The Whale part 4


(Ishmael addresses the audience. In the background, Ahab confers with Fedallah.)

ISHMAEL. We sail on. Days, weeks, months. Calm and storm, fog and sun. The sailors gossip about Ahab’s harpooneer
Fedallah. Some say he’s the devil, keeps his tail curled up around his leg. Some say he’s a million years old. Some say that he is the real captain of the ship, his mouth clamped to Ahab’s ear. Ahab says he’s using science to find the whales, but others say that it’s just Fedallah, guiding his hand, pushing him toward the darkness.

One night, we see a spout. Big one. On the horizon. We think, this is it. Our hunt is over. We sail out to the spout, but then it’s gone. Next night, the same thing. And the next. Every night. Midnight of course. And all over again. Ever on, into the night.

Many things happen. One day we come by a ship, the Albatross, that glides by as if we aren’t there. One day we find a giant squid. One day we come by a ship called the Town-Ho. They have a story about the white whale. You can bet Ahab is pleased about that.

And then one day we kill a whale. Stubb kills a whale. We hang its head from one side of the ship. As the killer, Stubb gets to have the first steak.

(Night. Stubb at the capstan, waiting for dinner. A sperm whale head hangs from one side of the ship.)

STUBB. Cook! Come on, bring me my steak out here, I’m freezin’ to death!

(Cook, an elderly black man, enters with a steak on a plate.)

Well, please don’t break your back or strain yourself in any way, cook, it’s only my dinner that you’re keeping me from, just get it the hell over here sometime before nineteen-hundred! Come on, I’m starving here, I’m going to keel over here, come on!

COOK. Sorry Mr. Stubb. Here you go.

STUBB. First cut off the whale is always the most tasty, eh cook? I guess you wouldn’t know.

COOK. I don’t catch ’em sir, I only cook ’em.

STUBB. Well let’s see how you cooked this one – uh, no. No. Cook, this is no good. What did you – no. I’m sorry.
This is no – I am so sorry you were born without a BRAIN, but if I’ve told you once, I mean come on –

COOK. Excuse me?

STUBB. Look at this! You ruined it! It’s a piece of charcoal here!

COOK. I barely –

STUBB. You barely thought is what you – Look. Here is the way you cook a whale-steak. You take the piece of meat – this, by the way, is the piece of meat – and you show it the fire. Then you put it on a plate. Do you got that? Is that so hard? Can you even conceive of – what the hell is that noise?

COOK. The sharks, sir, at the carcass –

STUBB. You blithering idiot, I know what it is, why do they have to be so God-damned loud? I’m trying to eat here like a decent civilized human being and I can’t even hear myself chew –

COOK. Sorry –

STUBB. Well go and talk to ’em, would ya?

COOK. What?

STUBB. Are you going deaf now too? Go talk to them, tell ’em to shut the hell up for a few minutes, Christ!

COOK. T-talk to the sharks?

STUBB. You are going deaf. Yes! God damn it, tell the fucking sharks to shut up! Move!


COOK. All right…

(He goes to the rail, addresses the sharks.)

Hey! Sharks! Knock it off with the racket! Mr. Stubb’s trying to eat!

STUBB. They can eat all they want, but they have to keep it down.

COOK. You can eat all you want, but stop smackin’ your lips so damn loud!

STUBB. Cook! Hey!

COOK. Yes?

STUBB. You can’t swear at them.

COOK. Excuse me?

STUBB. “Excuse me”, listen to this guy – You can’t convert sinners by swearing at them.


COOK. I’m going.

STUBB. No, keep talking to them. Coax them.

(Pause. Cook tries again.)

COOK. Look. Sharks. Um, beloved sharks. Um, I know that, um, you are by nature, um, voracious. But you’ve got to – hey! Stop the damn tail-slapping when I’m talking to you! You can’t hear me if you’re slappin’ your damn tail!

STUBB. Not with the swearing! Come on. Convince them.

(Pause. Cook tries again.)

COOK. Ahem. My, my dear voracious creatures. Um, I, I don’t blame you for your, your nature, but, but you’ve got to learn to control your, your nature. If you can, can control the, the shark inside you, you will be like, like angels. An angel is only a shark under control. Don’t tear that blubber out of your neighbor’s mouth. That’s wrong. This whale, this whale doesn’t even belong to you! Some of you bigger sharks, tear off some meat for the smaller boys!

STUBB. Now that’s Christianity! Keep going!

