Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Work (07/27/06)
TITLE: A Fisherman's Prayer
By Sandra Petersen
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Nils Mekelson squinted out over the boiling waters and sucked at his pipe. He exhaled and the smoke fled before the gale. Pity the poor sailors out there tonight, the aged fisherman meditated. He appraised the swaying fishing boat secured to the pier and returned to his shack.
“‘Tis a wicked time to be out on the waters,” he stated, shutting the door against the screaming tempest.
“Aye,” agreed one of the two young men seated at the rough hewn table. “Come, Da’, and have some supper.”
Nils sat and extended calloused hands to each of his sons. The three men clasped hands and bowed their heads.
“Heavenly Father,” Nils prayed. “We thank Thee tonight for blessing us with safe passage back to shore. Lord, ye see the boats still out on the water and know the souls they hold. Grant them safety. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
“Amen,” his sons echoed.
Nils cradled a thick slice of dark rye bread in one hand and broke open his baked potato onto his plate. Einar, the oldest son, speared another potato from the hearthstone. Sparks from the cooking fire crackled. The candle flame that illuminated the fishermen’s supper danced in drafts that crept in around the two tiny windows.
They ate in silence, glancing occasionally at the window or ceiling when a stronger gust rattled loose boards.
Jan, the youngest son, finished his meal and rose, yawning. He wandered to one of the windows and peered out toward the shore.
“Da’! I see lights!”
Joining him, Nils muttered, “She’ll founder on the rocks if she doesn’t pull away!”
As if overhearing his words, half of the ship’s lights winked twice and were extinguished by darkness.
Father and sons donned oilskin slickers and left the shack. They had worked as rescuers before in similar circumstances.
Nils strained to listen above the cacophony of the storm. Faint cries for help drifted across the waves, yards from shore
Einar and Jan tugged the small dory down to the water. Sleet ripped at their unprotected faces.
“Lash the end of this rope to that tree by the shack!” Nils shouted to Jan. Einar knotted the other end to the stern of the boat and pushed the dory into the waves.
“We’ll let the rope out slowly until you reach the wreck. Get as many in as you can, then tug on the rope and we’ll pull you in!”
Einar nodded. As the dory bobbed wildly and disappeared into the darkness, Nils muttered prayers for protection. “Lord, help him! Help them!”
Twice Einar left the shore with an empty boat and returned with shivering passengers. When the boat returned the third time, he was missing.
“He swam out to the forward section where the rest of our crew are,” the cook said through chattering teeth.
“Get them inside and build up the fire. If they don’t get warm, they’ll die.” As Jan obeyed his command, Nils sank to his knees. The frigid waters could kill a man in minutes. Heavenly Father, keep them in Thy care. Return my son to me.
A light flickered and waved back and forth as if to answer the fisherman’s prayer. Nils saw and wept.
Throughout the night, he kept vigil at the window of the shack, praying for the survivors both on shore and on the wreck. As the wind demons howled, he grated his teeth and sought his Lord’s face with renewed vigor. Lord, my sons know Thee, but what of these others? Ye said that Ye would that none should perish. Save them that they might know Thee.
The winds stilled as the first rays of dawn reflected from calm waters. Nils and Jan readied their fishing boat to survey the damaged ship. Boards and cargo from the craft had washed ashore, but not one body was among the wreckage.
Nils maneuvered his boat through the rocks, praying that someone might still be alive on the stricken vessel. At their approach, he heard “Halloo! All well, Da’!” A familiar figure waved both arms in welcome.
Thank you, Father, for this miracle! Nils wept.
Years later, Einar would become the first keeper at a lighthouse built on the cliff above the perilous rocks of Mekelson’s Cove. Mariners would see the light and retell the stories of a father’s prayers and a miraculous answer.
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