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Featured Writing - Because of One Chair

I have no idea what I’m doing.

This is my first thought as I stare at the boat before me, the paint peeling and the words The Magnolia scrawled in faded black paint on it’s side. It’s bobbing in the glum, gray, waters, roped to the rickety pier jutting into the sea.

“Ahem, senor?”

I snap back to reality, offering the towering man before me my attention.

“Y-yes?”

“El dinero?”

He puts his hand out in front of him, palm up, and I realize he’s asking for the money. I shove my hand into my leather satchel and yank out an unmarked envelope brimming with cash.

“Gracias.” He grumbles, counting the bills. “ Buena suerte.”

I watch as he strides off towards his weathered truck. I turn back to the boat. My boat.

Oh dear God.

I have no idea what I’m doing.

 

 

Chapter 1

Call me Ishmael.

No, seriously, that’s my name.

Bearing the title of a seaman from an extremely famous book, I’m often regarded as a skilled and experienced sailor.

This I’m afraid, is not the case.

          I’m here, staring at this boat, because of my parents. Nearing their 50’s , they’ve smoked their entire lives, and 3 months ago it finally caught up to them. Lung cancer is wreaking havoc on their health, and their savings aren’t nearly enough to get them the treatment they desperately need.

          Dad was a sailor, an exceptional one at that, and he provided for Mom and me with the money he earned from selling the monstrous fish he caught. His profession never really interested me, but it’s the only thing I’ve ever known. So here I am. Staring at a boat I’d rather not board. All of my college tuition money sitting in the back of some Spanish guy’s truck.

 Summoning all of my courage and suppressing the fear, I walk towards The Magnolia.

 

 

Chapter 2

          I gingerly step onto the tiny pier, the structure moaning under my weight. Considering I’m the thinnest 19-year-old boy I’ve ever seen, this a little concerning. The boat being fairly short, I’m able to reach up and curl my fingers around the railing; I heave myself aboard.

          The entire ship is bathed in the dull grayness of the clouds overhead. The boat is pretty unspacious, but there is a little cabin near the back. I peer inside the cabin, and saw that it housed a steering wheel and a couple of gears and switches.

That’s when I notice it. The chair.

Collecting cobwebs in the corner, I spot a teensy wooden stool, about a foot high, with symbols of the sea etched upon it. It shouldn’t matter, this chair, but I can almost feel a connection to it, as though it harbors a personality.

Great. Now I think a chair is my new friend.

I spin on my heel and slam the cabin door behind me, frustrated with myself.

Keep your eye on the game. No time for fantasies.

         

 

I stride over to the hatch that leads below deck. It opened with a creek, dust billowing out in filthy clouds. Coughing, I lower myself down, landing with a thud in a dank, musty captain’s quarters. Fumbling about in the dark, my fingers close around a candle, and I used the matches in my satchel to light it. The small flame cast an eerie glow around the room, illuminating the wooden bed, desk, and shelf that the room possessed. I shuddered.

This is where I would live for the next month, in this ancient, unclean little dwelling. I hastily clamber back up to the deck through the trap door.  I march over to untie the only thing keeping the boat from drifting off to sea, when I faltered, pausing just as I was just about to undo the knot. It then truly registered in my mind that it was up to me. I couldn’t fail.

If I didn’t manage to make enough money by catching fish, I’d lose them. I’d lose the two beings that made me who I am. Forever. I drew a shuddered breath, closed my eyes, and undid the knot.

There was no turning back.

 

 

Chapter 3

          After a week, I actually began to have a basic understanding of how to work The Magnolia. By studying a captain’s manual I discovered wedged under the bed in the captain’s quarters, I gradually learned about the weather, steering, and everything else that would prove very helpful in the coming month. Unfortunately, it didn’t include anything about fishing, which was what I would be attempting today. I had my pole, my bait, my cooler, everything I need.

Now I just needed to figure out how to fish.

 I had faint memories of gazing at my father while he worked, observing how he hooked the worm and cast the line into the glittering waters. I resolved that I would do just that, minus the glittering waters.

          I popped the lid off of a tin of worms, instantly feeling nauseous. Holding my breath, I shoved the creature onto the hook, whispered a speedy apology, then hurled my line into the sea.

I waited.

I watched.

I continued to wait.

          My head slumped in my arms, I turned towards the cabin. There was the chair. I had avoided it for the past week, not really sure why, but now, as if pulled by some invisible force, I found myself walking towards it. I grabbed it, and carried it back to where I was fishing. Or, I guess I should say, failing to fish. Why was I doing this? I didn’t know. It was as if though I was summoned by something from the great beyond that called me towards that odd little stool.

As I reeled my hook in and recast it, I gazed at the chair, now standing a few feet from me.

“Hey.” I said.

Oh, God. I was talking to a chair.

“How are you?”

The chair remained silent.

“If you’re secretly judging my fishing skills, you should know I’ve never done this before.”

Of course the chair said nothing.

I turned back towards the sea that refused to supply me with fish, craning to my neck to spot any life. Nothing.

I’m slightly embarrassed to confess that I continued to converse with the chair, sharing with it my woes and worries, and my plans for the trip.

The chair just stood and listened.

That day, I didn’t catch any fish, but I slept a little more soundly after talking with that piece of furniture.

 

 

Chapter 4

          I continued to fish the next few weeks, but managed to catch only a few eensy creatures of no importance to me. I also spoke often with the chair. Pathetic as it may be, my conversations with it kept me from going insane on the boat.

It was on this day that the chair and I would fight for our lives in the unforgiving sea.

Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I emerged from the hatch. Menacing clouds formed overhead, and the sea was starting to churn. Panic began to well up inside of me, for I hadn't a clue how this boat would hold up in a storm.

Breathe. Calm. Breathe.

I exhaled.

Alright, let’s do this.

I attempted to think like a captain would, as Dad would. I steered, navigated, fiddled with buttons and prayed I'd be okay.

 Obviously, I didn't pray hard enough.

 After hours of sailing, the storm enveloped us, the sky looking like night without stars, clouds sending forth bolts of lightning. The black waters thrashed around violently and rain pelted the boat. I bolted out of the cabin, slipping on the watery floor and landing with a thud, feeling the wood splinter my face.

That’s when I looked up.

Through the sheets of water attacking the ship, I watched in horror as the chair tipped over the rail, into the sea.

 

 

Chapter 5

I did it.

I jumped.

After the chair tumbled into the icy waters, I didn’t even think. I simply pulled myself up, sprinted in a blind dash across the boat, and tossed myself into the unforgiving sea.

I have never felt so frozen, so fearful, as the moment my entire body penetrated the water’s surface. Every muscle screamed in utter agony as the freezing cold overtook me. I finally surfaced, gasping for breath. My eyes flitted around frantically.

Where’s that chair? Oh, God, where is it?

Suddenly, I spotted the tip of the chair just as it was about to sink. My arms and legs flew across the water as I swam towards it, the rain pouring down harder and the lightning illuminating the sea for a fraction of a second. Then, darkness returned. I felt my fingers curl around the leg, and I, without hesitation, yanked it back up. Relief washed over me, quickly replaced by terror. The adrenaline rush was over.

I treaded water, clutching the chair. A million thoughts raced inside my head.

What should I do? Will I live through this? Oh please, God, don’t let me fail my parents. How long can I stay swimming? Should I -

All these thoughts came to a sudden halt.

Something brushed against my leg.

Something moving.

I froze, only my feet moving to hold me upright. But, before I  could even pause to think, I yelped as something tugged me back under the water.

 

 

Chapter 6

I didn’t know what was pulling me under. I just knew that I had to kill it.

As I was yanked into the black abyss of water, I kicked, punched, and screamed with all my strength. There was no plan. Well, scratch that.

The plan was to swing blindly and hope that I hit something.

As I was pulled deeper, my thoughts began to slur together. My lungs begged for air. I knew the end was near. With one last act of strength, I raised my fist and hit whatever that thing was as hard as I could.

 

Chapter 7

I could feel the creature still wound around my leg. But even in my confused state, I

realized that the awful pulling was gone.

The creature had gone limp.

It had to be dead.

I had to of killed it.

And at that moment, I knew that even though I had killed it, I would drown. There was no hope. I had failed Mom and Dad.

Then, the miracle happened.  Some super, amazing, miraculous force enveloped me, and with a sudden burst of energy, I was able to push myself upwards through the water, fighting against the weight the creature put on my leg.

Keep going, keep going, I thought. You mustn’t stop. You can’t.

Finally, I emerged from the water, taking in gigantic lungfuls of sweet air. Oh, the utter euphoria I felt as I breathed that wondrous oxygen. But, my joy was interrupted by the weight I felt yanking on my leg. If I didn’t dispose of this creature soon, I’d just be dragged back into the murderous sea, and there was no way that I was going to let this thing win. I reached down and unwound the scaly, slimy creature from my leg, and flung in back onto the boat.

“Wait, “ I gasped, “Where’s-the-chair?”

No. I hadn’t almost died to lose it now. My eyes searched all around me. Was it gone? But then, even in the darkness, I saw the huge waves carrying it towards me.

Finally, something goes right.

          I treaded water as the sea returned to me my beloved chair. It floated into my waiting arms, and without a moment’s hesitation, I tossed it aboard The Magnolia’s deck. My body sore and fatigue settling in, I just managed to ride a swell high enough that I could grasp the rail and pull myself aboard the boat.

 

 

Chapter 8

I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. I just lay on the deck, observing the rain, the rain that pounded the boat for so very long, gradually ceased. I felt the boat slowly lessen it’s rocking. The sun, after hours and hours of darkness, peeked out from behind the hideous clouds. I had honestly lost all track of time. But after the storm ended, after the clouds became white again, I lifted myself off the rough wooden floor and stood up, swaying with exhaustion and dizziness. When everything came into focus, I noticed the chair and heaved a sigh of relief. It was, of course, battered and slightly damp, but otherwise unharmed.

My relief was short lived.

My eyes drifted away from the chair, and what I saw made my breath catch in my throat.

The fish.

It was lying there, next to the chair. And it was gigantic.

As long and wide as a bus, it’s mouth housed rows of razor-sharp teeth that glinted in the sunlight. It’s scales were green and oozing, and it’s eyes were a disgusting shade of yellow.

I had battled, killed, and caught a monster.

 

 

Chapter 9

I hopped off of the boat, onto the same creaky pier as weeks ago, and grinned at all the tourists who were gaping at the fish. My fish. I tied the rope up to the pier and grabbed the fish by its tail, dragging it off the boat and onto the beach. People scampered out of the way and stared at the monstrous animal, whispering and pointing. I really can’t blame them.

It’s one big fish.

          Big enough, in fact, that I was meeting with a man willing to pay thousands of dollars for it. My heart leapt. Would it be enough for my parent’s medicine? For their hospital visits and x-rays? That I didn’t know. But I did know that I had done what I set out to do.

And all because of one little chair.

Makenzie Kelley, age 12
October 31, 2018
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