This is a reading of the classic American novel Moby-Dick, as interpreted by Jack Pendarvis. To embark at the beginning, please click here.
Leftovers! Gonna heat up some leftovers as we talk about Chapter Seventy-One! Pretty good…! Pretty good, Herman! Pretty good job on that chapter. It had me guessin’ and confessin’.
[Throat clearing. Rattling of pots and pans.]
Dee-dee-dee! Do I want the squash and onions? I don’t want to waste a pan. I wonder if I could cook… both things in the same pan.
Maybe I can’t do more than one thing at once. Maybe I’m just a miserable son-of-a-bitch.
[Cabinet door banging.]
Oh, Chapter Seventy-One. Here comes a paltry part of the crew of the Jeroboam, another whaling ship. It sends out a boat, but the captain doesn’t want to…
[Clattering. Thumping. Banging.]
The captain’s not too keen on, uh…
[Crinkling of paper? Clanking.]
Put a little butter in the pan. Nothing—nothing beats the… the sight. Nothing beats all the sensations accompanying the melting of… beautiful yellow butter… in a pan.
Maybe I should’ve… I don’t want to ramble all day! I want to make this fast. Here they come!
“Uh, we don’t want to come onboard because there’s a plague upon our ship and I don’t wanna… uh, you guys, I don’t wanna… infect you guys. Just being careful!”
“Hey, who’s that rowin’ the boat?”
“None other than the archangel Gabriel, that’s who! Lemme tell you that story. Uhm… this dude… is crazy as a… bedbug. He… uh… you know. He thinks he’s an angel. Gabriel. So, is that crazy enough for ya? And some of the crew members kinda believe him! So it makes it difficult. I, eh, the captain wanted to… uh, dump him off at any given… not into the sea, but at a convenient port. Where his illness might be… tended, or, we may think he may roam the streets like… Elijah, whom we met in a previous… chapter.”
“People won’t hear of it. They really—they like old Elijah! I mean, uh, Gabriel.”
See? I was thinking—I was… thinking about my… leftovers, and I… and I mistakenly referred to Gabriel as Elijah.
I really—it’s already too long. Just get to the point! Uh…
“Have you seen the white whale?” Ahab asks. He asks everybody that. If you haven’t picked up on it yet, he’s very interested in the white whale.
The captain says, “Well, as a matter of fact, we have.” The captain of the Jeroboam. “A matter—as a matter of fact, I—we saw the white whale, and Crazy Boy over here said, ‘Don’t go after it! It’s the incarnation of God Himself!’ And, uh, the first mate said, ‘Yeah, well, be that as it may, I have a job to do, and plus I want to get a crack at that white whale. Everybody’s…’”
“‘That’s the one you gotta—everybody wants to kill the white whale! That’s the… most popular whale… in town!’”
“‘That whale was on the cover of Time magazine! The m—whale of the year, Moby Dick. I gotta get me some sweet, sweet white whale… uh… blubber. Let’s go!’ So… and a lot of people weren’t convinced, because they believe in Gabriel and all his kookoo… rambling. But Macey, the first mate. ‘Come on, fellas! We’re a whaleboat, goddamnit! Let’s go.’ They go out there. Moby Dick takes his tail and slaps the fuck out of Macey. Uh, Macey goes flyin’ like a baseball.”
Lit—you know, it’s, that’s how it’s… Melville doesn’t use the word “baseball,” but the imagery strongly suggests…
[Crackling of leftovers on a hot stove.]
An almost cartoonish picture of…
Macey flyin’ through the air like a baseball knocked over the…
Fence. A home run! Home run, Moby Dick!
[Crackling. Throat clearing. Sniff. Crackling.]
My leftovers are sizzlin’ in the pan!
I’m gonna flip ‘em over, stir ‘em around.
[Very loud sizzling.]
Heat them thoroughly! I might otherwise be too impatient! To heat them thoroughly. But my telling of the tale enables me to…
[Crackling. Sniff. Crackling.]
Allow the proper time for…
Oh, Macey. Over the fence. Home run. Splop. “Splop”? That [stifled laugh] reminds me!
Wait! I can’t remember what I mispronounced. I think I was trying to say “spot” once, just in casual conversation, and I said, “splot.” And this guy…! This big square-headed guy, who was a friend of a friend, uh, really seized on that in a [short laugh] bullying manner, and for the rest of my—every time I saw him, until we—whatever happened—uh, I n—saw him no longer, until our paths no longer intersected… he called me “Splack” instead of “Jack.” What a stra—[laughter]. It was just a way of needling me that really worked excellently well. I give that guy credit.
I—it used to annoy me, but as time has passed, I can really appreciate the arbitrary nature of his cruelty.
[Rattling sigh. Faint crackling.]
“Do you mean to go after the white whale, Captain Ahab?”
“You bet your drawers I do!”
Well… this… Gabriel doesn’t like the sound of that.
“You, you, you, you better—you better not! That’s God! Don’t you get it? What about ‘Moby Dick is God’ don’t you understand?”
“Hey, you got any letters for us?”
“Yeah, I think there’s one. Uh, go rustle up that letter, Starbuck.”
“Aye, aye, captain.”
“Why, here’s a letter. My goodness. It’s from Macey’s wife. To Macey, and he’s—he’s dead.”
Whereupon the crafty lunatic Gabriel remarks, “Why don’t you hang onto that, Captain Ahab? You can give it to him yourself because you’re both gonna be as dead as fuck.”
“No! Take the damn letter.”
The letter is turned over.
And so… ends another chapter.
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).