Exercising the craft–February 25, 2013

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: One day, while reading your favorite book on the beach, you notice a boat slowly drifting to shore. It eventually lands near your spot. A person, draped in pirate clothes, yells to you from the boat, “I have a treasure map and I need help. Are you in?

http://www.writersdigest.com/prompts/the-boat

Deborah slouched in her beach chair, trying to hide under her sun hat with the large brim, trying to look like a single hot girl confident in the fact that she’d come on vacation all by herself.

So what if Steven had broken up with her a week before they were supposed to come away together?  Who needed that loser anyway?

They’d started out so good, but after they had moved in together suddenly everything got hard.  Having conversations.  Going out together.  Even having sex suddenly started feeling…mechanical.

But the worst had come last week when Steven said she needed to stop nagging him.  Nagging him!  As if she were his—his wife or something!

The fight had started there but as fights are wont to do it quickly escalated, pillowed by all the smaller issues that had slowly fed their growing resentment against one another.  Finally Steven had screamed that he regretted ever meeting her, packed a suitcase, and left.  No amount of texting or groveling voicemails could bring him back.  And on the fourth morning of doing all this, it suddenly hit Deborah.  She couldn’t bring him back because he didn’t want to be brought back.

They’d scheduled the cruise to the Bahamas six months ago, and in order to get the discounted rate they’d chosen the nonrefundable option.  Deborah still cringed as she remembered how she’d sat in Steven’s lap and giggled about how if they could take a big risk like that before going on vacation, just imagine what kind of risks they’d take on the cruise ship.  Steven had answered with a throaty laugh of his own, and he had carried her into the bedroom as she shrieked in mock protest.

Shake it off, Deborah, just—shake it off.  He’s out of your life.  You’re here and you’re free.  That’s all that matters.

To reiterate the point for herself, she shook her head and tried once again to read the magazine.  She didn’t want to bring a book with her.  Books had too many emotions, too many details of relationships either gone too wrong or too right, and she didn’t anything to do with either.  A magazine full of celebrity mistakes seemed a safer bet, and for the moment at least no other beachgoers had picked spots too close to her.  Even though she felt alone, she didn’t want to talk to anyone about why she sat all by herself.

Suddenly movement on the water caught her attention.  A boat drifted her way.  Not a motorized vehicle; one of those old-fashioned things where its riders used oars to move it through the water.  In fact a man sat in the boat rowing fast.

Deborah blinked once or twice.  Could she have gotten too much sun, maybe?  People didn’t use those kinds of boats anymore—did they?

The man pushing the oars in and out caught sight of her and stopped rowing for a minute.  He seemed to look at her intently, and then he began rowing with an increased intensity.  Slowly the boat began to turn and come toward her.

Whoa, what—what is he—?

The man brought the boat as close to the shore as he could without actually rowing into the sand.  Deborah eyed him critically.  The man looked a little older than herself—in his 40s, maybe?—and he wore clothes straight out of a “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie.

Is this guy for real?

“Ma’am?  I have a favor to ask you.”

“Uh, okay.  What?”

“I have a treasure map, and I need help.  Are you in?”

I don’t know about me, but I know he’s been in the sun for too long.

“I’m going to need a decision soon, because I don’t have a lot of time,” the man said almost apologetically.  “Some people are—well, they want this map from me, and I would rather they not have it.”

Deborah sat there, flabbergasted, not knowing what to say.  She almost wanted to ask whether she should look for a hidden camera somewhere when a sound distracted her.  She turned her attention toward the sound, and after concentrating for a moment she realized what she heard: a speedboat.  She stood up and squinted to see if she could spot it.

“Like I said, I don’t have a lot of time.  Are you in?”

When had her breath started coming in shallow spurts like this?  Deborah didn’t know, but she did know one thing for sure: her day was about to get way more interesting.

“All right: I’m in.”

The man grinned.  “Good.”

He jumped out of the boat, ran up the beach, grabbed Deborah’s hand, and began running.  Deborah dropped her magazine and yelped in shock as she held on to her hat with her other hand.

“Where are we going?”

“I’ll go into that later,” the man said, glancing over his shoulder to see whether the speed boat driver followed them.  “All you need to know that we’re looking for treasure, and we don’t want anyone else to find it.  Oh, and that man thinks I stole the map from him.  I’ll explain the rest as we go along.”

Deborah felt a thrill shoot through her entire body.  Yes, things had definitely taken a turn for the better.

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