Fish Stocks Limited
again be preserved, for the world is full of suffering and they would be stuck on it for
another few decades. But then, there is the chance that there is a higher power who is
brutally indifferent to the plight of mere mortals, or there is no higher power at all, in
which case these poor sailors might as well swallow their tongues.
Never closer were such higher issues to these lowly mariners. Round and round
their heads their incantations went, as round and round the whirlpool they went went,
faster and faster. The ship's deck was now horizontal, and they were glad of their
lashings. The main ship, Fishmael and the fish were now very close together, being
forced into an ever-smaller circle by the vortex. The fish bucked and brayed, but she
could not shake the cruel harpoon from its side. Then, for a second, a peculiar,
victorious look crossed over the fish's face, as if her pain had merely been an act.
Then, whipping her lissome body round, she swam with all her might against the
current. Within a minute she had crossed the bow of the main ship, the line still
projecting out from her side and back into the jolly boat, where Fishmael raved. The
fish swam round the main ship, bringing the harpoon line round the mast. Fishmael
hurled obscenities from his puny vessel, but he was powerless to stop the fish from
having its way – he was left as purple and pointless as a plum. Round and round the
mast the fish swam, until the harpoon line was well and truly secured to the mainmast.
Fish can't laugh. This is true. However, they can open their mouths in a wide grin and
rock from side to side a little so as to suggest mirth. The fish did this, and then, with
one joyous flip of her tail, jumped clean out the mist. She described a perfect parabola
through the air, then flopped bodily into the black iris in the heart of the maelstrom,
whereupon she promptly disappeared in a flash of light and a smell of peppermint.
“Pull us in, do ye,” cried Fishmael. “Very well, I'll follow ye fishy, follow ye to
the ends of this globe and beyond – into the heart of darkness I'll descend, and then I'll
strike a light, puff on my pipe to guide me and slake my cutlass with ye blood!”
With that, the jolly boat was pulled into the dark disc in the middle of the vortex
“Er...” said Stan.
“Er... said Ambrosius.
“Er...” said Mungo.
“Er...” said Jerry.
Chapter 33– Er...
So watch open- mouthed as the rope tightens and drags the main ship towards the
black dilation at the heart of the maelstrom. Listen as the brave or reckless mariners -
Ambrosius, Stan, Jerry, Mungo - give vent to what they think are their final ellipses of
bemused terror. What a stupid last word “Er...”, but it must be a very common one.
The man who looks up to see the grand piano falling on him says “Er...”, the man who
notices the boulder rolling down the hill towards him says “Er...”, the man who hears
the gallows drums and feels the rope around his neck says “Er...”, as if this simple
sound is such a good indicator of a following sentence that the universe must surely
wait for a finish. The meaning of “Er...” is the same across all Expiscorean cultures, it
is true, but more than that consider this: would a Piscador, upon meeting a bizarre