Her nanny called after her to be careful, but the water didn’t seem deep enough to even reach her waist if she stood in it. A man was sitting on the edge of it reading a thick book, and since she wasn’t to talk to strangers, she went to the other side to look at all the gold and silver coins glittering in the sunlight. The curls of her hair touched the surface of the pond when she leaned close and sent ripples across the water. Her mother had told her that it was a wishing well. People would throw coins into the water and make a wish. She had asked if the wishes came true, and her mother had mysteriously said that one never knew. She didn’t have a coin, but when she got one she would let it fall into the water and make a wish. Right now, all she had was a paper ship in the palms of her hands. It had taken her forever to fold it properly even with her brother’s help.
She drew in her breath and held it as she lowered the vessel to the surface. It swayed dangerously from side to side, then came still. It was a quiet day with no wind to push the ship. But there was a remedy for that. She would be the face in the corner of the maps she had seen in her father’s study and gently blow the ship across the ocean.
The ship merrily sped across the pond. She laughed. It was making the journey, on the way to explore the wonderful and exotic world on the other side of the pond. The captain on the bridge would look just like her father. He bravely watched the ocean and spotted whales and three-headed sea monsters in the distance. He was using the shiny brass sextant and making notes and crosses on his map with his quill. At night, he would be guided by the stars.
Already the ship was slowing down. It had crossed the middle of the pond and was now coming to a halt. She frowned. She had not been a very strong wind, but she had been afraid of capsizing the vessel and drowning the crew. Her only hope was to go to the other side and attempt to get a hold of the ship and drag it to the port. She ran as fast as she could.
The man was still sitting there with his big book. She timidly stepped closer to him and leant over the water, reaching out for the ship to get it before the crew began to suffer from starvation. But it was too far away. The crew would be lost forever. Eventually the ship would sink and become a wreck among the glittering treasures on the ocean floor.
Tears rose in her eyes. What a terrible fate. What if something like that happened to her father? She simply must get hold of the ship! She balanced on the edge, stretching again in vain.
The stranger looked up from his book. He glanced at the ship, then back at her. ”Is your ship lost?” he asked.
”May I help you?”
She nodded again.
The man closed his book and leant out across the sea. He was so huge compared to that small ship that she was scared he might crush it. But his hand closed around it like it would around a tiny bird and lifted it back to safety.
Before he handed it back to her, he turned it in his hands and studied it. ”She is a very fine craft,” he noted. ”Well made and sturdy.”
”Thank you, sir,” she replied as he solemnly gave her the ship. ”I’m glad you rescued it.”
”You are welcome.”
She briefly thought that she should tell him that she knew it was just a toy and not a real ship, but he seemed to take the task very seriously, and she didn’t want to spoil it for him. So instead she curtseyed and turned around to run back to her nanny with the ship carefully cupped in her hands.
M. Howalt holds a master’s degree in British and American literature, lives in Scandinavia and likes to take pictures and draw. More importantly, there is an abundance of stories in Howalt’s head, and most of them want to be told, which is why one novel is currently being written, another is in the revision process, and a lot of short fiction seems to spontaneously appear.