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Winter 1997

Defiance

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"Yeah, I couldn't help it. I don't know what's wrong with me. I have little lights or something in my eyes. I can't see you very good."

"You got a headache or anything?"

"Yeah, and I never get headaches. You know, Johnny, I can't believe it happened. It was just a regular set, you know?"

It was a regular set. Johnny was up in the mast with the glasses on the fish. There was a light swell and a little wind. "Looks like 40 or 50 tons," he yelled down to Anton.

Anton nodded, went back to the wheel and brought the boat around. "Let her go!" he yelled, and the skiff and the net were on their way. They circled, closed up quickly and began to purse. It was an easy set, routine. They had the fish; it was just a matter of getting them on board. When they finished pursing, the back of the net was brought in, and the fish were dried up in the bunt. They were ready to start brailing.

Tony swung the boom into place and got the brailer hooked up. Raul brought the skiff around to hold the net open, and the brailer was lowered and forced into the fish. "OK, up!" Tony yelled, and the brailer rose out of the net with tons of bluefin inside, seawater pouring out. The rigging strained under the load. The winch kept turning. The brailer lifted higher and higher. Then, with a popping sound, the boom's topping block flew apart and the boom fell to the deck. It had been a routine set, but then, with no warning, death lay in front of Raul, staring at him from the guard. No blood, no torn flesh, no painful sounds, but no life. Tony was gone. Raul threw up.

"Christ, get the boom up! Anton Anton!" someone yelled. Anton stepped out onto the bridge wing, a slice of apple in his hand. Frantic calls: "Watch the net!" "Let the breast line go!" "Maybe there's a doctor on Guadalupe!" "Raul, come and talk on the radio, we need someone who speaks Spanish." "Dump the fish, hurry!"

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