Now Art is
swimming face down 50 yards away. Suddenly he sprints. I know that means he has
sighted a moving target somewhere down in the coral jungle. I swim after him as
fast as I can. I want to see him spear it. Before I can reach him, he upends,
disappears. I cannot see him anywhere. Another minute goes by. He comes up, 50
feet away, sucks in air hard, bawls out to the boat, "Lost my spear! Bring
I see Sydney hold
one over the side. Louisa, who is nearest the boat, reaches for it, and swims
hard to Art. He takes it, shoots down. I see the target 40 feet below. I am
startled. The fish, shadowy against its ledge of sheltering stone, is as big as
our dinghy, the Little Seven. Now I encompass the swift play. Fish fins twirl,
apprehensively; and at the same split second, spear speeds away as 80 pounds of
Pinder pull on the sling is released. I follow its flight. The spear slices
clean through backbone and belly, and the great fish staggers, makes one
violent bolt away from the ledge, slithers along the sandy bottom to another
ledge, and leans against it, bubbles bursting from ruptured air bladder. Fish
bubbles follow Art to the top, where he gulps air and swiftly goes down
Now he is
swimming up with his spear. The big fish on it begins to gleam pink in the
surface light. I dive down for a better view, latch on to the kill as Dave
comes down with his camera.
I see the fish is
not as big as it looked down deeper. It is only two-thirds my size. Great gills
expand and contract like a tortured accordion. Sydney gaffs it into the boat.
Louisa and I climb aboard to examine it. Its great pouty mouth is growing rigid
over canine teeth. The rhythm of pink gills is slow and erratic now.
"What did we
get?" asks Louisa, the spear-bearer.
smiling, "Family Lutianidae, probably jocu: dog snapper."
cubera," Art says firmly, eying it with the malevolent glance he turns on a
fish that has cost him a spear.
this fish was I may never know. The argument went on the entire trip. I looked
in my Field Book of Marine Fishes of the Atlantic Coast. It said snappers
seldom come more than two feet long or weigh more than 20 pounds, though a
very, very few have been caught which weighed as much as 90. Maybe it was a
cubera. More likely it was a dog snapper—and one more record kill for Art
Pinder. Art probably wouldn't admit it because his brother wasn't there to
share the credit.)
the ledge of coral
Where the silt of sunlight drifts
Like dust that settles toward a floor...
As slow as that: feel the lifting
Surge that rustles white above
But here is only movement deep
As breathing: watch the reef fish hover
Dancing in their silver sleep
Around their stone, enchanted tree....