by Michael John Grist
was nearing high-tide on the Sheckledown Sea when Celibate Jayne the
Hammerhand finally bashed his way out of the belly of the whale.
Ashen face covered with gobbets of blubber and gut, he slithered down
the black rubber side of the beached leviathan, a river of purple slime
showering down on his head.
gasped, coughed up a wad of bloody kelp and brine, then slumped himself
starfish-splayed on the beach.
enough the jubilant cries of his crew carried raucously over the sand,
as they moored the 6-oar gully, hefted up the smelting cauldrons, and
came pell-mell dashing down the beach towards him. First by his
side was half-headed Elspeth, first mate, her big chin wagging with
a Ptarmigan, Jayne!" she gasped, gleaming, bouncing round the whale.
"You only done gone and busted out a Ptarmigan!"
smiled weak up at her.
barrels o`spermaceti oil," she said all in fizz, "and just
time fore the storm hits to boil it all. You done us right proud
coughed again, spotlets of whale's blood and brine, caught his ragged
asked Elspeth, stood in her tan hide galoshes looking down at Jayne
in the bloody muck.
shook his head. "There`s a bloke," he said, stopping
to catch his air, "inside."
asked Elspeth, stopping her happy flouncing to look at him. "What?"
yellow bloke," said Jayne, "inside the whale."
twitched, as was her wont. "In the whale?"
nodded. "Aye," he said, reaching up a clouty metal Hammerhand.
"A yellow bloke." Elspeth grabbed the metal hand and
hauled him up. Jayne swayed on his feet, then turned to the slitted
hole in the whale`s flank. "Thrashing about in there."
moved closer to see.
said Jayne, blocking her path. He pointed to the whale`s still
trembling eye. It flickered, rolled, flared. The slow sussurus
of breath in and out ground down. The spurty veins round the hammered-out
gut-hole pulsed once, twice more, and finally the whale died.
squashed you up in its throes," he said. "Now`s OK."
comin'?" she asked.
ain`t even breathin' proper yet," he said. "Go on."