Big Fish

Captain Bleaker stood on the dock in the cold, wet predawn air, in front of his fishing vessel. He popped a menthol cigarette between his teeth and said, “I do it for one guy. Private. Nobody bothers me, long as I’m not chumming near shore.”
+++++“Chumming,” George said under his breath.
+++++“Don’t like sharks, George?” The captain smiled and popped a few aspirin without removing the cigarette. Sea lions barked from behind the fog. Captain Bleaker took a drag from his cigarette and looked west toward the dark horizon.
+++++George showed him a duffel bag of cash.
+++++“I take this, what’s to say I’m not dead next?” The captain flicked his smoke into the water.
+++++“Men die, Captain. This guy, likes to go in the water with sharks, bad people want him. Me and my partner might be the best of the bad guys coming, and believe me, they’re coming.”
+++++“I count it, what am I looking at?”
+++++“Enough to help with a new boat or a new life,” Julien said. He blew warmth into his hands, the injured one already numb from the cold.
+++++Captain Bleaker took the bag of cash and let the men board. “Ecclesiastes,” Captain Bleaker said. “She’s sound. Tough as she is old and she’s old as hell.” He lit another cigarette and walked into the cabin to count the money. He came out a few minutes later and said, “Off to the races.”
+++++George looked over the railing. The cold, dark water swirled when Captain Bleaker started the engine — the smell of diesel churned his stomach.
+++++“Don’t look at the water, George. Make you sick.” Captain bleaker stuck another menthol between his teeth, hardly finished with the last one. “No fun being sea sick.” He lit his smoke and looked toward the sky.
+++++“Sea sick is bad times. Worse than anything I caught down in the Congo.” Julien pulled out a can of chewing tobacco, he offered some to George, who gave him the finger.
+++++“You’ll be alright, Georgie.” Julien patted him on the back.
+++++The old fishing vessel lumbered through the Nehalem Bay toward Fat Frank Biancollo’s second home. Light from the rising sun danced on the calm water. George trained his eyes on the thick grass along the shoreline. Now and then, a fish jumped.
+++++“His place is two more houses up, starboard. That’s your left, George,” Captain Bleaker said.
+++++George wanted a joint to help with the nausea, but a clear head was necessary. The engine rumbled to an idle and momentum carried them to the private dock of Fat Frank’s home — an expansive mid-century ranch with a croquet lawn that touched the shoreline. Three dogs came charging at them but stopped and ran back to the house at the sound of a high whistle.
+++++“Malinois,” Julien said. “Mean fucking dogs.” He spit tobacco juice over the side and sheathed the long blade he’d taken out for the potential fight.
+++++Fat Frank Biancollo walked toward them with purpose and confidence. In his youth, he was left tackle for Texas A&M. Snapped his femur in a bowl game. TV kept showing the footage over and over, his face screaming behind the facemask of the A&M helmet. That was twenty years ago, but now he barely had a limp.
+++++“Captain,” he said. His mass swayed the floating dock.
+++++“Frank,” Captain Bleaker said.
+++++Frank looked at the two men on the boat then made eye contact with the captain.
+++++“They got interest in killing the sharks not swimming with them,” Captain Bleaker said.
+++++“Killing them?” Frank ticked his head sideways.
+++++“Not today, Frank. Just showing them where to look.”
+++++“I don’t really like that idea, Captain.” Frank moved closer to the vessel, again the dock moved under his mass.
+++++“My ship,” the Captain said.
+++++“Your ship.” Frank walked off to grab his gear. George wondered about the tanks, what they would look like, how to rig them.
+++++Back at the motel the night before, Julien said that he had it figured out. “Up the C02, lower the 02, he’s dead.”
+++++“How’s that kill him?” George asked. The fluorescent light from the motel kitchen gave off the hue of a white trash wedding on a midnight in July.
+++++“Passes out under water, he’s still breathing.” Julien heaved his chest in and out then drank from a glass of red wine. “Fucks his blood up. He passes out. Drowns. He’s dead. It’s an accident.”
+++++The boat rocked when Frank climbed aboard, his size even more apparent. George couldn’t help but consider sinking. He latched on to the railing and gave a weak smile. Frank glanced at him for a beat then moved on to the task of loading his gear.
+++++Julien whistled and followed Captain Bleaker’s orders like a seasoned first mate. They pulled from the dock and headed to open sea.
+++++Frank placed his gear in an aft corner near the cabin and started his inspection of the shark cage. The pulleys, the weight supporting bar. He moved on to the oxygen tanks.
+++++George watched him like a predator stalking its prey. Julien stole glances — both wanted to get it over with.
+++++George motioned for Julien to come in the cabin with him. Frank gave a sidelong glance at Julien’s injured hand. The open sea rocked the boat more than George thought it would. His stomach flipped. Julien sat across from him at the small table in the galley cabin.
+++++“I say we kill this fucker now, dump him in the water,” George said.
+++++“The accident angle? That’s out?”
+++++“I don’t like being on the water,” George said.
+++++“No accident, no pay.” Julien looked off toward the disappearing landscape. “We kill him now, do it our way — we piss off Mr. Sands, his crew comes for us, nobody wins.” Julien put in a fresh chew of tobacco. “Suck it up, George. We need the cash and don’t need the headache.”
