Like all of the other village men in The Pearl by John Steinbeck, Kino makes his meager living by diving for pearls.
Kino has one prized possession: his canoe. It is the
one thing of value he owned in the world. It was very old. Kino's grandfather had brought it from Narayit, and he had given it to Kino's father, and so it had come to Kino. It was at once property and source of food, for a man with a boat can guarantee a woman that she will eat something, It is the bulwark against starvation.
With Juana and Coyotito in the canoe, Kino rows to a spot above the oyster beds, near all the other canoes from his village. Kino thinks about these oyster beds, the source of great riches for his country's kings over the years. Now it is a place for him to eke out a hard living for his little family.
He slips carefully into the water so he does not stir up the mud and cloud the water. knows that pearls are happy accidents, and it takes luck or a miracle to find one. He cuts the oysters from their homes and places them in his basket, staying below the surface until his lungs are on fire. This is
the Song of the Pearl That Might Be, for every shell thrown in the basket might contain a pearl. Chance was against it, but lick and the gods might be for it. And in the canoe above him Kino knew that Juana was making the magic of prayer.
Kino is young and can stay under for two minutes, and on this day (found in chapter two of the novella) he finds something extraordinary.