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backdrop of the mist, giving this strange, holy man the appearance of levitating.
Mungo is too speechless to cry out at first, and then the ship has passed Simia n and he
quickly is lost to stern. Mungo thinks it best not to tell his crewmates of this
apparition, for surely they would think he was mad. But suddenly Mungo's hardship
seems nothing; the hard plank of wood on which he leans is as soft as eiderdown; the
ship's biscuit he eats is gateau; the water is wine; his crewmen, so far below, suddenly
seem close by, reassuring him that he is not alone. So think now, about this: would the
world not be a better place if we were all granted a vision of this man in the mist?
There would be no industry for the mattress makers, no jobs for the top chefs, no
bonuses for bankers. We would rock ourselves to sleep on bedrock, gladly eat dry
bread, shun money as if it were venomous. We would be happy in our misery, and
glad in our suffering. It is perhaps a good thing then, that some men stand aloft on
their pillars. They are a little closer to heaven, it is true, but they elevate those around
them too. So thank Simian as you pass him in the mist, for one day when you pass,
you will see only a pile of bones.
Chapter 28 – The Same Boat
The rum, as it was served in the galley at smugdown, swelled in the bottom of the
narrow-topped tankards in sympathy with the great vaporous rollers overboard.
Mungo knocked his back in one greedy tide, glad of something to wash away the
image of the cruciform man suffering on his pedestal. Stan was sick and didn't drink,
whilst Ambrosius sipped his cautiously, the strong liquor burning his lips and his
tongue. Jerry gulped his tot without flinching and set his tankard down on the table.
“There, we have paid our service to inebriation, such a shame we could not do it
further justice. Fishmael should be here for his rum shortly, so look sharp - or at least
less blunt.”
“Whilst we are alone,” said Ambrosius. “I want to know what, as experienced
sailors, you make of this mission of ours.”
“What we make of it?” asked Jerry, raising an eyebrow. “We don't make anything
of it. It is what it is.”
“Har, har,” trumpeted Mungo. “That man should be a politician. Aye, we do make
of it in truth. The last fish? At once it is a fisherman's dream and his nightmare. Who
could beat the title of the world's last catch? Then again, who could shake the infamy?
I think Fishmael is motivated by both the dream and nightmare of our mission, the
mad old dog. For that man rides like a skiff; in his troughs he wallows in his lowness
and at his peaks he soars as high as the gulls. When a man lives a wavelike life he
savours every part of the crazy cycle, no matter what the height.”
“Why did you ship?” asked Ambrosius.
“What else could we do?” asked Jerry before Mungo could answer. “'T’was
double pay for a start. That and I would rather die out in the mist than in that stinking
“Do you think we'll find this fish?” asked Ambrosius.
“Aye, we'll find it,” said Jerry, something slow and almost angry in his voice.
“We're bound to it, in every possible sense. That fish has already shown itself – I
think it has plans for us.”