Angus Pratt's Home  >  Creative  >  Writing  >  Storm Rewrite #1


"When do I get to try this canoe stuff?" leica sipped her cup of hot coffee, gazing at the sun rising across the tranquil lake. The pinks and purples entranced her. The low bank of cloud added a pebbly texture to the sky. She wondered if sunrises in Los Angeles were this beautiful. Of course she had never gotten up this early to see. Even if she had, the smog would have made it difficult to see. It had been the smell of hot coffee that had enticed her from bed.

Malcolm eyed the sky and answered reluctantly, "You've been here less than twenty-four hours and you want to be out on the water? You know the old sailor's adage?"


"Red sky at night sailors delight, red sky in the morning sailors warning. That would be as red as it gets and those clouds are bringing a storm." He patted the rock. "Here take a load off and enjoy."

She folded her legs underneath herself and laid a hand on the rock. The old Precambrian rock felt rough and solid to her touch. Her fingers wandered into the crevices.

"Did you know some of these lichens are over three hundred years old. Archeologists use them to date some of the artifacts and historic sites on the shield. They know how long they take to grow and when they measure them they can tell how long something has been lying or how long it has been sitting there."

"Are you trying to change the subject?" leica grinned.

"Well" he sighed "yes but I suppose we could paddle out to those first islands there. It would take about ten minutes. Let's get the paddles and life jackets."

Malcolm picked up the canoe, sliding it up onto his knees and then rolling it up onto his shoulders. He settled it on the life jacket and crouched to pick up his paddle balancing the canoe with his other hand.

He strode down the trail, winding through the trees with the 17-ft canoe. leica trailed along behind holding her paddle and life jacket.

Reaching the water, Malcolm reversed the loading motion, landing the stern of the canoe as lightly as thistledown on the water. He ran it out into the water hand over hand on the gunnel. He looked at the paddle in leica hands. He cleared his throat."I suppose you want some idea of how to use that thing?" He went on. "Couple of parts to a paddle. This is the blade. It does the work. This is the shaft. One hand goes on the throat here and the other up here on the handle." He looked over. "Try it."

Malcolm watched as leica grasped the paddle, arms braced rigidly in front of her. "OK Now think about stirring a big pudding with it." He showed how the paddle would draw through the water and then return, the blade parallel to the water, to start the stroke again. "There are a few variations on that but that's the basic stroke. It'll be easier in the water."

Lifting the canoe off the rock and balancing lightly, Malcolm climbed in.

"You make that look easy." leica laughed.

"It is easy. Hop in." Malcolm steadied the canoe with one hand on a rock and the other holding his paddle braced in the water. leica stepped in as he counterbalanced the canoe. He pushed off from the rock.

"Ohff," leica squeaked "we're off. Did I do good getting in?"

Malcolm grunted, "We're not swimming." He dug his paddle in and straightened the canoe heading southeast to the island.

leica tentatively put her paddle in leaning forward and pulling back arms held stiff.

"Try using the lower hand as a fulcrum and the upper pushing in the lever." Malcolm requested. "Like this." leica turned to watch.

He quickly settled into the paddling rhythm, watching her try to figure it all out.

"Look at that," she called after a few minutes.

"Look at what?"

"The little whirlpools that my paddle makes," she questioned, "should it be doing that?"

"Yup" he said stifling the laugh that came unbidden to his lips.

The island drew closer. The dark pine in the centre shattered by a lightening bolt attracted leica attention. Circling the island Malcolm paddled closer.

A sudden squeal of fright came from the front of the boat. Malcolm went from calm contemplation of the waves to high alert.


He looked and couldn't see anything Looking down into two feet of water he could see the rocky bottom. "Silly goose," he chuckled "This thing only needs about four inches of water. Reach down with your paddle and see if you can even touch those."

leica plunged her paddle in and realized that at her end of the canoe the water was at least five feet deep. She relaxed. "The water is so clear. Can we look at that tree? I've never seen anything hit by lightening before."

When they came back down from the top of the island, the canoe was bouncing on the rocks each time a wave hit.

"Should we be getting back? Those waves look bigger." leica asked.

"Sure. We'll be going down wind so it won't be a big deal. They are starting to break though that means the wind is getting stronger. That storm must be closer than I thought."

They scrambled into the canoe and set out. As the rounded the point into the main part of the bay Malcolm realized it was rougher than he thought. He stretched one leg out in front and tucked one knee under neath settling in for a hard pull.

"We have to quarter these waves and keep paddling hard to let me steer." He yelled. The words were snatched from his mouth by the rising wind. He glanced back over his shoulder. They were committed. There would be no turning back to the safety of the island.

They shot down the face of one wave and began the slow climb up the next. There was no time for thought or speech as they struggled to keep the canoe moving at an angle across the waves. The waves were deep enough that from the trough of one they could barely see the shore.

As they survived wave after wave, climbing and plunging, white foam curling around them Malcolm realized they were almost across the bay.

"Yahoo," he yelled "this is just like surfing. California girl like you outta love surf."

"Don't talk to me about surf," she ground out, "just get me back on shore."

"Ok on the next wave I need to turn us and head us into the wind. Ready?"

Seeing the quick nod from leica, he plunged his paddle in and swung the bow up into the wind. Three great strokes and he slipped over the side into knee-deep water. Angus waded to shore holding the canoe steady so that leica could step out.

"That was quite a ride. You never know what mother nature is going to throw at you."

"Have you ever paddled in anything like that before?"

"Yup" there was a long pause. "Only a couple of times in thirty years though."