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Caught by the Tide - a Buzby Beach Short Story

DW has 19 yrs teaching experience in elementary & middle school & is licensed in every core area. He's published 9 YA Novels.


Stuck in the Mud

Sam Fullman cursed silently to himself and then pounded the transom and cursed out loud. No one heard him in the dark. The nearest house was several hundred yards across the waterway.

Sam plopped down in the seat of his Carolina Skiff, his brow creasing, his lips drawn in a tight, thin line.

“My dad’s gonna kill me,” he said out loud to the boat. “I was supposed to be back by now.”

The boat didn’t answer him of course. The sixteen-foot Skiff he’d gotten from his dad for his fifteenth birthday just sat there stuck in the mud.


Time and Tide

Sam had anchored a hundred yards south of Masonboro Inlet, just offshore of the northwest side of Buzby Island, the island on which the town of Buzby Beach is located. He’d planned to do a little fishing in the channel that cut off from the waterway into the wetlands at the island’s north end. Sam hadn’t planned on falling asleep.

It was when the boat stopped rocking gently in the water and settled to a stop on the mud that Sam woke up. As it sank into his mind where he was, the Skiff sank firmly into the muddy bottom, and Sam was stuck fast. He tried desperately to push himself to deeper water with his paddle, but it was no use. The boat wasn’t going to float away any time soon.

Sam considered getting out and trying to push the boat but knew from experience that all he would do was sink knee-deep or more into the muck. He had no choice but to sit there until the tide came back in - in six hours.

No Food, No Drink; No Problem?

Trying to stem a rising feeling of panic, Sam paced from bow to stern. “My dad’s gonna be worried sick. Then when I do get home, he’s gonna kill me.”

Sam’s tongue licked his dry lips, and he realized another predicament he was in. “I ain’t got no water with me. And, man, am I thirsty.”

As he processed that information, his stomach growled. “And I ain’t had no supper, neither. Man, am I hungry.”

He’d just sat back down when he felt a vibration in his pocket. “Now why didn’t I think of that before,” he muttered to himself.

Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his cell phone, saw the call was from his dad, and reluctantly pushed the “Talk” button.

“Hey, Dad.”


Amused not Angry

“Where are you, Sam? You should have been back by now.” His father sounded more concerned than angry.

Sam decided to come right out and tell his dad the truth about his situation.

“The tide went out and stuck me in the mud up here near Masonboro Inlet on the Waterway. I dozed off, and when I woke up, here I was, stuck as I could be.”

A chuckle was not what Sam expected to hear from his dad.

“Son, these things happen. You’ll just have to wait for the tide to float you free. Good thing tomorrow’s Saturday. You gonna be all right out there for the night?”

The amused tone of his father’s voice puzzled Sam. He’d expected his father to be seriously torqued off. Instead, his dad thought it was kind of funny that Sam was marooned along the waterway.

“I guess I’ll be okay. I sure am hungry and thirsty, though. Wish I had something to eat.”

“I reckon you’ll make it until the tide comes in and you can get on home. Just sit tight right there in the boat and don’t try anything foolish. It’ll be a good test of your patience. Best thing to do would be to try and get some sleep.”


Father Knows What's Best

His father’s advice made sense. It usually did. Richard Fullman hadn’t gotten to be a Senior Chief Petty Officer in the Coast Guard due to lack of common sense. He’d taught Sam how to handle small boats as soon as Sam was old enough to grasp the wheel and move the throttle.

Richard’s decision to move back to Buzby Beach after he retired from the Coast Guard was an easy one. It was the near the duty station where he’d met Sam’s mother. Sam was born at New Hanover Medical Center, though he’d lived most of his life away from North Carolina, following his dad through transfers that took the family from Buzby Beach to stations ranging from New London, Connecticut to Juneau, Alaska, and finally, back to North Carolina at the Elizabeth City Coast Guard Station there.

It was shortly after they’d arrived in Elizabeth City that Sam’s mom, Shelley, first started feeling sick. Eight months, two weeks, and four days after her first visit to the oncologist, they buried her in Oleander Memorial Park in Wilmington. Shelley would have turned thirty-seven a week later.

Richard, who at that time was forty years old and had twenty-two years of service in the Coast Guard, filed his retirement paperwork as soon as he and Sam got back to Elizabeth City. Sam was twelve.

Sam and Richard moved into the house on Buzby Island that Shelley inherited from her grandparents when she was only seven. Her parents had lived in it before her father retired from Corning and they moved to a condo in West Palm Beach. Over the years since then, it had been rented out as a vacation home. After Richard retired from the Coast Guard, it became home for him and Sam.