COOK. B-but they’re not listening.


COOK. They don’t have ears to hear, Mr. Stubb. They only have bellies. And when their bellies are full, they go to sleep on the coral and then they never hear anything.

STUBB. True. True. Then give the benediction and let me eat.

COOK. Cursed creatures! Make all the noise of hell! Eat your fill, burst your bellies and die!

STUBB. Amen.

COOK. (to Stubb) You’re more shark than them.

STUBB. And good night.



(Ishmael addresses the audience.)

ISHMAEL. A while later, we come across another ship. The Jeroboam. This boat has a crazy man on board. The crazy man is under the impression that he is the archangel Gabriel. The funny part is that everyone else on the ship believes him. Seems a plague broke out on the ship and everyone who believed him didn’t die. So now this Gabriel fella is kind of running things on this boat.

They sent a boat out to us, and Ahab went to meet them.

(Two whaling boats on the ocean. Captain Mayhew, oarsman, Gabriel in one, Ahab and oarsman in the other. The sound of waves is loud; they have to shout to hear each other.)

MAYHEW. Don’t come any closer! Infection!

AHAB. I’m not scared of your epidemic, come aboard!

GABRIEL. Think of the fevers! Yellow and bilious! Beware of the plague!

MAYHEW. I’ll handle this, Gabriel –

AHAB. Have you seen the white whale?

GABRIEL. Think of your whale-boat! Stoven and sunk! Beware the tail!

MAYHEW. Gabriel, please –

AHAB. Have you seen the white whale!

MAYHEW. I have seen the white whale!

GABRIEL. Turn back! I warned him and he didn’t listen! Now I’m warning you!

AHAB. Tell that miserable cretin to shut up and finish your story!

MAYHEW. Two years out we saw him!

GABRIEL. I told him not to go after the white whale!

MAYHEW. I got five men to go out with me! I finally got an iron in him!

AHAB. Then what?

GABRIEL. He’s the incarnation of the Shaker God!

AHAB. Shut up, you moron! — Then what?

MAYHEW. My mate, Macey, had him in his sights! He was just about to hurl when the whale knocked him clear out of the boat! We never saw him again! Are you hunting the white whale?

AHAB. Until I die!

GABRIEL. Think of the blasphemer! Drowned and dead! Beware the wrath of God!

MAYHEW. We have to get back to the ship!

AHAB. Wait! Before you go, we got a letter when we left Nantucket! It’s addressed to someone on your ship!

MAYHEW. Who is it for?

AHAB. It’s – oarsman, give me that letter – it says “Mr. Harry…Mr. Harry, yes, Macey, Ship Jeroboam…” What?

MAYHEW. Macey! That was my mate! That’s the man who went over!

AHAB. It’s from his wife! Do you want it?

GABRIEL. You keep it! You’ll be seeing him sooner than us! (to oarsman) Back to the ship!

(They pull away.)

AHAB. Damn you! Damn you Gabriel! I’ll see you in Hell!



(Stubb, Flask, others, hoist a right whale head up the other side of the ship. Fedallah and Ahab confer to one side.)

STUBB. What does Ahab want with this thing? We’re a sperm whale fishery, we don’t have time to go after these useless things!

FLASK. Don’t you know? They say that a ship that hoists the head of a spermaceti on its starboard side and the head of a right whale on the port, that ship will never capsize.

STUBB. No. I’ve never heard that. In all my years I never heard that particular nugget of maritime folklore. Where did you hear it?

FLASK. I heard it from Fedallah. He told Ahab.

STUBB. Fedallah? This is his idea?

FLASK. He seems to know a lot about whales…

STUBB. Of course he does, he’s evil incarnate, why not?

FLASK. Oh, he gives me the creeps, that’s for sure. You ever notice that tusk of his is carved into, looks like a snake head?

STUBB. Hell, I don’t even look at him. His tail down his pants like it is, you know he sleeps in his boots so we can’t see the hoofs.

FLASK. What’s the old man see in him?

STUBB. I suppose one could say they have a bargain.

FLASK. What kind of – oh. Never mind. How old do you think he is, Fedallah?

STUBB. Old as time, Flask. That’s the whole point. I say we throw him overboard.

FLASK. But if he’s the devil, what good is –

STUBB. Give him a good dunking anyway.

FLASK. Yeah, but he’d come back and dunk you for good.

STUBB. He tries it, I’ll knock his tooth out.

