End Destructive Whaling: The Fifty-ninth Minute In The Belly Of The Whale

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Remember “Call me Ishmael” and actor Gregory Peck,

the peg-legged Ahab in a funereal suit,

soaked dead and black,

crucified against the white body of the whale,

a lesson in nemesis?

I do.

Moby Dick plunged

and rode to the surface,

plunged and rode again,

the whale boats in cold pursuit

on that far-away celluloid sea,

and Peck’s dead arm

in serial motion, waving them on and on,

until “The End.”

What happened to Moby Dick?

We never find out.

I imagined the white whale

swimming on into legend,

where it lives for us now,

carrying Peck like a human barnacle,

his black New England wool

and fierce flesh abrading,

until nothing but white skeleton

against white body remained,

the perfect image for a black pirate flag:

Whales and humans beware!

I remember as a kid sharing the horror of Pinocchio

escaping his creator, Gepetto,

before the Blue Fairy gifted him with flesh,

only to be swallowed whole by a cartoon whale.

But wait a minute!

It’s like a sea-going getaway car I decided.

If the whale spit Pinocchio out, no problem.

Wood floats and drifts.

Humans swim and sink.

Pinocchio would wash up

on a beautiful desert island somewhere,

like going to a better place.

The local natives would

set him up, driftwood white,

in a shrine of bamboo and palm leaves,

and worship the mysterious

minor god from the deeps.

What treasures from the sea,

what abundance they might

pray for!

A few years later I watched

“Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.”

I wanted to be the rollicking, jollicking Kirk Douglas,

with his surgically cleft chin and cool,

red-striped sweater, another peg-leg

dancing his hornpipe in the conning

tower of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus,

the Victorian submarine with its

saw-toothed prow as big as

a bowhead whale’s.

Was his peg-leg like having

a later, cartoon clownfish’s undersized fin?

Did it make it harder to get around,

but easier to move in circles,

like bad history repeating itself?

But no, Captain Nemo was a White Knight of the Deeps

taking arms against our sea of troubles

and by opposing, trying to end them.

He searched out and sank the Captain Ahabs,

the Nautilus cutting through the keels

of the whaling ships like

a flensing knife through blubber,

valuing the whales for more than oil and ambergris.

What of our differences,

whales and humans?

It must be a fluke of our natures,

I came to believe.

Yes, we’re both mammals, but we’re

clever monkeys, and quick.

Our rhythms are circadian, diurnal,

not the slow steady beat of the seas

at work around the edges of the Earth.

We move at the speed of necessity.

They drift like island continents.

Of course, we have big brains

compared to our body masses,

and so do the whales.

We’re both intelligent mammals, curious.

But a whale’s intelligence has fluid depths.

It follows signposts of pod memory

invisible to us, to family and food and deep

parts of our planet we will never experience,

unless we armour our flesh against

the very element that gives them

life and support. That supports us, as well.

But our pod memories are short, and

we too often forget that, foul the oceans

with their blood and our wastes.

All of that richness could be lost,

like men at sea.

If we’re made in god’s image,

that’s about the only thing

we have in common with cetaceans.

I don’t mean the image,

I mean the same Creator.

God gave the whales flukes and fins,

and humans opposable thumbs.

And that was our glory

and their curse.

Humans have bad days; whales have bad centuries.

Maybe Jonah had the best view,

inside the belly of the beast.

Not rough, not slouching toward Bethlehem,

but maybe its last hours.

What did Jonah learn? Not much.

Of course god sent the whale to save Jonah.

That was god’s mistake—and that long ago

biblical whale’s. It should have spit him out

to sink or swim. But that’s not in their nature,

as far as we can understand it. We got the opposite

mission and still diligently pursue their destruction.

In my high school science book, I remember

an illustration of the scale of a human

compared to a blue whale.

Too often, it’s how we prefer to see them─

I mean only in relation to ourselves,

larger curiosities, fluked, fleeting, ephemeral.

