No Rose Garden There was a rip in the net. Bat, the kid, went into forward stores and got the box of needles and mending twine. The rip wasn’t too bad. Richie, Sal and Vinnie pulled off their gloves and went to work. It was possible to mend the net with gloves on, but no skipper would allow it. Too slow. Sal felt the cold bite into his hands as he grabbed a hunk of the wet net. He looked up and saw the dark shadow of his father watching from the open pilot house window. He had been on deck for the hoist. Now he would be impatiently waiting to get the net back overboard. The three-hour tow started right away. How much time the men got below decks depended on how fast they cleared the deck. If it should take three hours, there would be no break at all. Sal had seen that happen for nearly 40 hours straight. Tony had managed to get below once and make coffee, and that was it for 40 hours. Coffee and some apples. There hadn’t been time to peel an orange.
Sal knew what his father was thinking. The old days. His father was fond of recalling that in the old days both sides of the boat had been rigged with doors, cables and net. Then if there was a rip, you could set back right away on the other side. No delay. Less time below, but what the hell, everybody knows that the fish come first. You can sleep at home. You bet. Iron Men. Sal’s hands were screaming. The prickly polypropylene twine of the net felt like flexible steel on his fingers. His section was almost done. Almost. Three more knots. He tied them off, tossed his big plastic needle to Bat and pulled on his gloves. Soaked. Damn. The others were finished. He watched as Vinnie winched the net into the air, watched as Richie and Tony helped heave it into the sea. Then the balls and rollers. Tony shackled the towing cables to the doors. At his winch, Sal took up enough to raise the door off its seat. Tony flipped the safety chain off, and Sal threw the brake, dropping the door into the sea with a concussion of fractured water. Vinnie took over both winch brakes so Sal could begin cutting fish with Tony and Richie. Sal grabbed his favorite knife out of the basket, gave it a cursory edge on a stone and climbed into the shallow pen, stepping on the mass of f lopping fish, shuff ling his feet as his boots worked their way through the fish bodies to the steel deck.