Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Foreign Language (12/09/10)
TITLE: If It Swims Like A Duc
By Virgil Youngblood
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The shrimp trawler Capt Duc plowed through heavy seas racing Hurricane Alicia for haven in the harbor. Other boats strung out fore and aft like a boat parade. Waves splashing high over bows sparkled in the sunlight winking on and off through scudding gray clouds.
The Capt Duc’s catch had been poor. They would not make enough to pay fuel expense. But that was the least of Duc’s worries. That sun-bronzed red-headed man with a pigtail named Willis aboard Miss Dink had fired a rifle shot across their bow just before sundown. Willis had shaken a fist at him, yelling something Duc could not understand. Duc had done nothing that he knew to cause such anger.
“Papa” Myli said, “Will the storm sink our boat?”
“That is for God to decide. Maybe Alicia goes east of us.” Duc did not want his teenage daughter worrying but she was old enough to realize the dangers they faced. His wife and two younger sons, two cousins, and their families were all onboard. They lived together on the trawler and everybody worked hard every day. Harder and longer than the Americans, that’s for sure.
When they reached the harbor Miss Dink pulled against the quay and her crew began making her fast. Duc eased slowly past angling toward the next docking space. Wind gusts made steering difficult.
“Get that boat out of here, Chink.” Willis stood by the tie down bollard, hands on hips, eyes glaring angrily across the watery chasm separating them.
Duc did not understand him but he was combat hardened. He had faced worse enemies in Viet Nam. His family’s safety was more important than this constipated stranger mouthing words.
A deck hand on Miss Dink shouted. Duc saw a trawler boom falling outward above the wharf and shoved by the wind, sweeping around on a collision course toward the angry seaman. The boom hurtled the man into the jouncing waves between the boats, a scream of pain racing behind him.
The two stunned crewmen on Miss Dink stood frozen, staring and pointing at their captain bobbing face up. Willis flailed one arm, begging for help, coughing and spewing salt water from his mouth and then rolled over.
Myli never hesitated. Stripping out of her shirt and pants she grabbed one end of a coiled rope and jumped overboard. Struggling though the waves she reached the man. Tossing the line across his back Myli ducked beneath the water to grab the rope and secured it around Willis’ waist with a quick knot. Turning him face up she signaled her father to pull them in.
As the gasping man was hoisted onboard, a compound fracture on his right arm dripped blood. It was obvious to those on Miss Dink and Capt Duc that Myli’s quick action had saved Willis from drowning.
After Capt Duc berthed, the crew of Miss Dink retrieved their captain mouthing something unintelligible.
Eventually the storm abated. In the following days the Capt Duc was repaired and made ready to sail. They were preparing to depart when a black sedan stopped on the wharf and two men emerged. One was an elderly American with reddish gray hair crew cut; the other middle aged Vietnamese wearing a white polo shirt.
“Hello the Capt Duc” said the polo shirted man in Vietnamese. “I am Tran. I come to interpret for Mr. Bailey. May we talk?”
After introductions were made Tran spoke to Duc. “Mr. Bailey owns the big shrimp processing plant that has refused to buy shrimps from Vietnamese. He wants to know why your only daughter risked her life to save his only son after he threatened you.”
“Myli acted as she had been taught.”
“Mr. Bailey is profoundly grateful. He apologizes for himself and his son. He will buy your shrimps.”
“Ai Yee!” Duc exclaimed, smiling.
Bailey stuck out his hand; a smile is the same in every language.
Tran laughed. “The Miss Dinks crew told Bailey, Myli swam like a con vit.”
Duc, of course, understood that as duck.
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