He unstepped the mast and furled the sail and tied it. Then he shouldered the mast and started to climb. It was then he knew the depth of his tiredness. He stopped for a moment and looked back and saw in the reflection of the street light the great tail of the fish standing up well behind the skiff’s stern. He saw the white naked line of his backbone and the dark mass of the head with the projecting bill and all the nakedness between.
He started to climb again and at the top he fell and lay for some time with the mast across his shoulder. He tried to get up. But it was too difficult and he sat there with the mast on his shoulder and looked at the road. A cat passed by on the far side going about its business and the old man watched it. Then he just watched the road.
Finally he put the mast down and stood up. He picked the mast up and put it on his shoulder and started up the road. He had to sit down five times before he reached his shack…
Inside the shack he leaned back against the wall. In the dark he found a water bottle and took a drink. Then he lay down on the bed. He pulled the blanket over his shoulders and then over his back and legs and he slept face down on the newspapers with his arms out straight and the palms of his hands up…
Up the road, in the shack, the old man was sleeping again. He was still sleeping on his face and the boy was sitting by him watching him. The old man was dreaming about the lions.
END OF BOOK
“And bearing the cross for himself he went forth to the place called the Skull.”
– John 19:17
Historical sources indicate it was probably only the crossbeam that Jesus carried, to which his outstretched arms were bound with a rope. It was a common practice of the time to tie a rope from the crossbeam to the prisoner’s ankle, giving the guard complete control. A quick tug would cause the prisoner to stumble and fall without the use of his arms to catch himself.
“…he fell and lay for some time with the mast across his shoulder.” – Hemingway
“For dogs encompassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.”
– Psalm 22:16
“…with his arms out straight and the palms of his hands up…” – Hemingway
(The upright of the cross was carried by Simon of Cyrene, who “was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.” – Mark 15:21)