“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.”
She sang with the innocence that only a young little girl could sing with. But that didn’t take away the unease from my own brow. Nor did it quell the ache that split my heart in two.
I watched her skip across the weathered deck, not a care in the world and wished I, too, could be young again. Instead, the worries of the world felt heavy on my shoulders.
I anticipated that any day now, we would reach the shores. Any day now I’d see my beloved, holding in her arms another little bundle of joy, but the unease shattered the dream. I had to concentrate hard to picture it in my mind’s eye: the curve of her lips into a slow smile, the freckles kissing her bright cheeks, and her bouncy curls just like the little girl dancing on the deck and singing softly to herself.
With shouts and cries, I turned my attention away from my daydream, back to the harsh realities of life on the ocean. Looking stern side, I saw what caused the attention: an enormous beast. It was larger than anything I’d ever seen, and looked like a monster a scared little boy would draw. I tried to find the tangled clothes on the back of the chair or the winter jacket hung lazily on the dresser, but this monster was real.
Rushing from my post, I reached for my daughter’s hand. She saw this thing, too, and stared: gaping mouth hanging open, silent tears running down her cheeks. She could barely utter my name when I pulled her away and ushered her into the only chance for safety I could see, anything below deck.
There was no call for attack. I think most everyone was in shock. The sea monster lazily seemed to stretch and it sure did glisten in the sun. It’s colors were unlike anything I’ve ever seen, but more beautiful than an original Monet or Picasso.
Somehow I knew that if I lived, nothing else would ever compare.
When the boat made a creaking sound, almost as if it was being snapped in half, everyone sprang into action. Guns were found, bullets loaded. Cannons brought to their rightful places, and they too, were loaded.
“Wait!” I cried out, desperate for anyone to hear.
The monster seemed to know what was coming. With a deafening roar, it slipped easily below the surface, just as the first bullet was fired.
Everyone stopped. Breaths were held for the longest moments of their lives. We watched as the lone bullet fired landed in the water, a distance away. We watched as a pod of dolphins jumped and splashed about in the water.
But the monster did not surface.
I walked to the bridge. The captain was staring absently out the window. I gently touched his shoulder. “Captain?” I said, softly.
He blinked a few times and pulled his eyes from the water. “Oh. Hey, Max.”
“We should leave this place. Head for home. Tanks are full anyway.” I gave him a few pats on the back. He nodded.
When the ship started moving again, the spell was broken. We had a ship to run, and jobs to do. The frenetic pace picked up again.
I slipped below deck and found my little girl curled in a corner, crying to herself softly.
“It’s okay, baby,” I whispered in her ear, while gently stroking her hair. “The monster is gone.”
She fell asleep soon after and I gently laid her in bed to rest.
When we landed, there was a hush over our entire crew. We pulled our gear, and waved instead of said goodbyes. No one wanted to be the first to report what we’d all seen.
Innocence lost, my daughter had nightmares from then on. She never stepped foot in a boat again, not even a paddle boat on the neighbor’s man-made lake in the backyard. My wife asked me what happened, but I spoke not a word.
“Just a routine trip,” I’d tell her. But I knew she didn’t believe me.
Sixty years later and I can barely stand straight by myself. This will be my last trip, I know. I watch as my daughter and her children wipe away tears.
Throwing my arms around her once more, she whispers in my ear. “Red sky at night, sailors’ delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. I hope you find it again this time, Daddy. I love you.”