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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Quote of the Day | December 10, 2008: The Old Man and the Sea

From Ernest Hemingway's 1952 novella The Old Man and the Sea:

Where did you wash? the boy thought. The village water supply was two streets down the road. I must have water here for him, the boy thought, and soap and a good towel. Why am I so thoughtless? I must get him another shirt and a jacket for the winter and some sort of shoes and another blanket.

‘Your stew is excellent,’ the old man said. ‘Tell me about the baseball,’ the boy asked him.

‘In the American League it is the Yankees as I said‘,’ the old man said happily.

‘They lost today,’ the boy told him.

‘That means nothing. The great DiMaggio is himself again‘.’

‘They have other men on the team.’

‘Naturally. But he makes the difference. In the other league, between Brooklyn and Philadelphia I must take Brooklyn. But then I think of Dick Sister and those great drives in the old park.’

‘There was nothing ever like them. He hits the longest ball I have ever seen.’

‘Do you remember when he used to come to the Terrace? I wanted to take him fishing but I was too timid to ask him. Then I asked you to ask him and you were too timid.’

‘I know. It was a great mistake. He might have gone with us. Then we would have that for all of our lives.’

‘I would like to take the great DiMaggio fishing,’ the old man said.

‘They say his father was a fisherman. Maybe he was as poor as we are and would understand.’

‘The great Sister’s father was never poor and he, the father, was playing in the big leagues when he was my age.’

‘When I was your age I was before the mast on a square-rigged ship that ran to Africa and I have seen lions on the beaches in the evening.’

‘I know. You told me.’

‘Should we talk about Africa or about baseball?’

‘Baseball I think,’ the boy said. ‘Tell me about the great John J.

McGraw.’ He said Jota for J.

‘He used to come to the Terrace sometimes too in the older days. But he was rough and harshspoken and difficult when he was drinking. His mind was on horses as well as baseball. At least he carried lists of horses at all times in his pocket and frequently spoke the names of horses on the telephone.’

‘He was a great manager,’ the boy said. ‘My father thinks he was the greatest.’

‘Because he came here the most times,’ the old man said. ‘If Durocher had continued to come here each year your father would think him the greatest manager.’

‘Who is the greatest manager, really, Luque or Mike Gonzalez?’

‘I think they are equal.’

‘And the best fisherman is you‘.’

‘No. I know others better.’

‘QuĂ© va,’ the boy said. ‘There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only you.’

‘Thank you. You make me happy. I hope no fish will come along so great that he will prove us wrong’.’

‘There is no such fish if you are still strong as you say.’

‘I may not be as strong as I think,’ the old man said. ‘But I know many tricks and I have resolution.’

‘You ought to go to bed now so that you will be fresh in the morning.

I will take the things back to the Terrace.’

‘Good night then. I will wake you in the morning.’

‘You’re my alarm clock,’ the boy said.

‘Age is my alarm clock,’ the old man said. ‘Why do old men wake so early? Is it to have one longer day?’

‘I don’t know,’ the boy said. ‘All I know is that young boys sleep late and hard.’

‘I can remember it,’ the old man said. ‘I’ll waken you in time.’

‘I do not like for him to waken me. It is as though I were inferior.’

‘I know.’

‘Sleep well old man.’

The boy went out. They had eaten with no light on the table and the old man took off his trousers and went to bed in the dark. He rolled his trousers up to make a pillow, putting the newspaper inside them. He rolled himself in the blanket and slept on the other old newspapers that covered the springs of the bed.

He was asleep in a short time and he dreamed of Africa when he was a boy and the long, golden beaches and the white beaches, so white they hurt your eyes, and the high capes and the great brown mountains.

He lived along that coast now every night and in his dreams he heard the surf roars and saw the native boats come riding through it. He smelled the tar and oakum of the deck as he slept and he smelled the smell of Africa that the land breeze brought at morning.

Usually when he smelled the land breeze he woke up and dressed to go and wake the boy. But tonight the smell of the land breeze came very early and he knew it was too early in his dream and went on dreaming to see the white peaks of the Islands rising from the sea and then he dreamed of the different harbours and roadsteads of the Canary Islands.

He no longer dreamed of storms, nor of women, nor of great occurrences, nor of great fish, nor fights, nor contests of strength, nor of his wife. He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach.

They played like young cats in the dusk’ and he loved them as he loved the boy. He never dreamed about the boy. He simply woke, looked out the open doom at the moon and unrolled his trousers and put them on.

He urinated outside the shack and then went up the road to wake the boy. He was shivering with the morning cold. But he knew he would shiver himself warm and that soon he would be rowing.

The door of the house where the boy lived was unlocked and he opened it and walked in quietly with his bare feet. The boy was asleep on a cot in the first room and the old man could see him clearly with the light that came in from the dying moon. He took hold of one foot gently and held it until the boy woke and turned and looked at him. The old man nodded and the boy took his trousers from the chair by the bed and, sitting on the bed, pulled them on.

The old man went out the door and the boy came after him. He was sleepy and the old man put his arm across his shoulders and said, ‘I am sorry.’

‘Que va,’ the boy said. ‘It is what a man must do.’

They walked down the road to the old man’s shack and all along the road, in the dark, barefoot men were moving, carrying the masts of their boats.

When they reached the old man’s shack the boy took the rolls of line in the basket and the harpoon and gaff and the old man carried the mast with the furled sail on his shoulder.

‘Do you want coffee?’ the boy asked.

‘We’ll put the gear in the boat and then get some.’

They had coffee from condensed-milk cans at an early morning place that served fishermen. ‘How did you sleep old man?’ the boy asked.

He was waking up now although it was still hard for him to leave his sleep.

‘Very well, Manolin,’ the old man said. ‘I feel confident today.’

‘So do I,’ the boy said. ‘Now I must get your sardines and mine and your fresh baits. He brings our gear himself. He never wants anyone to carry anything.’

‘We’re different,’ the old man said. ‘I let you carry things’, when you were five years old.’

‘I know it,’ the boy said. ‘I’ll be right back. Have another coffee. We have credit here.’

He walked off, barefooted on the coral rocks, to the ice house where the baits were stored. The old man drank his coffee slowly. It was all he would have all day and he knew that he should take it. For a long time now eating had bored him and he never carried a lunch. He had a bottle of water in the bow of the skiff and that was all he needed for the day.

The boy was back now with the sardines and the two baits wrapped in a newspaper and they went down the trail to the skiff, feeling the pebbled sand under their feet, and lifted the skiff and slid her into the water’.

‘Good luck old man.’

‘Good luck,’ the old man said. He fitted the rope lashings of the oars onto the thole pins and, leaning forward against the thrust of the blades in the water, he began to row out of the harbour in the dark. There were other boats from the other beaches going out to sea and the old man heard the dip and push of their oars even though he could not see them now the moon was below the hills.

Tags: Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

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