Finding Your Way Home

The cool wet sand oozed through his toes as Johnny walked down the beach. The surf roared; the wind was gusty and hot. Sweat dripped down his face. Through the shimmering heat haze, Johnny saw his grandfather, Pappy, wave to him.

Johnny waved back and watched as Pappy’s dark sinewy arms pushed a bright yellow boat into the rough water, its white sail flapping in the breeze. As the boat began to float, Pappy called out, “Hurry up, boy. Let’s sail!”

Johnny laughed. He was now twenty-one-years-old, but Pappy still called him “boy.” When he splashed into the water next to his grandfather, they pulled the small boat into deeper water. It was cold, but felt good against the scorching sun. Once beyond the breakers, they heaved themselves into the cockpit.

Pappy didn’t share the tiller often, but today his grandfather patted the seat beside him and said, “It’s your time, Johnny. Take the tiller.”

Pleased, Johnny’s grabbed the wooden tiller. He felt the pull of wind and water against his hand. The sail ballooned out and, to his delight, they flew across the waves. However, as they neared the lighthouse rocks, the wind grew stronger.

Fighting to hold on, Johnny felt exhausted. The sun blazed down on him. The tiller burned his hand. He dropped it. The sail fluttered. The boat stalled, but Pappy’s big hand grabbed the tiller, easing them away from the rocks as he said, “Don’t worry Johnny. I’ve sailed these currents many times.”

Johnny was almost panting from the heat, but Pappy seemed fine. As he studied his grandfather’s thin body, wrinkled face and faded blue eyes, a sad memory flew through his mind – dirt falling on a casket. He shuddered, but relaxed when Pappy smiled at him. There was no one Johnny trusted more to keep him safe.

The heat became more intense, confusing Johnny. He didn’t remember it ever being this hot while sailing. Each breath he took burned and hurt his lungs. He touched his lips and felt cracks and peeling skin. Something wasn’t right. His stomach clinched and he cried out, “I’m so hot Pappy. Can we please go back?”

Pappy shook his head and said “Hang on, boy. The lighthouse will steer us around the rocks. You’ll feel better then.”

Johnny looked around. Everything was orange, yellow and black. He heard cracking and snapping. The heat was unbearable and surrounded him. Shivering in pain, he crawled to bottom of the boat, covering himself with an old canvas. Darkness descended.

When Johnny woke, he was sitting beside Pappy. A damp sea breeze cooled his face as briny air filled his lungs. Pappy still held tight the tiller. The sails creaked in the wind. Pappy said, “We’re on the other side of the rocks now. We’re almost home Johnny.”

In the distance, dolphins leaped from the water, putting on a show. Watching, both men laughed as their yellow sail boat flew through the water, leaving far behind the scorched trees and Johnny’s body.

*    *     *     *     *

I was saddened to read about the 19 firemen who lost their lives in Arizona. Somehow that tragedy got caught up in my writing. I’d like to think that each of these men had someone to guide them to their next place. This is my fictional story of how this might have happened for my character, Johnny.

OOPS! I found a writing prompt, but got the week wrong. This was the prompt for last week. Silly me:~) However, since my story is based on their prompt, I want to give them credit.

Write at the Merge is a weekly creative writing prompt which encourages writers to use up to 500 words to creatively write a bit of fiction or memoir prompted by one or two items of inspiration, be they quotes, images, songs, words, colors, emotions. I obviously picked the lighthouse picture:~)


26 comments on “Finding Your Way Home

  1. Fireblossom says:

    What better or more soothing way to cross the bar than in a boat with a good companion who knows the way? Lovely, Sara.

  2. Carrie says:

    Utterly beautiful Sara xx

  3. Hilary says:

    Hi Sara .. very evocative – and I wondered as I was reading through if there was a tie in with the nineteen firefighters – a dreadful, dreadful loss ..

    Your story depicts many a picture .. Virginia Woolf’s lighthouse (Godrevy opposite St Ives) where we used to play as kids .. the fire – just ‘horrid’ ..

