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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The Writer’s Skill/Craft (04/22/10)

TITLE: A Sailor's Missive
By Joanna Stricker


He had written numerous letters in his life, but this missive was taxing, likely because he felt its impact went beyond the simplicity of ‘writing a letter’—it could be his last. His first mate, Sal, burst into the room for the fifth time in the last hour.

“Captain, the last of the cargo is being loaded now.”

“Thank you, and Sal?”

“Yes, Sir?”

“I will come to the ship when I am through. Please see that I am not disturbed again.”

“Aye, aye, Captain,” The sailor turned and headed out of the small building, every step stomping with a force kin to that of a thousand-pound buffalo.

The Captain returned to his script, “This voyage…“ The door slamming shut behind Sal made him wince. An inkblot obscured the last word; he would have to copy the letter.

He returned to writing, “This voyage has been harrowing and filled with every danger imaginable. Please…”

Through the open window, angry voices rose over creaking of wagons and snorting horses. He sighed and thought about closing the window. But, it was the only thing bringing any semblance of relief from the stifling wharf air; a seagull landed on the window sill and ruffled its feathers keeping an eye on the human inside.

“You don’t think I should close it either, do you?” he asked the daring creature.

The bird cawed and peered in, examining the room.

He returned to his paper…what had he been saying? He scratched through the last word, and immediately remembered. “Enclosed are papers for my brother, in the event I do not…” With a squawk the bird landed on the far edge of the desk, nicely out of reach.

“Really! That is too far!” He scolded the bird, which barely moved, merely tilting its head to observe the Captain’s activity.

He couldn’t help smiling at the bird’s antics. Little Sally would love this story. The last time he’d been home she’d been a lively three-year-old, constantly underfoot, and chattering nonstop. Her favorite word was “Why?”

When he’d said goodbye, all the kids made special requests. Peter wanted a map of the South Seas; Lily, a bolt of silk cloth; Louis, a whittling knife; Elizabeth, a picture book; and little Sally—she wanted a talking parrot. Her mother had privately vetoed that idea.

“Don’t you even think about bringing a filthy bird to that child!” He’d reassured her that he wouldn’t dream of it. Well, he may have considered it before she’d said something, but not after.

The bird dipped its head mimicking him as he returned to his letter. He was nearly done. “Enclosed are papers for my brother, in the event I do not return by winter.” There was a real possibility that the ship would not make it, extensive repairs were needed. He prayed that the patching they’d done while in port was sufficient.

He dipped his pen into the inkwell. From outside came a screeching sound; another brawl had commenced. He deliberately ignored the escalating sounds.

“Do not fear the future. The Good Lord knows our trials and gives sufficient aid in the hour of need. I venture to say that I am much worn by the hardships of this voyage and yet, He has continually encouraged my heart to look unto His unfailing love and faithfulness. Our futures are secure in His loving care. If He should grant me the grace to complete this last passage, our financial woes should be behind us. If not, then know that I have dedicated all that remains unto Providence and trust Him to succeed where I have not.”

He paused; the bird had hopped almost within arm’s reach. Keeping an eye on the wayward bird, he scribbled his salutation.

He set the pen aside and straightened in his chair. The gull squawked, jumped back a step and tilted a questioning head toward him.

“Curious creature, aren’t you? And bold!” The bird edged back a bit but eyed the plate by his hand.

In one smooth movement, he rose, picked up the plate of bread, stepped to the window and tossed the bread out. The bird unfurled its feathers and dove for the window. He laughed as the bird nabbed a large piece of bread midair.

Returning to the desk, he pulled out a new paper. Laying his first copy beside, he began transcription.

“My Dear Wife,
It has been two years since we said our farewells. My heart longs for the day we meet again…“

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This article has been read 588 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Maria Egilsson04/29/10
Engrossing and compelling. I pray he makes it home. You have to finish this story.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/29/10
I could smell the salty air and see the seagull with ease. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Yvonne Blake 04/30/10
Very well done! The seagull added to the reality of the story...giving humor and distraction.
Maria Egilsson05/02/10
I've come back to read this a few times. Love it!
Barbara Lynn Culler05/02/10
This is great! You really captured the ambiance and added humor. This story, in my opinion, should place high!
Love it!
Catrina Bradley 05/02/10
Excellent! The antics of the bird added so much interest to this story. I half expected the Captain to take it home to his daughter instead of a parrot. :) Your writing skills are top-notch, and I don't expect I'll see you in Beginners much longer.
Caitlyn Meissner05/02/10
Very good article. I enjoyed reading it.

I have one minor suggestion. I thought the names Sal and Sally were too much alike. It distracted me for a minute, but it certainly didn't ruin the story. I loved the sailor's message in his letter. Very touching.

Big thumbs up.
AnneRene' Capp05/02/10
Engaging and very well written. I was wrapped up in the atmosphere of that ship and loved the addition of the friendly feathered seagull. I too, would like to see this continue and know he made it home.:)
Jan Ackerson 05/03/10
That bird really bumped this story up from very good to top notch! What a wonderful little detail--that's the sort of thing that marks a very "crafty" writer!
Carol Slider 05/03/10
This is very well written, with a lot of wonderful details that add depth and reality. I enjoyed this, and would love to learn more about what happened to this character! Well done.
Beth LaBuff 05/05/10
You have wonderful detail in this entry. I loved the development (and different versions) of the letter! Very nice!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/06/10
Congratulations on the 2nd place ribbon. Delightful, I say.
Beth LaBuff 05/06/10
Joanna, super congrats on your ribbon!!
Caitlyn Meissner05/06/10
Congrats on the second place ribbon!
Ruth Stromquist05/06/10
Excellently written and so realistic. Looking forward to reading more of your writing. Keep throwing bricks.