Chapter 100: Leg and Arm

Didn’t want to try to: ain’t one limb enough? What should I do without this other arm? And I’m thinking Moby Dick doesn’t bite so much as he swallows.

In the DC comics universe exists a Bizarro World, where everything functions exactly the opposite of the way it functions on Earth. Bizarro society hates beauty, perfection, intelligence, and success, among other Earthly values. Bizarro Superman was punished for doing good, and his sentence involved turning the spherical planet (a perfect shape) into a cube (less perfect). Even the name of the Bizarro World, Htrae, is Earth spelled backwards.

In “Leg and Arm,” Ahab stumbles into his own Bizzaro World, a British ship called the Samuel Enderby. The captain of this ship lost an arm to Moby Dick one year past, not long after Ahab lost his leg. Both captains have ivory prosthetics, objected to by doctors and crafted by ship’s carpenters, but herein the similarities end. The Samuel Enderby is a quite jolly ship, full of humorous banter and ribbing. The Samuel Enderby’s captain, Captain Boomer, has seen Moby Dick twice since the loss of his arm, and wisely (in his own esteem) did not engage. Boomer’s incredulous reaction to Ahab’s chasing of Moby Dick visibly upsets Ahab, who violently storms off the ship’s deck to return to the Pequod.

Perhaps the most striking difference between the worlds of these two ships is the way in which they conceive of Moby Dick. The Enderby’s doctor, Dr. Bunger, swears as scientific fact the inability of the whale to digest human flesh, and assigns, ergo, “that what you take as the White Whale’s malice is only his awkwardness. For he never means to swallow a single limb; he only thinks to terrify by feints.” In other words/worlds, a whale is a wild animal, acting as such, and anything more is poetic personification. The Enderby seems to have dealt with its tragedy much more reasonably than the Pequod. Maybe in reality, the Bizarro World came to Captain Boomer.

Chapter 100: Leg and Arm — The Pequod, of Nantucket, meets the Samuel Enderby, of London

You gave a leg and I gave an arm —
Let’s shake bones together!
We thrilled for the Whale; we both came to harm —
In whiteness stained forever.

Both taken by the do-run-run —
Where the lust begun
I can’t begin to say.

Once clinging to a grim resolve,
And so our flesh dissolved;
It melted away!

Our doctor’s a drunk; he left me a stump,
Presenting Dr. Bunger!
“The captain, that man, with hammer for hand,
Clubbed me in a passion!”

Oh Bunger, you’re a rascal, man / Oh Boomer, so facetious, man
You didn’t feel my hand / I never drank a dram
No matter what you say! / No matter what you say!

Oh Bunger, nothing like you man!
“And neither you, captain!”
We’ll laugh all the day! / We’ll laugh all the day!

You gave a leg and I gave an arm —
Let’s shake bones together!
We thrilled for the Whale; we both came to harm —
Let’s shake bones together!
Let’s shake bones together!

(c) and (p) 2008 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea November 29, 2008
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea November 29, 2009

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