O R C A
© 1998 Arthur Herzog
The shining waters erupted in a churning froth as the black mountains of living flesh
split the waves. The killer whales, perhaps thirty of them, swam with speed and grace. Some
forged onward, while others, the young, frolicked, butting and jostling each other. They dove,
slapping their tails on the water, only to surface, spout, and dive again. White bellies and
markings made them seem like huge, overgrown clowns.
The whale calves stuck close beside their mothers, mimicking the cows’ movements until
they descended to nurse. Other females hovered protectively like big, proud, affectionate
Two whales, larger by far than the rest, took up the rear. The male had a tall, oddly
shaped fin. The female, big with the calf inside her belly, swam close by the bull’s side. They
moved together sedately, until the bull gave an odd, high-pitched cry. The herd moved off, the
swollen female swimming slowly, seeming to lag behind. The male gently nudged her on.
“I told you there’d be a line,” Campbell complained. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Shah! Be quiet and do as you’re told,” his sister Annie ordered with mock severity. “It
won’t be long.”
Miserable, sweating in the May heat, needing a drink, Jack Campbell stood in line behind
the large crowd of people with children, cameras, and junk food.
“I’m fed up with the sharks,” Campbell said. “Come on, let’s drive on to Key Biscayne.
There’s a place—“
“You’re fed up with everything except the gin bottle,” Annie interrupted in a tone that
was only half-kidding. “Anyway, this shark is really worth seeing,” she promised. “It’s the
greatest great whale ever caught anywhere. Even stuffed, it gives people nightmares. They
scream at the sight of it.“
“Who the hell wants nightmares?” Campbell demanded. “Besides, sharks don’t scare me.
I fell asleep during Jaws.”
Annie had come up with the idea the night before, when Jack said he’d never been to
Seaquarium, one of Miami’s biggest tourist attractions, though he’d lived there more than half his
life. His sister pounced, talking animatedly about the great white shark on display. Of course, the
shark was only a pretext; she wanted to get Jack out of his bunk aboard the Bumpo if only for an
afternoon. He’d been spending more and more time hanging out there, doing nothing. Campbell
knew his sister worried about him—about his drinking and womanizing, about his apathy, pessi-
mism, and bitterness, about the way he was running (or not running) their marina, the Golden
Sands. But, he told himself, Annie was crazy if she thought a trip to a goddamn tourist-trap
aquarium was going to shape him up. He’d hoped that she would forget the Seaquarium scheme
by morning, but she hadn’t. What the hell? It wouldn’t hurt him to please her for a change. So
in the end Campbell had grudgingly agreed to go along with Annie and Paul Sutro.
The procession began to move. Ahead was a family—-three impatient kids in T-shirts
with sharks on them, a shapeless woman in polyester pants that bulged, and a fat man wearing a
gaudy sports shirt. The pattern on the shirt showed a fisherman reeling in a mammoth marlin
from the stern of a powerboat. The fish didn’t have a chance, in that design. In the too-tight
slacks the woman’s haunches swayed like buoys in a strong sea. Wincing inwardly, Campbell
compared the spectacle with his sister’s small but perfect shape and permitted himself a moment
of envy for Paul Sutro, who lived with her at the marina. Jack occasionally wondered—though
not for long—-what his sister was like in bed.
The fat man was saying, “Maybe I’ll rent a boat tomorrow and catch one of these big
“Better make it a rowboat,” his wife said, “We’re spending too damn much here as it is.”
”I make it, and I’ll decide how to spend it,” the man said in a sharp voice.
Annie grabbed Jack’s arm and whispered “A live one. Give him a card.” When he shook
his head, Annie said loudly, “Mr....”
“Shut up,” Campbell muttered.
“Talking to me?” the fat man, said, leering slightly.
“She was talking to me,” Campbell said.
“Didn’t sound like it.”
“Take my word for it,” Campbell said stiffly.
The man studied him for a moment, then turned his back. He said to the woman, “I can
charter a boat for a coupla hundred. The kids’ll love it.”
Annie hung back as the line moved forward. She hissed at Jack, “You son-of-a-bitch.
You think we don’t need the charter business? A couple of hundred would come in handy right
“Drop it,” he said.
“I don’t get you sometimes. On second thought, I do. That’s the trouble.”
His mean look didn’t frighten her at all; she knew too well how he felt about her. She
could read his mind like a road map, as he could read hers.
When they reached the cashier, he asked, “Whose party?”
Annie’s false smile was meant to punish him. “I didn’t bring any money.”
Campbell scrutinized Paul, a broad-shouldered young man of medium height, about
Annie’s age. He had a bushy mustache, an easy manner, and a blank face. Whenever money was
in question, Paul Sutro’s hands always crept to the back pockets of his tired jeans and stayed
there. But Campbell owed him two weeks pay, so there was no sense arguing. Jack produced an
old alligator-skin wallet and handed the cashier ten and two ones.
Beyond the turnstiles, a promenade displayed timbers from old ships, Spanish anchors crusted
with barnacles, giant tortoise shells, and other edifying nautical and aquatic artifacts. After that
came the main building. The location of the stuffed shark was obvious from the mob around it,
ten deep, reverberating with oohs and ahs.
“I can’t see,” Annie said. “Pick me up, Campbell.”
“Let your boyfriend do it,” he said casually.
“Pick me up, Paul.”
Paul picked her up easily.
