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Old Man and Little Boat
July 3, 2015
By Armando Almase
Once upon a time, there was an old man named, Viktor. He lived alone in a small house near the sea. He grew fruits and vegetables in a garden and collected fresh water from a nearby waterfall. Viktor was an avid fisherman and loved the variety of seafood found in the sea.
Viktor’s best friend was named Little Boat. When Viktor was a young man, he found this little tugboat washed up on the shore. The tiny boat had been badly damaged and abandoned. Viktor felt sorry for this little boat, and couldn’t understand how somebody could’ve abandoned it.
Piece by piece, Viktor carried the boat back to his home, where he began to rebuild and repair this little tugboat. For many years, Viktor worked day and night, stopping only to eat and sleep. Fortunately, the boat’s engine was in good shape and only needed minor repairs and cleaning.
The night before Viktor’s thirtieth birthday, he worked extra late, until finally, he finished. Exhausted, Viktor drifted off to sleep. He was so tired that instead of going back to his home, he fell asleep on his boat.
Early the next morning, as the sun began to rise, Viktor was startled awake by an unusual dream. “Little Boat!” cried Viktor as he awakened. Viktor picked himself up off the floor and sat down in the captain’s chair.
“Today is my thirtieth birthday, my friend!” said Viktor and he wrapped his arms around the steering wheel. “I’m going to name you, Little Boat.”
Just then, something amazing happened. The boat began to hum. Startled, Viktor jumped out of his seat. The strange humming sound grew louder and louder until finally, from deep within the boat’s engine, Viktor heard:
“Huummm-hello!” said Little Boat.
“H-hello?” replied Viktor.
Viktor’s jaw dropped and his eyes widened. “How, how are you talking?”
“I don’t know.”
Viktor began rubbing his eyes and shook his head. “You can speak!”
“Yes, I can speak but only to you, my friend.”
Viktor walked back to the engine compartment. “May I see your engine?”
“Yes, you may but please be careful.”
Viktor pulled open the floor panel that covered Little Boat’s engine and began carefully looking inside. Viktor observed the usual parts: the fuel pump, a fresh water pump, salt water pump, and the exhaust manifold.
Then Viktor noticed something unusual: Near the oil pump, was something he hadn’t noticed before…
“You have a heart!?” yelled Viktor as he chuckled.
“Is that surprising?” replied Little Boat.
“Why are you surprised, my friend?”
“I’ve never seen a boat with a heart!”
“Dear friend, you took great care in repairing me. Your love and compassion brought me to life. I was a stranger to you. You had nothing to gain by helping me, but you did anyway. I will always be your friend,” said Little Boat.
During the next fifty years, Viktor and Little Boat would travel great distances together and have many wonderful adventures. The two friends were inseparable. Viktor no longer slept in his little house, near the sea. Viktor’s home was now Little Boat.
The day finally came when Viktor said to Little Boat, “My dear friend, for many years we’ve traveled together, experiencing all that the sea had to offer. I believe it’s time for us to retire. I am old, and we must admit that you’ve seen better days.”
“Yes, we have traveled the world. I cannot imagine there’s a place we haven’t been,” said Little Boat, “although you’ve taken great care of me over the years, my body is rusting and my engine is old. My heart is weak but remains full of love.”
For the next ten years, Viktor and Little boat enjoyed the quiet life, retelling their stories to anybody that would listen. Viktor had grown weak and was unable to continue with general repairs and maintenance of Little Boat.
The night before Viktor’s ninetieth birthday, it was especially windy. Viktor was startled awake by the dream. “Little Boat!” cried Viktor as he awakened.
“What’s wrong, my friend?” said Little Boat.
“Oh, na-nothing, I just had-a-a horrible dream.”
“It’s OK,” replied Little Boat, “I had the same dream.”
Viktor looked puzzled, “What do you mea-“.
Just then, Viktor was interrupted by a man yelling in the distance, “Viktor, Viktor!”
Viktor picked himself up off the floor and leaned over the starboard side of Little Boat. “What is it?” asked Viktor.
“A family! There’s a family in trouble!”
The man explained that a man, woman, and their two children are stranded on a island due to a tropical storm which hit their home and destroyed their boat. They have no shelter and no food. The storm has torn everything apart.
“Viktor, I know this is too much to ask, but they need your help. There’s nobody else who knows these waters like you. The storm has caused tremendous damage and all of the rescue vessels have been lost at sea.”
“How do we know they’re still alive?” asked Viktor.
“The captain of a rescue vessel radioed our tower moments before his radio went silent. The captain of the vessel claimed that he observed this family waving and shouting from the shore, but was unable to reach them.”
“I’m ready!” said Little Boat.
