Although Santiago felt faint and sick, he convinced himself to perform the "slave work" needed to secure the fish and head home. The old man was in no condition to lift the fish aboard, but even if he was, it was too large to fit in the small skiff. Thus, he went to work to lash the great fish to the side of the boat. He pulled the fish alongside the boat so that he could pass a line through his gills and mouth to make his head fast along the bow. At this time, the old man got his first chance to touch and see the fish up close. He then tied the tail and midsection to the skiff using nooses of line and prepared to sail home.
The old man felt better after a drink of water and began thinking about how much money he could make if he sold the fish at market. It is at least 1500 pounds, he thinks, and dressing two-thirds of that at thirty cents per pound would make him a good deal of money. But his mind is focused on greater things than just money: "I think the great DiMaggio would be proud of me today." He configured the mast, boom, and patchwork sail and began to head southwest home.
Having little water, no food, and no bait on board, the old man had to think how to nourish his ailing body. As a patch of yellow Gulf weed passed, he pulled some aboard and ate the small shrimp inside. He still had two drinks of water left in the bottle and used half of one after eating the shrimp. The skiff sailed well despite the gigantic fish attached to its side. He could not see the fish from his position, but only had to look at his torn hands and back to know it was not a dream. His hands would heal quickly, he thought, as the dark Gulf water is the greatest healer there is.
Santiago's head started to become a little unclear, and he becomes unsure whether he is bringing the fish in or if the fish is bringing him in. If he had been towing it, or had it in the skiff, then the answer would be clear. But the fish and boat were lashed together side by side, and they sailed together like brothers. Unfortunately, an hour later the first shark attacked. The shark had come from deep down in the water, following the trail of blood that had dispersed to the ocean floor.
When the old man sees that it was a Mako, with long, sharp teeth and great speed, he knows that it had no fear and would do exactly what it wishes. The old man prepares the harpoon, but the rope attached to it was short after lashing the great fish. The shark bites deeply into the flesh of the great fish lashed to the skiff. Poised to defend his catch, the old man drives the harpoon between the shark's eyes into his brain, sending it into violent convulsions before he died. Unfortunately, the shark takes to the bottom of the sea forty pounds of the great fish flesh, the harpoon, and all the rope he had attached to it.
Santiago does not like to look at the fish after it had been mutilated - he feels as if the shark had hit him when the fish had been hit. It was too good to last, he thought. Now he wishes it had been a dream and that he was in his bed on the newspapers at home. "But man is not made for defeat," he said. "A man can be destroyed but not defeated." He is sorry now that he killed the fish, which will now be torn apart by the cruel, strong sharks that will surely follow the new trail of blood. He decides to attach his knife to the end of one of the oars, making a weapon with which he can try to ward off new predators. "Now," he said. "I am still an old man. But I am not unarmed."
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