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Winter 1997

Defiance
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Unconcealed tears of grief signaled that this trip would be with the stunned seamen of the fishing vessel Defiance forever.

By Paul F. Irving
Illustrations by Christian Clayton

For 36 hours straight, Defiance bucked toward San Pedro harbor. But the voyage had already come to an end somewhere off the coast of Mexico Augie braced himself as Defiance rolled to port. When she righted, he struggled up to the bridge carrying a sandwich wrapped in a paper towel. He carefully felt his way to the chart room in the nighttime darkness, put the sandwich on the chart table and tucked in the corners of the paper towel. He returned forward.

"Skipper, you here?" he asked, straining to see.

"Yes, Augie," Anton answered softly

"I've got a bite for you." There was no reply. "You've got to have something," Augie pleaded. "It's just a little sandwich."

"I've got a bite for you." There was no reply. "You've got to have something," Augie pleaded. "It's just a little sandwich."

"You know, Tony would have been 20 in September," Anton finally said. When Augie turned, the skipper was facing him. His eyes were hidden beneath the bill of his blue cap.

"I know, Anton."

"Jesus, 20 years! It seems like a long time, but he was still a boy. What the hell are we doing here?"

Augie didn't answer; he didn't know how. Instead, he rubbed his cheek, waiting for the skipper to continue. But Anton turned back toward the bow and was silent. Augie, tired from the pounding sea, gave up and went below.

Defiance rose with a northwest swell, hung for a moment, yawed, then came down to meet the next wave. She hit with a jarring thump and took spray up onto the bridge. The foamy shower, glowing red and green from the navigation lights, dashed against the windows. Anton sat alone, unmoving. He'd been on the bridge for 36 hours straight as Defiance bucked her way north. He began to rock slowly, wringing his big hands. He wiped his face, then reached over and switched on the radar. The green sweep of the scope reflected elliptic circles on the bridge overhead. The light mirrored in the windows reflected Anton's drawn face. He glanced at the radar; the east end of Catalina Island was dead ahead. He adjusted the autopilot, waited for Defiance to settle on course, then sat back in his metal chair and continued to stare out.

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