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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Key (02/14/13)

TITLE: How Low Can You Go
By Virgil Youngblood
02/20/13
~1st Place


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It’s not too dangerous, really, unless a tugboat comes churning down the intracoastal canal pushing a big wave out front of heavily loaded barges and you’re dead-in-the-water in your boat in the narrow Padre Island land-cut passage. ‘Shouldn’t ever let that happen’ you say. “You got that right, Cap’n. If I’d dreamed it could’ve, it wouldn’t of.”

Three of us went fishing that gorgeous fall evening. The wind was a cool whispery tickle in the ear, the tide was right, the solunar table shouted “Fish NOW!” and the piggy perch so frisky they were kicking dents in the side of the bait box.

From the get-go this trip was different from the times Pastor Joe and I had fished together. Little Tyke, my first-born young-un, had never shown interest in matters piscatorial. He spent his days pushing race cars around imaginary tracks in his bedroom, mouthing racing sounds.

But hang it, he ain’t the milk man’s son. Fishing is in his blood, even if he doesn’t know it yet. I wanted to start passing on the things I learned and love. After he blew out the birthday candle on Car 5 last week, I started analyzing the tide charts.

Tyke, at first, enjoyed snagging the hefty yellow-mouth speckled trout that savagely attacked a piggy on almost every cast. Whenever a boat passed by, slowing down to avoid rocking us with its wake (except for a few discourteous clowns), the bite would turn off momentarily, but we’d soon start catching again. Tyke wasn’t near limited out when he parked his rod and opted for a red soda-pop from the cooler.

Next thing I know he’s hanging on the steering wheel making racing sounds. “Vroom…Vroom,” and rocking the wheel back and forth.

“Get’cha a sandwich, Bud” I said, “and remember to ask the blessing.” I pointed westward. “See that sun disappearing behind the sea oats. That’s a million dollar picture. Pastor Joe and I are gonna fire-up the generator and get some lights overboard. Trout will be boiling the water when it gets dark. We’re gonna have fun, I gar-un-tee.”

And, we did. The night had gotten inky black, our underwater lights glowed green, and big fish shadows were darting through the light after bait fish that had come to party hardy. I was fixing to ‘splain to Tyke about it being a chain of life thing, you know, the little ‘un’s getting ‘et by the bigger ones, but I thought better of it. Well, duh. Tyke’s a little ‘un and he might figger….

“Rollie, we need to pick up” Joe said. “Something’s coming.”

Sure enough, two miles away, maybe less, a powerful search light was switching back and forth -- right-left, right-left -- shattering the darkness. Something big was bearing down on us.

Well, easy-peasy. We’d raise the lights, start the motor, hoist the anchor, and meet the interruption with enough steerage to handle the wave. This wasn’t our first rodeo. We’d be back fishing before its stern lights disappeared.

“Better crank it, Rollie” Joe said. “That sucker’s coming fast.”

“Move over, Tyke.” I reached toward the console to turn the key and start the motor.

“Lem’me drive, Dad.”

“Not now, Bud.” I was searching desperately. “Tyke! Where’s the key?”

Tyke shrugged, watching the reflectors sparkle when the searching cone of light hit the channel buoys.

Grabbing a flashlight I splashed a beam rapidly across the floor. “Not funny, Tyke. Where is it?”

The powerful spotlight grew brighter -- right-left, right-left -- flashing rhythmically across us. The ship’s foghorn blared, urging us out of its path.

Joe cut the anchor rope and slammed the small trolling motor down. We maneuvered almost to the edge of the channel, but it was too little too late. The Suzy Q sank that night with all hands on board, swamped by a powerful wall of water pushed ahead of three barges loaded with caliche.

Tyke’s blaze-orange life jacket is hanging on his bedroom wall. The key, found in Tyke’s jean’s pocket, is framed just below it. He will have a tale to tell his grandkids.

But I may never see mine. Donna is angrier than a momma red wasp.

She blames me for warping Tyke, and for causing the preacher to miss church that Sunday. We were stranded until the Coast Guard rescued us about mid-morning, but golly gee, life happens.

