chapter 28. Ahab. fiction excerpt, “The Captain,” from a novel by Kim Paffenroth

(from a longer chapter to be printed in full in Remaking Moby-Dick)


“Ah, you’re right, as always, my friend. Don’t get so upset, and I’ll try not to, either. It’s in my blood, I’m sorry. You know me too well, and I know you. And now we’ve met this young fellow, and he’s beginning to learn about us. You know something, King? You complete me, in a way. I need you around, to say all those awful, pious, faithful things that drive me crazy. But you know what that might mean? It might mean that I complete you. Do you think you could admit that?”

“I could, Captain. I’d be proud to, in fact. I know what all you’ve been through. I got no problems with the way you are, and I got no problems listening to you, so long as you don’t get too angry.”

“So accepting…” the captain said as he turned away. “I’ll never understand why you’re so accepting, or why I overlook your many and obvious errors. It’s a strange thing.” He waved his good left hand over his head at them as he walked away. “Now make more sail. We have dead people to relieve of their worthless lives and their valuable goods. And perhaps something else this trip. Perhaps. I’ve heard things lately. I’ll think more about them and get back to you.”

Ridley watched Jacob retreat to the other side of the boat. “Like I said,” King said quietly next to Ridley, “thinks too much about stuff. Makes him a little too high strung.”

“Yeah,” Ridley said. Reaching to untie a line from a cleat, he put his hand on a skull hanging next to it, and took a minute to run his hand over the bone, appreciating the smooth, dry texture. “Cares too much, is more like it.”

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