We watch whales; measure them;

track them with critter cams;

record their fluke patterns like fingerprints;

are deeply moved in our clown-fish orange survival suits

when they nudge our zods and we

look them in the eye, touch them: Leviathan.

Where are their survival suits?

How could a species so small,

decimate a species so large?

We just had to give it some thought.

We already had the thumbs.

Of course, our real weapon is much more

destructive than a crude harpoon gun.

It’s us. We’re the real weapon of our own mass

destruction and their’s and the planet’s.

I mean our increasing numbers and

the laws of mathematical progression.

We humans are in a suicide pact with ourselves.

But we don’t want to go alone.

We’ve posted the note all around us:

dead seas, barren earth, poisoned skies.

It’s written in lipstick red letters

on the mirrors of our bathrooms,

the tip-off, the point. We stare and don’t

believe it. We shave our image clean

and forget it.

Here’s a thought experiment.

Imagine Jonah is the whole human race

and the whale that swallowed him is

the planet Earth and all its resources.

The whale is some fifty million years old;

Jonah’s span a few hundred thousand years,

say a mere hour of geologic time.

It’s black all around him, so in the first five minutes

Jonah discovers fire and pushes back the dark.

And wow, it’s big and empty in there, but

hey, by the firelight, in her sabre-tooth tiger skin,

Janey is smelling ripe and looking sexy. Maybe they

should cuddle up and keep warm?

Time flies when you’re having fun,

and they double their population

once every minute and begin to

spread out into that vast area.

More minutes pass and they’re still having fun.

Soon all the Jonahs and Janeys are training

their kids to sit on flush toilets,

little kings and queens on their white ceramic thrones.

“Where is all that crap going, Dad? Jonah Junior asks.

“Don’t worry, Son,” Jonah says, “still plenty of room.”

The minutes tick by, the toilets flush, the fun continues.

“But, Dad . . . Dad . . . .”

“I said, don’t worry, Son.”

Jonah checks his watch.

“By my careful calculation, we’ve been here

a little more than fifty-nine minutes

and the place is still only half full.”

© David Floody 2020

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David Floody is a Canadian, Young Adult novelist living and writing in Tofino, British Columbia on the far west coast of Vancouver Island, in breathtaking Clayoquot Sound. His Young Adult novel, THE COLOUR OF PRIDE, is set in 1968, a year after the David witnessed the fires of hatred consume Detroit in a five-day race riot. White fourteen-year-old ballplayer, Frank Phelan, defends and befriends Black teenaged ballplayer, Ellie Fitzgerald, from a brutal racist bully during a crucial game of the 1968 World Series. Frank suffers the worst beating of his life. But his baseball hero, Detroit Tigers player Al Kaline, comes to his and Ellie's rescue. The worst day of his life, becomes the best day of his life, and Kaline gives Frank his own baseball cap with the word "Pride" written on the bill, along with all the Tigers team signatures. David's latest Young Adult novel, INSECT YOUTH, is a coming-of-age sequel to The Colour of Pride, set two years later. Frank Phelan, now sixteen, discovers first love with the mysteriously beautiful Starr Summers. But when he and Starr aree exploring a deep railway, they have a violent encounter with his enemy, Dixie, and Frank is knocked unconscious. Frank later suspects Starr has been sexually assaulted when she becomes silent and withdrawn, but she will not talk about it. When the law fails him and Starr runs away. Frank is the only one who can deliver justice to the older punk. In that same valley, in the middle of a BB gun war, Frank puts his finger on the trigger of his powerful Perazzi pellet gun with its telescopic sight. Frank has Dixie's face in his crosshairs. If Frank pulls the trigger, he steps across a thousand lines and can never again step back. He whispers Starr's name. "In moment he fires, Frank sees himself reflected in the lens of Dixie's eye."

4 Responses

  1. David Floody - Implosion Press
  2. David Floody - Implosion Press
  3. donmadan

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