(Unseen by Stubb, Fedallah comes to stand right next to the pair.)

Give him a pair of black eyes. You think I’m afraid of him? I’ll wrap his tail around the capstan so tight it’ll snap off – Oh hi, Fedallah.



(Ishmael addresses the audience.)

ISHMAEL. Now I could tell you about whales. I know about whales. I’ve read all about whales. I’ve seen them, I’ve touched them, I’ve swam with them, I’ve dissected them, I’ve hacked them into pieces and melted down their blubber. I could tell you about whales. I could talk your ear off about whales. I could go on for a good long time about whales: how to catch them, how to kill them, how to turn them into oil, what they eat, how they swim, peculiarities of their behavior, everything.

But in the end, the fact remains: I know nothing about whales. No one knows anything about whales. Whales are, unfortunately, unknowable. That fish we haul up the side of the ship, that’s not a whale, that’s just a husk, just a shell. Even that fish that we chase
through the foaming seas, risking our necks ten times a second, that’s not a whale, that’s not what a whale is, that’s only the time that we see them.

So no. I can’t tell you about the whale, about leviathan. It can’t be told. I don’t know how they act, what they think or feel, or even, truly, what they look like, since I never see them where they live. Leviathan is the one creature that must remain unpainted to the last.


(Lights up. Stubb and crew in a whale boat, including Pip and Dagoo. They have an iron in the whale and are being towed by it.)

STUBB. Row! Row, you sons-of-bachelors! For God’s sake please don’t hurt yourselves, ladies! Please don’t get any blisters on your poor delicate fingers or you won’t be able to work the crochet hooks! Just break your fucking backs and kill that fucking whale! Who the hell are you?

OARSMAN. That’s Pip, Mr. Stubb.

STUBB. What the hell is this boy doing steering my fucking whale-boat?

OARSMAN. Regular man is sick, Mr. Stubb.

STUBB. So they give me a boy?

OARSMAN. He’ll be fine, Mr. Stubb.

PIP. I can do it, Mr. Stubb.

STUBB. You’d better, I don’t have time to bother! Row, you lazy bastards! The whale is over there, morons! Faster! Faster! Oh please don’t break a sweat or anything just because your life depends on it –

(The boat pitches. Pip falls overboard.)

DAGOO. Cut! Cut!

STUBB. Cut what? What the fuck!

DAGOO. Man overboard!

STUBB. Where? Who?

OARSMAN. Pip, Mr. Stubb!

STUBB. I thought you said man, Dagoo! Keep rowing, you bastards!

OARSMAN. We should stop for him, Mr. Stubb! He won’t last long out here!

STUBB. You’re joking. Right? You’re joking with me. You’re having a little joke at my expense. You’re dallying with my sense of propriety for the sake of humor.

OARSMAN. We really should, Mr. –

STUBB. Oh, Fuck it then! Cut! Cut the line! Let’s stop to pick up the black child!

(They cut the line and pull Pip out of the water.)

DAGOO. Here you go, Pip. That will do it.

PIP. Thank you sir. Thank you Mr. Stubb.

STUBB. Let’s get one thing straight here, son. This time I was intoxicated by the milk of human kindness. Next time you die. Just one barrel of oil from that whale is worth more than what I’d get for you on an auction block in Alabama. Do you understand?

PIP. Yes Mr. Stubb. I’m sorry Mr. Stubb.

STUBB. Now sit down and hang on. (to others) ROW, YOU COCKSUCKERS! We ain’t got all day!

(They row. Pip, who has not had time to sit down, immediately falls overboard.)

DAGOO. Man overboard!

STUBB. What?!

DAGOO. Pip, Mr. Stubb!

STUBB. What the – keep going!

DAGOO. Mr. Stubb –

STUBB. Keep rowing, you motherfuckers! I told him the deal, Dagoo! It’s his own fucking fault! Now if you want to jump out and save him, do it now and lighten my fucking load! If not, sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up!

(Dagoo starts, then thinks better of it. The boat is rowed off. Pip bobs up and down in the water.)

PIP. Hello? Mr. Stubb? I’m sorry. Pip’s sorry. Hello? Mr. Stubb? Mr. Stubb? Anybody? Hello?


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One Response to “The Whale part 4”
  1. greyaenigma says:

    I once knew a man from Nantucket.

    I think his name was Stubb.

    What a bastard he was.

    (And, of course, lately I can’t read “Pip” without thinking of these guys.)