The sun peeked above the horizon and sped across the ocean to a strip of sand that used to be a beach. One by one, piles of rubble were illuminated on a landscape changed forever in a single, dreadful night.
So bright—so frigid. The Queen struggled to come up from her fog. Where am I? Ringing silence gave way to the rhythmic pulse of rotors in the sky. So many voices. All strangers—swearing and talking about wreckage.
“This one’s ok—those others are junk.” Cameras clicked as three sets of footsteps passed.
Are they talking about me?
“The Osborne fire jumped the road,” One stranger said.
How bad am I?
“By the grace of God,” A familiar voice answered, “It stopped two blocks away.”
Why am I lying in sand? The Queen spiraled back into her darkness for hours or days—time stood still, sped and sputtered in a bizarre haze until squealing brakes woke her up again.
Amid strobes and police cars, the bus ground to a halt. A passenger stepped out onto the crumbled highway and walked through the remnants of the marina gate with her hand clamped over her mouth.
“Little girl, how did you get here?” A man barked in a German accent.
“I have ID.”
I know that voice. The Queen fought to wake up. Clara?
The girl whipped around and stared into the wreckage.
“This paperwork looks fake.” The man planted his hands on his hips. “Hello missy, pay attention please.”
“Thought I heard something.” The girl turned back to face him. “Who are you, exactly?”
“Hans, the crane operator. Workers from all over the world are here to clean up this catastrophe.”
“I’m Clara. I have to find my boat.”
“Is that the warmest coat you have?” Hans asked.
“It is today.” The whir of a zipper was followed by Clara’s voice muffled under a scarf. “I’ve searched the news footage…all the video is about the roller coaster in the ocean or the ruined mansions up the highway.”
“Which boat is yours, honey? They all look the same. This…” He waved at piles of ruined watercraft, some upside down and sinking and others torn open like tin cans. “This mess, is why people need to put names on their boats.”
A swipe of her fingers flicked away tears. “Glory.”
“You mean the Queen?” The man pointed south, across the yard. “She’s right there.”
“Where? The girl brushed her hair from her face and took a few steps south.
“Whoa, wait. You can’t walk the lot alone. There’s holes in the sand deeper than you are tall.”
Hans led Clara across the marina, pointing out jagged metal and steering her around craters. “The ocean roared through here.”
“I see someone’s entire kitchen and…” Clara picked up a shattered piano keyboard. “How high was the water?”
“Over your head, maybe over mine.” The man stopped short and pointed to the last boat on the edge of the debris. “Here she is…we’ve blocked her up now, so she wouldn’t roll over, but that boat behind her kept her upright. Bit of a miracle, but a shame, the only marking left on that little one is a tiny dolphin on the stern.”
Clara? A weak voice crackled into the wind.
“I found you.” Clara rested her shaking palm on the white boat.
Am I dead? The touch of familiar fingers, sparked energy that raced through the Queen’s hull. Is it over?
“Yes, it’s over. But you made it, Glory.”
Another man trudged across the lot. “That old girl is built like a tank. She didn’t just make it, she saved the Dragon too, though they left a few scars on each other.” He pointed to the swath of mud cut by seawater. “Right here—this was brink of disaster. The current washed her stern around but the bow, is exactly where I blocked it up.”
“Mr. James.” Clara hugged him with one arm, keeping her right hand on Glory.
“Clara, you shouldn’t be here. But, I know why you came.”
“She’s a survivor, my survivor.” Clara rubbed her hands across dings and scratches in the gel coat. “Can one of you do me a favor, please?”
“If you promise to get back on that bus and go home,” Mr. James said, “I know your parents and they must be worried sick.”
Clara nodded and pulled an American flag out of her coat. It unfurled to a full eight feet long. “Can you hang this? I have zip ties.”
“I’ll do it.” Hans grabbed a step-ladder and climbed to the top. He took the ensign off Glory’s bow and tossed it to Clara. “Hold onto that.”
“This was brand new in September.” Clara rubbed the fabric in her hands. The red and white stripes were shredded to ribbons and tied in knots, but the “Don’t Tread On Me” lettering and serpent were still intact.
“That’s what a hundred mile-per-hour wind does,” Hans said, “Now, where do you want this beauty?”
Clara pointed to the rail above her head. The flag whipped in the wind and she felt Glory’s hull vibrate, as trickles of life lit chrome and stainless steel.
Hans stood back nodded at the massive flag. “That should bump the roller coaster off the news. Unbelievable, in this day and age, nobody saw what happened here. No power, no satellite photos—just a disaster zone.”
I know what happened, Clara. I’ll tell you every detail.
“How will this ever get cleaned up? It’s so…” Clara searched for the right word. “Destroyed.”
“I’m not just cleaning it up. I’m rebuilding—better than new.” Mr. James spread his arms. “This place will be sparkling by Memorial Day.”
“I promise,” Clara whispered, “I’ll go as soon as the bus comes back.”
“Take your time.” Both men stepped away and watched the teenage girl rest her palms and forehead against the hull.
“She always talk to that boat?” Hans mumbled.
“And the boat answers,” Mr. James said, “People thinks she’s nuts, but you and I know she’s not.”
“I knew you’d make it, Glory.” Clara didn’t try to stop her tears this time.
Sshhh, please don’t cry. Your prayers saved me…saved my soul.
As the late autumn sun began to set, Clara boarded the bus as promised. She took a long look back at the piles of boats and mountains of debris. Glory sparkled on the edge of the wreckage, her new flag billowing in the wind, her light and life returning and growing brighter by the minute.
“My Glory.” Clara poked the bus driver’s elbow.
“All I saw was a pile of rubble when I dropped you off, but it looks like you sprinkled that ship with glitter.” The bus driver pointed to the red, white and blue in Clara’s hand. “You should frame that little flag.”
Clara slumped down in the seat behind the driver and dropped her face into her hands.
“I know it’s been a nightmare.,” The driver said, “A bad time for our shore, but if we work together, we’ll come out the other side.”
“Stronger.” Clara nodded.
The bus driver swung the doors shut. “I assume you named her?”
“She kinda’ named herself.”
“Never stop believing.” He smiled into the rearview mirror. “Hold tight, your soul.”
Clara wiped the final tears from her eyes. “It was Glory, who held onto me.”
Based on the true story of Glory Days…a survivor, my inspiration and a genuine Queen.
To catch up on the talking boats;
Monsters & Angels available now on Amazon!