Quite a Mouthful

A Cape Cod lobster diver was this week swallowed and then spat out by a humpback whale…


Deep In the icy waters of the North Atlantic, in schools of whales – where whales go to school – they teach the young the old myths.

They tell of the Humphead Whale, first of their kind, whose pride at being largest of the mammals was so great that it blew a hole in the top of his head. They tell of the Banshee Whale, whose mate left her with the dismissive expression “there are plenty more fish in the sea” and whose mournful keening was the origin of whale song. They tell of the Summoning Rock, a huge monolith near Greenland of which it is said that if you knock three times upon it with your forehead, you will see stars.

And they tell the myth of Vamtu, the whale who is said to have swallowed a demon.

The terrifying legend tells of Vamtu’s struggles as the creature wriggled and jiggled and tiggled inside her, and of her desperate hawking attempts to get rid of it for three days and three nights before she finally managed to cough it out onto a nearby shore. They call the creature ‘Jonah’, from the whale word for ‘bleurgh’.

The story has passed into everyday parlance. Yawning youngsters are told to “close their mouth before they catch a jonah”. An upset stomach is called “a touch of the jonahs”. Witnessing the state of the sea around a whale with an upset stomach is “enough to make you jonah”.

Alvis was thinking about none of this as he fished the sea off Cape Cod, absentmindedly hoovering up krill, when suddenly his mouth filled with something sleek and rubbery.

His first thought was that he had swallowed a condom – sadly, all too common an occurrence these days, but the length of it startled him, and its sudden movement horrified him.

Alvis’s mouth dropped open in astonishment. The myth was true. He had swallowed a jonah.

His mouth had opened, but he quickly realised that this was doing no good. The jonah was struggling to stay upright on his tongue, like a toddler on a bouncy castle, and was unable to reach the opening.

Alvis had to get him out of his system. There were two directions in which this could go.

Having quickly dismissed Option Number Two Alvis closed his mouth, flipped his mighty tail into the air, and dived. He could hear a cry of terror echoing in the cavern of his mouth as he did so. He went down fifty feet, turned, and launched himself at the sky. He broke the surface, arched his back and let himself fall backwards. The sea’s surface Heimliched him as he hit the water, and the jonah was torpedoed out, covered head to foot in a wet-suit and whale-spit.

The jonah hit the water, sank beneath it, then surfaced. He looked around wildly and then at Alvis. As their eyes met Alvis knew that they were both thinking the same thing.

Nobody’s ever going to believe me.




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