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Guardian Angel

  BY BARBARA CRAIG

The wind howled and lashed at the rigging. The ropes flapped and their couplings jangled. The rain hammered against the perspex of the windows like hailstones on concrete. This was the worst storm that Simon had ever encountered. Trying to sleep was out of the question. He was afraid that the anchor wouldn’t hold and he would be torn apart by the giant waves that lashed at the tiny boat. The waves tossed the craft as if it were a toy.

If he could hold out until the storm abated he felt that he would be ok.  The flares were ready and the radio close by if he needed to send out an S.O.S., but he wasn’t at that stage yet.  Simon thought about the years he had spent building this boat. He had lovingly molded every piece of oak to shape the hull and made the mast himself too.  The Christine had been named for his favorite Stephen King book, and he loved her. Sara, his wife, said the name was a bad omen but he wasn’t superstitious and named her Christine anyway.

“Please stay in one piece,” he begged.

For a moment everything grew quiet and then suddenly, the storm renewed itself.  Seemingly bigger, and louder than before.

“The gods are really angry tonight,” he thought.

Simon was almost losing hope.  Now he just wanted to get home alive and the boat became less important.  He was more worried about his fate than that of the boat.

Simon had taken advantage of a lull in the storm to check the anchor and found it still held tight. The storm crashed and shook the little craft. Simon was violently sick.  He had not had sea-sickness in the past but this was beyond anything he’d ever experienced. The vomiting left him weak and disoriented. He was slowly losing his faith that he would get out alive.

The weather had been almost perfect when Simon had set off.  The beautiful azure blue sky was speckled with dots of white cloud.  There was a light breeze that was enough to push the boat at a reasonable rate of knots. The sails were gently catching the wind and making sailing easy.  The weather had changed suddenly – typically when he was miles from anywhere.

When Simon had taken the course in navigation and recreational sailing he had been lulled into a false sense of security. He had felt that he could handle anything but the course hadn’t prepared him for this. He compared it to childbirth classes. You could see all the films and read all the books you liked but the real thing was so ‘real’, it was scary. When Sara’s waters had broken and she was in so much pain they weren’t calm at all. Still that scenario had turned out ok and they’d had a beautiful son. That thought gave him new hope.

All the training in the world couldn’t have prepared him for this. The storm was the worst he’d ever seen and he’d never encountered one outside his safety zone before.  The strange thing was that they hardly ever had storms in this area.

Simon was just about to give up and call for help when the storm stopped. It was so sudden it terrified him. The silence was like the scary moment in a movie just before the bad guy leaps out of the shadows and murders someone. He waited but nothing happened and he remembered to breathe again. He wondered how long he’d been holding his breath.  It seemed like forever.

The deck was slippery and Simon had to drag himself along. He was so weak and to see the wreckage that was his boat was the last straw. Simon tried to get the engine going but it just chugged for a couple of seconds and then petered out. He crawled to the engine hatch and lifted it.  The smell of the fuel almost made him sick again and he sunk slowly to the deck and closed his eyes. 

“If only I can rest for a few minutes I’ll be able to get the engine going and get home,” he thought.

Simon woke with a start. He could hear a helicopter and he shielded his eyes from a weak and watery sun, searching for the chopper.  When it came into view, Simon was elated and watched as a figure scrambled down a rope ladder to the boat. 

“Kyle, what are you doing here?” he asked his brother.

Kyle was Simon’s hero. He had worshipped his older brother from the moment he was born.  Kyle was always there to get him out of scrapes and had saved him from many a difficult situation in the past. He was like his guardian angel and even looked like one with his cherubic good looks.

“Come on lets get you down below, it’s ok now,” Kyle replied smiling, gently helping his brother to his feet.

Simon allowed himself to be led to a bunk and dropped off to sleep almost immediately.  He didn’t wake until the boat was safely berthed in the marina.

“Kyle,” he called. “Where are you?”

But everything was quiet.  Outside the sun was high in the sky and when Simon looked at his watch he couldn't believe he had slept so long. 

Simon made his way home and wondered why his house had so many visitors.  He saw his mother’s car and other family member’s vehicles. When he walked inside, his wife came rushing at him.

“Thank God you’re home, there’s been a terrible accident.  We tried to call you but there was too much static.”

“What is it, Sara? What’s wrong?” Simon asked worriedly.

“It’s your brother Kyle, he’s dead.  There was a terrible helicopter accident.  There was a storm and …. Oh, Si, I’m so sorry.”

“But how?  When? I don’t understand.”

“It happened yesterday about noon. The coastguard found the wreckage. Both Kyle and the pilot perished.”

Simon was dumbfounded. His brother had gotten him and the Christine back to the marina in the early hours of the morning.  How could he have died hours before? 

“I saw him and he spoke to me,” Simon whispered.

“Sorry, honey, I didn’t hear you.  What did you day?” Sara said.

“Oh nothing, I just can’t believe it that’s all.”

Simon sat down.  He needed to think. This was crazy.  Could Kyle have guided his brother home even in death?

“It had to be a dream,” he thought.  “But then how did I get home?”

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Such things happen in real life.                                                                                                                       Siva Gopal Ojha  1/1/06

 

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