“Good God!” Annie cried. “It’s a monster!”
Although Campbell was just over six feet tall, he had to stand on tiptoe to see the fish, mounted
on tripods behind a glass wall. The shark was easily twenty-five feet long, with round glittering
eyes and huge, vicious-looking teeth. The skin had a ghostly sheen. The beast seemed
extraordinarily menacing even in death. Yet it failed to arouse any real emotion in Campbell.
Jesus, he thought, Annie’s right . Nothing gets to me any more.
“Okay, you can put me down now,” Annie said. “How would you like to tangle with that,
“Sharks bore me, I told you,” he answered as they pushed their way out of the crowd.
“Toothy but stupid. Can we go home now?” He always tried, generally without success, to keep
from drinking until “the sun was over the yardarm”—which for him meant five p.m. By the time
they drove back to the marina in the afternoon traffic, the hour would have almost arrived. His
“Not yet!” Annie responded. “We haven’t seen the fish, Flipper, or the killer wh—“
“I don’t want to look at fish. I’ve seen movies of Flipper.”
“The killer whales, then.”
“Oh, great. More show biz from the briny deep,” he said.
But finally they agreed on the whales, whose act had already started when the trio sat
down in the amphitheater. A trainer gestured from a platform above the pool while two whales
swam through the water. A bikini-clad girl rode one of the whales, clutching a pectoral fin as the
great beast moved slowly around the area and delivered her to the poolside. The audience
applauded wildly as she scrambled off deck.
Annie said, “That’s new. There was no girl when I was here last.”
A flat voice droned over the loudspeaker. “While the whales rest for a minute, let me tell
you something about them and their kind.
“Actually the largest species of dolphin, the orca, or killer whale, lives in every sea,
although it is most likely to be found in small herds in the northern Atlantic or Pacific, along the
routes of other species of whales whose flesh it eats. Its tapered form and muscular fins make it
the fastest of whales. The adult killer measures up to thirty feet and weighs between two and
three tons, although larger orcas have been sighted.
“The killer whale is the most ferocious animal in the world. It has no peer in the sea—not
even the sixty-foot sperm whale, which is a principal prey. In a typical attack, a number of orcas
will converge on the head of the larger prey, forcing the lips apart to get at the giant tongue,
which they tear out and devour. In one recorded instance, a single orca killed an enormous sperm
whale by repeatedly leaping and pouncing on its back.
“The killer whale is endowed with twenty to twenty-eight sharp, pointed teeth in each jaw.
The huge mouth is capable of swallowing a dolphin whole. With one bite it can tear off a piece of
whale flesh weighing four hundred pounds. The remains of thirteen porpoises, fourteen seals, and
a human body were extracted from the stomach of a twenty-seven-foot killer whale. A fifteenth
seal had stuck in its throat and choked it.
“The ancient Romans called this whale Orcinus orca-—for ‘bringer of death’.
They don’t look very deadly right now, Campbell thought as he watched them. The beasts
had tall dorsal fins, flat tail fins, and streamlined black bodies, with white bellies and white
markings over the eyes. Their skins seemed sleek and satiny. The whales conveyed poise and
elegance, and Campbell was impressed in spite of himself.
“The killer whale can be a friend to man. There have been occasions when these animals
pushed sinking ships and drowning people to shore. On the other hand, even Hugo and Helga,
raised in captivity since they were pups, can be difficult to deal with. Their feelings seem easily
hurt by harsh words; they have temper tantrums; they are cantankerous and proud and often
engage in contests of will with their trainers.”
Did the killer whales understand the meaning of captivity, Campbell wondered. Was that
possible? If so, how did they feel about it?
“A female killer whale has one calf at a time, after a pregnancy of about a year. A model
parent, she takes excellent care of her young. Orcas have a highly developed family and pack
instinct, and if a female or calf is wounded, other adults attempt to push it to safety. If a female
or young whale is killed, the others seek vengeance.
“Orcas can be violent to man but usually not unless they or their families are threatened.
Amazing but true is the story of two loggers in British Columbia who, while skidding logs down a
slope into the water, saw a group of killer whales pass below. One logger deliberately let a log
slide—it hit a whale, injuring it. The whales left. That night as the loggers rowed back to camp
the whales appeared out of the darkness and upset the boat. The man who had dropped the log
vanished and was never seen again. The other survived to tell the tale. The killer whales had
apparently waited all day for revenge.
“Like man, the orca has a highly developed brain. In fact, its brain, with the unique
paralimbic lobe, is even larger and more complex than that of a human. The killer whale has an
amazing memory and a remarkable mental capability. Little is known about its intelligence except
that it is powerful, perhaps even superior in some respects to man’s. Like man, too, the orca can
talk. It communicates with a combination of pure sound and sonar-like echo location. The whale
sounds you are about to hear can be picked up by other whales at a remarkable distance. Speak,
Hugo and Helga!”
The trainer on the platform gestured vigorously, and the whales obliged with noises—-
strange, eerie, pinging, ponging, singing, wailing sounds, like harmonics from outer space, seem-
ingly happy yet sad, childish yet old as the earth itself. Campbell leaned forward to hear better,
wishing he could understand.
“...the speech of captive killer whales was recorded with a hydrophone and analyzed by a
computer. It was found to contain fifteen million information bits, as computer technologists call
them. By contrast, Homer’s epic poem the Odyssey has only one million bits...”
