This is a reading of the classic American novel Moby-Dick, as interpreted by Jack Pendarvis. To embark at the beginning, please click here.
I really need to get a shower before my meeting. What? I know, I’m in Mississippi. Last night I had a meeting with two different people in two different places in Sweden. At the same time! What? Are you kiddin’ me? It’s the great Mississippi/Sweden exchange of ideas that keeps the world… going. And, you know, I can’t—sure, they can’t… maybe tell… I bet they can tell if I’ve had a shower or not. In Burbank and Sweden. From my slovenly—well, you know what? Even in the best of circumstances I’m not a… I’m more of a Rad than a Steelkilt. Let’s just put it that way. Oh! Let’s get back to that story, ‘cause I wanna finish it up. It’s… uhh… what’s the point of this story? Mmmmnhhh! You tell me.
Steelkilt says, “All right, fellas! I’m gonna… here we go! Let’s do it! When they come get us, we’re gonna start stabbin’!”
And so then Steelkilt goes to sleep and his two friends think, “This sounds like a terrible plan. I’ve got an idea: let’s just tie him up.”
So they tie him up and they yell, “Hey, captain! Captain!”
Here comes the captain.
“Okay, come on out, fellas. And guess what? I don’t like you two guys, either! I’m gonna hang all three of ya up on the mast. Not by the neck, but by the… I don’t know. Uh, rrrrrr, you know, however we do it. You know, you guys can figure that out. Uh, uh, get ‘em up there and tie ‘em up to the mast. You know the way we do! In old-timey whaling… vessels.”
So they hang ‘em up there and… and now, uh… now for a whippin’. Let’s start whippin’! Whip, whip, whip. The captain loves to whip.
“All right, I took care of these two fuckers, now it’s your turn, Steelkilt. I was savin’ you for last ‘cause I was most excited about whippin’ the hell outta you!”
And Steelkilt says, “Hey, hold on, I wanna whisper somethin’ to ya.”
And I don’t know if I really—I kinda—yeah! I, yuh, I read the chapter, but did I, did it sink in? So, uh… “Come over, here, captain. I got a special secret. Whisper, whisper, whisper.” We’re not privy to whatever Steelkilt whispered to the captain, but the captain is suddenly like, “Oh, shit! Okay, never mind, I’m not gonna whip you.”
Suddenly, out of nowhere, here comes Rad! Remember Rad? Rad’s the guy that Steelkilt smashed his frickin’ head in. And I really thought he was dead. That just shows how, how, what a bad reader I am and why you shouldn’t listen to anything I say about Moby-Dick.
Uh, I really thought he was dead, but he’s not dead. He’s just mad. He’s like, “You didn’t kill me. You just made me angry.” And, “Give me that rope, you fuckin’ jerk.” And he takes the rope from the captain. “You’re too chicken… you’re too… too chickenshit to whip the hell outta…”
Why am I cursing so much?
You know? I—it’s shameful, really.
Am I tryin’ to make Moby-Dick cool for the kids? Is that what I think I’m doin’? What a—what a pathetic…
[Very long pause.]
Ahhhhh! I—come on! What time is it? Jesus! I got—I gotta get goin’! I gotta… mmmmm! Duty calls!
[Pause. Rattling sigh.]
“You give me that rope. I’ll whip the fuck outta that… fucker.”
“Oh, no! I’m gonna…”
Anyway, so then he whips Steelkilt, and everybody’s like, “All right.” And this is… “Well, here we are on the ship in the middle of the sea. Let’s just pretend nothing happened and get back to work.”
So, Steelkilt gets back to work, but all the time he’s thinkin’, “I’m gonna murder the fuck out of Rad this time! I should’ve finished the job! That’s a good lesson for me, Steelkilt! From now on, whenever I smash a guy’s head in, I’m gonna make sure he’s—I smash it all the way in!”
Anyway. Is that the moral? Is that… I, maybe, I—maybe that’s the moral of the story. So, uh, one day they’re… okay. Steelkilt’s like, “Okay, here I go. Creep, creep, creep. I’m creepin’ up on Rad, and, and… I’m gonna do the thing I just said I was gonna do: murder. Murder is my intent.”
Uh, but just then somebody’s like, “Hey, look! It’s Moby Dick!” And everybody’s like, “Moby Dick? You’re kiddin’! Let’s, let’s, let’s… kill him!” And… they all get in their boats and the boats are lowered, and let’s, juh, you know, by some, ehh, once again, this is a funny job, because… uh… “Hey, remember that guy who murdered you? You’re, yuhhhrrr, you’re part of his crew.” Or, ruhhrrr, ruh, “who tried…” I’m not sure I said that correctly. “Hey, Rad! You know that guy who smashed your face in, and then you whipped him with a rope until… your… you… g—you had repetitive motion… disease? Or… whatever that’s called? Syndrome? Anyway, th—you guys work in the same boat. And, and, we’re not changing that just because it—there was a lotta murderous rage on both of your parts. You still have to work in the same boat. So get in there and let’s go after Moby Dick.”
And Rad’s just like, “Yeah! I love killin’ whales! I can’t wait! Come on, everybody!” And he’s like, “Get that fuckin’—get the boat up here, I just wanna get close enough to this whale to stab him in the face. Come on, everybody!”
And, uh, Steelkilt’s like, “Yeah!” And he’s rowin’ really fiercely, and hmm! Is it an accident? I don’t know. But the boat kinda tips over and guess what? Moby Dick kinda eats Rad. He literally eats him. He just, he, he just eats him! And, uh, Steelkilt’s thinkin’, “Yep. Thanks, Moby Dick. I owe ya one.”
So… uh… and some other stuff happens, but I have to get a shower, so let’s just say… that’s all you’re gonna hear from me on Chapter Fifty-Four, except… Steelkilt’s fine at the end of the chapter. He’s just like, “Yeah. I feel pretty good about the way this turned out.”
Anchors aweigh! and into the next installment.
Jack Pendarvis is a writer who lives in Oxford, Mississippi. In this weekly transcription, we join him as he reads Moby-Dick.
Please follow the original text of Moby-Dick here, if you like (highly recommended).