the deepest dive, at his limit, Abel was almost at the end
of his breath when he felt a rush in the water behind him.
It felt like something big, like his mother passing. But at
the corner of his eye he saw a blue shadow that blocked out
the sun. He whirled around to see a huge mouth and an eye
the size of a golfball coming at him. The mouth opened. He
saw massive pegs of teeth as it came on in a terrible rush.
Abel screamed in his snorkel and pushed hard off the bottom
but the big blue shadow suddenly had him by the hand. The
abalone he was holding came tearing out of his fingers. Abel
thought he was about to die. He felt pain shoot up his arm.
A vast flat tail blurred across his body. And then it was
shot to the surface and burst into the fresh air with a shriek.
He wheeled around, looking for danger, waiting for another
rush from the lurking shadow. His whole body quaked and trembled.
He looked at his hand; a tiny thread of blood curled into
the water. It was only a scratch. His mother came slowly upward
with her bag full. She gave him the thumbs up.
in the boat!' he shouted when she surfaced. 'There's something
grabbed him by the arm and squeezed. 'It's okay, love.'
it nearly got me!'
call, eh?' she said with a smile.
it took skin off my fingers!'
get to the boat. Please!'
look down,' said his mother.
he stuck the snorkel back in his mouth and put his head under.
Near the bottom, in the mist left from their abalone gathering,
a huge blue shadow twitched and quivered. There it was, not
a shark, but the biggest fish he had ever seen. It was gigantic.
It had fins like ping pong paddles. Its tail was a blue-green
rudder. It looked as big as a horse.
down,' said his mother. 'Let's look at him.'
thought it was a shark.'
sure took you by surprise,' she said, laughing. 'That's a
blue groper. Biggest I've ever seen.'
and his mother slid down into the deep again and saw the fish
hovering then turning, eyeing them cautiously as they came.
It twitched a little and edged along in front of them to keep
its distance. The big gills fanned. All its armoured scales
rippled in lines of green and black blending into the dizziest
blue. The groper moved without the slightest effort. It was
magnificent; the most beautiful thing Abel had ever seen.
a few moments his mother eased forward with an abalone in
one outstretched hand. The groper watched her. It turned away
for a moment, afraid, and then came round in a circle. Abel
couldn't hold his breath much longer but he didn't want to
miss anything so he hung there above his mother and the fish
with his lungs nearly bursting.
groper arched back. The mosaic of its scales shone in the
morning sun. His mother got close enough to touch the fish
with the meat of the abalone. The fish trembled in the water
and then froze for a moment as though getting ready to flee.
She ran the shellmeat along its fat bottom lip and let go.
The fish powered forward, chomped the abalone and hurtled
off into a dark, deep hole.
pair of them climbed into the boat laughing. They piled their
catch into the crate and pressed towels against their glowing
can't believe it,' said Abel. 'It's big enough to eat your
must be old to grow that big,' said his mother as she pulled
on the starter rope.
smart,' she said. ' He knew what he was doing. We're lucky,
you know, lucky to see such a thing.'
skimmed back around into the bay across the slick green water
toward the jetty and the shack that was their home.
Jackson had lived by the sea here at Longboat Bay ever since
he could remember. His whole life was the sea and the bush.
Every day was special, his mother always told him this, but
it all became much more precious the day he first shook hands
with old Blueback.