I’d like to say I hesitated out of mercy. But the real motivation was survival. As the sinews of my forearms flexed like the bowstring before the fatal release, the puffin felt its mortal life coming to an end and threw up its belly in fear. A school of small fish scattered out onto the ice, flopping and flapping, still alive. At first, I felt the fool because I had just fed the bird a worm the night before when he was perfectly capable of feeding himself. I felt less of a fool when I realised the potential of the bird’s retch. Vomit worth its weight in gold. I dropped the puffin and picked up the sloppy mess in my hands and breathed in the stink with pleasure. Before I dug into the regurgitated feast, which in my state of starvation I had no disgust for, I thanked the puffin and gave him a fish. I thanked the gods of the sea and threw them back a fish. I tucked the puffin under my arm and I put away the knife. We sat on the ice content for some hours.
The satisfaction faded away (as it always does) and I started to scheme and dream again. How would I repeat that feat? Would the puffin produce another dinner willingly? I decided that the threat of the knife would be enough. The next day I encouraged the puffin into the ocean with a few kind words and off he went hunting. I rested in the sun with no fear that the puffin would find any escape out here. Once it returned I again placed the knife at its throat and received some fish, but this time the serving was smaller. I saw the problem at once. It lay in the eyes of the puffin. His eyes twitched with a hidden confidence and I knew that it saw my threat as the empty bluff they were. The next day I knew that my dinner would be smaller, and the next even smaller, until the day I would be given a mere sardine. I needed another approach and quickly, my pants were falling off my waist now. My reflection off the waves seemed foreign to me, skin, bones and sunken cheeks. One positive was weighing less which was going to become useful now that my wayward iceberg vessel seemed to be destined for warmer seas, and with that – destined to sink and melt away. My destiny and the Puffin’s were yet a mystery, though I wagered they our stakes were held in the same pot. Little did we know that over the horizon our dice were about to be thrown for a final bet – all or nothing.