New Seas Ahead—By Mikaela Grahlman

And finally, we bring you the Vault Writing Contest’s Third Place Winner: “New Seas Ahead,” written by Mikaela Grahlman. Thank you to everyone who participated! We are very grateful for your submissions!

Dead in the morning, John returned home from his travels through the Mediterranean
Sea. After a tiresome trek, he longed for dry clothes and the satisfying warmth that rum and coke would soon bring to his chest. The sea had been unsteady, much like John’s disposition, and with his temper quickly rising, his crew had no choice but to throw him overboard. For they feared he would harm them once again. The man no longer was respected. He was no longer captain of the sea. John’s family did not know of his arrival, nor did he until his splash with reality.

Upon entering the house, the drained gentleman removes his shoes and jacket in an
attempt to trail less water. He sees his children glaring at the T.V and nimbly says, “Ahoy there!”
but they do not reply. Do they not respect him either? He wonders. Hearing the washing machine tumble, John peeks into the laundry room, “Hello, love.” he says, longing to feel his wife’s supple hands stroke his cold, pallid face, but she is not present. Stepping to the front porch, the former captain pulls out his rusted cigarette tin, sparks a match, and begins chain-smoking. An hour or so passes when his wife returns home – knocking the garbage bins over as she pulls into the driveway. It must be Monday, John reasons. He twists his dying cigarette into the pavement before returning inside to sleep off his confusion.

“Dammit! I need a drink,” the man groans, collapsing onto the bed, before remembering
the flask in his side pocket. He chugs until the last drop gently plops onto his dry tongue.
Moments later, his wife enters the room frantically, sobbing John’s name. Questioning what he
had done, he asks, but she, too, does not acknowledge his presence. Remembering that his wife
rigorously crosses each day off their calendar, he rushes downstairs to verify if it is Monday. But
as he glances towards the rest of the week, he sees John’s Funeral written for this coming Friday. In disbelief, the man stumbles to the kitchen table and lays his head to rest. Moments later, his wife and kids gather into the kitchen to spout his passing. Storm, his oldest, expresses his sorrows, wishing he knew more about his father. John wakes to the sound of his voice. “You did know me,” he says, disoriented, “Son, I was a captain, you know this!”

His wife adorns his memory yet questions whether she ever even knew the man she had
slept beside. Memories flood her mind as she remembers his hunger of being a captain. John
enrolled in the Navy, but a week before his departure soon discovered she was pregnant. He
delayed his venture and found work while she grew Storm. The woman felt it was her fault. Even
before they met, John coped with substances. She never could help him. A sad truth she feared most felt when losing someone. At first, their love was supple; he used alcohol to ease his mind
from work, and reluctantly she supplied. Years flew by, and he never came ashore nor pulled his
anchor back on board. The captain’s mind got caught in the Bermuda Triangle, aimlessly
searching for more than what life could promise. John drowned in rum- his mind and soul
drained from the inside out, trying to stay afloat.

With tears spewing down his sunken cheeks, the man slowly steps towards his family. He
hugs them one by one, knowing they could not see him but hoping they could feel his remorse.
All John desired was to be respected, but knew he received very little throughout his life. A fool
he was to choose the sea over his crew, such an act a captain would never do. John accepts that
his family had no other choice but to throw him overboard. “It could have been different,” the
man sighs, staring at his children and wife one last time, before gradually turning towards the
door. He waves, knowing the obstacles and distress he has caused will someday pass, and wishes his family well as they start their new beginning, and he parts for his.

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