    Loved it – cheers Hilary

    • Sara says:

      @ Hilary — That’s the wonderful thing about writing fiction. We can’t the real true life endings, but we can use our imagination to make them less horrific. If my story were true, I would hope each of those men who died had Johnny’s experience or something like it:~)

      Thanks, as always, for the read.

  4. Carolyn says:

    Great story – love this.

  5. Chris Edgar says:

    Hi Sara, it’s good to see you again — it’s funny how the image of a boatman carrying the dead into the afterlife has appeared in so many different cultures and traditions. It’s somewhat more pleasant to see him depicted here as a grandfather rather than, say, a skeleton in a black robe.

    • Sara says:

      @ Chris — I hadn’t even thought about THAT boatman:~) I much prefer Pappy to the skeleton in a black robe!

      Thanks for the read of this story:~)

      I liked your last post, Laziness as a Motivation Tool. It was fun and on target…at least for me:~)

  6. jean sampson says:

    I loved this story, Sara. You are a beautiful writer! And I am so glad that you are back! :)

    • Sara says:

      @ jean — I’m not fully back yet, but the fingers are slowly clicking the keys and words are beginning to paint my stories….I still have to a lot of scraping and reapplying, but it is a work in progress:~)

      Thanks for your nice comment about this story:~)

  7. Kelvin Kao says:

    Another beautiful piece! I knew you usually have a little twist at the end. This one definitely adds another layer of meaning to it!

    • Sara says:

      @ Kelvin — Given the true circumstances, I hope this one gives some feeling of “light” to a very dark moment.

      Thanks for the read, my friend:~)

  8. Liz says:

    This was a really cute prose piece! I really love your diction.

  9. Lynn says:

    Oh my – that is quite a startling ending! Great piece.

    • Sara says:

      @ Lynn — Thank you for reading it. I know it is startling, but it was my way of dealing with the horror of those deaths.

  10. Talon says:

    Sara, soooo glad to have you back and sharing your amazing writing! Wow – that was a shocker of an ending. Loved this.

    Yes, I so admire the men and women who willingly put their lives on the line for us every single day, but it hurts so much when they lose them in the line of duty. May their souls rest in peace and their families know how much their loved one’s heroic efforts were appreciated.

    • Sara says:

      @ Talon — I definitely agree with your last statement: “May their souls rest in peace and their families know how much their loved one’s heroic efforts were appreciated.”

      Thank you about the writing. I wish I could I was back at full steam, but the muse isn’t cooperating quite as easily as that. This story just popped out with little effort, but I must admit I’ve been staring at the Word white page with still fingers way too many times. But I know it takes patience.

      You have been a wonder…one beautiful poem/story after another. It’s like the flood gates opened and the words just dance for you. Your writing is so beautiful Talon; it stuns me with how you weave your words:~)

  11. pea says:

    Very cool. I have often wondered why we shouldn’t come equipped with the basics of what happens after we die…I mean really…what’s the big secret!!?
    This seems like a fairly nice avenue. :)

    • Sara says:

      @ pea — Maybe because it’s different for every person. Maybe we get to choose our path from life to whatever comes after. Regarding this story, this is what I would have wanted; someone I loved to be there to guide me.

      I love it when you visit. I hope your summer is going well:~)

  12. Valerie says:

    Sad, and yet so magnificent, too! Fire season is upon us here in Washington-and my hearts go out to those brave men and women who will put their lives on the line.

    Gorgeous piece Sara-oh do I have goosebumps from this one!

    • Sara says:

      @ Valerie — Something about the Arizona firemen deaths really touched something in me, especially since so many were so young. I hope the fire season where you are isn’t anything like Arizona — may there be plenty of rain to put out any wayward embers:~)

  13. Linda says:

    Hi Sara,

    A touching story. I had to read it several times before it sunk in what was really happening. It didn’t dawn on me at first, but I did think it was strange that Johnny was so affected but not the grandfather. Nicely woven.

    • Sara says:

      @ Linda — Like I said, this story was my way of dealing with the horror of that Arizona disaster — the idea of having someone you love guide you through death seemed like what I wanted for those men. So many of them were so young; it just really hit me hard.

      Thanks for reading the story:~)

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