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Chapter 80
Of all the dorados, I remember one in particular, a specialdorado. It was early morning on a cloudy day, and we were inthe midst of a storm of flying fish. Richard Parker was activelyswatting at them. I was huddled behind a turtle shell, shieldingmyself from the flying fish. I had a gaff with a piece of nethanging from it extended into the open. I was hoping to catchfish in this way. I wasn't having much luck. A flying fishwhizzed by. The dorado that was chasing it burst out of thewater. It was a bad calculation. The anxious flying fish gotaway, just missing my net, but the dorado hit the gunnel like acannonball. The thud it made shook the whole boat. A spurt ofblood sprayed the tarpaulin. I reacted quickly. I droppedbeneath the hail of flying fish and reached for the dorado justahead of a shark. I pulled it aboard. It was dead, or nearlythere, and turning all kinds of colours. What a catch! What acatch! I thought excitedly. Thanks be to you, Jesus-Matsya. Thefish was fat and fleshy. It must have weighed a good fortypounds. It would feed a horde. Its eyes and spine wouldirrigate a desert.
Alas, Richard Parker's great head had turned my way. Isensed it from the corner of my eyes. The flying fish were stillcoming, but he was no longer interested in them; it was thefish in my hands that was now the focus of his attention. Hewas eight feet away. His mouth was half open, a fish wingdangling from it. His back became rounder. His rump wriggled.
His tail twitched. It was clear: he was in a crouch and he wasmaking to attack me. It was too late to get away, too late evento blow my whistle. My time had come.
But enough was enough. I had suffered so much. I was sohungry. There are only so many days you can go withouteating.
And so, in a moment of insanity brought on by hunger –because I was more set on eating than I was on staying alive– without any means of defence, naked in every sense of theterm, I looked Richard Parke............
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