Captain Hongo Hawkes: Thoughts on Fishing

The following is excerpted from the journal of Captain Hongo Hawkes of the "Bonhomme Leroux," a sword boat once docked in Mississippi's ports. Hawkes' had several journals but never dated the journals or the journal entries. I've done my best to extract what I've found and presented them in segments related by a theme and arranged those journal entries in a way that best evolves the theme (such is the case of here with Hawkes writing of an unnamed woman, possibly the same woman for each entry). Some chronology is assumed, as in any entries from the same journal I've assumed that the entry nearest the front was written prior to any following entries.

Hongo Hawkes was born in my hometown of Starkville, Mississippi before moving down along the Gulf Coast, where he presumably lived on his ship, or bandied about town, as he never had a fixed address. After his passing, almost fifteen years ago now, all his known belongings, basically everything that was on his ship, were sent along to his sister who still lives here in Starkville, just down the street from me. She has asked me to help her edit her brother's journals into a more coherent and cohesive narrative of his life. His journals are problematic only insofar as they lack any sense of narrative, should such a thing be important to the reader (it often is). Hawkes' language is rich and exciting and I think readers who tend to drift more towards your standard narrative format in writing will still find pleasure in reading this. I don't always understand what Hawkes is saying but I always do enjoy reading it and reading through his journals has been a special opportunity for me and one that I am grateful for. Hawkes' words are all one's that could have so easily been lost but ended up here in my home. My only hope is that I am able to provide an adequate representation of a man I never knew. A representation that all the lost people of this transient world deserve. We miss or simply forget so many of them. It's nice to have one of those forgotten people leave behind something for the world to get to know him and nicer still when the world stops and takes notice. Thank you for reading.


Read E. Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea. Good book, but I have to fundamentally disagree that fishing is a metaphor on that grand a scale. It's a simple transaction across the food chain. Hemingway, dear boy, you've gone and given it too much credit.

Lines snapped today all day and Papa Six Pack got taken down by one. He filled the bed with rosewater. Cut of the head and it's a river. Still he got up and into the chair. Fought an hour for what turned out to be a dolphin. Sent him back to his dolphin life.

Greenback Kid shed his skin today. First trip out and he landed a marlin. Hit him with the hitting stick and Papa Six Pack hauled him into the boat. Goodnight to the fish. The deck is red but not with Papa's blood this time. A poke with the poking stick right in the thinker and the fish moves on.

Oh baby what do they say. Face down on the blanket I must scream. Nobody can hear that I'm happy, that I am weak. Good haul today, boys.

Ecclesiastes doesn't see the sun rise when you get up this early. Buoys tossed around by the boat and cast off we are into the sea.

Drop the bait hooks and bring em back up. Careful not to catch too many. Death can take over in a well of fishes and you can still sell what you don't use.

Shopping list next time out:

  • Hooks
  • Netting
  • Hooker for the kid

It woke up in the deck before we had a chance to poke it. Wrestled Papa Six Pack then me. Salty and slimy add to that bloody. Kid came through and poked it through the head. Bit too much and from the side. Normally I'd have his ass for something like that, but me and PSP were trapped under the thing. PSP jabbing at it with his knife. I think I broke something in my hand.

Just one today, but it almost took us in.

The Kid today. Christ, I'm tired.

Two days and not a thing. Empty seas and a empty metaphors. That isn't how it works E.Hemingway. It's the hunger that kills you because you've got no money.

Three fucking days now.

I'm cutting in now. The natural order of the Lord will wait as I cast out all six lines and disrupt the sea. This sea and its creatures exist for a reason and I atop of them for reason more and should you not allow me access I will take them myself with my own hands. This is how we live.

I went under today and swam to a beautiful place a place I never knew that was under the surface. So many colors and such rich life. Hours and hours from port. Hold your breath a little longer and take this all inside you. Pack it up and bring it wherever you go. Too far out for even God to plan on mankind seeing a sight such as this. Deeper I swim and the more I see. This colorful order did not follow me yet here we are. Just six months until she bears my history. Doubtful that life can be so grand as the glimpses this life gives me.

Pole broke but I'm not losing the fish. Snapped the reel off and slammed it into another. In the chair. Pull up and reel down. Pull up and reel down. Hours I will do this. For this one. Up against the boat, Kid hits it with the hitting stick. Again! I yell. Papa takes the stick and he hits it. The beast is tired but still it fights. Papa hits it again. Kid hands him the poker and one right in the thinker but it won't go through. A baseball swing from Papa and it's out. Ballpark 1500 plus pounds of money awaits us on shore. The conversion rate should give us a few days off.

How this job can kill you. I've seen a fishing pole split a man's head open and all his hope spill onto my ship. I've seen pulled under by shear force of the sea's will. I've seen this too. The job of it kill a man. And now I feel it. How it wears you down. How it breaks you apart. Man was not meant to spend his life on water for so much of it. I puke when I stand on the ground sometimes. The land doesn't rock like I think it will and I find myself falling sometimes. Today I won though. We can head back happy men with extended shore leave. They've earned it is what I'll tell them. Really, I'm finding it harder to keep up. And I'm forgetting about her and what she brought into this world for us. It's all just fishing after all. After all, isn't it all just fishing.

Back at sea I resent them both for making me question my life.