A story for children from 8 – 12 by John Griffiths.
It was the Easter school holidays and Misty and Murky were spending a few days with their grandparents. They loved the freedom this gave them, away from their busy parents, with grandparents who totally spoiled them. They lived too far away to be frequent visitors and they all made the most of it when the opportunity arose.
Misty and Murky were not their real names of course, but the family nicknames so reflected their personalities, that they seemed to have worn them almost from birth. Misty, a real misty-eyed dreamer who believed everything was always going to be perfect, was the younger sister of Murky by nearly three years. She looked up to her older brother with such open admiration that he feigned an indifference and gruffness in his embarrassment that only added to his apparent air of bleakness.
Whenever anyone commented on his pessimistic nature, and many did, Murky would simply respond, saying, ‘I’m quite happy, thank you. I just know that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I always expect it and nine times out of ten I’m right so I’m rarely surprised or upset. When, on the odd occasion something goes perfectly to plan, it’s a bonus and I’m delighted. Misty always thinks everything will be great and has so many disappointments.’
One thing they did have in common was a passion for sailing. Their father had coached and encouraged them from a very early age and now they were well versed in dealing with the elements on the water and sailed together with confidence. With the lake on their doorstep they had already spent several days in the small Mirror dinghy loaned to them by a friend of their father’s, and were looking forward to a final sail before returning home.
Over breakfast their grandmother commented, ‘ Sure you want to go today? The weather looks a little changeable. I don’t see anyone else out on the water, which isn’t a good sign.’
Murky looked out at the grey wind flecked surface of the lake and the intense activity of the bird life swept into the air by the buffeting wind and reluctantly agreed. Immediately Misty wailed, ‘Ohhh, but it’s our last day, granma. We may not get another chance for months. Please, please,’ she begged, ‘let’s try it.’
Looking at the sheer disappointment on his sister’s face Murky gave in, as he usually did. Misty whooped for joy.
Dressed in their warm outdoor clothing and wet-weather oilskins they hurried down to the club boathouse. They had carried out the routine for getting the boat ready for the water and onto it’s little trailer so many times now that each knew exactly what to do and they were soon letting the boat settle alongside the club jetty. The weather remained squally and Murky was still as hesitant as he had been earlier but one look at Misty’s radiant face at the prospect of getting out on the water pushed his reservations to the back of his mind. Those reservations would come back to haunt him.
For the moment the thrill of sailing the little dinghy with the gusting wind driving them at speeds they had never experienced before was all they could think of. Murky on the tiller had to exert all his strength to control the antics of the lively, bucking craft and Misty, in charge of the mainsail had to be at her most agile to scramble from one side of the boat to the other at each tack. Now they were both glad they had risked it for the sheer exhilaration of this last day’s sailing.
Still they were the only boat on the water. Through the fine spray that veiled their view they could see that even heavier weather was beginning to build up and Murky took the decision that they should call it a day and head the boat for home. It was at the point of going about that an unforgiving gust of wind, stronger than any other they had met that day, caught their little boat in what could have been a mini whirlwind.
Tossed one way and then another, Misty was not quick enough to counter the heel of the boat. She lost control of the mainsail completely while, at the same time Murky failed to hold onto the tiller. The boat flipped over hurling them into the dark, cold waters of the lake.
They had capsized before, and normally would have reacted automatically to haul the boat upright to bale it out. Now, however the circumstances they were in made it impossible. To add to the very strong wind, the capsizing boat had struck Murky’s arm with such force that he began to suspect he might even have fractured it.
Buoyed up by their lifejackets and clinging to the hull of the boat they now felt the intense cold of the water and the seriousness of their situation. Only their granma knew they were out here and it could be ages before she realised they should be home.
Murky was fully aware of the seriousness of their predicament and felt very angry with himself for agreeing to this wild idea of Misty’s. He was responsible and blamed himself for endangering her.
They had no way of knowing how long they had been in the water but it felt like a very long time indeed. Suddenly they were aware of a strange sound which seemed to come from somewhere behind and, oddly, above them. Twisting in the water for a better view , they were astounded to find that the unusual, roaring sound came from an air balloon that appeared to be coming in their direction and approaching the surface of the lake with every passing second. The sight of this enormous, bulbous, brightly coloured flying object , now so close it filled their horizon, even made them forget, for a moment, just how cold and frightened they were.
To their amazement they watched the basket gently touch down on the surface of the water and sail towards them like a huge galleon with a full sail. Expertly adjusting the valve of the fuel cylinder, the pilot kept the basket just touching the water as it came towards them at some speed .in the gusting wind.
Then came a sudden shout from the balloon pilot. ‘Hold your arms up in the air,’ he bellowed. ‘We’ll pull you aboard.’ For the first time, they were aware there was a passenger in the basket and both were straining over the side in order to grasp the arms of Misty and Murky as they sailed by.
With a huge effort the two young people were pulled up and over the side of the basket to shelter and safety. Immediately the pilot opened the fuel valve fully and, with a satisfying roar, the air balloon rose slowly into the air. Having gained height sufficiently to clear the trees and man-made obstacles in his path, the pilot turned to them with a chuckle and said, ‘Lucky for you I do this quite often though I’ve never had to pull anyone out of the drink before. It’s my favourite party piece when all the conditions are right, touching down on the surface and sailing across the lake. Not that the conditions were right today but that was an emergency.’
Murky could only stammer out his heartfelt thanks and added that they would never be as foolish again. But Misty had the last word of course. ‘Hasn’t it ended perfectly though? I’ve always wanted a ride in an air-balloon. It’s been a wonderful day.’
© John Griffiths 2017