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Your Story 56 Winner: Pa & Me at Sea

Prompt: “If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.”

Prompt: Write a short story, of 750 words or fewer, that begins with the following line of dialogue: “If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.”

Once again, you’ve made the Your Story competition a success! Thanks to everyone who participated in competition #56 (either by entering, reading or voting).

Out of more than 800 entries, readers helped us pick “Pa & Me at Sea” by Pavi Chance as the winner. For winning, Chance's story will appear in an upcoming issue of Writer’s Digest.

Winning Entry

Pa & Me at Sea
by Pavi Chance

“If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.”

Dawn gave the black water a pink blush. Stretched out, Pa’s head touched one end of the boat and his feet touched the other, fingers trailing in the water on either side.

“What is it?” I sat up, sending the boat rocking back and forth. My arms itched, rosy from yesterday’s sun.

A grin broke across his face, chapped lips stretching like elastic. “You get three guesses.”

I gazed out across the ocean. Since the storm stopped two days ago, the water had been polished smooth. Clouds floating across its surface as though the sky was below us as well as above.

“Is it food?”

A croaking laugh exploded from his mouth. “You know we don’t have any food.”

All we had was water, half a bottle of it, the label peeled from yesterday’s heat.

“Is it something useful, Pa?”

“If by useful you mean it’s gonna help our immediate situation, then no.”

I frowned, thinking of all the things it wasn’t that I wished it was. A radio, a mirror for signaling, sunburn cream. Waffles with butter and blueberry jam.

“What about sharks?”

“Is that your second guess?”

“No!” Sometimes Pa tries to be funny, but he’s really just annoying. “Move your damn legs.”

“That’s no way for a young lady to talk.”

“Well, you’re hogging the boat.”

“If I move to one side, we’ll tip right over.” He does move, though, just a little.

“So?”

“So, what?”

“So what about sharks?” I’d completely forgotten to be worried about them.

“I can think of about a thousand things for you to worry about before you worry about sharks.”

“So there aren’t any, then?”

“No sharks.” Pa’s voice was firm.

I poked a cloud reflected in the water, watching as ripples spread from my fingertip, and I thought about the eternity of water between us and the ocean floor, dark and cold and silent. A dizzy feeling came over me and I flattened myself against the bottom of the boat.

“You still haven’t made your second guess.”

My heart was making sounds like someone running around on the skin of a giant drum. “Is it Dorothy?”

“Has the sun addled your brain? That dog’s been dead for years. She wouldn’t fit in my pocket, anyhow.”

Dorothy always liked to ocean. Sometimes I’d get up before Pa was awake and take her down to the beach. She was usually a loud dog, but she knew to be quiet on those mornings. The only sound was her nails clicking on the linoleum as she paced in front of the door, waiting for me to get my galoshes on.

“Have some water, Kitten.” Pa leaned forward, retrieving the water bottle from where it rested in the bottom on the boat. He brushed the sand off and uncapped it, holding it out to me.

The water was tepid and tasted like pennies, but it made my mind feel less fuzzy. I took another sip.

“You have one more guess, remember.”

I twisted the cap back on the water. “I don’t know. I don’t know, Pa.” And then I was crying, brackish water streaking from my face. I didn’t want to think about the things I wished Pa’s pocket contained. I didn’t want to think about sea stretching from horizon to horizon, our tiny boat just a speck drifting in the endlessness.

Instead, I leaned over the edge of the boat and watch my tears rejoin the ocean. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, saltwater to saltwater. Things always try to return to where they belong. If only Pa and I could do the same.

“Hey.” Pa’s hand, broad and calloused, touched my back. “You don’t have to guess again. Here, you can just have it.” He tucked a piece of paper in my hand.

I rubbed my eyes, looked down. A woman with dark hair and blue eyes smiled up at me, pretty in her white dress.

“Maybe your Mama will send us some luck.”

I kissed her glossy cheek, warm from Pa’s pocket. There was a faint thumping in my ears, growing louder. It could’ve been a helicopter. Or maybe it was just my heart.

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