What’s the nicest way to be woken up? NOT by a really, really, ridiculously big fish jerking on the line in your right hand. Also, his rotten left hand is asleep again. While on duty, which is completely grounds for dismissal, or at least a sound verbal lashing.
The fish jumps out of the water, again and again.
The line rips through the old man’s hands and cuts them, leading him to wish the boy were there.
The good news is, when a fish jumps out of the water, it gets air in its air sacs and can’t dive deep anymore. Score.
The fish is still strange.
The old man debates whether to force some more of the raw dolphin down his throat and risk throwing up, or to not eat and risk passing out from weakness. Talk about a rock and a hard place.
So he eats the flying fish.
Bring it on, he says. The sun also rises, again.
The fish begins "circling."
This lasts about two more hours.
He starts to see some black spots in front of his eyes, so he makes more promises to say prayers later.
As the fish circles, the old man pulls in the line.
Two gray sucking fish are harassing the big fish.
He is so close to harpooning the fish, he can taste it.
Then the old man says he does not care who kills who – just get this d--n thing over with.
He is on the verge of passing out when he finally sticks a harpoon into the marlin.
The marlin is dead.
He wants to thank the fish, who he thinks weighs around 1,500 pounds.
DiMaggio would be proud, he thinks.
He heads home. With the fish, naturally.
He comments again on the strangeness of the fish’s death – the way it jumped out of the water when he harpooned it.
The fish is lashed to the side of the boat (it’s too big to fit in it), and the old man, who’s going a little nuts, wonders who is leading the show here, him or the dead marlin.
The problem with the marlin is it’s bleeding. The problem with the blood is the sharks.
The old man harpoons the first shark that approaches in the brain. It dies. But not before taking one 40-pound bite out of the marlin. That’s twelve dollars. Which is a ton of money for the old man.
The old man felt that he was hit and bitten when the fish was hit and bitten.
He wishes he were alone in his newspaper bed and had never hooked the fish at all.
He says a man can be destroyed but not defeated.
Problem: the harpoon went down with the shark.
DiMaggio would have liked the way he hit the shark. Home run.
He has no weapon, so he makes one by lashing his knife to the tip of the oar.
He wonders if it was a sin to kill the fish. But he was born to do this.
Think again – was it a sin because he loved the fish, or not a sin because he loved the fish?
He thinks that fishing keeps him alive. No, wait, that’s the boy, he says.
He eats some of the marlin on the way in.
Two more sharks are on the way, followed by some Christ-imagery.
The sharks are excited and stupid and lumbering.
The old man manages to kill the sharks – using his makeshift spear.
But a fourth of the marlin is now gone. The old man apologizes to the fish for catching him at all, for losing his body to the sharks.
The problem is, the sharks tore up the fish, which means more blood, which means more sharks.
The old man keeps wishing this had all been a dream.
With the next shark, the knife blade on the makeshift spear snaps.
The old man says he is too old to try and club the rest of the sharks to death. But he’ll try, d--n it.
He keeps talking to himself about being tired.
He wonders if anyone has worried about him when he’s been gone. The boy, and the older fishermen, certainly.
He considers that he could have chopped off the marlin’s nose spear thing to fight with. That would have been fighting together, with his brother, he thinks.
He wants to buy luck, if anyone’s selling.
He’s getting close to land; he fears the sharks; he hopes he will not have to fight again.
By midnight there’s a pack of sharks, and he can do nothing. But he tries. He clubs and clubs like there’s no tomorrow.
He breaks his tiller trying to fight the sharks. He’s so exhausted he tastes blood in the back of his throat.
He sails on, lightly; there is no fish left.
He thinks of his "friends": the wind and bed.
He believes he was not beaten; it was his own fault for going out too far.
He makes it to shore; no one is around, so he pulls the boat up himself.
He falls on the beach, with the mast on his shoulder. The old man has to stop and rest five times before he can make it to his shack.