Chapter 20 Summary
Freddy’s boat, called the Queen Conch, is painted white, with the forward deck, top of the house, and cockpit painted green. Her name and port city (Key West) are painted in black across the stern. She has no mast, and one of the glass windshields is broken. There are a number of bullet holes in her hull. From the lower holes, something dark is dripping. She is drifting along about ten miles outside of the tanker lanes amid patches of Sargasso weed. There is no sign of life on her, but the body of a man shows above the gunwale on a bench. The body is bloated, leaning over with one hand in the water. Small fish swim around every time there is a drop from the boat. The fish follow the boat as it is carried along by the Gulf Stream; they have found a fairly constant supply of food.
Inside the cockpit are three men. One is dead and is lying on his back below the steering wheel. Another one, also dead, is on the starboard side. There is a third man, still alive but out of his mind, lying on his side with his head on his arm. The bilge of the boat is full of gasoline and makes a sloshing sound as it rolls with the motion of the waves. Harry Morgan, the man who is still alive, believes the sloshing sound is made by his stomach, which seems to him as big as a lake that sloshes on both shores at the same time. He moves to lie on his back, drawing his knees up and putting his head back. His stomach seems cold, and there is an inexplicable taste of gasoline in his mouth, though he knows that he has not been sucking up gasoline through a hose. Every time he breathes, Harry feels his stomach grow colder and somehow firmer. It continues to slosh like a lake that seems far away. The cold begins to move all the way through him. He had thought that if he could pull himself up his body would warm itself. Although he tried, he continues to be cold. He lies still, trying not to die even though he can no longer think.
Freddy’s boat has been drifting since ten o’clock the night before, and it is now the afternoon of the next day. There is nothing in sight that Harry can see but seaweed and a few Portuguese men-of-war, until he sights the distant smoke from a tanker.