In his mind, Dim Jim screamed, Enough. Enough was enough. He couldn’t live like this anymore. He was so tired of the way these people treated him. No one in the village respected him and they humiliated him whenever possible because he was a poor failure.
As usual, he sat alone at a small wooden table in the back of a bar. Dim Jim, as Jim Moore was known, surveyed his surroundings. The year was 1764 and the village of Kirriemuir’s only tavern was, as usual, extremely busy with fishermen and the local folk. Looking to his left, Dim Jim saw some people at the bar’s counter, but most were scattered around the several tables near him.
Dim Jim noticed the place showed its age with its worn wooden walls, blackened by the constant smoke from the large stone fireplace and the abundant pipes. Brightly shining oil lanterns laced the ceiling giving the room a cozy atmosphere.
As with all the townspeople, Dim Jim came to this bar every night. He sat there watching everyone having a good time. He didn’t realize what he was missing because these people had never been his friends. Since his youth, he was the butt of many jokes and pranks, so he had learned to remain alone and accept his position in the village.
From where he sat, Dim Jim could hear snippets of conversations, dealing with their simple lives: births, deaths, and marriages. At times, he would put his hands over his ears because their loud voices brought the noise level to a feverish pitch.
As usual, he wore his work clothes clearly identifying him as a fisherman, which was the main source of income in this little village. He wore a thick grey wool sweater and baggy beige linen pants almost covering his black leather boots.
Staring at the women, he scowled at their heavy black and grey woollen dresses covering every inch of skin. Even though his eyes frequently followed the attractive women in the bar, he never spoke to them so none looked his way.
He had heard men joke that if they were incapable of securing a woman, they were “jimmed.” He had attempted to court a couple of women over the years, but they had all turned him down.
Bringing his consciousness back to the bar’s patrons, he overheard tonight’s main topic under discussion: the longstanding battle between Larry and Samuel.
Many years ago, Samuel had borrowed Larry’s boat and had returned it with a hole in its keel. Larry accused Samuel of the deed, but Samuel argued it was there already there. Half the village sided with Larry and the other half were on Samuel’s side.
Though he watched the battle, Dim Jim couldn’t care less. He ruminated over the fact that he was the worst fisherman and the poorest man in the village. He was a solitary fixture in the background. Only the waitress accepted any attention from him when he grunted for more ale.
A very poor family, the Moores struggled all their lives. Dim Jim’s mother died while giving birth to his sister who died in infancy. His father died a few years back, leaving Dim Jim to fend for himself. He had no other family in the village, and his father’s only brother moved to Crathie as a young man, never to return.
As did all the Moore men, Dim Jim became a fisherman. He worked hard but rarely returned from his fishing trips with a full boat. Often, he only procured enough fish to fill his empty belly.
However, his personality did not match his appearance. Though he sounded like an idiot, physically he was an attractive man with a square rugged face and thick curly brown hair hanging down past his shoulders. His taut body would suit any apparel. But, “Pity he’s so stupid,” said the women of the village.
Banging his pewter mug on the table, Jim grunted to the waitress. He needed another drink. This was as much noise as he ever uttered. Though he had a warm deep voice, rarely did anyone hear it.
Even Gloria felt she was on a level above Dim Jim who she served every night. He rarely spoke more than a few words to her, and he never left her a tip. When she noticed his request, she nodded her head but took her time getting his drink.
After Gloria returned with his mug of ale, Jim thought about his day. He had made no money since he had only caught three fish. This was a serious problem. He needed to buy flint, soap, and milk. Tired of eating fish, he craved a chicken or a slab of beef. The bar provided cheese and bread, fried fish, or steak and kidney pie, but Jim couldn’t afford any of those. He dreamed about becoming a rich man, who could easily afford anything he desired.
So he was fed up. He was tired of being poor and only eating fish. He was tired of the way the villagers treated him. This had to change. It was about time he showed these people his worth. But how? He was a terrible fisherman, and he couldn’t do anything else. How could he gain the admiration of the villagers?
He thought and thought about what he could possibly do. He had to come up with something. There was no way he was going to continue living this way. Now more than ever, he wanted to change his life.
Dim Jim paused in this thinking to listen to the conversation at the table next to him.
“I’m sure it was the Green Tail,” said George.
“Did you try and catch it?” asked Jack, another fisherman.
“No, it swam away before I could get a line out.”
That was the answer. He must capture the great and elusive Green Tail.
The villagers believed that the Green Tail came from the Thresher shark family, bigger than most fish but smaller than a whale. Fishermen were terrified to come upon it for fear it would cost them their lives. Some fishermen swore they saw a big green tail dip just under the water’s surface. It would flap about then quickly disappear. Capturing it would bring much honour since no one had yet proven its existence.
No one knew how long the Green Tail had lived, but there had been sightings going back hundreds of years. This particular fish was a great mystery to all fishermen, and its origins were steeped in legend. No man had seen the head of the fish, only the tail, which had whipped through the surface close to their boats.
If Dim Jim caught the Green Tail, the villagers would finally respect him and treat him better. Though his strong facial features were set in stone and divulged nothing,he really hated the townspeople because of the way they treated him. He would love to show them up by catching the Green Tail.
However, the Green Tail had only ever been seen in the Devil’s Bowl, far into the ocean. His father had taken him that way once to locate a better fishing spot. Upon reaching the Devil’s Bowl, they had sailed around lost for several days. When they had finally found their way home, they agreed to never return.
Down through the generations, stories were told of the dangerous Devil’s Bowl. Mothers scared their children into obedience by telling them their fathers would sail into Devil’s Bowl and disappear if they didn’t behave. Women were forever frightened of their men never returning.
Devil’s Bowl had never been plotted on any map. Fishermen feared its existence. Everyone had a general idea of where it was located, but few ventured out that far into the ocean. Most fished in marked spots and rarely sailed into unchartered areas.
Dim Jim must prove his worth. He was tired of being thought of as useless. He dreamed of a day when he would be the richest and most important man in town, even more important than the mayor.
This thought drove him wild. He would be treated as a hero if he not only returned from the Devil’s Bowl but captured the elusive Green Tail. Everyone would honour and respect him. He would surrender his soul to the devil for such an opportunity.
So, Dim Jim prepared a list of the number of items he required for such a journey. He changed out his fishing lines to the thicker, studier kind, and he packed enough bread, cheese, and water for two days.
As he fell asleep that night, he dreamt he was the most famous and richest man in the village of Kirriemuir.