“Perhaps, if whales spoke our language—-or we theirs—-they would remind us that many
kinds of whales are endangered and will soon become extinct if man doesn’t cease his senseless
slaughter of them. Now you’re about to see Hugo and Helga perform the impossible. Whales!”
The trainer waved his arms, and the animals, barely rippling the surface, vanished.
Campbell put the depth at about thirty-five feet. What were the whales doing down there? He
imagined them coiling like great springs. But they couldn’t reach the bait; a leap like that was
impossible for animals of such bulk.
From below they flashed like missiles, breaking the surface with a whoosh, great hulks,
streaking into the air until their tails were five, ten feet out of the water. Flippers flat, mouths
open, they grabbed the meat, fell, and struck with such impact that spray showered the audience.
The crowd roared. Paul Sutro shouted, “Wow!” But Campbell sat immobile. He tried to
understand why the whales had moved him so. They had shown him...life. Yes, powerful, raging
life, a vitality so different from the deadness that paralyzed him. What was the strange feeling the
beasts aroused? Wonder? Awe? No, it was something deeper, something he couldn’t quite
understand. If only...Well, forget it, he told himself; it would be five o’clock before long.
The whales swam serenely, as if satisfied with their performances. The larger one, Hugo,
came to the edge of the pool in front of where Campbell sat; it reared its massive head as if to
survey the audience. The eyes were red, and at that moment Jack Campbell was prepared to
swear that they glared directly at him. In the depths of those fiery eyes lurked an inscrutable
message. Was it a challenge? A warning?
By the exit stood a row of machines that carved plastic souvenir models of various
Seaquarium attractions. One machine sculpted plastic Flippers; another, great white sharks; and a
third, killer whales. Campbell inserted some coins and watched the knife cut. A six-inch whale
dropped from a slot, and he put it in his pocket. For some silly reason, he hoped the whale would
bring him luck. He needed some.
Golden Sands Marina had belonged to Campbell’s father, as had the Bumpo. She was tied
up at the dock, and he used her as a houseboat. The many women who spent nights aboard
always complained of the mess. Gus Novak, who worked for Jack, as he had for Jack’s father,
kept the boat in decent shape. If it hadn’t been for Gus, the Bumpo wouldn’t even have been in
condition to sail. Not that Campbell was willing to make the effort to take her out.
Bill Campbell, Jack’s father, had risen from enlisted man to first lieutenant and executive
officer of a minesweeper in World War II, earning a chest full of medals. Originally from coastal
Massachusetts, he settled in Florida after the war and started a powerboat rental business. He
worked hard, spent frugally, and finally bought Golden Sands. It had been tough at first because
the marina was slightly off the beaten track, but Bill had made it a success. A big, gregarious man
with a full red beard, Bill was a combination of Scottish charm and canny Scottish economics.
The marina had a long list of steady customers.
When back in the fifties the marina started to boom, Bill acquired the boat for almost
nothing, and fixed her up. The Mary, as he’d called her after his wife and the mother of his two
children, was an old fifty-foot tuna trawler. Built in the thirties, she had sturdy oak frames, a hull
of pine planking, a short mainmast topped by a crow’s nest, and an even shorter mast aft. There
was a pilothouse, or wheelhouse, well forward and a good-sized main cabin, which contained
Campbell’s sleeping quarters and a small gallery. The broad deck-—fifteen feet at the beam—-
had served as a work area in the boat’s tuna-fishing days. On the bowsprit was a pulpit with a
rounded metal safety rail from which big game fish could be gaffed. Bill had installed a 150-
horsepower Ford-Lehman engine, which drove the boat at the cruising speed of ten knots. She
was seaworthy, roomy, and comfortable, though nobody would have described her as chic.
Bill Campbell had used the boat partly for charters and partly for pleasure. Jack still
remembered the moonlight cruises with family and friends aboard. The craft had also served as a
nautical school for Jack Campbell; on it his father had trained him to be a first-rate sailor—-over-
trained him, perhaps.
After leaving home, Jack had served in the Navy, which taught him to box, drink, handle
guns and explosives, and detest authority, or detest it more than he had before. Maybe he was
rebelling against his father’s sometimes harsh discipline, or maybe (as he had come to suspect) he
was just plain aimless; but after a few post-Navy months in college, he had taken off on his own
and hadn’t gone home for years.
At the time, though, he’d thought all that experience would add up to something
eventually. He’d driven a truck in Chicago and a taxicab in Denver and worked in a steel mill in
Birmingham, where he’d gotten into too many fights. He was quick to take offense, but while he
could hold his own in a brawl, he didn’t really have the instinct to do injury, as he’d learned when
he made the mistake common to competent amateur fighters and tried to turn pro. He had just
lost his third fight in succession when Bill called to say that Mary was dead.
Jack’s mother, only forty-eight, had died suddenly of pneumonia. Bill, seven years older
than Mary, had gone around with a helpless look on his still youthful face, and Jack had taken
care of his eleven-year-old sister, laying out her clothes for school, fixing her breakfast, making
her bathe and brush her teeth—all the things a mother would have done. He’d settled down for a
year, working hard at the marina. But as soon a Bill was himself again, Jack’s old restlessness
returned, and he went away. He’d had another long series of jobs-—bartending, factory work,
anything. He had never gone to jail, but it sometimes seemed that prison was only life he hadn’t
Why did he find it impossible to stick to anything? He asked himself as he stood at the
Bumpo’s rail, a glass of gin in hand. It was late, and as usual, he faced his old enemy, insomnia,
for which his usual cures were drink, sex, or both. He had broken a date with a lackluster blonde
he’d acquired somewhere, another in a line of plastic women with lovely shapes, flat faces, and no
passion. They might have been carved by a machine. He had known so many of them that he’d
begun to wonder if he wasn’t responsible, despite the fact that women seemed genuinely attracted
to him. But at that moment he didn’t want to even think about women.
