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Defiance
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Winter 1997

Defiance

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A heavy 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.

The lights of Avalon were on the stern quarter now, and the glow from the mainland lit up the northern and eastern horizons. Defiance pushed on.

Anton 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.

Defiance 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."

With 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.

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