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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Lifeguard (11/09/06)

TITLE: My Drowning Moment
By Sally Hanan


The mini-bus and its five weekend passengers wound its way through city streets until it could observe emerald fields instead of smudged window panes. It slowed down to a pant as it dug its tire treads into a rising stone bridge. From the peak of the little hill, I could see both sides of the river we would be canoeing down. To my left, an old mill stood guard over rapids that quickly returned to their sleepier state; to my right, a blue, 500 thread Egyptian sheet of water fitted tightly to her riverbanks.

“I’m going to drive farther up, to a spot where we can put the canoes into the water,” our headmistress/driver, Miss. Mew, said. She looked relaxed and happy – an unusual sight when compared to our boarding-school weekdays.

The taller girls unpacked the canoes, and soon the pointed boats were rippling gently at the edge of the bank beside us, distressing the glass mirror of water. I puffed up my early pubescent shape with a life-jacket, stepped into the central hole of my spraydeck (a cover that prevents water entering the canoe), and cautiously planted two feet and then my rear into the body of my canoe. The elastic in the outer lining of my spraydeck snapped into place over the edges of my seating hole; someone handed me my double-ended paddle, and before long, our quintet was on its way.

It was so peaceful and quiet that morning; it seemed as if the presence of God was but a wisp away. The sun threaded its way through the tree leaves overhead to embroider the water below, and the hushed splash of water dripped rhythmically off my paddle. A shout disturbed my reverie:

“There’s a weir up ahead!”

A weir is composed of two cement walls - one that's set internally against the course of a river, and one that presses in from the side. The idea behind it is to control the water's flow. We would travel over the dam with the overflow of the river and ride the heights of its cascade to the smoothness below.

I had not spent the required time in the local swimming-pool practicing how to capsize, so, to protect myself from unintentionally practicing that day, I watched the others go down the weir before me to see how they handled their canoes. The spectator’s spot was in the shade, and I back-paddled gently so as not to get sucked down by the rushing current.

Each girl seemed to pour down the weir like melted butter, which increased my faith in my own ability to make it through.

“OK, your turn,” I heard from below.

I don’t quite remember exactly what happened next, but my sketchy memory seems to recall my canoe turning rapidly around to take the weir backwards. Alarm shot adrenaline into my arms, and I frantically used it enough to my disadvantage to catch a spectacular, long-term, eyeball view of the river bed at the base of the weir.

Canoe paddle now drifting delightedly free of the idiot’s grip down the floating waterway...

Body frantically heaving all its strength up and left to get head above water…

Lungs feeling as if there will soon be no air left in them…

Head leaving the suffocating water to gasp in some air, to then plummet again to the river bed…

Brain not thinking or connecting at all with the thought of pulling the spraydeck off with the easy-pull cord….

Until somehow, suddenly, I was free.

My body slid out of my temporary prison to rise to the surface. Blinking through the drops of water, I saw one of the girls stop her paddling against the current; relief drenching her face.
I sat in silence on the way home – a small bundle of wetness - mulling over the morning’s events. Occasionally, the girl who had tried to save me turned to me to reassure herself that I was OK. I, in turn, focused on the fact that I had never pulled the cord of the spraydeck that had held me hostage. Deep inside I knew that God had had everything to do with my salvation.

On that day, just like He had the evening I knelt by my bed and handed over my sin, God sent me an angelic lifeguard and


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This article has been read 1202 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 11/18/06
I was SO impressed with how well you wove the "technical description" required for parts of this piece with the story itself. I expected it to be distracting, but it was not in any way. This was VERY engaging and engrossing. I love the content AND format of your last sentence. Bravo!
Trina Courtenay11/18/06
Had I not read your entry I might not have remembered my own 'drowning moment' during my high school canoe trip. You gripped the situation masterfully; as if you were telling my own story. WOW-this sent chills down my spine. Awesome job!
Ruth Neilson11/18/06
Very real...made me think back to my moments stuck underneath a white water rafting raft. Powerful testimony!
Amy Michelle Wiley 11/18/06
Powerful entry. I liked the mood and style of the writing. The first paragraph threw me a little, because the first couple of sentences seemed to be almost from the bus's POV, and the 500 count sheet analogy took me a few reads to figure out, hehe, but I loved the description of the piece. I especially liked the formatting of the last line, and the parts in italics. They gave a hint of the unreal slowness and muddledness that comes in a situation like that.
Suzanne R11/19/06
Your descriptions are exquisite. I especially laughed at the line about using the adrenaline 'to your disadvantage' - very effective.

Well done!
Jan Ackerson 11/21/06
Those last 4 words, each in their own line--so simple, and so very powerful!
Allison Egley 11/21/06
I loved this line: Canoe paddle now drifting delightedly free of the idiot�s grip down the floating waterway.... I like how you inserted a bit of humor into an otherwise serious piece.
Donna Powers 11/22/06
A wonderfully written and touching story. It swept me along with the tide of the tale, and I thank you for sharing this.
dub W11/22/06
A nice touching offering. Thank you for sharing this piece.
Maxx .11/22/06
dramatic... scary! Very well told. Good work!
Sandra Petersen 11/23/06
I would have been petrified to even attempt rapids, let alone a dam! Great narrative! Your title was clever, and I liked the little descriptive scenes here and there throughout your story.
Val Clark11/24/06
Certainly had me on the edge of my seat with this story. Loved the way you were able to inject humour into the most scary bits.