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He probably couldn't get away with his tail tied up, I thought, but he was a long way from being in the boat. Matello finished tying on the rope. He took two turns of it around the stern cleat, pulled it tight and then went into the cabin. Paul still had the leader in both hands, and I looked in back of me to see what Mrs. Cunningham was doing.
She was gone. The fighting chair was empty, the rod still sticking out of the gimbaled holder, the double line looping down to the deck.
Matello came back out of the cabin carrying a shining, stainless-steel hook with a two-foot steel handle welded to the shank. It resembled a capital T.
"What's that?" I said.
"The meat hook," Paul said. "That's how we get the fish on board. Take a strain on the gaff and lift a little."
He took the hook from Matello and I lifted on the gaff, hardly moving the fish. Paul put the sharp point of the meat hook under the tuna's jaw and came up hard. The point went in under the jaw and then out through the mouth and Paul lifted a little to make sure it was in there. The muscles on his forearms came up like thick braids, and I knew he hadn't gotten those forearms making salads.
Maybe this fish was caught, I thought. He had three different kinds of hooks in him and a rope around his tail and he wasn't going anywhere.
"How do you get him aboard?" I said.
"We lift him," Paul said, and I wondered if the sun had gotten to him. Vasili Alexeyev, the best weight lifter in the world, can lift 540 pounds over his head at a time, but this fish was a lot heavier, and besides, it was in the water.
But we lifted him. We untied the tail rope and moved the fish forward along the side of the boat until we got to a stubby wooden mast about 15 feet tall. It had ropes and pulleys all over it and Paul untied one of the ropes while we held the fish alongside.