Saturday, May 9, 2009

Saturday Prompt



sour cherries

life vest

Bonus points for incorporating:



  1. Harry Martell had been the keeper at the Noratuck lighthouse, off Herndon Sound. He’d been 3rd generation at the job, succeeding his father and grandfather in the grand tradition of lighthouse keepers. That was in the past. The Coast Guard now was in charge of upkeep and maintenance for the all the lighthouses in the US, so Harry spent his retirement mostly by playing backgammon with Dennis Blanchgate, his longtime friend and neighbor, and also by checking up on his ‘baby’ every day. Just because the US government may have handed off the responsibility of caring for the lighthouse to the Guard did not mean Harry was willing to let it all go that easily, even though he was 87 years old. It was why he never moved away.

    The autumn of 1997 was a rough one in the North Atlantic. There had been several major storms already, and a new one was brewing just miles off the coastline. Harry and Dennis listened to the weather reports on the radio while they played their usual game of backgammon.

    “I should be there – just in case,” said Harry.

    Dennis rolled the dice. “Harry, don’t you think it’s time you let it go? After all, neither of us is young anymore anyway, and the Coast Guard knows a lot more about search and rescue.”

    “Bah,” snorted Harry.

    “Sour cherries,” said Dennis.

    “You mean sour grapes, dontcha?”

    “Whatever. Nothing much to do about it all, anyway.” Dennis moved his piece seven points ahead.

    The news continued to come in about the storm, and the warnings were getting more dire each time. Both men tried to focus on the game, but it was getting more difficult and Harry especially could barely focus on it. Finally, Dennis ended up winning.

    “And yes, that’s a gammon, Harry.” Dennis grinned.

    “Yeah, yeah.” Harry shrugged.

    Dennis walked to the entry hall and picked up his umbrella. “Think I’ll head home before the storm blows big around here. Same time tomorrow, Harry?”

    Harry nodded and Dennis went out the door.

    “Hmmm,” said Harry aloud, “this storm really does sound like a baddy. Even with the Guard, they might need some help with the tourists – if there are any foolhardy enough to be visiting today.”

    After putting on his oilskin, Harry grabbed a flashlight, a whistle and his life vest. He dashed to his old Chevy sitting in the driveway and headed out to the Sound.

    The storm was moving in really fast, with black clouds hovering low over the churning ocean when Harry arrived at the lighthouse. The wind was picking up considerably, too. Harry pulled the visor of his hat down and grabbed his gear. Dodging raindrops by then was useless, so Harry just made a run for the back entry. He went into the building and climbed the spiraling stairs, stopping at each floor to check for any stragglers. All was clear.

    Sure that no lives were imperiled and the lighthouse was secure, Harry turned to head back to his car when he heard a cry. At first, he thought it might be the wind, but it didn’t sound right. He followed to where the sound was coming from and discovered a small, wet, bedraggled kitten in the bushes near the edge.

    “You poor little thing,” said Harry, “but don’t worry, I’ll save you. You must be one of the lighthouse cat’s kittens!”

    The little kitten cried again. Harry started coming towards the kitten, who must have been even more frightened because he started backing up. Harry ducked under the guard rail and managed at last to reach the miserable baby cat. He picked it up and pushed it to the other side of the guard rail, but in doing so, lost his balance. He grabbed for a piece of the rail, and luckily caught a handhold.

    “Whew! Maybe I am getting too old for this kind of thing, but at least, the kitten is safe now.” Harry tried to brush the rain from his face and as he did, he felt something hot and painful in his chest. It was the last thing he recalled before he let go of his grip and fell forward into the storm.

    Three days later, Harry woke up in the hospital, with a number of tubes and wires attached to him in assorted places. As he blinked his eyes open, he saw a man sitting in the chair next to his bed.

    When the man became aware that Harry was awake, he summoned the nurse. Before she could arrive, however, the man said, “That was some crazy stunt you pulled out at the lighthouse, Mr. Martell. You’re lucky I just happened to be there. I’m Lieutenant Patrick Benson, from the Coast Guard. They said the heart attack you had was relatively mild, but you could have been killed out there, sir.”

    Harry closed his eyes and reopened them.

    “On the bright side,” continued Benson, “I took the kitten home to my daughter. You’re her hero. She named the kitten Harry.”

    Harry closed his eyes again. At that moment, the nurse came into the room and sent the Lieutenant on his way.

  2. Okay - I did it - and without killing any characters, either!

  3. “Don’t you think you should at least send them a life vest?” Marty asked, skeptically.

    Paul only grunted and threw the dice on the craps table in his attic. He had picked it up second-hand. He wasn’t sure who would be dropping off a craps table at Goodwill, but he was glad for their generosity. It had made everything a lot easier, a lot more systematic.

    Six and two.

    “Well, Paul?” Marty asked again. “A life vest? Not hard to get our hands on.”

    “Too late,” Paul told him curtly, throwing the dice again.

    Four and one.

    Paul sipped at his G&T with sour cherries and picked the dice up again. He elaborated briefly. “I’ve got a feeling about tonight.”

    Martin was still dubious about the whole afraid. “I know – I do, too. But this is the biggest one, Paul. The others, there’s been a way out.”

    The dice clattered down the length of the table, bounced off the rail, and settled down. Two and three.

    “It’s not our fault,” Paul argued. “They chose to live there.”

    “But they don’t know about the game,” Martin countered.

    “That’s not our fault either.”

    “We could have told them.”

    Paul glared at Martin and threw the dice. “It’s not our place to tell people about the game.”

    Two and four.

    “It seems sneaky.” Martin was in a bad mood tonight. “Everyone’s playing a game and only five people in Michigan know the rules.”

    “Five?” Paul laughed. He gave the dice another roll. “I don’t know the rules. Do you?”

    “Well, not all of them.”

    Six and six.

    “There you go,” Paul said with finality. “Double box cars.”

    Martin sighed and walked over to a switch on the wall. “Wanna finish your drink?”

    Paul nodded. “Thanks.” And he down the rest of his drink. “Go for it.”

    Martin flicked the switch.

    The switch activated an underground circuit that led to a set of explosives whose massive detonation toppled the light house outside of town into the harbor.

    Moments later, a telegram printed out on the console in the attic. Paul went to retrieve it and Martin asked, “What’s next?”

    “Middle school,” Paul said.

    Martin nodded. “During school hours?”


    “Alright, see you tomorrow afternoon then.”

    “See you.”

  4. Very touching story, RJ. I loved it. Very immersive!

  5. CNN - you are way macabre! Your mind really does channel the darkside, doesn't it? Creepy - very creepy, but a great scary tale.

  6. This story was written by my nine year old daughter:

    A few sailors were playing a game called ‘Sour Cherries’. There were dice, game pieces and worst of all, rules. The person who loses has to wear a life vest in the part of the ocean near the lighthouse.

  7. LOL!! "Worst of all, rules."

    There's an insight! :)

  8. That's what I thought too - kind of sums it all up, eh?

  9. Very sweet story RJ! And your daughter is a chip off the proverbial old block! worst of all rules LOL!!

    Nevets, you are beginning to scare me...

    He doesn't know where any of us lives, right??