Saturday, January 26, 2008


By Greg Grogan

Everyone in the village of San Rafael knew old Santino the fisherman. They knew that every morning just before dawn, Santino would gather his oars and fishing poles and walk down to the beach, where his little skiff sat in the sand. Though its blue paint was peeling and its gunwales were cracked and splintered, it was a good and sturdy craft. It had served Santino well for many years.

Santino was the son of a fisherman, and the grandson of a fisherman. He had fished these waters longer than anyone could remember. And he had always begun the day by drinking a quart of dishwashing liquid and making farting noises with his armpits. Then he would push his skiff into the water and row out toward the open ocean.

Santino's boat was always full when he returned at the end of the day – full of driftwood, plastic bottles and pieces of Styrofoam. Santino was fond of saying that he knew the ocean like an old friend, and that was why he was such a fine fisherman. The fact that he spent most of the day naked and smeared with his own dung also helped, he would say, but not as much as one might think.

When Santino unloaded his catch on the beach, he would take great care to arrange everything into a neat pile. Then he would scream obscenities at the pile, or try to light it on fire. When someone would wander over to see what Santino had caught, he would fall to the ground and beat his fists into the soft white sand, which was his way of saying hello. It was also, he would explain later, his way of punishing the sand crabs for gossiping about the length of his manhood.

One day at sea, Santino hooked a bicycle tire – the biggest, most beautiful tire he had ever seen. He fought with this tire for three days and three nights. And then a curious manatee slipped the tire off his hook and disappeared beneath the waves. Exhausted and heartbroken, Santino slowly rowed back to shore. That night, he sat alone in the cantina, staring into his drink.

El neumático,” he sighed, over and over. “Donde está el neumático?

“Look, there are tires everywhere on this island,” said Salvadore, the kindly bartender. “It is full of tires! Come, let us go out tomorrow and find the loveliest tire, just for you!”

Santino smiled and shook his head. “No,” he replied, “there is only one tire for me.” The sad old fisherman took out his flask and poured himself another tall glass of cat piss. Then, quietly, he urged Salvadore to tell him the best way to kill a manatee.

(This bittersweet tale was inspired by author Greg Grogan’s love of the ocean -- and old men. Grogan last graced these pages with his dazzling story, World’s Horniest Grandpa!)

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