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Never Read

Story ID:8825
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Fiction
Location:Liverpool Nova Scotia Canada
Person:Lost Fishermen
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I wrote this story for the writer's Weekly 24-Hour Short Story contest.

Below is the topic they sent me, the required word length and my entry.



She sat in her favorite spot on the porch
of the weathered beach house, the salty air
sticking to her skin, the oncoming storm
blowing sand across her bare feet. The
crisp envelope bent beneath her fingers
as she laid it on her lap, and reached
for the pen in her dress pocket...


WORD COUNT: Stories for today's topic must not exceed 925 words.

Never Read

Shelly hugged her husband. "Be careful, Billy."

"Come on, Shell!" Bill rolled his eyes "You worry too much, Hun. Me and
the boys will be OK. It's just a three day trip. We'll catch enough halibut to be able
to fix up the baby's room the way you want it."

"Billy, I love you and worry every time you go to sea, especially at winter."

"Shell, I promise I'll be careful. I may be the youngest captain in this port, but
I'm the most careful. I learned at the helm of Daddy's boat, which I was practically
raised on."

They hugged again. Bill planted a tender kiss on her cheek, rested his open
palm on her slightly swollen stomach, "Besides, I need to be here. Little Billy will
need his daddy."

Shelly slapped him on the shoulder. "It's Billy Jean and you know it."

Bill laughed, "Not on my watch, Girl. I gave you a boy to take over as captain."

Their laughter broke the tension. "I have to go, Shell. See you in a few days."
He turned to leave and then turned back, reached into the pocket of his heavy coat and
pulled out an envelope. "I almost forgot. Here's my letter."

Shelly took the crisp envelope and slipped into the pocket of her dress. "Thanks,
Billy." It had been their custom since they started dating. Billy gave her a note before
he went to sea. She wasn't allowed to open it until the next day. He usually wrote of
love or sometimes something silly both made her smile. She wrote a reply and left it
on the kitchen table for him. Reading her reply was the first thing he did when he
came home.

She watched as her husband walked the length of the pier to where the forty-five
foot "Shelly Girl" and his crew waited. He gave a final wave and climbed aboard.

Shelly stood by their pickup truck and watched until the boat rounded the point
and disappeared from view. "I love you, Billy." she whispered. "Be safe."

That evening, Shelly tried to watch television or read, but the house seemed so
empty without her husband's company. She went to bed early and spent a restless night.
She'd wake every time she reached for Billy and her hand touched only a cold sheet.

Five hundred miles to the south, a small winter depression moved north along
the Atlantic coast of the USA. Experts expected it to drift into the open ocean and
dissipate but an unexpected change in the jet stream held it close to the coast where it
met with a cold front from the north. The small depression became a raging winter storm.

Shelly woke in the morning and listened to the weather report on the battered
radio sitting on kitchen table. The phone rang. "Hello."


"Hi, Gail!" She recognized the voice of her friend, who was the wife of one of
Billy's crew.

"Have you heard the weather?"

"Hang on a second. I just turned the radio on." Shelly's face paled as she heard
the weather person say a major winter depression had moved into the area. "Oh crap!"

"That's what I said too."

"They'll be OK, Gail. They're experienced fishermen." Shelly said to Gail. It was
a weak attempt to convince herself that her man would be safe.

Shell sat in her favorite spot on the porch of their weathered beach house, the
salty air sticking to her heavy winter clothes. The oncoming storm blew sand across her
winter boots.

Off the south shore of Nova Scotia, Bill struggled to control the Shelly Girl in
the growing waves. Wind and water attacked Bill and his crew from all directions. In the
beam of their spotlights, Bill tried to see the dark waves of the cold Atlantic Ocean
through the swirling wall of snow.

He kept the bow of Shelly Girl pointed into the waves as best as he could. The
forty and fifty foot walls of water were too much of a challenge for the young captain.

"Billy, we need to pull into port." John, Bill's childhood friend, yelled to be heard
above the howling winds.

"I know, John, but I have to stay into the wind."

Bill and John both cried in fear as they looked out the wheelhouse windows
at a freak seventy foot, white crested wave roll toward them. Their boat lifted high
into the air, rolled down the backside of the monster wave and directly into a second,
bigger than the first.

The force of the water flipped the boat over, tore the wheelhouse off and tossed
Bill and his crew into the icy Atlantic.

Bill gasped for breath as the cold water saturated his winter clothing. "John!"
he cried out. "Jim? Mike? Anybody? Are you there?"

Only the crashing of waves and the roar of the wind responded.

The water, only a few degrees above the freezing point, soon overcame Billy's
will to live.

He took a last painful breath of salt water and slipped below the surface.

The crisp envelope bent beneath her fingers as she laid it on her lap and read.
"Shelly, you are my life, my love and soon-to-be mother of our son girl if that is what
you really want. I'll always come home."

Shelly reached for the pen in her dress pocket. Tears dripped from her face
and stained the paper she wrote on, "Billy, I always knew the ocean was your home."

Her note sits on their kitchen table still never read.

Michael T. Smith