Today at the Seaquarium he had found himself identifying with the great creatures trapped
in the pool, from which there could be no escape into the infinite expanse, their real home in the
sea. The adventure that was meant to be their lives had been denied them...Sure, sure, he was
being ridiculously fanciful about the whales. Yet...he read into them his own anguish. Only for
him the imprisoning pool was of his own making. How hard he had tried to break out, thinking,
moving on, hoping to find one grand adventure that would fill him with exhilaration and mystery
and banish the emptiness that was his lot on this miserable planet. That was what he had been
searching for, but he had failed. So he’d given up and gotten married. And when that didn’t help,
he’d tried anesthetizing himself with gin. But those whales hadn’t quit-—he was sure of that.
Underneath the docile surface, they were still fighters.
Campbell went to the cabin, poured another slug of straight gin from the half-gallon
bottle, and returned to the rail. The marina lights glinted on oil-patched water. Although he tried
to forget his former wife, she sometimes floated into his thoughts, like debris riding on the sea
surface. Why, for God’s sake, had he married her? Not, as he realized later, from love but more
out of fatigue from his constant conquests. He had hoped that connubial life might be better than
his so-called freedom. Anyway, he hadn’t tried marriage before, and new experience always
counted. She had been, in retrospect, a totally ordinary girl in every way except looks, and he’d
soon become used to those. For several years they lived in a small California town, where she
worked as a waitress, and he managed a motorcycle agency. Marriage had been tolerable-—at
least, it hadn’t been intolerable.
He had brought his wife back to Florida when his father became ill. The surgeon had been
wrong when he said that they had caught the growth in time, and Bill Campbell began a slow,
painful decline. The crusty old man refused to complain and continued to run the marina and take
out fishing parties even as the pounds dropped from his robust frame. Wanting to know his father
better, Jack spent more and more time with him and gradually learned what his father thought of
For all his outward gregariousness, Bill Campbell had kept his thoughts to himself. He
had rarely interfered with the lives of his children, though his Presbyterian core would surely have
made him volubly object to his daughter’s cohabitation with Paul at the marina. But that had
happened later, after Bill was dead. It became clear that Annie was Bill’s favorite. Because she
reminded him of Mary, because Annie had the old man’s charm, because Annie applied herself
and had started college, because...There was no point in kidding himself, Jack thought bitterly.
The real reason was that Bill privately regarded his rugged son’s wandering existence as a waste
of time or worse. That hurt, since Jack in his deepest self agreed.
As for Jack’s wife, Bill had seen her as little better than a tramp. That his judgment had
turned out to be right hadn’t made life any easier. Bill hadn’t liked having her around, and Jack
hadn’t been able to explain to her why he left her alone so much, why she was excluded from the
family. The fights began, heated by liquor and all the more violent because they were conducted
in angry whispers and hisses so Bill wouldn’t know what was going on. The bedroom war
continued for a year, until Bill drowned.
Jack leaned over the rail and inhaled deeply. If only the cause of Bill’s death had been
clear. Weak as he was, Bill had taken a small sailboat into Biscayne Bay. The boat had been
found with no one aboard, and Bill Campbell had been found on the bottom, a line wrapped about
his corpse, the anchor weighing him down. A sailing accident, the coroner had said, and it was
possible that Bill, who’d started to have dizzy spells by then, had entangled himself in the rope
and slipped overboard with the anchor. But Jack had always doubted it-—Bill’s seamanship was
too good. If it had been suicide, Gus Novak probably knew because Bill would have told hi
beforehand. But Novak revealed nothing.
Jack, prepared for his father’s death but not its suddenness or manner, felt cheated. He’d
realized later what he had been hoping for all these months: a sign, no matter how small (even the
recognition of how hard he had worked at the marina), that his father saw value in him. Instead,
Bill died without saying a word. For weeks Jack had gotten drunk at bars, sometimes returning at
dawn, alarming his sister. That was when he and his wife had moved aboard the Bumpo. But one
night he had come aboard well before midnight. It happened to a lot of men, he guessed, but not
in his wildest dreams to him. As he walked into the cabin, she whimpered in fright, pulling sheets
and blankets around her, to expose a man. Jack hadn’t made a sound; he went to the marina and
drank himself into a stupor.
Divorce was easy. She took the money in the joint bank account but asked nothing else,
as though glad to be rid of him. He supposed she’d returned to California; he never heard from
her. Not that he cared—-there were many women around, and the phone aboard the Bumpo rang
constantly. But he’d ceased to care much about anything—-the combination of his wife’s
infidelity, his father’s possible suicide, and most of all the collapse of his dreams left him
Before he got sick, Bill Campbell had never owed much money; he was too Scottish to
pay interest on it. He was also too Scottish to foot the premiums for health insurance, so that the
doctor and hospital bills put Golden Sands Marina into debt for the first time, just when the place
needed major renovation to compete with the newer, flashier establishments that referred to
themselves as boatels.