+++++“You can get to the tanks with that big fucker mad-dogging us?” George asked.
+++++Julien spit into an empty beer can. He smiled, knowing it would give George a little more nausea. “Hand is killing me,” he said.
+++++The cabin door slammed open. The two men looked up to see Fat Frank Biancollo holding a Smith and Wesson Governor.
+++++“You mind telling me why there’s a scatter pistol pointed in our direction, big fella?” George rested a Beretta .45 on the table.
+++++Frank motioned to the Beretta. “Put that on the ground, slide it over to me.”
+++++“You shoot us, then what?” George shifted in the small bench seat.
+++++“Slide that pistol over.” Frank’s massive frame took up most of the doorway.
+++++“That pistol you got there, is it loaded with .410 shells or .45 long?” Julien asked.
+++++“You here because of Mr. Sands?” Frank asked.
+++++“That scatter pistol, you loaded it with .410’s, turn us into ground meat, turn this table into kindling. You got nerve for that?” Julien smiled just enough to show his gold tooth.
+++++Frank hesitated.
+++++Julien pounced. He buried a serrated blade into Frank’s Vena Cava and twisted. Frank made the sound of a man unprepared for death — fear, pain and realization in one breath. Julien cut down and to the left, splitting Franks Diaphragm, opening the Vena Cava even more. As the big man spasmed for breath, Julien and George pushed him backward through the doorway. He dropped the pistol, fell onto the deck of the boat and bled out. The grey Oregon sky over the North Pacific faded to black for Fat Frank Biancollo. No accident.
+++++George kept missing the shoulder joint, hitting the thick Humerus bone instead. He went for another swing with the small hatchet and cracked the clavicle.
+++++“Have to get them at the joint,” Captain Bleaker said from somewhere.
+++++“Just get us to the sharks,” George said.
+++++“Why can’t we just slide him off into the water when we get there?” Julien pushed back from the body, blood up to the elbows. “This guy is a lot of meat to deal with.”
+++++George stopped and sat back against the railing of the old fishing boat. “We can’t lift this big bastard, especially with your hand like that.”
+++++Julien looked down at his bandaged hand, his index finger missing thanks to the henchmen of Mr. Sands. With his good hand, he thwacked a leg and it popped off below the knee. George went for the other arm. Two good whacks and it popped off. Julien had each leg cut into four pieces by the time they reached the sharks, and Frank was nothing more than a butchered hunk of meat on the deck of the boat. His eyes were open and Julien closed them with the gentle touch of a friend, then he started in on Frank’s teeth with a ballpein hammer.
+++++Captain Bleaker put the boat in idle position. The swell was growing and the stagnant ship rocked hard.
+++++George heard the first bump of a shark before he felt it.
+++++Another bump.
+++++“That a shark bumping the boat?” George clutched the railing. He wanted to move to the cabin.
+++++“Dump him and let’s get.” Captain Bleaker marveled at the clear sky while he lit a cigarette.
+++++“You heard the man,” Julien said. He started chucking limbs overboard.
+++++Another bump.
+++++“Sharks don’t do that, right?” George said. He threw an arm from where he stood, too far away, it hit the railing and bounced back onto the deck.
+++++“Strange,” Captain Bleaker said through the menthol between his teeth. “Strange indeed.”
+++++Bump.
+++++“Fuck.” George braced for another bump, held the railing and tried to lift the bloody torso with one hand. “Christ, he’s heavy.”
+++++“Dead weight is always heavier.” Julien lifted the torso onto the railing.
+++++George looked down at the water. Julien slipped in the blood. The massive fish, dorsal fin circling, turned toward the boat, blood dripped into the water.
+++++Bump.
+++++George slipped. Frank’s torso fell on top of him.
+++++Julien laughed. It was too much, him and George laying on a bloody deck, surrounded by sharks. George squirmed out from under the mass of flesh. Another bump, harder this time.
+++++“Getting more aggressive,” Captain Bleaker said. “Blood in the water.” He stole a nip from his flask. “Get the rest of that body in the water. Great White feeding frenzy isn’t something I want to be a part of.” Captain Bleaker lit another smoke.
+++++Julien heaved. George heaved. The rest of Fat Frank went over in a splash of red churning ocean. Teeth and slapping fins finished him off.
+++++George couldn’t keep from watching the sharks. The size of them, the teeth. Two, maybe three of them now. He threw up on the deck, too afraid to let it go overboard, afraid he’d be taken in the water among the frenzy.
+++++George and Julien unhooked the cage. It sank with slow determination to the bottom of the cold North Pacific.
+++++“Guess it’s no accident.” Julien chucked the tanks over the side. He used sea water to clean the blood from the deck — it could have easily been fish blood — a big fish.

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Oliver lives in Portland, Oregon and is working on his first novel.

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6 thoughts on “Big Fish”

  1. I thought George would end up in the water, too. Lots of suspense with the shark bumps. You have a great way of sketching a character with dialogue and movement …. the captain with his menthol cigarettes. I wouldn’t want to mess with him or Julien, a guy who spits in a beer can to make his partner sick.

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