The sailors knew they had a good one writhing on the line.
The violence made the crude sailors cackle which was not sporting since the victim had no chance. But the fish worked every technique from slamming at the hull with mouth open and teeth flashing where it could gain no more purchase than a punch in the face, to returning under water, swimming deep and fast with a temporary sense of bravado. Except the hook caught it short. Then he rolled, a last resort in ocean warfare, here things worsened, breathlessly expiring.
The sailors watched it doing their work for them. They laughed. They air-toasted one another with phantom tankards of years of hard labor, ‘blood and tonic on the rocks’, if you please.
After years of ugly a person can become insensate to that which once made him human.
Sailors feel nothing at the sight of death, the smell tickles their appetite. Usually.
But the incident with the mermaid changed each forever, one went mute. Like everyone from around there they’d heard the legends which no one believed, absurd vignettes of female beauties with seaweed to their hips, to the scales. Buffed metallic royal blue like a pimped-out ride.
Ashore the sailors talked while no one listened, safe for the bartender, pouring drinks and laughing at the jokes of these men maundering on about the ‘incident’. She played along, asked no questions, instead coddled her customers, topping up drinks, tucking back her long hair she whispered invocations. Breath on a feather.
‘Got one!’ an alert sailor called, and the crew sped into position. Tugging the taut line, keeping it straight, they watched the prey hauling hard.
‘It’s big!’ Someone laughed.
After a display of determination the escaping beast was subdued and reeled. So tangled the men could scarcely make it out, trussed as it was in seaweed. For sure it was dead. They cut the ties and leapt back, soberingly profoundly shocked. They’d killed the mermaid.