"Etienne," said the Frenchman, "and he is not familiar."
I ate a total of seven lunches and seven dinners seated next to Etienne, and after a while he didn't seem to mind me so much. One night Cooke and I suddenly realized that the dog had been coming to dinner in different collars. This time he was wearing a green leather model with encrusted gold shells and a tiny green purse dangling from it.
"What does he keep in the purse?" Cooke asked the Frenchman.
"What else? Monnaie!"
The boxer turned out to have a name unpronounceable to anyone but a Frenchman, containing as it did a triple vowel such as the ones in impossible words like fauteuil and oeil. He was a well-behaved dog, curling up under the table at mealtime, but his problem was that he suffered from a separation neurosis, and so did his master. Neither could leave the other. This meant that the boxer had to be taken out on the bounding waves every day when the master fished. There never had been any overabundance of fishing-boat space at the pousada; normally one traveled to the fishing hole in a powerboat that dragged two dories, then transferred to a dory and spent the rest of the day trying to keep from capsizing along with three or four boatmates.
Mix a 75-pound salivating boxer into this recipe and imagine the result. The happiest person I saw on the island was a German who came rushing up to me one night at dinner and said, "Dey got seasick, da two of 'em! Oh, wunderbar!" Who got seasick? "Der Franzose und der Boxer Hund!" It was, to hear the German tell it, the most rewarding angling experience of his life.
I asked Parreira what years of studying such situations had taught him about national characteristics, if any, of fishermen. "I explain," he explained through his usual muddle of interpreters. "The English fisherman wants to impose his will on the fish, and he comes here, like you, with tackle that he insists on using. I have in my house a museum of useless fishing tackle, and most of it was left here by Englishmen. The Italians are mainly fishermen of lakes and rivers; there are no fish left in the Mediterranean, and so they are willing to learn and they present no problems. The Germans are more adaptable than the English and they know more than the Italians, but they get mad. Whenever anybody loses his temper around here, it's always a German. But the Frenchman! He is wonderful and crazy. The Frenchman catches a fish this long and when he gets back to the pousada it's this long and when he gets back to France it's THIS long. But he adapts himself well to changing conditions."
"And brings his dog along," I interjected.
"And he will fish for anything, day and night. In France are four million fishermen and only eight or nine fish; so when he comes here the Frenchman cannot stop fishing. If it is blowing outside, he goes down to the dock and fishes for sardines. We have here a French woman from �vreux who hurries her dinner every night so she can finish her evening by sitting up on the ramparts fishing for eels.
"And when we are fishing for the swordfish, only the Frenchman is not afraid. Sometimes the swordfish will rush the boat and try to stick his sword through the side. While everybody else is screaming, the Frenchman is standing up and shouting, 'Tr�s amusante! Beaucoup de sport!' "
Even on land, the Frenchman at Berlenga managed to be the center of attention. Seated near us in the restaurant was a Parisian we came to know as The Body Beautiful because he strutted about in short shorts showing off what he quite clearly imagined were handsome legs. Personally I felt they were just average. All day long he would fish in old denim slacks, and then he would come to dinner in short shorts: the only person I have known who undressed for dinner. One day he was to be found wading about in the seaweed-strewn rocky shallows with what looked like a butterfly net, and at lunchtime he came back with a few small shrimp and a bagful of mussels, which he consumed as a prelunch appetizer with a bottle of white wine. He invited me to taste a mussel, and all I could make out from the thin slurpy meat was the essence of seawater and the grit of sand: it was like a sip of the Jersey flats at low tide. At least I recognized his gesture as a friendly act, which is more than I can say for any of the gestures made by his buxom, adolescent wife during our visit. She used to keep everyone waiting at dawn while she tried to decide whether to go fishing or sleep some more. At sea, she kept pointing to her mouth and saying to Parreira, "Mangiare! Mangiare!" whether it was time to return for a meal or not. One day the placid Parreira told her off. "You wait till we Ye finished fishing!" he said. "You kept us all waiting this morning. Now you just wait!"