This is the reason why I affirm that Kurtz was a remarkable man. He had something to say. He said it. He had become affianced to a woman — a dramatic, highly strung woman — who was in possession of the most tragic misunderstanding when it came to fish-and-flavor love affairs. On our long nights sitting in that horrible darkness he told me of a dish she proudly made and served — a pineapple sliced in two and filled with an assortment of shellfish and bacon. She had gone to great lengths to procure the tropical fruit and bid him “eat! eat!” as he sat in stunned silence at the table. She took his speechlessness for wonder, for affirmation that her intuition and instincts were right, that this dish married perfectly flavors only the most civilized of palates could have conjured up, just as she knew in her heart that Kurtz was the man for her, a Godly man, an honorable man, a man not given in the slightest to wretched sadism and degeneracy in the jungle.
As Kurtz recounted this tale, he clutched at his distended stomach with anguish as the night was broken by the cries of an unfortunate being gnawed upon by a crocodile down by the river.
“Your Intended must love you very much,” I said, concerned only with escaping the conversation. But he was not done. He was in a confessional mood.
“That was the reason I left Belgium,” he rasped. “The thought of a lifetime of dinners such as that — it’s more than any man could stand. You must see,” he implored, grabbing me by the collar, “the pineapple, it was cleaved in two, and in my mind’s eye — the grotesque pink and glossy flesh of what appeared to be larvae squirmed within.” He shuddered. The effort of recounting this memory seemed to have sapped his strength and sanity. He fell back, quietly sobbing.
When he died, I knew that it was this terrifying memory that besieged him, driving him over the cliff of despair, as we made our way downriver to return him once and for all into the arms of his abandoned Intended. He cried in a whisper at this image, at this vision of Pineapple-Seafood Salad — he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath:
“The horror! The horror!”