Fate awaits

Fate awaits

The end of the shipping season was here.  The big lake was freezing over, and the ice was forming its blockades in the shipping lanes.  There was one more load to go, and Daniel was going to make this last trip before winter set in, and then stay at home with his wife Marie and their two little girls, Heather and Ellie, until the spring break-up.

He called Marie before the ship left its port, loaded with grain from the Midwestern elevators, making it’s way to the east coast to be shipped further to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

“We’re leaving within the hour, Sweetheart.  This is the last trip for the year, and then I’m home for the next three months to be with you and the girls.”

Marie was holding back tears on the other end of the phone, because she knew that this was the most dangerous trip Daniel took each year. She knew that the ice that had built up was nowhere near the size of the bergs in the North Atlantic, but that it created terrible, and deadly, hazards nonetheless.

“Daniel, I wish you would find another job.  I know you love sailing, but I miss you when you are gone and I get so afraid every time you climb aboard your ship.”

Daniel never imagined a sailor’s life, but the first time he saw one of the big grain ships off the port of Cleveland, he knew that sailing the Great Lakes was what he was going to do. Since Heather and Ellie had entered his life just a few years ago, he was constantly re-evaluating the risk he was taking by plying his trade on the big inland waters.  For the first time, he was seriously considering staying on shore next season.

But leaving the shore to cross lakes Michigan, Superior, Ontario, Erie and Huron was what he was made for.  A short time after he had started sailing, he took all the tests and gained all the experience necessary to be a captain of one of the big freighters, and he was mighty proud of that fact.   He commanded a crew of 30 men and women on his ship, and he was fair to all, but highly disciplined.  Daniel was respected by every member of his crew, and every crewman and woman would have gone to war for him.

” Marie, you know that I can’t just give this up.  For one thing, there is no way I could make the money on shore that I am making here.  We couldn’t live on half my salary, because that’s what I would earn.  And as young as Heather and Ellie are, they need you to be at home with them.”

“Don’t worry sweetie, I’m a good captain who would never take our ship into a situation that would endanger the ship, the crew or me.  I’ve got two girls who I want to see graduate from college, and I need to be there to walk them down the aisle.  Now I’ll be home in two weeks, and then I’m all yours until April.  Now I’ve got to go, we’re ready to pull out of the harbor.  Kiss the girls for me – tell them Daddy loves them!  I love you too, Marie.  I’ll call tomorrow night.  See you soon!”

“Daniel, be careful!  I couldn’t live without you.  I need you, the girls need you.  Please come home safely, and then we need to talk about you staying home.  For good.”

“Don’t worry, Marie.  I’ll be fine, and we can talk for the next three months, only interrupted by the laughter of our daughters.”

He pressed the little red button at the bottom of the phone to end the call, smiling as he was thinking of the squeals of delight from his two little girls when they would run to him as he walked in his front door in two weeks.  He smiled even more when he thought of embracing Marie, smelling her hair and kissing her with all the love he had for her.  He hollered out the commands to his crew on the bridge for the big freighter to begin it’s departure, getting assistance from the tugboats in the harbor as he backed away from the pier.

In the dark, a hundred miles away, the ice had grown to shipwrecking size, but had also gone undetected.  Daniel’s was the last ship out, and the ice lay directly in the path he was following.  Little did he know, but he would never hear his girls laugh again, or smell the intoxicating loveliness of Marie’s hair.  He would keep his promise, though, in that there would never be another trip.


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