Pursuit as Happiness
That year we had planned to fish for marlin off the Cuban coast for a month. The month started the tenth of April and by the tenth of May we had twenty-five marlin and the charter was over. The thing to have done then would have been to buy some presents to take back to Key West and fill the Anita with just a little more expensive Cuban gas than was necessary to run across, get cleared, and go home. But the big fish had not started to run.
“Do you want to try her another month, Cap?” Mr. Josie asked. He owned the Anita and was chartering her for ten dollars a day. The standard charter price then was thirty-five a day. “If you want to stay, I can cut her to nine dollars.”
“Where would we get the nine dollars?”
“You pay me when you get it. You got good credit with the Standard Oil Company at Belot across the bay, and when we get the bill I can pay them from last month’s charter money. If we get bad weather, you can write something.”
“All right,” I said, and we fished another month. We had forty-two marlin by then and still the big ones had not come. There was a dark, heavy stream close in to the Morro—sometimes there would be acres of bait—and there were flying fish going out from under the bows and birds working all the time. But we had not raised one of the huge marlin, although we were catching, or losing, white marlin each day and on one day I caught five.
We were very popular along the waterfront because we butchered all our fish and gave them away, and when we came in past the Morro Castle and up the channel toward the San Francisco piers with a marlin flag up we could see the crowd starting to run for the docks. The fish was worth from eight to twelve cents a pound that year to a fisherman and twice that in the market. The day we came in with five flags, the police had to charge the crowd with clubs. It was ugly and bad. But that was an ugly and bad year ashore.