“The Town-Ho’s Story”

The Classics Slacker had long looked forward to reading chapter 55. Its title held such promise: “The Town-Ho’s Story.” No doubt there would be some titillating tales there, and of the female variety for a change. Perhaps the Pequod made a port of call, and a few of the very few heterosexual crew members would acquaint themselves with an amiable lady of the evening who, in addition to offering her services in exchange for a few grapnels, would regale the guys with memorable accounts of her amorous adventures.

Except that, well, no. In Moby Dick, the “Town-Ho” is not, as defined in the Urban Dictionary, “the only well-known prostitute in a small town; usually has a friendly personality and clients throughout the community.” The Town-Ho is the name of a ship. “She” is the second one encountered by the Pequod.

The Classics Slacker, though deeply disappointed, nonetheless prepared herself to bear up against Ishmael’s usual style of reportage with its all-too-familiar meanderings. Ishmael promises to make the story extra spicy by telling it as he once did in Lima, of all places, “to a lounging circle of my Spanish friends, one saint’s eve, smoking upon the thick-gilt tiled piazza of the Golden Inn.”

His friends—among them the “fine cavaliers” Don Pedro and Don Sebastian—must’ve been smoking something seriously mind-altering to sit around while Ishmael recites a tale that begins: “Some two years prior to my first learning the events which I am about rehearsing to you, gentlemen, the Town-Ho, Sperm Whaler of Nantucket, was cruising in your Pacific here, not very many days’ sail westward from the eaves of this good Golden Inn.” Sober, those guys would’ve smothered him with a Peruvian serape.

Anyway, the Classics Slacker herewith presents her own brief summary of Ishmael’s recitation of the Town-Ho’s story as she once told it to her cat—Señor Don Gato—as he napped on the fine tufted cushions of her living room sofa. Although most faithfully and briefly rendered, the Town-Ho’s story failed to roust him from his snoozing.

As you might imagine, it’s a long, long story, even in brief. It’s so long that the Classics Slacker has covered  “The Town-Ho’s Story” in three parts: Ho; Ho Ho; and Ho Ho Ho.