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

TITLE: Duty Calls
By Linda Germain


My friends told me I had landed a dream job. Nothing in my world of books and exams could be more cushy than sailing the ocean blue on a luxury liner and getting paid for merely sitting in a very tall chair and wearing regulation trunks and a tank shirt with a big orange cross on the front.

Off duty, I stayed mostly to myself in order to study. The Captain felt it might inhibit the guests’ fun if they knew a novice preacher was perched above them, swathed in suntan lotion, wearing dark glasses, and occasionally blowing a whistle when the classy clientele broke a rule in the ship’s huge pool, so I kept quiet about my calling.

The days were beautiful and warm. The nights were predictably cool. Strolling the decks in the moonlight was a favorite of some, while other cruisers enjoyed the bars, sumptuous food, and dance bands. When we were within a few hundred miles of docking, spirits always ran high.

On the last night out, I leaned against the rail, breathing the salty air. I heard the purring contentment of a woman’s silky voice as she leaned her head on the shoulder of a tall, silver-haired gentleman. “ Oh Stephen, what could be more perfect than this? It’s like we have died and gone straight to Heaven.”

That observation from the lady was followed by a long satisfied sigh. The elderly man absent-mindedly patted her arm with obvious affection. He made no comment; in fact, he looked rather sad.

As I ambled back to my quarters, there was an alarmingly loud thump of some kind. Before I could get my cabin door open I heard my name being paged to report to the bridge immediately. When I climbed the circular steps to the heart of this navigation business, Captain Stalwart hurried in my direction. I had never seen his face look this serious.

“ I’ll be brief, son. We struck something big enough to make a giant hole in the bilge. Our ship is gulping water faster than we can bail. This dire situation is worsening by the second. You may have some rescuing to do, so suit up for emergency procedure; and Preacher, PLEASE HURRY!”

That was the last time I ever heard the voice of the brave man in charge of that floating hotel. I was so young then, and now I am so very old, but I do remember things happened in a blur.

I quickly donned my rubber suit and life jacket in anticipation of doing my duty. Faster than we calculated, the monstrously huge vessel turned on its end and quietly slid into the depths of its ocean grave. I stayed with it as long as I could and then slipped into the ice-cold water. The terrified, helpless screaming was bone chilling. Some were hollering to God for help; some were cursing Him.

I swam from one small inflatable boat to another, checking for injuries and assuring the survivors an S.O.S. had gone out and help was on the way. I spotted two people clinging to a floating table. The silver haired man was trying to swim and push the makeshift conveyance. His wife was draped across it like a rag doll. I very gently lifted him onto the substitute raft. He was dazed. She was beyond help.

“Here, Sir. Put on this lifejacket.”

He was old enough to be my grandfather but followed my directions like a bewildered child. I quickly transferred the device to his frail body and wrapped my arms around him to generate as much warmth as possible.

I listened as he cried and mourned. I told him I was a Minister of the Gospel. He asked me about Heaven. I said Jesus was the bridge from here to eternity and our only means of crossing the chasm between a Holy God and us.

Just before dawn, he prayed for forgiveness and accepted Jesus as his Savior, and then he went to sleep and never woke up in this world again. It was sunrise when a rescue boat found us.

I taught my own children and grandchildren, “There is a whole lot more to guarding a life than merely keeping a body afloat. There are so many to save and so little time.”

Thankfully, each one answered the call to be life guards for the Captain of our souls. The job is not so cushy, but when the anchor holds, there is eternal satisfaction.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 11/17/06
Great story. I almost didn't finish it (thinking it was just another "guy-on-the-beach" thing,) but as I read on I got caught up in the drama of shipboard setting. I especially love this line: "There is a whole lot more to guarding a life than merely keeping a body afloat" - lots of food for thought there.
Joanne Sher 11/18/06
Really enjoyed, and was caught up in, the drama of this. I kept thinking "Titanic" - don't know if it was just me. Great detail and wonderful voice.
Sally Hanan11/18/06
You followed the structure of the storyline well. To succeed in Masters, it would help you a lot to avoid standard descriptions, such as: bone-chillling, silky voice, ocean grave etc. The Thesaurus is an excellent tool for changing these words to other synonyms.
Melanie Kerr 11/19/06
I also kept thinking of the Titanic! I am glad that your character was able to give comfort in such difficult conditions.
Maxx .11/22/06
So touching and a powerful message. Thanks for sharing this story with us. It was moving.