Sill, Jack had only himself to blame for poor management; he’d been a lousy businessman
all right, with his impatience, sharp tongue, temper, and inattention to details. Customers loyal
for years to his father had gone elsewhere. If the downward drift continued, Jack and Annie
would have to sell the marina. But Jack was oddly reluctant. He wanted to leave the business
with his flag flying.
He dipped into his bag of optimistic clichés and found a few—tomorrow was another
day...try harder...if at first you don’t succeed...-—but nothing worth pondering. At least he had
been virtuous this evening, though. Yawning, he realized that the reward of sleep might at last be
conferred on him.
He was headed for what he pledged would be the last drink of the night when the
telephone jarred the silence. “Oh, hi there,” Campbell answered uncertainly. He hesitated, then
went on in a tone that fairly begged for a reprieve, “Well...sure...I guess so...I’ll wait up, Bonnie.”
He waited through three more gins for Bonnie, who interested him about as much as the
Seaquarium. Topside in a deck chair, he removed the whale model from his pocket and ran his
fingers across it. He must have fallen asleep for a moment because when heels clattered on the
dock he was dreaming of sharks and killer whales.
The girl had long since left when Campbell woke with a head he would gladly have had
stuffed. He put on an old shirt, grimy khakis, and dirty tennis shoes without socks. On a peg
hung his captain’s hat with its rakish visor and white crown, the only clean object in the cabin. He
stood in front of the hat for a moment, as though it were a mirror. He coughed and spat through
an open porthole, then marched outside to greet what remained of the shiny morning.
He ran his fingers through his tangled hair and entered the office. Gus Novak
acknowledged him with his eyes and a puff of smoke from his pipe.
Annie had tried to beautify the room with a coat of paint and bamboo curtains, but she
hadn’t managed to dispel the aura of failure that cracked glass countertop, faded upholstery, and
worn linoleum created. The walls were decorated with photos of happy people and dead fish, but
they came from another epoch, when Bill Campbell captained the Golden Sands.
Gus Novak had served under Bill Campbell aboard the minesweeper and had been one of
the family ever since. He was a wiry medium-sized man of indeterminable age over sixty, with
white hair and a big, perpetually blue-shadowed jaw. He watched Campbell slyly; he had
something on his mind. Gus’s inscrutable manner sometimes annoyed Jack, but the man was
indispensable. Except for bringing in customers, he could do anything, it seemed; without him the
business couldn’t have survived a day, let alone the months it might have left. Campbell ignored
Novak and went behind the counter for the reservation book. He kept a gin bottle there for
emergencies, and the hangover tempted him to take a pull, but he could feel the gray eyes on his
back. Over his shoulder, he said, “Okay Gus, what is it?”
“Could’ve caught a good charter this morning if you’d been up,” Novak said casually,
“Overflow from Kelsey’s. Looking for a boat to take them out.”
Campbell opened the reservation book, letting the cover bang down on the counter. The
pages were mostly empty, and nothing new had been listed this morning. “They could have called
yesterday,” he said irritably.
“Wasn’t an overflow yesterday,” Novak said logically.
The gaudy pattern on the fat man’s sports shirt sailed into Campbell’s mind. “Who wants
tourists, anyway?” he grumbled. When was it he had promised himself to try harder? Last night?
Trying to keep his eyes off the bottle, he stared out through the window, focusing on a dock that
was listing a bit. A handful of vessels floated in the expensive marina.
“If it ain’t tourist fishermen, who exactly do we get?” Gus asked in an unusually sharp
voice. “Can’t count on boats any more.”
“Things will be all right,” Campbell insisted.
“What about the customer who wants the bilge pump?’
Jack turned on one foot. “You don’t have it? He was ready to burn down the place
Novak, with a bleak look, answered, “They’re giving me the runaround. Dayton’s got it
on order, he claims. Course, that ain’t true. Dayton knows you can’t pay him. Figures if he stalls
enough, you’ll try someplace else. That way he don’t get stuck.” Gus emptied his pipe with an
expert gesture. “I’d do the same.”
“You would, would you?” Campbell shouted. “Well, where the hell’ [s your ingenuity,
Gus? Pick up a secondhand pump and install it. Tell the man it’s new. The simpleminded shit
won’t know the difference. On second thought, send Paul. That son of a bitch ought to do
something around here.”
“Doubt if your father would have suggested that,” Gus said.
“Anyway, hard to put the arm on Paul when he ain’t getting paid. Not that I am either.”
“You can always quit.”
That was mean, he knew. Gus wouldn’t quit. Where would he go? They were his only
family. And, besides, out of loyalty to Bill, Gus regarded the Campbell kids as his personal
responsibility. He wouldn’t leave them when they were in trouble.
“Wish I could afford it,” Gus joked lamely.
Bill would have met the payroll. He wouldn’t have let the marina go to hell. And he
wouldn’t have ripped off a customer, Campbell said, “Charge the guy the right amount.”
“Good,” Novak said.
Another wonderful day commenced. Campbell took the bottle and glass from under the
A voice said, “Just like in the cowboy movies, right?’ Annie, in cutoff Levi’s and a thin
blouse knotted at the solar plexus, appeared from the room in the rear, where she lived with Paul.
“Drinking at high noon and taking the stuff straight. Water and ice are for dudes, huh?”
“When I want a keeper, I’ll ask, he snapped. But he set the bottle down.
