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Come Sail Away

Here's a super-short story I wrote for an informal flash fiction workshop I attended earlier this year. I don't do much prose writing at all, but I thought this one turned out fairly well. The prompt was something like "Hey man, wanna ride?"

Come Sail Away  

“Sorry, kid,” the boatman said, “no discounts. Everyone pays the same.”

The mop-haired boy stared back blankly for a moment, then reached into the pocket of his cut-offs and brought out a fifty cent piece. He hadn’t realized it was there. He held it out to the boatman.

“Perfect. Hop in.”

The kid clambered into the narrow wooden skiff. It wobbled as he made his way to the bow. He sat, facing the back of the boat, and started worrying at a few pebbles he’d picked up on the shore.

With a practiced stroke, the boatman slipped his pole into the black water, leaned into it and pushed off. Noiselessly, the skiff slid out into the calm, mist-covered river. No wind, slow current — easy sailing today, the boatman thought.

They’d gone fifty yards before the iron-on decal on the kid’s blue-sleeved jersey caught the boatman’s eye. Under a picture of five long-haired men, a pointy, rainbow-colored logo read “Styx.” The boatman snorted as he stifled a giggle.

“What?” The kid glowered at the boatman.


The boy chucked a pebble into the dark water.

The boatman poled a bit further, then took the half-dollar from his cloak and glanced at the date. 1968. And the kid looked to be about ten, eleven maybe, so... late ‘70s some time? He put the coin away again and cleared his throat.

“So... did you see that movie ‘Star Wars’ yet?” The boatman said “yet” on the assumption that if the kid hadn’t seen it, he’d be able to catch it once he was on the other side. The boatman didn’t know for sure if it worked that way, but he liked to think so.

The kid nodded, looking down at his hands.

“Pretty cool, huh?”

The kid shrugged and whipped another pebble into the river.

“Yeah...” the boatman said, and looked away, into the mist rising off the water.

After a long pause, the boy muttered, “I liked ‘Smokey & the Bandit’ better.”

“Oh, yeah? Hey, I liked that flick a lot, too.” For a second the boatman considered mentioning the time he gave Jackie Gleason a ride, but that wouldn’t happen until 1987, and explaining how time worked here would take the whole trip, so he decided against it. “Yeah, I love car chase movies. ‘10-4, good buddy!’ Right?”

Another pause. The kid mumbled, “Sucks...”

“What? You just said you liked it.”

“Not that,” the kid said, “this. I wasn’t even doing anything, I wasn’t popping wheelies or doing jumps or anything, I was just riding normal, going to the store for a pop. I just hit a chuck hole and the handle bars twisted and I landed funny. So stupid.” He flung the remaining stones into the mist, where they splashed into the water unseen.

The boatman sighed, thought for a moment. Then he lifted the pole out of the water, swung it to the other side of the boat, and jammed it hard into the river bottom, bringing the boat about, pointing it back the way they’d come.

“What are you doing? Are you taking me back?” The surprised kid half rose from his seat.

The boatman knew what he meant. “Uh, no, kid, sorry. I can’t do that. It’s just — this boat stuff is the boring way across. I got a better idea.”


The ’68 Charger — black, of course, with a crude skull painted on each door — flew down the deserted road, leaving a wake of dust behind it. Inside, the boatman wrestled the wheel and shouted to be heard over the roar of the unmuffled hemi.

“Sorry it’s not a Trans-Am!”

The kid’s white-knuckled hands clutched at the arm rests. He was bracing one foot against the glovebox, and his eyes were bugging out, but he was smiling. He yelled back.

“No way, this rules!”

They were on top of the orange construction sign so quickly they could barely read the words “BRIDGE OUT” before it shattered into splinters against the front bumper. Then the stub of the ruined span, rising like a ramp, was in front of them, then there was a hard WHAM! as they struck it, and then there was nothing but sky in the windshield, and over the sound of the engine screaming as the wheels clawed at the air, the kid and the boatman howled in unison.



Sean Bieri said…
And if someone's beat me to this story idea already, let me know that too so I can curse the internet and my lack of creativity! (I hate when that happens...)
Anonymous said…
Nice. If some one has already covered this, I'm sure that it doesn't have the same bittersweet feeling that you have captured. It's obvious you can create a story through your drawings, this one let's us create the images. Thank you Sean.

Anonymous said…
Thanks for sharing some of your writing. Lovely!

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