Days passed. Still no wind.
Quite unlike the placid sea, Verona had not calmed. She was determined to fight. She would not allow herself to be conquered so easily.
“We must be rescued,” she decided, “by some passing steam-ship or the like.” She gathered up all the emergency rockets and signal sparklers from storage. Every hour, on the hour, Verona lit another rocket. It soared up into the air and burst noisily into mighty bright messages, such as “HELP US!” or “SAVE OUR SHIP!”
Yet no steam-ships, coal-ships, sailboats or even rowboats passed them by. They were utterly alone in their perfectly still watery prison.
“Are you using up all the emergency fire-rockets?” asked Mamma as Verona passed the kitchen on her way to fetch more matches.
“We simply must be rescued,” said Verona.
“Humph,” said Mamma. She sifted flour into a large bowl of dough. “I’d say we’re managing just fine.”
Verona showed her mother the mantel clock she still carried about. She had carved several dozen marks into the wood next to the clock’s face. “Look!” she said. “We’ve already lost seventy-seven hours out here!” The clock chimed. “Seventy-eight!” cried Verona. She notched another mark into the wood.
“Well, at least we’re not sailing backwards,” said Mamma. “Then we’d have real cause for alarm.”
“Don’t be silly,” snapped Verona. “Can’t you see our quandary? What if the doldrums last for ten years? How long before you run out of sugar, flour, and eggs to make cakes?”
Mamma frowned. “I…humph,” she said. “I hadn’t thought of that.” She set the bowl down on the counter and wiped flour on her apron. “I suppose I’d better make inventory of our foodstuffs. We might run short, and that would be unpleasant.”
“Finally,” said Verona, “someone is listening to me!” Mamma hurried downstairs to the pantry without another word.
Verona walked up the spiral staircase. “If I fly the emergency flag,” she thought, “then any passing ship will surely know us for stranded.”
As soon as she stepped into the cockpit, however, she felt a sharp pang in her chest, like fingers gripping her heart. Countless times she had sat right here in the pilot’s chair, taking the wheel in her hands to boldly steer their beloved windmill-ship through thrashing thunderstorms and razor-sharp reefs, along barren coasts, up twisting rivers and all across the Seven Seas. She’d navigated them through steaming jungles, across blazing deserts, around perilous island archipelagos and into safe harbor at a dozen weird and wonderful cities. From Pappa she was learning to read the wind and the waves and the stars, and to feel the churning sea beneath her feet as snugly as her own stockings. There was little in this world that Verona loved more than setting course for some faraway, fantastic shore, a voyage that always began right here, at the helm of the Merry Mariner.
But now the wheel stood sad and still, the instruments and dials dead and dark. The forward window revealed nothing but the same single horizontal line in the distance, dividing what would otherwise be an endless wash of empty, pale blue. She could see no adventure here, no investigating new lands, no meeting marvelous people and places, no becoming a famous and important explorer. Out here, she would wither away and fade into dust.
Verona set her jaw. “We must be rescued,” she reminded herself, and pulled the emergency flag from its shelf.
Want to get Merry Mariner story updates and info on the upcoming first book? Sign up for the Captain's Log!
(I don't send junk. Just occasional fun and interesting updates!)