“I’m sorry,” said Viktor to the man, “but we are old and tired. We no longer possess the strength for adventure.”
“Please Viktor? You’re their only hope.” replied the man as he turned and walked away.
Viktor slumped down into his captain’s chair. “Little Boat, I’m sorry but we cannot do this.”
“Dear friend, when we first met, I was a stranger to you but you showed me love and compassion. You cared for me and brought me to life.”
Viktor wrapped his brittle hands around Little Boat’s steering wheel. “Yes, you’re right,” replied Viktor as he closed his eyes. “Are you ready for one last adventure?”
“I am ready, dear friend.”
With a heavy heart, Viktor untied Little Boat from the dock and the two friends set out to sea, into the darkness. Hundreds of miles and hours from home, Viktor and Little Boat approached the island where the family was seen. “Do you see anyone, Little Boat?” Viktor asked as he shined the spotlight toward the shore.
“No, I don-wait!” yelled Little Boat, “There, in the east, by the shore!”
Viktor increased the throttle, and as they got closer to the island, Viktor spotted four people, jumping and waving their arms.
“Ahoy!” yelled Viktor.
“Ahoy, there!” yelled the man.
“Are you the only ones on the island?”
“We are! It’s a small community and everybody else made it off the island before the storm hit.”
As the family boarded Little Boat, Viktor asked, “How is it you are the only on the island?”
“We received little warning of the approaching storm. My children had set off earlier in the day, as they always do, exploring the island. By the time we saw the storm heading our direction, my wife and I couldn’t leave because our children had not returned home.”
The group made their way back out to sea and headed for home. “We’ll take you back to our island,” Said Viktor.
“Sir, if it’s all the same to you, my brother and his family live on the island in the north. Will you take us there?” asked the man’s wife.
Viktor sighed, “That’s one hundred miles in the opposite direction.”
“We should bring them to their family,” Said Little Boat.
“Alright,” said Viktor, “we’ll take you to your family.”
The man’s wife and children wrapped their arms around Viktor, “Oh thank you, sir!” they said.
Hours later, the group arrived at their destination and the man, his wife, and their children de-boarded Little Boat.
“Thanks again!” yelled the two children as they stepped onto the shore.
As Little Boat turned toward home, Viktor waved “goodbye” to the family.
“Are you glad we helped them?” asked Little Boat.
“I suppose it was the right thing to do,” replied Viktor.
As Viktor and Little Boat approached the island where they picked-up the family, the sun began to rise in the east and Little Boat’s engine began to sputter.
“Little Boat, what’s wrong?” asked Viktor.
“Dear friend, I… I grow weak”.
“Come on, Little Boat! We can make it home!”
Little Boat increased his throttle and his engine began to chug. “Yes, Little Boat, you can do it!”
Suddenly there was a loud “BANG!”, which came from Little Boat’s engine.
“Oh no!” cried Viktor.
Viktor walked to Little Boat’s stern, lifted the floorboard that covered the engine compartment, and smoke began to roll out from inside the engine.
“I’m sorry, my friend,” said Little Boat.
“It’s m-my heart.”
Viktor leaned down and observed a red liquid dripping out of Little Boat’s heart.
“How do I fix it?” Viktor asked as tears began to roll down his face.
“You cannot fix my heart, it’s not made of nuts and bolts and metal. My heart was made from the love and generosity you showed me when we first met.”
Viktor fell to his knees and began to weep.
“My dear friend, we knew this journey was to be our last,” said Little Boat.
Viktor lied down on the floor. “I’m so tired, Little Boat”.
“I know, my friend.”
“Today is my birthday, Little Boat.”
“I know, it’s my birthday too.”
“What do you mean?”
“The morning of your thirtieth birthday was the day I was born.” Replied Little Boat.
“Wha-? Oh no!” cried Viktor.
“What’s wrong, my friend?”
“I’ve never celebrated your birthday!” replied Viktor as he tightly closed his eyes, “I’m so sorry!”
“It’s alright, father.”
Viktor placed his hand on top of Little Boat’s engine.
“It’s almost time,” said Little Boat with a weakened voice.
“We had many wonderful adventures together, my son, I love you,” Viktor said as his eyes closed and his heart stopped.
“I love you, father,” said Little Boat as the last remaining drops of liquid fell from his heart.
The sea became silent and still, and the wind stopped. Moments later, a rumbling sound began to emerge, from deep within the water. Suddenly, from underneath the boat, the sea raised her mighty arms high into the sky, “My son’s! You’ve given your lives, so that others may live. I’m taking you home,” she said as she wrapped herself around Little Boat and Viktor, pulling them down into her dark embrace.