The short Moby about a long Dick
by Sean Buck and Claire McKeever, staff writers; illustration by Julia DeWitt, staff artist
Harlequin romance novels place the primary plot emphasis on idealized romantic love between two individuals and feature a female protagonist. The common theme of these novels is female satisfaction and the idealized male form. But why confine this beloved, steamy, and often humorous genre to such a narrow range of subject matter? The modern genre began with the publication of Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Flame and the Flower in 1972 and gained popularity throughout the 1980s. Today, romance novels sell better than any other type of book. Hopefully, through this adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, we will entertain you with a steamy interpretation of a classic novel. We know you were thinking about the sexual tension all along. Enjoy.
The sun rose crimson from the eastern horizon as another day dawned on the Pequod. Though a storm brewed overhead, Ishmael was content in only his breeches. His rippling flesh pulled taut over his bulging, strapping muscles; his bodily perfection was apparent as he dutifully coiled the rope. The crew bustled around the ship, fastening the holds and securing all lines in preparation for the thunderheads that threatened ominously. The black-green seas foamed and hissed with the sound of the churning storm. Ishmael licked drops of salty water from his weathered lips as he contemplated the infinite expanse of water before him. He knew his worth on board—only 1/250th of the profits from the voyage would be his. Money meant little to him. He stood to gain much more—much, much more—from the trip. Trapped at sea for the past nine months, he had a hunger that yearned to be satiated.
Captain Ahab limped across the deck in his usual ill temper, barking orders and yanking Ishmael from his reverie. “Swab the poop deck; put your thighs into it, men. The storms a brewin’!” Their eyes met as Ishmael bent to do his bidding. The younger crew member was growing frustrated with his superior after months of fruitless searching for the elusive White Whale, and he was finding it increasingly difficult to suppress his displeasure. When he righted himself, he felt Ahab’s warm breath on his neck.
“I can tell you’re growing impatient with me,” the captain whispered into Ishmael’s ear. Ishmael gruffly shrugged away.
“I wouldn’t dare challenge you in front of the other men,” he said. “This is your voyage. I’ll serve you gladly and earn my pay when we reach the port, but I know better than to raise trouble where I’ve no right.”
“You will be duly rewarded for your loyal service, once—” Ahab was cut off by a tremendous crash of thunder. The deck burst into a flurry of activity as the storm bore down upon them fiercely.
The ship pitched wildly as the tempest erupted with full force. As the gales of wind drove the less valiant men below deck, Ahab angrily gestured Ishmael toward the bow. Clinging fiercely to the wheel, the captain threw the full weight of his body in a desperate effort to regain control of the vessel. Ishmael staggered against the gusts that slicked his flesh with torrents of rain, and Ahab cast him a last wild glance as he crumpled. At the last possible second, Ishmael hurled his body over that of the smaller man and strained against the bucking and tossing beneath him.
Just as Ishmael steadied the ship, the two men were thrown backwards, as the ponderous White Whale emerged before them.
“There it is!” Ahab breathlessly gasped as he pulled himself up on the rail.
The creature was unlike anything that Ishmael had ever seen before. The graceful curve of its skin threw the whale’s pale form into contrast with the roiling abyss of the sea. He breached for just a moment, with one eye staring menacingly up at the seamen poised on the deck above. With hardly a sound, the milky beast withdrew into the waves.
“We must go after him!” Ahab shouted over the roar of the storm. Ishmael responded with a rapid movement toward the smaller boats lashed to the side of the ship. Each took the rough hemp in their hands, holding the extra in their teeth. As their scurvy-softened gums nearly met on the rope, a giant wave from the whale’s wide, flat tail coursed over the descending boat, showering the two with hot, white foam. The boat entered the sheath of the sea as the spume of the tossing water enveloped Ahab and Ishmael.
To gain better control, Ahab took off his leg, carved ornately from the jaw of an earlier conquest. He passed it to Ishmael. Ishmael felt that he had become the lathe—that he would carve and beautify this thing, this monstrosity. He would make purity out of deformity, create perfection where there was anything but. As the harpoon poised to strike deep into the blubbery fluke, the whale thrashed deeply and plunged into the watery unknown, sending the lifeboat careening.
Catching each others’ eyes in the moment of peril, they knew the tension had built to a climax, but no denouement would come. Rowing powerfully, Ishmael directed away from danger and back towards the Pequod. Clutching the hanging rope in both hands, Ishmael and Ahab hoisted their weary bodies out of the black chasm below. They heaved themselves onto the hard, piney deck. Gasping heavily, their mouths gaping wide, they knew they were safe—for the moment.
“Nine o’clock and all’s well,” Queequeg shouted from the poop deck. He hadn’t heard the ruckus over the roaring of the storm.
Ahab scampered off as quickly as he could with the deformity barely reattached, his hard pole clunking loudly every step of the way. He barely made it into the captain’s quarters without the burly islander, Queequeg seeing him.
“Dontcha know what youra doin’ Ishmael. Whya youa being upa so inda nighttime.”
Ishmael was panting hard. “Erg, um, I thought I saw a whale—the excitement, you know.” Queequeg suspected something else had just occurred, but Ishmael was skilled at masking his feelings by now—it has been nine months since the voyage had begun.
But there would never be a sweet release after their months at sea—what would they do as they slid into harbor in Nantucket? They would have the lubricating whale oil to sell and the fancy whale bones for corsets, but no open expanse of ocean to bring the two seamen together. ∼