Chapter 19 Summary
Every day during the spring, Karana and Rontu paddled through the sea caves looking for the giant devilfish; they found several others, but never the giant one. When summer comes she quits searching for him and begins to gather abalones for winter. She also gathers a few shellfish near the rocks at Coral Cove. Today the tide is low and the reef rises far above the water. Her canoe is nearly full and the day is windless, so she ties the canoe and climbs onto the reef, Rontu following, to find a fish to spear for their dinner.
With a sinew line and a hook made of abalone shell, she catches two large fish, gives one to Rontu, and gathers several purple urchins for dying as they walk back to the canoe. Rontu suddenly drops his fish and stands looking down over the edge of the reef. In the clear water, Karana sees the giant devilfish they had hunted for all spring. Rontu stands unmoving as Karana prepares her special spear and ties the shaft to her wrist.
The fish is only half a spear length away, and when he reaches out one of his tentacles to catch a fish, the girl rises to one knee and drives the spear into the devilfish. Though the head of the giant fish is larger than both fish she had already speared, Karana misses the head and immediately the creature emits its black ink into the water. She can still see the arm holding onto the fish he had been hunting, and she hurries to pull the spear back so she can take a second shot. The shaft has floated to the surface; as she begins to pull in the line, it tightens. She realizes that the giant fish is on her line—she hit it. Immediately she drops the coils of sinew string she has in her hands so she will not get burns from the line flying too quickly through her hands.
The devilfish, unlike other fish, moves by propelling itself through the water. The coil of string on the ground quickly unwinds, and Karana leaps forward on the reef in the direction the fish is moving to avoid cutting her hands. She braces herself against the slippery rocks and leans backwards as the string begins to tighten and stretch. Because she fears the line might break, she moves forward several steps, though the fish must work for its forward progress. The fish is obviously moving toward the cave, and she knows she will lose him if she lets him get that far. The canoe is in front of her, and if she could have spared a hand to untie it, she could have let the fish drag the canoe until it got tired.
Rontu is barking and running along the edge of the reef, distracting Karana. When she reaches the end of the reef, she knows she must make a stand here, even if she loses the fish. The line is so taut she is sure it will break, and though she does not feel it, the line is cutting her bleeding hands. Suddenly the line gets slack, and she is sure she has lost the great fish; but he has simply begun to circle, so she coils the excess line at her feet. Soon, though she has to let it out again, and she has to try to bring the fish in before it reaches its rocky destination. The water in front of her is only waist-deep, so she slips in and walks carefully toward a sand bar.
She reaches the sand bar before the devilfish reaches the rocks; the string holds and the fish suddenly turns and swims again toward the cave. Twice more the devilfish tries to go to the caves, but she holds the line tightly. The third time he swims into the...
(The entire section is 990 words.)