Sam Dreams of a Girl

On the boat, Sam tried to make himself comfortable. It was going to be a long, and he realized as a cool breeze tousled his light brown hair, cold night.

While waiting for the tide to come in and trying not to notice how cold and hungry he was, Sam tried to think of other things. To his chagrin, the first thing that came to his mind was Sasha.

Sasha Powell, from his Geometry class, had captured his attention. When she came into class on the first day of school, the first thing Sam noticed was her eyes. He’d never seen eyes that shade of blue before. They were more of a bluish gray than blue. Her eyes were framed in an open and friendly face that Sam found very attractive. She wore her sandy blond hair just off the shoulder and curled under in what someone told Sam was a bob.

Why someone would name a girls’ hairstyle “bob” was a mystery to Sam. He didn’t care what it was called, on Sasha it was cute.

It wasn’t until Sasha turned down the row next to his that Sam noticed the crutches. They weren’t like the crutches hospitals give a person with a broken leg. Sasha’s crutches were the kind people who need crutches all the time use. Looking down he noticed a brace on one of her legs.

Biting his lip, he looked up and saw her looking at him.

“Hi, I’m Sasha. I know I’ve seen you around, but I don’t know your name.”

If she noticed Sam looking at her brace or crutches, Sasha gave no hint of it.

“My name’s Sam.”

“Hi, Sam,” Sasha said and smiled. Gesturing at the seat beside him, she asked, “Is anyone sitting here?”

Sam couldn’t find his voice, so he just shook his head.

“Then I guess this is my seat,” Sasha said. “Sean, honey, you can put my books right here. Then you better hurry to class, or you’ll be late.”

Sam noticed the boy behind Sasha for the first time. She’d called him Sean. Sam knew who Sean was. Sean’s parents owned Lumina Pier at the south end of Wrightsville Beach. Sam and his dad had fished there several times.

As he thought of the pier, he remembered seeing Sasha there, too. She worked behind the counter in the gift shop. He didn’t remember ever seeing her on crutches at the pier, though. Then again, she’d always been sitting behind the counter when he saw her.

Sean put her books down on the desk.

“Okay, babe. Here you go. I’ll see you at lunch.”

He looked at Sam.

“Hey, Sam. When are you and your dad gonna come fishing? Another few weeks and the spot will start running.”

Sam tried to hide his surprise that Sean had recognized him.

“I don’t know. Soon, probably.”

“Good enough,” Sean said. Then he turned to look if the teacher was watching. Seeing he was distracted at the door, Sean gave Sasha a quick kiss.

“Love you, babe.”

Sasha smacked him on the shoulder.

“You better get on outta here.” Then her expression softened. “I love you, too.”

Sean lips curved into a smile. “See ya at lunch.”

Sasha rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Get going, you.”

Sean, noticing the teacher was watching him, refrained from another kiss. Instead, he squeezed her hand, and then hurried out the door.

Sasha stood by her desk until Sean disappeared out the door. When he was gone, she sat down and got ready for class to start. Seconds later the tardy bell rang. Sasha’s head snapped up, and she looked at the clock over the door.

“He’s gonna be late for class.” Sasha turned and looked at Sam. “He does that all the time. And they always let him off, because he was ‘helping Sasha.’ Sometimes he makes me so mad.”

Sam couldn’t have explained why, but hearing that Sasha could get mad at Sean caused a little glimmer of hope inside him. Hope for what, he couldn’t say right then, but later he’d realize he’d started getting a crush on Sasha as soon as she walked in the room.


The Rising Tide Floats Sam's Boat

As the scene from that first day of school played itself out in his mind, Sam's eyes snapped open. The boat was rocking slightly. Sam realized he’d fallen asleep, again, but this time he was glad.

Sam moved from side to side, and the Skiff rocked. Putting the paddle over the side, Sam pushed against the mud, and the Skiff started moving back, only to come to a sudden stop.

“I forgot to pull in the anchor.”

Moving to the bow, Sam pulled up the mud covered anchor, not without difficulty. Finally free, the Skiff started to drift with the wind. This wasn’t a good thing. The wind wanted to push the boat closer to shore.

With the paddle, Sam carefully maneuvered the boat to deeper water. When the paddle went down far enough before touching bottom, Sam lowered the engine and cranked her up. He cringed at the noise the engine made when it started, but was grateful for the sound all the same. At a slow, safe pace, he motored toward his home on the sound side of Buzby Beach, thankful there was enough light coming from the half-moon to steer by.

© 2019 DW Davis

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