Author / Speaker
Upon November’s night ocean, the Humboldt squid swam before their madness. They shot just beneath the surface, muscled torpedoes creating their own waves, a school of incomprehensible size. Swimming at breakneck speed, they tumbled over and around each other, marbles tossed from an angry child’s hand.
The squid boat’s nets were in the water. The lights shone down, man’s bright stars. Illuminated in the nets, heaping masses of inches-long market squid squirmed, slick and brownish-white.
The crew readied to haul the catch aboard.
The youngest deck hand looked down into the half-full net.
“Good haul,” he said.
Everything is relative, thought Jack McDermott, but he kept it to himself. Captain of the Ichthyosaur, Jack McDermott kept most things to himself. Like the fact his boat was named after one of the plastic dinosaurs he played with as a kid. Those dinosaurs – slightly warped, they never seemed to get the molds right -- stegosauruses, pterodactyls, brontosauruses and the lordly T-Rex, had come buried inside cereal boxes. He had eaten enough Sugar Pops to singlehandedly keep diabetes and Kellogg’s in business.
“Bring them up easy,” he said.
The first Humboldt squid hit the port side of the Ichthyosaur as the bottom of the sagging net rose dripping from the water. They struck at full speed, brains working at antic overdrive right through the last flicker of consciousness. The sound, a basso whumping beneath the water, reminded Jack McDermott of anti-aircraft fire. The collision of cartilage and steel tickled the soles of his rubber boots.
Looking down at the churning waters, the young deck hand said, “Shit.”
Jack McDermott said nothing. He owned the boat. The bank owned him. The dull reverberations sounded like a malfunctioning cog, catching again and again. Leaning over the railing, he wished it were so.
Humboldt squid piled up against the port side. Many were the size of men. The squid that struck the boat first, held their place, quivering. As Jack McDermott blinked, the trailing squid stacked on top of their fellows like slick firewood.
A whole fucking ocean, thought Jack McDermott, and they can’t go around?
The squid made a fleshy slapping that was nearly rhythmic.
Like lovemaking, Jack McDermott thought sadly. Sliding into their later years, he and his wife weren’t slimming any, but their passion remained undimmed. He had been lucky in love.
How his mind entertained such ridiculous shit at times like this was beyond him.
No one could do anything but stare. The squid were stacked halfway up the side of the Ichthyosaur. Tentacles slapped against rivets, curled into portholes and grasped nicks and grooves.
The young deckhand’s shout was on the wrong side of sanity.
“Fucking shit! They’re going to stove us in!”
No, they’re not, thought Jack McDermott, they’re going to pull us over, and that’s what they did.
In their madness, the squid fixed to everything and wrested. The five fishermen were torn to pieces. The tearing went on and on, smaller and smaller pieces, a fruitless sorting.
At last, the squid that weren’t brained or crushed, poured around the bow and stern. They darted on, without direction, running only from something they will not escape. Those that fell behind spun cartwheels in the darkness, throwing off rainbow colors and convulsing until they were still.
In the water, the lights of the Ichthyosaur popped and fizzed.
Before the last light went dark, a plastic T-Rex drifted into the spotlight, a good luck charm, run its course.