“You look like a stowaway who just crawled out of a hold.” She put a finger to his
cheek. “Can’t afford razor blades?”
“Leave me alone.”
“To drink yourself to death? To put us out of business once and for all?”
“I can’t invent customers.”
“You sure can chase them off,” she retorted, green eyes flashing. “Christ, the way you
talk to people.”
“Go to hell.”
He placed his hand on his face. He didn’t have to look in the mirror to know he looked
lousy, with hollows under his eyes and blotches on his cheeks. He owed the shadows to Bonnie’s
endless quest for satisfaction, the blotches to his thirst for gin. He wondered fleetingly when
veins would show in his nose. “I’m sorry. This place gets me down. I hate Florida. Worst
goddam state in the..."
“You want to put the sunshine state under a cloud?” Paul asked in the bantering tone that
was supposed to convey wit. He had emerged from the same room where the two of them played
house, and was bare-chested, as if to prove it.
Campbell didn’t much like Sutro’s manner, but he felt cheerless enough without another
argument. He said merely, “Sometimes I’d like to skip out is all.”
“Well, you could, Sutro said. Annie’ll be finished with college soon. We could run the
place, couldn’t we, hon?”
Beneath her red hair, Annie’s face flushed exposing Paul’s matter-of-fact suggestion as
premeditated. The two of them had plotted that inspiration in advance. “It would be hard
without Campbell, but we could try,” she said unhappily.
“I’m not leaving until I have this place on its fee,” Jack said bitterly.
As though to change the subject, Annie said, “Paul, tell them what you read in the paper
this morning. About the shark.”
“Sharks again!” Jack groaned.
“The Japs have offered a hundred and fifty grand for a great white,” Sutro announced.
“Live, not stuffed. It has to be over twenty-five feet long. They’re building a pool for it in
“I’m in no mood for games,” Campbell warned.
“I mean it!”
“Oh sure. How do they expect to get it home, airfreight?”
Paul fingered his bushy mustache, looking hurt. “I’m serious. You catch it and keep it,
and they’ll send an empty tanker for it. Anywhere in the world. No shit.”
“No shit,” Campbell mocked him.
“”I’ll show you the newspaper,” Paul offered.
“All right, all right. Maybe you read it. It’s still a screwy idea.”
“Why?” Paul asked. “It would be fun. I’d like to brand my initials on a live shark!”
“And lose your hand. More, I hope.” Campbell looked away from Annie and went on,
“Where would you find a great white shark, for God’s sake? They don’t grow on seaweed.”
“Paper says there’re white shark sightings up and down the East Coast. It mentioned
Montauk Point, Long Island, for one place.”
“What do you think, Gus?”
Novak shrugged and puffed.
Jack muttered, “Hundreds of people will be hunting great whites if it’s true.”
“Yes,” Annie said excitedly, “but they don’t have a boat and a crew, all ready to go like
“What do you mean, ‘we’?” Jack growled. “You couldn’t take a trip like that. You’ve
got classes. College...”
“Classes are almost over for the year, and there’s a long, empty summer ahead, while I
decide whether to try graduate school.”
“You want to do it?” he asked.
Annie surveyed the silent marina. A loose piece of rope swayed in the wind. “Think
about a hundred fifty grand, Jack. We could fix up the place, repair the dock, paint...give the
others some real competition.”
“We’d have to go deeper in hock than we are already to pay for the goddam expedition,
with odds about a thousand to one we’d fall on our ass. We could lose the marina, the boat, the
“People fail who expect to,” Paul said casually.
“I didn’t say I expect to fail,” Jack shot back. “I just said the odds stink. Right, Gus?”
“Prob’ly, Gus said.
“Anyway, none of us knows a fucking thing about catching a shark alive, right?”
Annie said quickly. “I could ask Professor Acheron, at the University. He’s one of the
top itchy...icthy...screw it, fish guys in the country. He’d know, if anyone would.”
“Forget it,” Campbell said.
“Think about it, Campbell,” Annie pleaded. “We’ve got a real team here. Gus is the best
boat mechanic around, and he knows everything else, too, God knows. Paul and I can crew, and
I’ll run the galley. Nobody’s a better sailor than you, Jack, when you want to be.”
“The shark was sighted off Montauk? How long would it take to get there?” he asked,
Novak scratched his blue chin thoughtfully, “Well, it’s about nine hundred fifty miles to
Norfolk via the Inland Waterway. That’s...let’s see...” He counted on his fingers. “We could
make Norfolk in five days, sailing day and night—-maybe a day less on the Inland Waterway.
Two more to Montauk. Say a week in all, give or take a little.”
Through the window Jack watched fish-shaped clouds scurry under the sun. “I don’t
want to go to sea. I get bored out there, looking at water day after day,” he muttered. “Anyway,
the scheme’s crazy. Let’s not talk about it any more.” A few minutes later he added, “Annie, just
to satisfy my curiosity, talk to this Akerman tomorrow. Ask him if he thinks it’s feasible. It isn’t
Annie burst into the Bumpo’s main cabin the next day. “Professor Akerman, God bless
him, told me it might work,” she exulted. “As a matter of fact, he says more great sharks have
been sighted off the eastern seaboard this year than ever before. Something about food. Great
whites have been spotted from Cape Hatteras to northern Canada.”
Campbell turned almost stealthily from a pile of navigational charts on the table. “Any
place in particular?”
