Fish Stocks Limited HTML version

For what thinks your arm of love,
Would you make the dart a dove?
Weigh high your anchor,
Weigh conscience low,
And cock your hat to him below.”
Chapter 31 – Hunger and a Roar
You may say 'let Mungo cock his hat to his diabolic captain, for that is but a
raindrop in a storm', but, when it comes down to it, a storm is made of raindrops.
Besides, Mungo does not wear a cap, he wears his agaric bandanna, and he would
never take it off in the sight of anyone, for he has a patch of baldness like a monk's
tonsure that reveals an unsightly piece of head-cheese underneath. So don't be so
lenient on this Cheddar-headed ruffian, because, despite his coarse lovableness, he is
complicit in Fishmael's mission. Let your indignation run free like a wild stallion; do
not throw ropes round her neck and try and saddle her, as she is running rampant for a
reason. Similarly do not sympathise with Ambrosius or Stan or Jerry, for all are guilty
of that atrocity of silence when asked „Would any of ye back out of what's ahead?'.
Such thoughts aside, time passed as is its habit, with dragged heels and a morose
gait, crippled by boredom. The rum was the first to run out. Without the lure of
inebriation, Fishmael had no motive for leaving his cabin, save for mealtimes, which
he took alone in the dead of night. In this respect he did not hold back his appetites,
for his monomania burnt fuel like a steam engine and required a lot of stoking with
base nutrition. A month went by and six months rations were gone – the captain did
not make any announcement to explain to his crew that this was the case, but instead
remained locked in his cabin. When Jerry knocked on the door, then bellowed, then
knocked again, there came a rumble from inside:
“See you the fish?”
“No, cap'n, but the crew want to turn back. We are out of rations.”
“Blast ye, disturb me not save for when the fish is sighted! We will not turn back
– remember your contract with me, and remember on what pains you may break it.
We carry on, and on... to the ends of the world we will hunt the fish!”
So it was that the crew sat about listlessly, trying to expend as little energy as
possible. Hunger was now all that motivated them; the top mast was manned not to
please Fishmael but to improve the prospect of catching the fish and hasten their
gargantuan last supper. After a fortnight of this, shrunken stomachs cramped and
moaned, their gurglings now dead, emptiness seeming to stretch in front of them like
a wasteland; an emptiness that filled them with knives. There has, throughout history,
been a holiness associated with fasting; here was its antithesis, here in these unsatiated
stomachs. These knotted, acetic pits might as well have been full of brimstone, for
they bred demons which possessed their possessors, making their cheeks hollow and
eyes dead and all thoughts only of big hunks of fishy flesh, slithering gull- like down
shrunken gullets. It is appropriately lowering, starvation, for it reminds the starver that
they are made of crude matter, and that without it all the quicker faculties are stripped,
until the bare, bleached bones of animalism are there for all to see. Like a dog with his