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by Sean Graham
Although the revolver was much smaller than the basket of fruit that was the
centerpiece, it dominated the table top. The deep red runners that flanked the
basket, normally adding richness to the room, now paled in the presence of
the weapon, the rich red submitting to the dominance of gunmetal gray.
The fruit itself, plastic lemons, drifting along on their endless, non-
biodegradable journey, seemed ready to shrivel up and die; more than willing
to give up immortality to end their misery. In fact, since the accident the entire
house seemed ready to implode on itself in utter despair.
Mike sat at one end of the table staring at the pistol, simultaneously disgusted
by, and pining for it. Monolith of sorrow, a bottle of cheap liquor loomed on the
table, its life partner the glass no where to be seen, there was no need. In his
hand was the locket he had given Amy on their first anniversary. Inside was a
picture they had taken while on their first date. In this picture she was beautiful
and not dead.
It was in this state that he spent most of his nights, and days for that matter,
and this is where the phone call found him. The next morning Moffett was at
his door and in moments they were on their way to the docks. Mike could not
explain why he had agreed to go or why he had even answered the phone, but
he knew the call and ensuing offer had probably saved his life, or at least
postponed his death. Perhaps his survival instinct had cried out from his
subconscious for help and Moffett had answered.
It was raining outside and cold, the wipers trenching through the mounting
water and sleet with great effort. Soon they were pulling into the harbor
parking lot. It was early and still dark, but the place was bustling with the life of
the commercial fishing industry.
At the end of the third pier was The Dragon, a.k.a. Chatter Box after its
captain who probably wouldn’t take his hand off the microphone for the next
month. The Dragon’s small crew scurried around the ship like ants whose
mound had just been kicked in. Mike smiled despite the melancholy that was
his new abettor.
They climbed onboard and the crew gathered. There were handshakes and
manly team hugs all around. Mike had sailed with these men in seasons past
and knew them well. He had taken a break to test the construction industry
with his brothers, but that was all over now.
“Good to have you back, son.” Jerry McGinnis, the ship’s captain, said with a
clap on the back. He almost added his condolences, but did not; the moment
just didn’t feel right, and what did it matter anyway? She was dead and that
“Who’s this?” Mike asked.
“Oh, this is William. We met a few years back when …” The captain stopped.
“He’s a good hand. I vouch for him.”
“New guys are bad luck.” Mike said.
“That’s why you’re her, Mike, balance things out. Something old, something
new, or whatever.”
“We’re not getting married, Jerry, we’re going fishing.”
The Dragon used a surrounding net to catch its fish. A small boat is used to
encircle the school of fish with the net, which is then connected to the primary
vessel and hauled in at the appropriate time, hopefully dragging fish with it.
Jerry held the ship steady as the crew prepared to lower the small boat. Mike
pulled the short straw and would be piloting the craft around the shoal of
salmon they had come upon the afternoon of their first full day at sea. The
crew stared over the side at the school of swimming dollar signs.
Moffett manned the crane, and deftly lifted the boat out of its cradle and
eased it into the water. Mike threw a rope ladder over the side and swung his
leg over the bulwark, straddling it. As he followed with his left leg, the locket
slipped from the pocket of his rain suit where he had absent mindedly tucked it
before they located their quarry.
He lunged back over the bulwark, but his right foot caught in the top ladder
rung and his chest fell against the low wall. His outstretched arm fell short of
the locket by several feet. It slid along the deck back and forth in time with the
William appeared from nowhere and scooped the locket up. He held it out to
Mike, who grabbed it immediately but William did not let go. The chained
strained between them as Mike pulled back, but William did not release the
locket, the chain straining between them.
“Let her go.” William said.
Mike was stunned. “What did you say?”
“Let it go. I’ll keep it safe for you.”
Mike ripped the locket free, “No thanks.”
The rest of the day was long and full of fish and hard work, with more of the
latter than the former. It was after midnight before Mike made his way back to
the crew’s berthing, a tiny room consisting of four bunks with matching
lockers. William was already below sorting through his belongings. Mike
stepped up to his own locker and saw that William’s was filled with a bizarre
collection of trinkets; jewelry, photographs of people, key chains, charms, a
small stuffed bear, and even a rabbit’s foot.
“That doesn’t look like the luggage of a man going to sea.”Mike said, opening
his own locker.
“Each to his own. We all carry baggage through life?” William answered.
“Wow. That’s deep. So tell me how you know Jerry again.” Mike said, pulling
a clean shirt from a hanger.
“I helped him through a rough patch a few years ago.” William said. It was well
known that the captain’s daughter had died three years earlier from Leukemia.
“Yes. He was in much the same condition as you are now.”