“Montauk’s as good a place as any, according to the professor.” She stared at the charts.
“Hey, what are you up to? Isn’t that Montauk Point?”
“Mmmm... So it is. I’ll be goddamned. How did that get there?”
Annie put a freckled hand on her hip and inspected her brother from head to toe.
“Campbell, what’s come over you? Your hair’s combed and you’ve shaved. Even your shirt is
clean. If I’m not mistaken, the khakis are new.”
“Well, it was that time of year,” he joked lamely. He’d bought the trousers that afternoon.
He’d also washed his deck shoes, but he didn’t tell her that.
“I don’t even see a drink, and it’s almost six! Are you feeling all right?”
“Just fine, thank you.”
“It’s the trip, isn’t it?” she asked triumphantly. “The idea has you interested in something
finally. You want to go shark-hunting, don’t you?”
“Me? Not a chance. But tell me, how in hell do you take a shark alive?”
“Child’s play, just about. You catch the shark with a baited hook. Then you bring it
alongside the boat—“
‘And the great white shark sinks you,” he finished for her.
“No, no, silly. Sharks don’t sink boats, not even great whites. Whales do that. You
know, like those...OCRs we saw at Seaquarium. The professor told me about one that sank a
forty-foot yacht because it rammed it while it slept on the surface. Anyway, you pull the shark
alongside and spray—“
“With an ordinary garden hose. You spray the gills with...oh, shit, what’s it called?”
Annie dug into the pocket of her dungarees and produced a wad of paper, which she unfolded.
“MS-222. Stands for methane-tricane-sulphanate. It anesthetizes the shark for hours. You tow
it to wherever you want—probably a pen you build by putting a net or something at the mouth of
an inlet—and keep it until people come for it. I told you it was simple.”
“Sure. The only thing simpler is to remain in port in the first place, which is what I plant
to do. Akerman confirms that nobody has ever caught a great white alive?”
“Not of the size the Japanese want.” Annie came forward, put her arms about his still lean
waist and looked up at him. “Come on, Campbell, Let’s do it. What the hell? It’s the chance of
a lifetime. We’ve got the stuff to bring it off, I know it.”
Flattery will get you everywhere, he thought. Out loud, he asked, “Does Paul want to
“Sure he does. He’d go anywhere for kicks and a few bucks.”
“You know Gus. He’d come whether he liked it or not because he’d be afraid the shark
would eat us up.”
“Me, too. Which is why we’re staying home.”
She moved away from him. “I hate you sometimes.”
Campbell examined her carefully. “What about the marina?” he asked softly. “I guess we
could take a vacation the place is practically shut as it is. I think I’ll have a drink after all. Sun’s
over the yardarm.”
The expedition had been financed by the bank, at a high interest rate and with the marina
as security. Campbell had plenty of cash for a change, but if they failed...He put the thought from
his mind as, holding a clipboard, he watched the men loading the boat. It had been four hectic
days since Annie persuaded him to make the trip. He had waited with mounting expectation as
Novak checked the cylinder heads and alternator of the diesel, put in new injectors, and replaced
the defective fuel pump. In a day or two the Bumpo would be ready. Campbell was impatient in
spite of himself.
On the deck, piled high with equipment and provisions, Paul opened cartons and called
out the contents while Campbell checked them off the list: spare parts for the engine and the
pumps, fuel and oil filters, parts for the depth sounder and radar, fuses, spare injectors, pump
impellers, steering cable, gaskets. Because of the new radio regulations, the old double-sideband
wireless had to be supplemented with the VHF radio Novak had picked up for four hundred
dollars. A newly acquired, secondhand fiberglass dinghy had been hoisted on the stern davits.
Professor Akerman had procured a sufficient amount of MS-222 for them, pronouncing himself
Novak, Campbell knew, viewed their adventure with a tolerance that verged on the
indulgence of small children. But Jack was more than glad that Gus had agreed to join them, after
much thoughtful scratching of his blue chin. Campbell might be the captain in name, but until
they got to sea, the real leader was Novak.
Campbell inspected the vessel. What little brass she had was polished, the wheelhouse had
a new coat of paint, the decks were newly cleaned and caulked. She looked altogether
seaworthy. He was suddenly proud of the old tub.
Emerging from the engine room, covered with grease, Novak came topside and stood by
Campbell at the bulwarks.
“Reserve tanks filled?” Campbell asked him.
”They are,” Novak said solemnly. “We’ve got six hundred gallons aboard in all. I figure
we’ll use eighty gallons a day. We don’t need to refuel at Norfolk, but maybe we should. That
way we can cruise around Montauk without putting in right away.”
“Good idea.” They’d had the same conversation several times before, but they kept going
over it. “Much left to be done?”
“Not much,” Novak replied. “Finish tuning the engine...install the harpoon gun...”
“Harpoon gun?” Campbell asked in surprise. “Who ordered that?”
“I did,” Novak said. “An old Sven-Foyn. Inventor was a Norwegian. That’s what killed
off the old-style whaling.”
“I don’t understand, Gus. What do we need a thing like that for?”
Novak looked at him with clear gray eyes. “Case we have to defend ourselves.” He
answered calmly. “Case anything goes wrong.”
“What’s to go wrong? We may not find a shark, but that’s as wrong as things can go.
This boat can take anything the sea can dish out.”
“Yeah? Well you can never be sure, can you? Harpoon gun didn’t cost much.”
