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Defiance
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Winter 1997

Defiance

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He imagined Louisa sobbing hysterically as she sank down on the wooden dock, her heavy, black fur coat slipping off her shoulders, a gold chain and cross twisted around her neck. Anton saw himself standing over her, staring down, motionless while she cried, "You promised, Anton, you promised! He hated fishing. Why did you have to take him with you?" She would blame him. He could already hear her sobbing. "You made him go on that stinking boat. That goddamn stinking boat! I hate you. It's your fault he's dead. You killed him!"

The image was so real that Anton reached down for her. "Louisa," he said aloud, startling himself. Over the bow the tanker steamed silently toward the horizon.

The galley was lit by the bulb over the sink. The aged, varnished cabinets soaked up the yellow light, and the rhythmic clatter from the engine room poured out through the fan exhaust in the uptake behind the stove. A few men sat silently around the table, swaying and jarring with the boat.

Augie was at the sink cleaning: going in and out of the fresh box, arranging, scrubbing, stacking the sink counter with food, putting it back, cleaning the sink and the counter, then attacking the fresh box again. Every so often he would reach for the apron tied at his waist and wipe away the tears on his smooth, red face. The crew sat staring into their coffee cups like so many lonely bus travelers.

The chief came up from the engine room for some coffee. His face was sweaty and his black, oily hair hung limp. He took a cup off its hook, grabbed the coffee pot and started to pour. When he saw Tony's name on the mug he banged the pot down. Everyone looked up. They watched the chief leave the galley with the cup. He threw it angrily out the open storm shutter into the sea. It disappeared beneath the foam. Then he came back in, took another cup and filled it. "Don't you know it's bad luck to keep that thing on board?" he said. He nudged his assistant, Slavko, to slide over as he sat down at the end of the table. No one said a word.

Johnny leaned against the winch, steadying himself against the wind and swell. "You threw up before, didn't you, after the accident?"

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