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Today's Story by G. K. Adams

This is the life Luigi would want for his own son.

Tears of the Virgin

With back and arm muscles pulsing, Luigi hoisted the anchor as easily as he lifted his little son to the sky – but with much less joy. Then he cast off. “Ready.” His husky voice resonated along the half-empty docks.

His older brother Antioco glanced up to the statute of the Virgin on the cliff. From down on the water, he could barely see the dolphin rising to snatch a tuna from her hand. Antioco crossed himself, set his jaw, cranked the engine and turned his boat into the bay and toward the open gulf. Gulls, not cursed with human obstinacy, no longer followed the boats, so the only sounds were the chugging engine and the lapping waves.

“Romaldo’s pass?” Luigi shouted.

“Naw, we ain’t had much luck there.” Antioco set the boat on a southwest course. “Back in the bar Fredo said he hit a run of sardines the other side of St. Eustace. Let’s try there.” The breeze ruffled Antioco’s dark hair. Smoke from his cigarette streamed behind him.

Luigi coiled the dock lines, then also lit a cigarette and took a deep drag. “Guess I better get comfortable.” He settled on the bench next to his brother and set his face into the wind. The salt air in his nostrils didn’t expel the anxieties gnawing inside.

They maneuvered out of the harbor and beyond the rocky coast. The wind picked up as they passed the Isle of St. Eustace and so did the waves. The little boat chewed through the crests and occasionally slapped the troughs. The silty water of the harbor gave way to the blue of the gulf. Luigi lit another cigarette.

Two dark shapes appeared ahead of the boat. “We got company,” Luigi shouted.

“Yeah, I see,” Antioco said.

“Dolphins’re good luck. That’s what Papa always said.” One of the dolphins broke the surface then disappeared only to reappear farther ahead.

Antioco grunted. “That’s when you were a kid. Back then there was lots of fish.” He spat in the general direction of the creatures.

Luigi fell silent and studied the coils on the deck. Both brothers had part time work now, Antioco at the butcher shop, Luigi at the new resort, but Antioco refused to give up Papa’s boat – well, Antioco’s boat now – though it should have been Pietro’s. He was the oldest of the three.

Luigi said, “Hard to believe that Papa’s been gone two years.”

“Time flees. Papa said that, too.”

Yes, time does flee, thought Luigi, and leaves us prisoners of . . . what? He watched St. Eustace drift by, blue-green in haze. “With Sofia pregnant again. . . .” Luigi hesitated.

“Don’t worry, kid,” Antioco said. “I’ll find somebody.”

Luigi didn’t respond. He would have to find another job. If only he could find something full time.

Antioco steered leeward around the tip of St. Eustace. “Maybe it’s time to get Matteo started,” he said. “He’s big for his age and got good sense.” The thought of his son struck a spark Antioco’s leathery eyes.

“He’d like that,” Luigi said.

Luigi wanted to stick by his brother, but he didn’t have his brother’s dedication. The sea coursed  through Antioco’s  veins, or maybe just cursed them. Matteo had his father’s taste for the sea, a taste Luigi well understood. This is the life Luigi would want for his own son.

Luigi took one last puff then flicked the butt over the side. He stood up and began to untie the  lines securing the nets. “I’ll always be here for you, Antioco. I’ll do what I can. You know that, don’t you?”

“Sure. I ain’t  worried,” he said, but the spark in his eye had already faded.

The lines yielded easily to Luigi’s touch. He tried to imagine his own son in ten, fifteen years – doing what? carrying bags for tourists? Sofia said education was the way out. Luigi wasn’t so sure. Look what it did to Pietro. He should have gotten Papa’s boat, but now Pietro was an accountant in a big corporation in Latina. He made lots of money and had a pretty wife and a big house. Luigi wasn’t jealous of Pietro. Luigi loved his brother, both his brothers, but in some ways Pietro had become a stranger. Oh, he and his family came for Christmas and Mama’s birthday. Pietro always asked about the fishing, but his son was afraid of the water. Luigi untied the last line. Of course, Pietro gave money to Mama which was more than Antioco and Luigi could do.

“You ready?” called Antioco.


Antioco throttled down the engine and began to make a slow counterclockwise arc while Luigi let out the net. His mind sang a simple ballad to the rhythm of the nets and the lapping sea, “Arm in arm, round and round we go, arm in arm, round and round. . . .”

After forty-five minutes, the last of the net was in place.

Then they reversed the process, hauling up net and fish. Arm in arm, round and round. The nets were heavier and messier than the dry ones had been. Even Luigi’s powerful arms grew weary. Sardines flopped on the deck. The two brothers pulled in net, steered the boat and dumped, scooped, kicked and otherwise confined the fish to ice in the hatch.

When they had finished, Luigi studied the catch – not even a hundred pounds of sardines, plus a few squid and anchovies. “Hardly pays the gas,” he said.

Antioco grunted and powered up the boat.

By late afternoon, they reentered the harbor.

Luigi looked up at the statue of the Virgin on the cliff. Her white marble gleamed in the sun. He imagined her crying for her sea and her seamen. Maybe even the dolphin cried.


G. K. Adams lives on the Texas Gulf Coast with her husband and two cats.  Midwest Literary Magazine gave her story its distinction award. She has served on the editorial staff of an allied health journal in the District of Columbia and as a technical editor for industry.


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