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Last Sail, A River Dream Short Story

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DW is a veteran, a father, a husband, and a teacher. He's published 9 YA/NA novels thus far. The story you're reading might be next.

Lakeside Campsite

Lakeside Campsite

Memories of another cookout

The sun was hidden behind a mass of dark clouds the morning Declan and I packed up our last campsite along the lakeshore. After wolfing down a cold breakfast of cereal along with whatever remained of the milk or juice we'd brought along, we made one more sweep of the campsite to ensure we were leaving no trace behind that we'd ever been there.

The clouds were a roiling black and gray, much like the black and gray ashes that were the remains of the cook fire over which we grilled our hamburgers the night before. Remembering our dinner meal stirred the memory of another cookout back when I was a young man, not quite my son's age. This past cookout happened on a beach, just past the sea oat covered dunes where the outgoing tide had left hard-packed sand just right for setting up the grill. Waves crashed on the stone jetty in time to the rock music blaring out of the one speaker on the portable radio that I had received as a birthday present earlier that week.

My best friend, Hans, grilled the burgers with a practiced hand. My girlfriend, Rhiannon, took the beer bottle from my hand and, noting it was empty, grabbed a fresh one from the cheap white foam cooler we'd bought when we bought the beer. After opening it, she took a drink herself before she handed me the bottle. I put my arm around Rhiannon and planted a beer-flavored kiss on her lips, a kiss interrupted when Hans announced that the burgers were ready.

Another Campsite, Another Companion

My reminiscence of bygone days was disturbed by the sound of Declan noisily chewing the last of the corn flakes, washing them down with what remained of the orange juice, and then wiping his mouth on his sleeve. I shook my head, knowing the boy's mother would not approve.

A chilly breeze stirred the ashes of the prior night's campfire. The smell of the burnt wood reminded me of another camping trip, this one with Rhiannon back when it was still just the two of us before Declan came along.

Rhiannon had been determined to make my favorite dish on the last night of our camping vacation. Her determination paid off when I complimented her on how delicious the meal was and how the wood smoke had added to the flavor. To thank me for the compliment, Rhiannon leaned toward me and kissed me on the cheek. Noticing her shiver, I added more wood to the fire to ward off the late summer chill.

There Were Wild Ponies and it was The Great Smokies

Backpacking Trip, Father and Son

The sound of metal clanking against wire rigging seemed out of place among the breeze blowing through the trees. It was this sound that reminded me of where I was and who was with me. Seeing that Declan was already wading out to the sailboat, I picked up my gear and quickly followed him. I felt a tightness in my chest knowing we were leaving the last camp Declan and I might ever share. The mist that covered my eyes brought the site of another long ago trip the two of us had made.

The air was cold and the sky still dark when I ventured out of my small tent and got to my feet on the wet grass. The wild ponies whinnied and moved further away as this human dared make himself seen, or, instead, scented on this chilly morning.

The valley that lay below could have been a lake, hidden as it was in dark and fog, but I knew that when the light of dawn reached it, the verdant valley would show it's true nature. Grasping a corner of Declan's tent, I gave it a gentle shake. When I heard no evidence of stirring inside, I gave the tent a not-so-gentle shake. I did not want Declan to miss this sunrise. Just as the boy emerged and stood beside me, the first rays of the morning sun began to appear over the peaks in the distance and light began to spill into the valley. I smiled when Declan gasped in awe at the sight.

Father and Son Backpacking Destination

Another Sailboat, Another Time

Looking up at the threatening clouds, I realized we had to get moving. I needed to join Declan on the boat. The rain was coming, and I wanted to have the boat up on the trailer and ready to go before it hit.

Once we were both on board the boat, it didn't take them long to set the sails and point the bow toward the boat landing. The two of us had sailed together many times since the first weekend when Declan, after two summers at sailing camp, convinced me to go sailing with him after I'd had only one weekend of lessons. I was still learning how to sail.

The winds were light and only blew strong enough to allow us to steer the boat. Declan was at the helm, and I was relaxing on the starboard side of the cockpit where I could keep an eye on my son.

A sudden noise woke me a short time later. I had no idea what made the sound but quickly looked to check on Declan at the tiller. There, laying flat across the transom, was my son, snoring gently. I called out, and Declan startled to wakefulness. Whatever made the noise was not in evidence, and the boat was sailing along down the river toward the sound at its own leisurely pace. Seeing that we were okay and nothing was wrong with the boat, the two of us still decided it was time to turn around and head back to the dock.

The Healing Power of the Wind and Sea

Last Sail Before Good-bye

On this last day of our camping trip around the lake, it wasn't toward another camp we were heading. We headed for the boat ramp. This would be the last time the two of us would sail this boat, our boat, the boat that we'd restored together. The new owners were coming in a few days to take possession of it. After breakfast the next day, Rhiannon and I would stand in the driveway and watch Declan drive his rented car away to the airport where he would catch his flight to his new life, his new home, and his military career.

But that wouldn't happen until tomorrow. For now, Declan and I could share the joy of sailing together, running before the storm, just the two of us, one more time.

Last Voyage

Lonely Sailboat Heads Home

Lonely Sailboat Heads Home

Are You A Sailor?

© 2015 DW Davis