Abradant

The shark’s skin was smooth from gill to tail. When he dragged his palm towards the massive head, the dermal denticles, minute teeth that formed the aft edges of the gray, oily skin, tore his palm. He pulled the hand back to inspect the blood.

“Just because it’s dead don’t mean it ain’t dangerous,” the old whaler told him. He grinned over the coil of lines in his husky arms.

He shuffled to the bow, his heavy tread arousing a chorus of groans from the salt-swollen shipboards. Rene wiped his bloody hand on his tarred shirt.

The shark was massive: A whole great white, thick from tail to snout, like an overgrown, bloodless pork sausage, over twenty feet long and Jove knew how many hundreds of pounds. The whaler had killed it last night, when the tempest was at its most unforgiving, the waves higher than their masts, the spray tumbling over the ratlines and rails – even with the drainage ports the water roiling about their knees thick with seaweed and sea life, horrendously misplaced crabs and glowing, ornery squid. The shark had come soaring over the bow, open-mouthed, eyes black.

“Pardon, boys!” it had bellowed over the cyclone. It flattened McDonald, killed him outright. “Terribly sorry!” it had screamed, then it rolled to the port side as the ship tipped, the wave carrying the brig higher and higher. It smeared Seamus and the second mate to the taffrails, impaling them on the pins. When the ship bucked and came crashing down on the far side of the monstrous roller the two men went over into the abyss. The shark flipped end over end; each sailor prayed to his God that it would sail beyond the edge of the aft cabin but, instead, it shattered the captain’s rotten wooden leg and swallowed half the helm. “This is dreadfully embarrassing,” the shark could be heard to mumble over the splinters in its tooth-ringed jaws. The ship yawed alee once more and the captain was crushed by the iron ten-pounder. Rene and the whaler had tried to push the gun into the sea when the squall first began but had both been flung to the main deck by their half-mad first mate, and so it fell freely. Yet the captain made a valiant attempt to crawl away from it, half sunk into the pale belly of the shark.

Before the storm had ceased and the few still remaining had their wits once more about them, they circled the shark where it came to rest on the main deck. It bawled; long, low howlings, lisping occasionally with the shredded bits of the wheel still trapped in its gums. The whaler beat it senseless with their last (and broken) harpoon. When that was nothing more than a split switch of wood, they decided to jump on it. A throaty hiccup, and another burbled apology, and Renton’s misplaced boot coincided to separate the man from his lower half, between the jaws of the abashed shark.

They spent the night killing the damn thing, until only Rene and the old whaler were left, and the shark’s sloppy grief was only a fresh, irritating memory. There was no place for remorse in the deep blue sea.

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One response to “Abradant

  1. cool story Pierce. These sort of marine stories should be on prescribed reading lists in primary and middle school: evokes some impressive imagery and teaches kids how they could negatively affect marine life in the future

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