c 1980

Ronald Gordon Ziegler, Ph. D. PART I -- ENCOUNTER

Far beneath the swelling darkness of the free and froathing foam lurk the grand leviathan that rule the depths that they do roam. Midst the trembling, teeming waters lie mysteries unknown to man that have drawn him throughout the ages yet confuse him to understand. It was an ancient seafarer whose voice was heard throughout the room one wintery night in old Nantucket as I sat with ale in Witte's Saloon: "Thar she blows, thar she blows! Cap'n! Thar she blows!" shouts he, and the room falls into silence to see what could the matter be. "The salt's got to him," said one sailor pointing up behind the bar at a painting of a white whale breeching there beneath the stars. Then the room does turn to laughter: "Too much salt and rum," says one, but the bearded old man shouted louder: "Thar she blows agin' the sitting sun!" And one among those drunken fishers shouts, "Hark, my lads, what madness grows among us seamen! Give me whiskey!" And this in the old man's face he throws. Now four arms grab hold of him and carry him across the floor: "Enough of all your drunken folly," and cast him sprawling out the door. And in the damp and dreary darkness hear I the echoes of his call: "Thar she blows, ye salted seagulls!" but drowned in the laughter of the hall. And on and on as it diminished came his curses growing dim as he wandered off into the night time and the crowd within laughed at him. "Hark, my lad, if ye ventured down the way a turn or two, you'd find his mad ravings there, as well," said the sailing man I sat next too. And he continued, "They'll find the bones of that weary, maddened salt one morn washing up in the drift or crumpled in an alley -- victim of past-bred scorn." And thus it was three mornings later when they found him, silent now, frozen as a fish out of water from a heavy blow upon the brow.


In this same Nantucket village stands a sailors' chapel there where over many an empty casket have been said a final prayer. As I was drawn three days later to that church, the wintery wind bit at my skin with icy misting -- to an empty silence I ventured in. Such sacrilege did I ponder that none should come to bid adieu until the holy father entered asking, "What was this old man to you?" Not an answer had I to give him, nor did he hesitate to hear, but turned and gave a service that fell upon none but my ear. "And God prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah," quoth he from the Book, "But his wretched soul's condemnation was a memory only. He was but a cook." They sailed one springtide to the ocean never to return again save one, and he lived haunted by the verdict that left his heart and soul undone." "Nor did he ever sail from the day he was rescued from the eternal deep and was brought back to this island. Rest came to him but with this sleep." "There was none to hear his story. Now peace comes to his weary bones and tormented heart that left him recluse. He is buried as he lived, alone." None there was to bear his coffin wrought from some old discarded board perhaps from some perished vessel -- a fitting hold for one so scored. The priest said no more, but blessing slowly with a cross, he sang a hymn that echoed in the hollow chapel and off the rafters rang. Then I ventured into the darkness, cutting yet with winter's blast, dimly lit by an eclipsed fullness. of a moon which no shadows cast. Walking by the olden tavern laughter and song within assumed a fitting tribute to the perished. I went on and headed to my room. Yet from the distance, from the shadows, I thought that I could hear him yet: "Hark ye, friend, thar she blows there!" as I hurried to escape the wet. Continue