“Okay, if it makes you feel better. Know how to use it?”
“Think so, yes. My uncle...” Gus’s uncle, to whom he frequently referred, had been a
fisherman and seemed to have imparted a great deal of information and lore on a wide range of
subjects. “Show me when we get out to sea,” Campbell said. “That’s about the only kind of gun
I’ve never fired.”
They began to talk about the schools of big bluefish that had been attacking Florida
swimmers. One of the victims had died of the wounds inflicted by a school of hungry blues.
The clouds were crimson in the sunset when Campbell, who had been setting his yardarm
clock back farther and farther, decided he needed a drink. Just as he started for the cabin, a car
screamed to a stop and Paul ran up the gangplank. “Trouble,” he yelled with unusual animation.
“What trouble?” Annie appeared on deck.
Paul told them he was over at Dayton’s to buy an engine part when he heard the news. A
man who had picked and lost a bar fight with Campbell had filed charges. “He knows you’ve got
cash now. His lawyer put him up to it. He’s going to have you arrested. Then he’ll sue. That’s
what he told the guys at Dayton’s. There must have been a fuckup or the pigs would have been
here already. First thing in the morning, probably.”
Annie took charge immediately. “Get moving, you guys. Bring the remaining stuff
aboard. I’ll sort it out under the lights. Tell Gus to finish up on the engine. We’ll have a mid-
night supper at sea, okay?”
They sailed within the hour.
The diver moved over the bottom, following a wire leading to a microphone then took the
mike and inspected it. Suddenly the eyes behind the glass plate dilated.
In the blue water above appeared the shape of a great shark, fully twenty-five feet long.
Replacing the mike, the diver slowly retreated to a pile of rocks, eyes never leaving the shark
that circled above. The diver found a gap in the rocks and squeezed into it, hanging motionless,
like the dark center of a sea flower. The shark moved lazily.
The diver rose slowly toward the surface, back against the rocks, flippered feet kicking slowly. A
fin dislodged a shell which clinked against the rocks as it dropped. The diver froze.
The shark must have heard the noise. It began to descend, reaching the level where the
shell had come to rest. Its snout turned upward, toward the flippers and the rubber-encased
A low throbbing vibration broke the stillness of the deep. The shark swam toward the
surface as though to investigate....
On a good day like this the Newfoundland air had a luminous, almost magnifying quality,
so that the world seemed clear and endless, stripped of trouble and complexity. It was the kind of
place you imagined inhabiting forever except when you remembered how cold it became in
winter, how rainy in spring, how buggy later in the summer. Deceptively pleasant today,
Newfoundland could be a harsh place to live in.
The Bumpo cruised close to a shoreline where short, sandy beaches clung tenuously
between jagged cliffs with overhanging ledges that a human foot could jar loose. Trees—small
pines and junipers—eked out their existence in a blanket of soil only inches deep on the rocks.
Human existence on the island seemed a little like that of the trees: surviving, even flourishing,
where it had no business.
But it was Campbell’s own presence in this distant place that seemed most questionable at
the moment. They’d sailed a good deal farther than planned, drawn by the lure of an evasive,
maybe chimerical, fish. There hadn’t been any great whites off eastern Long Island. Rumors of
big sharks off Cape Cod drew them there, but again the sea refused to cough them up. Next they
had gone to Maine on the basis of another story, probably fabricated, judging by the results.
Campbell would have quit right then except for the report on Canadian radio about great white
sharks off the coast of Newfoundland.
“We’ve heard that before,” Campbell had said sourly.
“Not quite. The warning’s official. It was on the government radio,” Annie argued.
Campbell objected, “I didn’t think great whites went that far north. Isn’t the water too
Gus said, “Usually. But I remember my uncle telling me they’d been seen up north when
the winter was warm. This one’s been among the warmest on record.”
“Did the radio say exactly where in Newfoundland?”
“Mentioned a place called South Harbour. On the southwestern side of the island.”
Campbell found a map and read from it, “Mainland, Three Rock Cove, Lourdes,
Winterhouse, Paul au Mal, McIvers...Christ, what a collection of names! Here it is-—South
Harbour..” The town was identified with a dot surrounded by a circle, which, the legend
explained, gave it a population of between five hundred and one thousand. South Harbour was
joined to a few other places, even smaller and not very close, by a thin paved road.
“What are we waiting for?” Annie demanded. “Let’s go.”
Campbell replied uncertainly, “I don’t know...It’s such a long shot—-“
Annie cried, “Come on. It’s now or never.”
“One last try,” he finally agreed. “But that’s it.”
Now, up in the crow’s nest, he hated everybody responsible or his presence here: the Japs
for the $150,000 prize money, Annie and Paul for their goddam youthful enthusiasm, Gus for
having agreed to tag along despite his better judgement, and himself, most of all, for being a jerk,
a sucker, and a screw-up. If they failed this time, as they surely would, they’d return the Bumpo
to Miami. And then? Jack tried to concentrate on the sun-swept sea.
About a half-mile ahead jutted a point of rocky land. That was where an Indian Novak
had found in South Harbour said he had spotted a shark fin. Strangely, nobody in the village
would confirm the report. But the stolid man called Umilak exuded reliability, and they had put a
net across the mouth of a deep inlet called Calm Cove, which lay behind the point, near a section
of deserted beach. Campbell thought of telling Paul, who was in the wheelhouse, to be careful,