“And what condition would that be, given that you know nothing about me.”
“You think you have nothing to live for; nothing left to do but die. You’ve
given up. Jerry had given up in those days as well.”
Mike slammed his locker shut. “You don’t know squat about me pal.” he
pushed William back against the bunks. “Touch this locket again and I’ll break
your fingers.” And he started up the stairs.
“I know more about you than you think, Mike. For example, I know you have
nightly staring contests with a revolver.” He stepped toward Mike. “And that it
was your fault that night on the road.”
Their eyes locked. “Who are you?” Mike demanded, more threatened by the
man’s insight into his life than he was angry.
“Who I am is irrelevant. I’m here to help you through an inevitable decision,
Mike.” William said frankly, eyes unwavering.
“Stay out of my way.” Mike gave the smaller man a shove for effect and left
“I can bring her back.” William said after him, but the door had shut.
Mike sat alone drinking cold coffee at the only table in the small space that
served as the crew’s mess. It was the culinary version of the crew’s berthing;
function before form, Spartan in every way.
“Ahh, coffee pot, microwave and mini fridge; what more could a fisherman ask
for?” Jerry said, entering the room and he slapped Mike on the shoulder,
spilling coffee down Mike’s front.
“Mind if I join you?”
“You’re the captain.” Mike said.
“Right you are.” And he sat down across from Mike. “I understand you met
Mike sipped his coffee and pretended to read the Ahogo/Choking poster for
the thousandth time.
“I see.” Jerry shifted in his seat. “He can change your life, Mike. He changed
“I just want to be left alone.”
“Left alone to do what? To wallow in self pity? To ruin your life and the lives
of your and Amy’s families? Is that it?” Jerry said, his voice escalating
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Depression, suicide? Roulette with a full cylinder? You think that kind of
crap only affects you? You have a chance out here to make things right one
way or another.”
Jerry grabbed a napkin from the dispenser on the wall and pulled the pen
from behind his ear. He wrote something on the napkin and passed it across
the table to Mike.
“This is the same deal he offered me three years ago. Remember, what goes
on at sea stays at sea.” He leaned across the table, “If you can’t let her go, die
The Dragon rocked like a see-saw in the giant swells, the birthing pains of a
massive storm they had crossed paths with hours ago. Mike stood on the ship’
s bow sipping from a small flask and rolling the locket in his fingers. He split
his glances between Amy and the raging ocean. Silent tears cut a path down
“I know you’re there and I know what you are. You’re a monster!” Mike yelled.
“Monster to some, angel to others.” William stepped from the darkness.
“I haven’t given up, you’re wrong.”
“So give me the locket and let her go.”
Mike stared at the locket, opened it. She was so beautiful. “No.”
“Then bring her back. It’s that easy.”
“If I do this she’ll be back, Amy will be back?” Mike looked down at the
churning water, the white caps clapping together like the teeth of a ready
beast ravenous and longing.
“Back and as beautiful as ever.”
“I miss her so much.” Mike was sobbing now.
William motioned to the black void that was the ocean.
Mike edged closer to the railing.
“I don’t want to go. I can change, I just need time. There has to be room to
William shook his head, staring into Mike’s eyes. He rubbed his hands
together eagerly, saying nothing. The implication was clear; there was no time
and there were no negotiations.
Mike regressed. He stepped onto the bottom rung of the railing. “I should’ve
paid attention … on the road.”
“Yes.” William’s eyes widened with anticipation.
“It’s my fault … the guilt … it’s too much.”
“Too much indeed, Michael.”
“Amy! I’m sorry!” The Dragon lurched back with a swell and fell hard into its
trough. Mike screamed and went over the rail head first as the ship plunged
into the emptied gap of ocean. The sea devoured him in a single churning
swallow, his cry silenced by the raging wind and water. The locket swung from
the railing, twinkling red and green in the ship’s running lights.
It had been a worthwhile trip, a good trade; he had no use for the innocent
souls: they weren’t his thing, so to give her up was just fine. He preferred the
guilt ridden, the more turmoil and hopelessness the better and Michael was a
perfect specimen. He tossed the locket in the duffel and made preparations to
move on; there was a woman in Dallas holding on to a cufflink that was ruining
her life. She needed help with a decision.
The moment Mike went over the Dragon’s side, a tiny patch of earth in the
cemetery of a small Alaskan town shifted ever so slightly. In moments dirt
began to push upward and out in a tiny eruption as a decaying hand punched
through the fresh sod. Rain began in a slow drizzle and steadily grew into a
downpour, each drop washing away the dead skin and rotted fibers; the
hallmarks of death. Soon the hand was delicate, soft and white … again. The
headstone above the hand read “Amy, You Are Loved.”.