Five Points, Vol. 9 No. 3Spring 2006
From Alice Hoffman, “[Teenagers] haven’t shut down the way we do as adults, and so I’m more willing to go to the deepest places when I write for them.”
Drawing the Line
I have never been seasick before, but the heavy smell of the rancid fat in galley and the fish guts that oiled every inch of beaten-up wood saturate the air. Even below deck, the wind roars like a freight train; the ancient Cummins diesel whines and vibrates the chipped mugs hanging over the sink. The bare bulb overheard flickers as the JoAnne pitches and heaves and rolls the August southwester. The shovels in the empty fish hold thud hard, back and forth, on the other side of the bulkhead. I can’t predict each sickening rise and bottom-out drop; I bend my knees and lean into the counter hard with my hips, and still I am slammed again and again against the stove and icebox and bolted-down table. I move three greasy milk crates of tools and used engine parts onto the bunks in the forepeak, their bare mattresses strewn with old Army blankets, and wedge myself into the cramped corner bench behind the table. I close my eyes, the surge of the sea is met with an answering surge in my stomach. Pots and dishes clatter in the filthy bins beneath the stove; sweaters and vests and jackets, stiff with salt and sweat and fish juice, grate back and forth on their hooks above my head.
A sense of dread, the seeping uneasiness which has nagged me lately, rises again. It is late summer, 1971. I am twenty-two years old. Glenn and I have lived together for four years. We have owned the JoAnne for over a year, fishing out of Gloucester, Massachusetts, our latest escapade. But lately I have started to wish that things were different. I don’t want to be here. I feel a deep panic rise as the boat heaves. So much is at stake between us, and none of it spoken.
I open my eyes, wishing for a long smooth horizon to define up and down, a clear and unmovable line to navigate by, to delineate me from this grimy and thundering boat.