The breeze wandered sorrowfully through the trees, gently touching my cheek. It would never again carry the sound of James’s laughter. Henry and I surveyed the wreckage from above. Our beautiful ship, who had carried us over seas and starry galaxies, was in pieces.
Henry slapped a mosquito, “I’ve only got an hour. James’s parents asked me to pick his outfit for the funeral. You are going right?”
“I dunno…” I shrugged, “My dad says they blame me for what happened. Maybe my going isn’t a good idea.”
“That’s bull!” Henry chucked a stick into the ship’s remains, “We’re his best friends.”
The stick caught in the orange climbing ropes we used as rigging, dangling from a tree. I hoisted those ropes up the enormous fallen branch we made into our mast. It had been James’s idea.
“Guys!” James whispered, sliding into his seat as the last bell of elementary school rang, “That oak tree by our boat dropped an enormous limb in the storm last night. It’s bigger than my mom’s F150. It’ll be the perfect mast.”
“That’s if we can even move it,” I replied.
“Your dad is unemployed, ask him to help us. With a mast anchoring the center we can build out the rest of the boat with my mom’s salvaged junk. She won’t even notice it’s gone. Once the hard part’s done, you and me and Henry can do the rest.”
That weekend our dads loaded the F150 with James’s mom’s salvaged stuff, and together we had the limb up and secured by noon. Soon the boat was finished. All reclaimed wood and metal siding with a deck of plywood on logs, and in the center, trimmed out with a purple bedsheet sail on orange rigging, was our mast. An old steering wheel and some metal pipes became a helm and cannons.
“Pirates beware!” We yelled, brandishing pretend swords.
James’s dad made a sign with the ship’s name for James’s eleventh birthday, and hung it on the mast. The Beagle, like Darwin’s ship, in anticipation of impending discoveries. We adventured that summer, with wind in our sail, breezes carrying our laughter into the forest.
The hurricane hit in September. We stayed at James’s house, riding out the storm on higher ground. I forgot my backpack on the ship, so we snuck out. The wind shoved us back toward the house as we dashed through the darkening woods. The skies opened as I grabbed my bag, and we scrambled back up the slippery sides of the bank.
James called, “I forgot the sign!” Sliding back down.
“LEAVE IT” I yelled over the howling wind.
He didn’t listen. As he ran to the the ship, a blinding light tore through the woods. When I could see again, The Beagle was gone. So was James.
“Look!” Henry’s yell snapped me from my daze. He pulled at something in the mud. The Beagle’s sign.
“Bring it to the funeral. James will need this, sailing our ship on his adventures.”
Authors Note: This story was written for a prompt about a ship and its crew and had to be exactly 500 words.