“A Mile From Land” #59

“A Mile from Land”
By. Lee McQuinn
(note: all names, locations, and identifying information has been changed to preserve privacy and respect.)

28 February 2017 – Timeline: 1985

Dear One,

We sailed clean past Kingston, Jamaica and almost to the fortress of Guantanamo Bay. Captain Merk ordered us to re-chart our course; best possible route to the nearest safe harbor from the storm. We poured over the radar images and maps to quickly give him a course. The course would take us straight into the harbor at Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. It wasn’t the best ‘tourist’ port, but it would serve our need.

With some measure of relief, the radar showed the hurricane had changed direction, too. That reality became more obvious as we anchored at the the Port to sunny skies and a light breeze. Still, just to be safe, we dropped anchor and began to disembark passengers, and all non-essential crew went inland. That meant that Ian and I would have the opportunity to be tourists for a few hours.

We were at the end of the wharf when I spied it. It wasn’t hard as the cupola rose above the surrounding buildings like a lighthouse amid a stormy sea. The characteristic shape along with its red and white stripes could only mean one thing – Chicken! And, not just any chicken; mind you, but the genuine Colonel Sanders’ made in Kentucky fried chicken!

Yes, I’d spied myself an American restaurant – Kentucky Fried Chicken – KFC! I tell you, it was quite a sight for my homesick and hungry eyes. There was no doubt of what would be my first stop. Nope, no doubt at all. My mouth was already watering to the point of drool.

‘KFC!’ I squealed as I latched onto Ian’s arm and pointed.

‘I can’t believe it.’ He shook his head. ‘Of all  the things you could have seen.’

‘Come on! We don’t have much time, and I want fried chicken. The baby wants it, too.’ Real meat. Real protein. I pulled him along.

‘Alright, but slow down. We’ve got time.’ He pulled me to his side and whispered in my ear. ‘Stay close, and keep quiet. They don’t like Americans here at the moment.’

‘Oh, Ian, just hurry. I’m so hungry.’ I pleaded.

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“A Mile From Land” #58

“A Mile from Land”
By. Lee McQuinn
(note: all names, locations, and identifying information has been changed to preserve privacy and respect.)

27 February 2017 – Timeline: 1985

Dear One,

It was a storm like no other.

I didn’t just think I was gonna die. I knew it.

I saw it in Captain Merk’s eyes.

Death… as dark and cold as the sea…

I didn’t think the storm could get any worse… it did!

Control panels began to wail.

Captain Merk’s grinning face had gone flat, cold, and determined. His lips became a tight line. His brow furrowed in concentration. His eyes, squinted as they were, showed raw fear.

‘Dear God, ‘ I cried out for God’s mercy. I felt as the disciples must have felt when the storm hit their tiny boat. And so, I prayed with all my trust for God to hear me and faith that he would see us through.

The ship suddenly topped a wave, teetered precariously for a full second before slipping down the back side. So close, so very close to becoming fish food. I gulped, continuously in prayer until the sea suddenly calmed.

In a matter of minutes, and a hundred miles or more, we were clear of the storm.

“A Mile From Land” # 57

“A Mile from Land”
By. Lee McQuinn
(note: all names, locations, and identifying information has been changed to preserve privacy and respect.)

26 February 2017 – Timeline: 1985

Dear One,

The next week went by in a blur. It was hurricane season, and that meant all hands on deck for most of the time. There wasn’t time to think about anything more than saving the ship. With yet another hurricane on radar, we were at the ready. The eye of the storm was rapidly growing, along with the wind speeds. It was racheting up to be a killer storm, and it was heading right for us. The Captain was sure that we could easily outrun it if we headed Northeast towards Jamaica.

So, full sail and full diesel, we hauled ass across the Gulf. The helm was doubly manned, and at times, it took both their strengths to hold the wheel on course.

‘Rock and Roll!’ Joe grinned as he held the other side of the wheel along with me.

Captain Merk rapid-fired course changes and encouragements, even as the winds increased their power and the seas roiled. He plotted a zig-zag course that would hopefully keep us from going aground on one of the small islands or shoels.

If I thought the storms we’d already seen were strong – they were merely a baby’s breath. This – these hurricane force winds and high seas were far worse. Captain Merk took my  place at the wheel, sending me down into the relative safety of the ready room. I looked out of the portal to see he’d secured himself to the wheel along with Joe and another sailor. All three were fighting the wheel.

‘Ian!’ Where was Ian? I forced myself not to panic. After all, Captain Merk was still smiling. It couldn’t be that bad if he was still smiling, could it?

And then, he stopped smiling…

“A Mile From Land” #56

“A Mile from Land”
By. Lee McQuinn
(note: all names, locations, and identifying information has been changed to preserve privacy and respect.)

25 February 2017 – Timeline: 1985

Dear One,

My decision was made. I was going home. I would have my child in an American Hospital, in America.

And now that the decision was made, I began to feel some small measure of peace. Even Ian agreed with  my decision. When we put into port back in Grenada, I made a trip up to the Church to tell Mother Superior of my decision. She smiled and hugged me very tightly as she spoke through her tears.

‘It’s a good decision, My Child. You should be with your family during such a time as this.’ Mother Superior spoke softly.

I agreed, partially. I did not tell her of the plans I had to go through with the adoption even though Ian had promised to care for the child as his own. It wasn’t right. And besides, I was way too young. I was still only a child myself, after all.

