Green shadows, white whale - By Ray Bradbury



I looked out from the deck of the Dun Laoghaire ferry and saw Ireland.

The land was green.

Not just one ordinary sort of green, but every shade and variation. Even the shadows were green, and the light that played on the Dun Laoghaire wharf and on the faces of the customs inspectors. Down into the green I stepped, an American young man, just beyond thirty, suffering two sorts of depression, lugging a typewriter and little else.

Noticing the light, the grass, the hills, the shadows, I cried out: "Green! Just like the travel posters. Ireland is green. I'll be damned! Green!"

Lightning! Thunder! The sun hid. The green vanished. Shadow-rains curtained the vast sky. Bewildered, I felt my smile collapse. A gray and bristly customs official beckoned.

"Here! Customs inspection!"

"Where did it go?" I cried. "The green! It was just here! Now it's—"

"The green, you say?"

The inspector stared at his watch. "It'll be along when the sun comes out!" he said.

"When will that be?"

The old man riffled a customs index. "Well, there's nothing in the damn government pamphlets to show when, where, or if the sun comes out in Ireland!" He pointed with his nose. "There's a church down there—you might ask!"

"I'll be here six months. Maybe—"

"—you'll see the sun and the green again? Chances are. But in '28, two hundred days of rain. It was the year we raised more mushrooms than children."

"Is that a fact?"

"No, hearsay. But that's all you need in Ireland, someone to hear, someone to say, and you're in business! Is that all your luggage?"

I set my typewriter forth, along with the flimsiest suitcase. "I'm traveling light. This all came up fast. My big luggage comes next week." *

"Is this your first trip here?"

"No. I was here, poor and unpublished, off a freighter in 1939, just eighteen."

"Your reason for being in Ireland?" The inspector licked his pencil and indelibled his pad.

"Reason has nothing to do with it," I blurted.

His pencil stayed, while his gaze lifted.

"That's a grand start, but what does it mean?"


He leaned forward, pleased, as if a riot had surfed at his feet.

"What kind would that be?" he asked politely.

"Two kinds. Literary and psychological. I am here to flense and render down the White Whale."

"Flense." He scribbled. "Render down. White Whale. That would be Moby Dick, then?"

"You read!" I cried, taking that same book from under my arm.

"When the mood is on me." He underlined his scribbles. "We've had the Beast in the house some twenty years. I fought it twice. It is overweight in pages and the author's intent."

"It is," I agreed. "I picked it up and laid it down ten times until last month, when a movie studio signed me to it. Now I must win out for keeps."

The customs inspector nodded, took my measurements, and declared: "So you're here to write a screenplay! There's only one other cinema fellow in all Ireland. Whatsisname. Tall, with a kind of beat-up monkey face, talked fine. Said 'Never again.' Took the ferry to find what the Irish Sea was like. Found out and delivered forth both lunch and breakfast. Pale he was. Barely able to lug the Whale book under one arm. 'Never again,' he yelled. And you, lad. Will you ever lick the book?"

"Haven't you?"

"The Whale has not docked here, no. So much for literature. What's the psychological thing you said? Are you here to observe the Catholics lying about everything and the Unitarians baring their breasts?"

"No, no," I said hastily, remembering my one visit here, when the weather was dreadful. "Now between lowerings for the Whale, I will study the Irish."

"God has gone blind at that. Can you outlast Him? Why try?" He poised his pencil.

"Well . . . ," I said, putting the black sack over my head, fastening the noose about my neck, and yanking the lever to drop the trapdoor, "excuse me, but this is the last place in the world I'd dream of landing. It's all such a mystery. When I was a kid and passed the Irish neighborhood on one side of town, the Micks beat the hell out of me. And when they ran through our neighborhood, we beat them. It has bothered me half a lifetime why we did what we did. I grew up nonplussed—"

"Nonplussed? Is that all?" cried the Official.

''—with the Irish. I do not dislike them so much as I am uncomfortable with my past. I do not much care for Irish whiskey or Irish tenors. Irish coffee, too, is not my