Today I’m submitting Flash Fiction for the guys at Dude Write, a great site worth checking out if you haven’t already. I’ve never attempted Flash Fiction before and the dudes have set some rules. First, no more than five hundred words, a stretch for anyone with “chatterbox” in their name—I’ve managed to keep my word count to 498. Second, the first sentence must be: Never one to turn down a dare…. I’ve based this story on a piece I wrote a while back so, for some of you, parts of this might seem familiar.
Stupid Men and the Sea
Never one to turn down a dare, I climbed into the dinky boat. Two hours after departing the Santa Monica marina, I wondered if I was going to die, just another amateur fisherman lost at sea. The menacing swells had finally convinced Frank to turn off the motor. “Let’s fish here before it gets too rough.”
It was already too rough, but I baited my line and began fishing. The Coronas in my stomach rose and fell in rhythm to the swells threatening to swamp the little boat. It wasn’t long before something struck Frank’s hook—a shark about four feet long. A sane person would have cut his line, but Frank grabbed the shark by the tail and swung it into the boat.
I shrieked and kicked the snapping jaws. The shark chomped on our bag of Coronas, disappearing over the side with our beers and Frank’s rod and reel, the hook still in its mouth.
“It’s time to go home!” I said, an unrestrained edge in my voice.
Frank didn’t argue, but when he tried to engage the engine it wouldn’t start.
The sun was now a memory as wind pushed us beyond the Channel Islands. Frank opened the engine covering, poked his head into the bottom of the boat and said, “What’s all this water down here?”
Some of the liquid swishing around the engine was probably my pee. “It’s time to radio for help!” I exclaimed.
His expression made my heart sink. “I‘ve been meaning to get a radio.”
“What about life jackets?”
“They would have been a good idea, too.” He started praying in Spanish.
“We might as well start paddling, even if Hawaii is the next landfall. You do have paddles?”
He looked indignant.
My torrent of salty epithets quickly petered out. I’d climbed into this dinghy without anyone pressing a gun to my head.
Frank produced one paddle.
I grabbed it and started paddling, spinning the boat in frantic circles. As I worked up a sweat I reviewed the situation: We were heading out into a rough ocean in a boat that should never have left its pond; it was getting dark and we had no supplies, no radio and only one paddle. The engine didn’t work and the boat was taking on water. And we knew for certain that sharks were nearby. We were screwed.
I was on my twelfth Hail Mary when salvation appeared—a Coast Guard cutter. Our fear that it might not see us quickly became a concern that the ship might run us down. Frank finally impressed me by producing a bag of roadside flares. To my surprise, one ignited, making us easy to spot. The little boat, riding dangerously low in the water, sank as we climbed aboard the Coast Guard vessel for a ride into Port Hueneme.
The next time my boss dared me to go fishing I asked, “Have you picked up another paddle?” When he nodded I told him where he could shove it.