He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in theGulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days nowwithout taking a fish. In the first forty days a boy hadbeen with him. But after forty days without a fish theboy’s parents had told him that the old man was nowdefinitely and finally salao, which is the worst form ofunlucky, and the boy had gone at their orders inanother boat which caught three good fish the firstweek. It made the boy sad to see the old man come ineach day with his skiff empty and he always went downto help him carry either the coiled lines or the gaff and harpoon and the sail that was furled around the mast.The sail was patched with flour sacks and, furled, itlooked like the flag of permanent defeat.
The old man was thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles inthe back of his neck. The brown blotches of thebenevolent skin cancer the sun brings from itsreflection on the tropic sea were on his cheeks. Theblotches ran well down the sides of his face and hishands had the deep-creased scars from handlingheavy fish on the cords. But none of these scars werefresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishlessdesert.
Everything about him was old except his eyes and theywere the same color as the sea and were cheerful andundefeated.
”Santiago,” the boy said to him as they climbed thebank from where the skiff was hauled up. ”I could gowith you again. We’ve made some money.”
The old man had taught the boy to fish and the boyloved him.
”No,” the old man said. ”You’re with a lucky boat. Staywith them.”
”But remember how you went eighty-seven dayswithout fish and then we caught big ones every day forthree weeks.”
”I remember,” the old man said. ”I know you did notleave me because you doubted.”
”It was papa made me leave. I am a boy and I mustobey him.”
”I know,” the old man said. ”It is quite normal.”