champ, held Len upright by his shoulders. Len’s knees had buckled twenty minutes earlier when the drinks were finished and the coat hanger was brought out. Way to kill the party. It was all Len could do to not shit himself.

“Jimmy…” Len began, but he knew it was futile. A week earlier he had talked to the wrong man. An undercover cop. The choice for Jimmy was get rid of the cop or get rid of Len. There was no contest. Jimmy wouldn’t risk doing a cop. This was North Queensland. The cops were crooker than the crooks. Len was a small time appliance salesman who shifted white goods of another sort for Jimmy. He had a habit and form, and would not be missed. Except by his five-year-old daughter, Amy. She went to school with Jimmy’s girl. They were friends. Len had pulled that one out earlier, but Jimmy just shrugged and said Amy would get over it. She was young. Young enough to forget her dad’s disappearance in time. Len fought back the tears. He’d already vomited and pissed himself. He wanted to retain a little dignity.

“Let’s get this over with,” Jimmy said. “I wouldn’t mind heading up past Agincourt reef. Boz caught himself a two-hundred pound blue there the other week.”

Vince picked Len up like a fish and carried him to the side of the boat. Len thrashed about and cried, placing is feet against the hull and pushing back. Vince tried to flip his legs over, but Len was slipperier than a freshly landed albacore. His head flung backwards and caught Vince on the bridge of the nose. Vince swore and squeezed Len hard, pushing the air out of him. Len’s body went limp. He was halfway over the rail when a miracle happened. One of Jimmy’s reels started screaming. Something had hit the garfish hard.

“Whoa, Vince,” Jimmy said, grabbing the rod and carefully lifting it from the rod holder. Line was flying off the reel. “Leave, him! Get me my rig.”

Vince dropped Len to the floor of the boat and ran over and grabbed the game harness from a plastic tub. Jimmy tightened the drag a little, getting the feel of the fish on the other end. Vince buckled the harness around Jimmy’s waist and Jimmy slipped the butt of the rod into the cup.

“He’s taking a bunch of line,” Jimmy said. “Marlin, I reckon. Maybe a sailfish. Gotta be two hundred pound, maybe more.”

Len had gotten his breath back and pushed himself back against the corner of the hull. His pulse was racing. He watched the backs of the two men. They seemed to have forgotten he was there. Len looked down at his wrists, bleeding and wrapped tightly in heavy wire.

“She’s going deep,” Jimmy said, “I’ll have to put the pressure on soon. I’ll run out of line.”

Vince glanced back at Len, shrugged and cracked a little smile. A big fish on the line was a leveler amongst men. Vince reached into the cooler and cracked a beer and took a gulp. Then he cracked another and held it out for Len. At first Len didn’t move. He was a broken animal, wary and still in shock. Then he reached out and took it in his bound hands. His mouth was drier than a cowpat on the Nullabor. He put the can to his lips and guzzled the cool beer down. It felt good.

 

Jimmy had been fighting the fish for nearly thirty minutes and it still hadn’t shown itself. The tip of the rod bowed and wriggled. Then suddenly line in the water began to rise.

“She’s coming to surface,” Jimmy yelled. “We’ll get a look at her now.”

Jimmy kept the line at an even tautness, knowing the fish would try and throw the hook. Vince moved alongside Jimmy to get a better look, resting his foot on the engine block.

“Here she comes,” said Jimmy. “She’s a sailfish, I’ll bet my life on it.”

Even Len lifted himself up to take a look. He had downed a second beer and was enjoying the momentary reprieve despite himself.

Suddenly the ocean exploded and out leapt a billed fish, at least five feet long. It was in the air no more than two seconds, but it seemed longer. It was a marlin, nearly two hundred pound of pure silver. Blue stripes shimmered down its side. Jimmy let out a gasp. The mighty fish crashed back into the sea and headed straight for the boat. Jimmy cranked the reel like a madman, trying to keep up.

“She’s going under the boat,” cried Jimmy. “Vince!”

Vince jumped in the pilot’s seat and punched the starter. The cruiser’s engines roared into life. The boat lurched forward and to the left.

“Starboard,” Jimmie screamed.

Vince looked around, confused. “Eh?”

“Fucking starboard. Right, go right. Fucking hell, Vince!”

