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thump sounded in the passage way. It was the freezer door opening
and closing. Startled, everyone looked toward the door. Another
click and thump the door opened and closed again. A second later
the chief reappeared. He rested one foot on the doorsill and leaned
against the frame. "It's holding at five degrees," he said sheepishly.
Augie shook off a chill. The others around the table began to fidget.
The chief poured himself some fresh coffee, sat down and lit up
a smoke. Augie sat down at the table, too; something he rarely did
when the crew was in the galley. They were huddled and silent in
the dim light. Defiance, moving out of the lee of Santa Catalina,
began to beat against the swell.
lights of Avalon were on the stern quarter now, and the glow from
the mainland lit up the northern and eastern horizons. Defiance
had been with Defiance ever since Pete's dad first brought her up
from the yard in San Diego. They had fished together until the old
man had a stroke. Then Pete took over, but he didn't like it without
his father. He gave up fishing and stayed on the beach. They sold
the boat to Anton. Soon after, Anton married Louisa. A year later
came a daughter. A year after that came Tony. Then came the fighting.
Louisa wanted Anton to stay on land and help raise the babies. But
Anton's life was Defiance and fishing. Louisa resigned herself to
life without her husband. And the years pushed on like the sea.
approached the harbor. The short green flash, low on the water,
was becoming a broad, sweeping beam atop the lighthouse. It stood
out unmistakably against the myriad lights that were the harbor
and the city beyond. It signified the end of another trip and a
few days of rest before the next one. But the bridge, normally crowded
with excited fishermen, was empty except for Anton. He stood behind
the wheel, making periodic adjustments to the autopilot, bringing
the vessel in line with the breakwater entrance. He picked up the
glasses and focused them: The silhouette of a tug and a barge cut
across the opening and headed out to sea. Anton reached for the
telegraph and rang up "stand by."
the sound of the bells, the crew gathered, one by one, up forward
on the port weather deck. The men leaned on the handrail or the
bridge ladder as Defiance passed through the entrance into the calm
of the harbor. It was the middle of the night. They had been cheated
out of an exciting return and a warm welcome.