He hoists the hem of her skirt way up, like he does them sails when he’s anchored and angling;
Earnest is still on the hook for that swordfish, size of a canoe, but it will never be the same, she ain’t coming back, after the first time he lost her. You’ll recall the way he mentioned her wingspan, like he was breaking the spirit of an angel, not so much to hitch a ride to heaven as for a way to break out of hell.
He claims he isn’t tired, but he feels exhausted, won’t sleep because he might never wake up again,
and heads back to a place the beer is kept cold, served by the youngest daughter of an old man, living to brag on the conquests Earnest hauled to shore and passed around for free to keep his audience from starving.
The boys encourage him, sacrificing UNICEF school supplies to pitch in for his paper and pencils. “Say what happened, Cap.” They nudge.
He lets the boys pour saltwater over his refusals to let go, over his reeling wounded hands, worn out and torn like leather weather beaten gloves, barely able to hold them donated pencils, he apologizes, but they won’t take no for an answer.
When Earnest is good and ready he writes a letter; says he doesn’t blame his partner for the loss even though the wrong line was cut so that Earnest had nothing to show for it. He could tell his partner felt awful sorry and that was good enough for him, that he’d done all he could and it could happen to anybody under an unforgiving sun, where a feel for the water, doesn’t equal trust.
She yanks the hem of her skirt down, and her face reminds Earnest of where she’s been for the last twenty years. Not with him.