Vince gave her some juice and wheeled round to the right. The boat pitched sharply, sending Jimmy scrabbling for purchase.

“Shit!”

“Sorry, Jimmy.” Vince eased off on the throttle and winced apologetically.

Jimmy followed the movement of the fish, finally positioning himself on the open transom. There was nothing between him and open water. Len saw an opportunity. Jimmy couldn’t swim. He remembered Jimmy telling him one time, back in better days. Funny how you remember things. Len worked the math quickly in his head. Get close enough, throw himself at Jimmy, bumping him overboard. No time for retaliation, Vince would be straight onto saving Jimmy. Len caught the gaff hook resting on a rack and pictured it entering Vince between the shoulder blades. With any luck, Jimmy would sink right away and Vince would have no option but to jump in after him. Len could get to the controls, throw the throttle arm forward and put some distance between them. Then turn and make a run for the bastards. Full fucking tilt. Mow them down in the water, put them through the twin Evinrudes. The sharks would do the rest. Len’s heart thumped with waves of adrenaline. It was a flimsy plan, but it was all he had.

Jimmy was perched on the edge, his docksides slipping on the greasy transom. Time to move. Len pushed himself up onto his feet. He held on the railing and started hobbling towards Jimmy, his eyes blazing with intent. He was about to launch himself when Vince, the idiot, gave the throttle a bit of a kick and the floor jerked out from under Len’s feet. He smacked his mouth on the railing on his way to the floor. Jimmy glanced over his shoulder then went back to the fish. Len spat a tooth onto the deck. That was that.

The fish made another run for the surface.

“Here she comes.”

About twenty yards off the stern, the sleek, silver fish erupted from the surface, slapping the air with its scythe-like tail. Jimmy stared into its great, black orb and for a moment the creature looked right back at him. Then with a crash, it was gone again. Tears sprang to Jimmy’s eyes. It was a religious moment. As the rod bowed once more under the struggle, he imagined the magnificent creature stuffed and mounted on his office wall. It will be a shrine, Jimmy thought to himself, wiping away a tear.

 

Another hour passed before the fish gave up. “She’s fucked,” panted Jimmy, who was sweating like a pig. “I can feel it,” he said. He pulled gently on the rod. “Look, here she comes.” There was a flash of silver a few feet below the surface.

Vince jumped down from the driver’s chair and quickly walked over and stood behind Jimmy.

Len got up too. He figured he was next, and like the fish, he had given up trying.

“Grab the gaff,” Jimmy said. Vince grabbed the hook from the wall mount and clicked on the landing rope. Jimmy kept the pressure on. The fish made a few final kicks, but was spent. It appeared, a flash of brilliant light, making its way to the surface. Vince readied himself with the hook.

“Under the gills, mate,” Jimmy advised.

The great fish surfaced, bill first, then tipped on its side. It was a white marlin.

Jimmy’s hand instinctively reached out to stop Vince, who was readying to plant the hook. The creature’s gill plate lifted and dropped softly. Jimmy stared at its face in wonder. He had never seen a white marlin before. It would have been somewhere around the two hundred pound mark. And Jimmy had brought her in on a four pound line. It had given him something that he couldn’t put into words. It was a feeling that stirred deep within him. Suddenly Jimmy reached for the bait knife and sliced the line.

“Jimmy?” said Vince.

The fish slowly sank, then sensing its freedom, gave a small beat of its tail and darted off into the blue. Jimmy stared at the crystal clear water for a long time. Fingers of sunlight danced through it like curtains at the end of a show.

Jimmy finally turned around and wiped a tear from his eye. He looked at Len standing there. Vince had returned the gaff to its place and stood at the ready. He flicked a glance at Len, his eyebrows asking the question.

“What the hell,” said Jimmy. “Untie him. Let’s have a beer instead.”

 

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3 Comments

  1. Susan Prince
    Posted November 4, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Great tale, love to see it as a short film. Very believable and has your quirky flavour. Thanks Evan

  2. Katrina Mills
    Posted November 4, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Love it, perfect pace, reeled me in can’t wait for more

  3. Posted November 3, 2013 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    Nice. Good pace. pathos at he end…can you really land a 200 pound Marlin on a 4 pound line? That’s about 1 kilo…the Garfish would almost weigh that much! Still. I believe ya! Good fun all round…..

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