I’m participating in a 13-week flash fiction streak where we’re asked to write 500-word stories every week based on a prompt. This week’s prompt is –
Three couples hire a small boat and a captain for a whale watching tour, but when the boat returns to the dock several hours later, only six people remain on board.
Here’s what I came up with. Happy Reading (I hope!)
Ness dug his hands deeper into his coat pockets and wobbled over to the deck. Behind him, the Monterey shore was turning into a distant speck. He stared out into the vast blue ahead. Cold gusts of briny wind slapped his cheeks. He wished he was someplace warm. He could go inside and sit with the others in the galley, but that would mean sitting with Cora.
Ten years ago, Ness had knelt on the warm Monterey sand. “Coraline Kumar, will you marry me?”
“I’m a marine biologist and you hate getting near water, how will we ever manage?” Cora teased.
“Oh we’ll get by. Now say yes, my legs are going numb!”
“Yes, a million times, yes!” Cora’s eyes were wet.
The Monterey Prince sputtered and slowed down. Although whale watching had always been Cora’s thing, a tiny tinge of excitement managed to climb up his spine. A couple of dolphins jumped in neat U’s. The galley door behind him let out a loud squeak.
“Spotted something.” The captain’s walrus-like mustache moved with his voice. “It’s usually gray whales, but we might sight an orca if we’re lucky!” He rubbed his palms in anticipation and walked towards the railing.
On the other side of the deck, Sarah leaned on the railing and retched. Her wife, Beth, held her hair back. Cora stood beside them, looking into the distance.
“Nessy!” Glen slapped Ness’s back. “How you holdin’ up, buddy?” Before Ness could answer, Glen continued. “We saw some beautiful humpbacks up close in Baja last year. Majestic creatures!” Cora would have rolled her eyes at this.
“You should come with us to Reykjavik next year! Cruising along the North Coast, midnight whale watching, so exciting!” Maya clapped her hands.
Ness had always found the couple infuriating. Despite what their spouses thought, Cora’s friendship with Maya and Sarah was unbreakable.
“Oh, please show up, humpback!” On their first whale watching tour, Cora had clutched this very railing and pleaded to an imaginary whale. Ness had smiled and held her close. “Did you know whale vomit is used to make perfumes?” she asked. Her excited eyes sparkled in the morning sun.
“I love it when you talk whale to me.” Ness grinned. Cora’s laughter was like sunbeams breaking through dark clouds.
She had stopped talking ever since they’d found the cancer. As if being angry and refusing to accept it would make it go away.
“I don’t know what to say!” she yelled when Ness had tried to talk. “I need some time to process this, that’s all.”
“As you wish, honey.”
“There it is! A Humpback!” The captain pointed directly in front of the boat. A water fountain emerged from its blowhole with a loud hiss.
Sarah and Maya placed their hands on Ness’s slumped shoulders. “Nessy, it’s time.”
He took Cora in his hands and emptied the urn into the vast blue. “Goodbye, sweet Cora.” he whispered.
He wasn’t sure if he imagined it, but the whale sang that day.