I know it’s almost a thousand words but that’s how it turned out. A nice little story, perfect for the Christmas season. Thanks for reading!
A fairly short story by D.J. Lutz; copyright December 2010
Grant Hunter knew he should never have left the dock. A good skipper would have seen the signs and refused taking the charter. After all, it was Christmas Eve and everyone was at home, or getting there, spending time with family. Never enough cargo or passengers for the big car ferries, let alone his small, one boat operation to make a run profitable. Making matters worse, a thick fog covered Pamlico Sound. Now he had sailed in fog before, his radar unit keeping him out of trouble, but something was causing the electronics to act up today – yet another reason to turn down the trip. But this lady was insistent, and he needed the money. ‘Tis the season…to overspend, he thought.
“Is it far to Ocracoke Island?” Grant’s only passenger broke the silence. She was an elderly woman, probably going to visit her grandkids, he thought.
“45 minutes or so,” he answered. “Maybe a bit longer with this fog.”
“Can you see enough to drive?”
“Sail, and yes, we have radar; and…it’s Christmas Eve. There’s only one other boat out here, the Cedar Island Ferry, and we shouldn’t be near her. We’ll be fine.”
“There’s a curse, you know.”
“We’ll be fine. Besides, no one has died in over a century.”
Everyone knew the legend. Some 300 years ago, an English noble, Bertram Grosvenor, married a wealthy French woman, Marie. A year later, on Christmas Eve, he left her, taking her money to buy a ship, sailing away to live the life of a pirate. Eventually, Bertram settled on Ocracoke Island and had several wives. Marie, naturally, was furious. She never remarried, always saying that her true love is somewhere at sea and she won’t rest until she finds him.
Years later, as she lay dying in a pauper’s hospital, she placed a curse upon her wayward husband. Once a year, always on Christmas Eve, she would come back from the spirit world to look for one of his male descendents sailing the seas. If, by the stroke of midnight, the spirit could tell that the man was of pure and honest heart, she would let him live. If his heart was like that of Bertram’s, she would see that the man perished. Over the years, several area families had lost loved ones on the sea; their family tree’s all being traced back to the English pirate. After a while, no one from Ocracoke would take to the water on December 24th, just in case.
“I believe I know your grandfather.”
That statement took Grant by surprise. “Really? And how is that?”
“I saw him one day while he was fishing for blue tuna. Nice looking young man at the time. I was quite taken with him, but I didn’t have time to meet him, really. I guess he was the one that got away. I can see a family resemblance.”
“Blue tuna? They only run this time a year.”
“Indeed. Say, did your grandfather ever mention me?”
“Not that I can recall. What’s your name?”
“Well, we didn’t have a formal introduction at the time. He did wave to me, though. Made my heart thump, he did.”
‘So you were fishing, too?”
“Sort of. It was late at night, almost Christmas day. There was a boating accident; your grandfather went to help, jumping in to save a child that had fallen from one of the boats. He would have drowned had it not been for…other circumstances.”
“I remember him telling me about that, but he didn’t mention you, though.”
The old woman paused, then smiled. The hair on Grant’s neck started to stiffen. Something was wrong.
“I was there. You see, I caused the accident.”
“Not on purpose, though. Right?”
“I had to. Your grandfather is a direct descendent of Bertram Grosvenor, as are you. ”
“But my name is Grant Hunter, not Bertram Grosvenor.”
“My boy, Grosvenor is short for the French Gran Venuer, which, translated…means grand hunter. Hear the connection now?”
“So you are the spirit from the curse?”
“But you said that my grandfather lived due to…other circumstances. What were they?”
“Your grandfather is a good man. I was going to save him and lift the curse, but time ran out. It had become Christmas day. He had to save himself and I had to return to the spirit world, hoping to find another descendent sailing the water on a Christmas Eve.”
The foghorn from the Cedar Island Ferry startled Grant. The boat’s radar had failed again and he had drifted into the other channel. The larger car ferry was right on top of him. Too late to avoid a collision, Grant swung his boat to the side, hoping to have just a glancing blow.
Grant saw the panic on the other ferry. The large vessel was pulling his little boat under. Turning around, he saw that his passenger was gone. A woman screamed, her baby had fallen into the water and was drifting right into the churning wake of the ferry. Grant had to act fast. He leapt into the water, swimming to the crying baby. Reaching him, Grant handed the precious infant to a deck hand, only to be sucked towards the propeller wash himself.
Grant looked on board the ferry. There stood Marie, smiling. “This is it,” he thought.
The sudden silence was deafening. Grant’s boat had been pulled under the larger ferry and in the process fouled the deadly propellers. The boats were both dead in the water now, but at least he and the baby were not.
Once on board the ferry, Grant looked for Marie. She was gone.
Eventually reaching shore, Grant made his way to his grandfather’s house. Walking in the front door, Grant started to explain the whole story. He stopped after a few words, though.
“Grant. I’d like you to meet an old flame of mine. Marie, this is my grandson, Grant.”