Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: End (02/13/06)
By Beth Muehlhausen
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The day seemed alive with energy; silvery sunlight splashed across the turbulent surface of the lake. Two recreational sailors ducked beneath the boom as a stiff northwest wind ruffled the sail of Fred’s C-scow named Minnie, turning her abruptly to face the final leg of her journey.
Then the wind once again extended the sail and pushed Minnie back into position with the rest of the fleet, singing eerily in the guy-wires while driving huge white caps over her hull. She plowed ahead toward the final marker in the race: an illusive round orange buoy that rose and fell with the swells.
Fred hauled in the sail tightly, and the sleek boat sped through the rollicking aquatic playground. This was his life – sun, water, adventure! A few other sailboats ran alongside Minnie, threatening to slice into her path at any moment.
“Climb out on the side-board – hold her from going over! I’m letting out the sail!” Fred yelled over the screaming wind. Barefoot and clad in a swimsuit, Becky nimbly hopped out onto the exposed fin like an agile nymph as the boat tipped higher on her side. “Wooo-eeee! We’re flying now, honey! Hang on, baby!”
Becky clung almost desperately to thick, wrapped wires as she stood on one of two metal boards which usually protruded into the water to guide this flat-bottomed sailboat. Now the craft was hiked up on its edge, like a rolling penny! White spray covered Becky while Fred clung to the tiller. The sail filled, its little red wind-direction strips flying like arrows. They began to pull ahead of the other boats.
“You’re doing it, honey! Hang out there…keep ‘er on edge! We’re gonna win this one, babe! Wooooooo, nothin’ can’t stop us now!” We’ve got the wind on our side, Beck!”
Becky felt the unexpected gust as it hit Minnie’s sail, and leaned back to help stabilize the boat on this reckless journey. Her hands ached; she arched her neck and head, throwing herself into the moment. The sun blinded her, and she closed her eyes, riding this race-horse of a boat as it galloped toward the finish line.
Then, she lost her footing…tried to reposition…her hands slipped. Was that the sun careening around her? She spun like a top into Minnie’s foamy wake.
Minnie’s hull fell flat on the water without Becky’s weight to counter-balance. The boat continued on course for a few seconds – pointing obediently toward the buoy marking the end of the race. Fred looked back. ”What…?” He threw the tiller to the side…the wind dropped out of the sail momentarily…and Minnie turned sharply.
Meanwhile, Becky floundered beneath the churning waves. Her oxford shirt, tied around her waist in case the day turned cool, now filled with water and tangled itself in her arms.
The wind was knocked out of her, and this shirt……
Fred saw no sign of life - only rolling, spitting white waves. A dozen boats – his competition – headed toward the spot where Becky disappeared. No time to warn them…no time…for anything! “HEY, YOU GUYS! I lost Beck! Watch out…” But his voice was drowned out by the sound of the wind and waves.
Still, the other boats saw Minnie turn and they steered clear, shredding the water on either side of her. The skipper of one called out, “Need help, Fred?” His voice, too, was lost in the wind. Fred and Becky were competent sailors and top-knoch swimmers. He assumed they’d had a mechanical failure of some sort.
As the fleet rushed past and headed for the finish line, Fred scanned the water frantically for some sign of Becky. There…it seemed he saw something…over there! He turned the boat into the wind to keep it from moving forward, then tied a lifejacket to a rope and threw it overboard.
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Becky’s rescue was successful, even though Minnie had to be disqualified from the race. In it all, Fred won another prize that day: the admiration, respect, trust, and heart of a woman who shared his first love - water.
The day of the sailboat race could have meant the end – the end of a relationship and maybe even a life - but God’s grace defined a different future for Fred and Becky. Several months later, they sailed Minnie in the midst of a gentle breeze at midnight. One of Fred’s hands held the tiller, the other a small box. “Will you marry me, Beck?”
Minnie rocked them gently as they kissed under the moon.
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