I would see my child brought into the world, then – then, I would find it a good and loving home. It was the best gift I could give it, wasn’t it? Of course it was. A fifteen year-old girl in America didn’t have the wearwithall to raise a child. I’d already seen that, lived that. No, I had to do what was best for my child… and, I was definitely not it.

I bid my fare-thee-wells to the Island of Grenada that day. My heart felt as heavy as an anchor as I stepped back onto the ship. I followed Ian to our quarters, sat down on the bunk, and had a long, silent cry.

“A Mile From Land” #55

Author’s note: I apologize for the late posting…there’s an awful lot of flooding going on here, so getting about is a challenge.

“A Mile from Land”
By. Lee McQuinn
(note: all names, locations, and identifying information has been changed to preserve privacy and respect.)

24 February 2017 – Timeline: 1985

Dear One,

My Gran’s letters were my undoing. I read her words – her heart in every one – over and over. Long before I reached the last letter of the latest batch, my heart felt near to bursting. She loved me so much. Of that fact, I never in my life had cause to doubt. I could tell where her hands started to shake as she wrote. Every letter came to an end with a plea to come home to her.

I loved my life here in the Islands. It was paradise on Earth, most of the time. It was also fraught with dangers I had never seen or heard of before. Daily executions, white slavery, and even pirates, were so commonplace that they were considered the ‘norm’. As my baby began to squirm within, I was reminded that this was the world that I would be bringing up my child into. My mind went back to that day at the palace where the little boy was shot dead… just for being a little boy. Did I really want to bring my child up in such an environment?

According to my Gran, Phillip’s parents felt absolutely horrid for the way they had treated me. Could I ever forgive them? How could I possibly forgive them for their words and their actions? Would I ever be able to forget the way they’d thrown my belongings to the curb. The weeks that followed… living on the streets, feeling too guilty for what I saw as my worst failure.

I wasn’t there when he needed me the most. I had been at work. I wasn’t there to depress the needle’s plunger that would have saved his life. We were supposed to be together for life… a long, happily-ever-after kind of life. I wasn’t supposed to be a teenage widow and mom-to-be, was I?

Phil and I, we had decided that when the time came, we would die in each other’s arms. The last act of a lifetime of commitment to each other; of a love that was perfect and true. Now, he was dead, and I was here; left to birth and raise his one and only child. It was too much to be borne upon my shoulders alone. As I sat there, clutching Gran’s letters to my chest, I started at the memory of the sound of the gun firing at the palace.

I had to go home.

“A Mile From Land” #54

“A Mile from Land”
By. Lee McQuinn
(note: all names, locations, and identifying information has been changed to preserve privacy and respect.)

23 February 2017 – Timeline: 1985

Dear One,

‘I think you should name the baby Phillip junior, or Phyllis.’ Ian up and spoke out of the blue. I gaped at him. What had he just said? Name the baby?

‘Earth to Sarai…’ Ian reached over the table to squeeze my hand. ‘Are you there?’

‘I – I hadn’t thought…’ All color faded from my face. Reality.

‘You’re not gonna faint on me, are you?’ His voice was concerned.

‘Uh, no.’ I shook my head. ‘I – I just haven’t even thought about it. I mean, I never, wh -…’

‘You were scared. You don’t have to be afraid anymore, Sarai. I’m here. We’re here.’ He smiled. ‘And, we’re going to have a family.’

‘You mean, you want my baby, too?’

‘Hell, yes!’ His voice rose, drawing everyone’s attention. ‘I love you, Sarai, ALL of you. This baby is part of you… How could you even think…?’

I cringed back as his raised voice. He rose, garnering everyone’s attention.

‘Hey, everyone…’ He called out. ‘I have great news to share… I’m going to be a DAD!’

The lounge erupted in noisy congratulations. I blushed in embarrassment. My secret wasn’t a secret anymore. Nor could I think of giving my baby away to a loving family to raise.

‘This calls for a toast!’ Captain Merk called out. ‘One round on me to congratulate Sarai and Ian.’

That night, the crew and passengers alike partied unto the wee hours just before dawn. I passed out in Ian’s arms on top deck, under the bar’s dragonhead.

“A Mile From Land” #53

“A Mile from Land”
By. Lee McQuinn
(note: all names, locations, and identifying information has been changed to preserve privacy and respect.)

22 February 2017 – Timeline: 1985

Dear One,

I snuggled back against Ian’s broad chest and looked up and down the beach. Men, women, and children – all nude. Hundreds of naked bodies… and no one paying any attention whatsoever to that fact.

‘See, I told ya. This is the beach of Isla Majures, Island of Women… and men who have no shame for their bodies.’ Ian whispered in my ear. ‘It kind of reminds me of how the Garden of Eden must have been before Adam fell from God’s grace. Look at all the beauty God created in the human form.’

Look? Oh, I was looking alright. I’d never seen so many naked bodies in my life. All body sizes, shapes, and colors. Ian was right. They were beautiful. They were – I wasn’t.

I was fat… F-A- T, fat!

Ian instinctively wrapped arms around my middle. ‘I especially like this body, right here. It’s perfect, and beautiful.’

‘It’s fat.’ I growled.

‘It’s full of life.’ He countered with a deep kiss.

‘Ian! We’re in public.’

‘No one is going to notice or care if I kiss my bride. And, if they make something of it, I’ll knock them around a little.’ He kissed me again before I could protest.

Our honeymoon was short, only six hours ashore before we had to be back on ship, and back to our duties. I would never forget those few hours though; they were some of the happiest hours of my life.