I’m skipping the boat show next week. The key to me reaching old age hinges on prayer. Much, prayer. And a low profile

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Member Comments
Member Date
Noel Mitaxa 02/23/13
So Donna took a 'dinghy' view of what you have described with such skill. I love your words pictures, like 'blowing out the candles on car 5,' and how you've linked the boy's love of playing cars with his grasp of the boat's steering wheel - and the unexpected outcome. Great writing.
lynn gipson 02/23/13
This was exciting with a bit of humor mixed in. Very well written and great read. Well done!
CD (Camille) Swanson 02/23/13
Great job! I thought this was clever, witty and didn't want it to end.

Nicely done. God bless~
Cheryl Harrison 02/23/13
This one made me smile. I enjoyed the easy style of your dialogue. The ending was perfect. I thought it was funny that you framed the key! Great job.
Judith Gayle Smith02/23/13
I want more of your wonderful adventures!!!
Danielle King 02/24/13
Skilled writing, great imagery and such an exciting read.
Alicia Renkema02/25/13
I loved everything about this "grab-you-by-the-collar read. It was humorous, suspenseful and unpredictable. Even with the title and the intro, by the time you started talking about the MC's hopes for his son Tyke, I thought the story was going to be more about that and fishing. I loved all of the language you used with your character's and the on going monologue for your MC as well. I love anything to do with the water; fishing; boats, so this was pleasure through and through. But your clever use of weaving a story for the reader so the reader is really "along for the journey" is priceless. Thanks for the fun adventure! I also loved the framed key and the fact that it was not found in Tyke's life jacket in time.
Susan Montaperto02/25/13
This was a great, humourous, adventure story. I really liked the dialogue, and all the color you put into the story. I also liked the framed key on the wall.
God Bless.
Myrna Noyes02/25/13
This is a rich story full of suspense, humor, adventure--with a cute little boy thrown in for good measure! :) Your dialogue and descriptions are excellent, your use of the "key" topic perfect, and the ending brought a smile! Terrific job!
Bea Edwards 02/26/13
Oh I just adored this humorous piece right from the start. Your descriptions of tide and moon phase watching reminded me of my own daily sometimes hourly review of wind-tide combinations to find those epic on the water adventure moments. And your perfect character representations of Tyke and his mama! heheehe but wait...for a grand finale, your own self depreciating (in a witty way) look at your self. Priceless!!
Pam Ford Davis 02/28/13
Congratulations!

Wing His Words!
Myrna Noyes02/28/13
WOOOOOOOOO-HOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! CONGRATULATIONS, VIRGIL!! FIRST PLACE! Not bad at all!! :D This story really was superb and totally deserves this honor! WAY TO WRITE!! :)
Alicia Renkema02/28/13
No doubt about it, this is a first class story all the way. You are an amazing writer. Now you can frame your "Key win" along side Tyke's life jacket and key! Way to go -- Congrats!
Danielle King 02/28/13
Congratulations Virgil. This is a well deserved win!
Bea Edwards 02/28/13
Whoo Hoooo too!!!
Carolyn Ancell02/28/13
You kept me aboard, mate, with every word. Congratulations!
CD (Camille) Swanson 02/28/13
Congrats! God Bless~
Judith Gayle Smith02/28/13
Congratulations Virgil! You are never a boring read!
Beth LaBuff 03/01/13
What an amazing story, you had me fearful of all things in water for a bit. :) Your levity and humor was icing on the cake. Excellent work. Super congrats on your EC award!!
Margaret Kearley 03/02/13
This is brilliant and well worth its first place. Many Congrats. Great fun and humour but also pretty scary - your descriptions and dialogue were tremendous. A super read - thankyou.
Ellen Carr 03/02/13
A well-deserved win. Congratulations! This is a very engaging tale of drama. I like the part the key played (or didn't play at the right time) in the story.
Olawale Ogunsola 03/02/13
A great job! A great win! Congratulations!
Vince Martella03/02/13
What more can I say than what'already been said?
Dialoge, humor, wonderful colloquialism, masterful storytelling..Congratulationson your win. Your ship has definitely come in!