Messages From Across The Lake • 1
“Bethany, what are you doing up there? The car is packed. Everyone is waiting.”
“Can’t I stay with Jennifer? Her parents said it was fine. The cabin is so boring.”
“We’ve been over this already. This is a family vacation, and the whole family is going. Now get down here.”
“I have to go, Jennifer. My loser parents are making me go,” Bethany said and hung up the phone. She stomped down the stairs to the front door where her mother was waiting.
“Your friends will be here when you get back. It’s only a week. Try to enjoy it,” her mother said.
“No phone, no TV, no friends. What’s there to enjoy?”
“Get in the car.”
Thus began the tragedy of going to the lake with her family — an unimaginable horror for a 14-year-old suburban girl named Bethany.
“Shut up, Bobby.”
“Both of you be quiet, and try to get along for a change,” their father said. “Someday, you will wish you had been nicer to each other.”
“Not today,” Bethany said under her breath.
It was a two-hour drive to Pike Lake. Carl and Donna Clark had worked hard and saved enough to buy a small cabin on the lake. They mostly went on weekends, but every July, the family spent a full week. The cabin was small and rustic, but it did have electricity and running water. And its own dock.
Bobby, who was 12, spent most of his time at the cabin swimming, fishing, and reading comic books.
Carl grilled every night unless one of the other lake residents invited the family over for dinner. Carl also liked to row around the lake in a small rowboat they kept at the cabin.
Donna mostly spent her days sunbathing and reading novels.
On day two, Bethany got so bored she decided to look in the open shed where her father kept his grilling supplies and lawn equipment. As she suspected, there was nothing interesting inside. Then Bethany looked up at the top shelf. She couldn’t see what was on it, so she stood on a stack of charcoal bags. To her surprise, a small model sailboat was lying on the shelf.
Bethany couldn’t reach the sailboat, so she walked over to the grill where her father was preparing to cook.
“Daddy, can you get me the sailboat on the top shelf in the shed?”
“What are you talking about?”
“There is a small sailboat on the top shelf in the shed.”
“Yeah. I just found it.”
Carl headed to the shed with Bethany following right behind. He reached up and pulled down a hand-made wooden scale model of a sailboat.
“Huh. The last owner must have left it. I never noticed it. Someone put a lot of work into this thing. It’s beautiful.”
“Can I have it? I want to see if it will float.”
Carl handed the sailboat to Bethany. He was glad to see her take an interest in something instead of moping around.
“Hold on a minute,” Carl said. He grabbed a ball of twine and handed it to her. “Better tie a string to it so it doesn’t sail away.”
“Thanks,” Bethany replied.
Bethany headed down to the lake. Bobby saw her walking by with the sailboat.
“Hey, where did you get that?” Bobby asked.
“Never mind. It’s mine.”
“Can I sail it?”
“Absolutely not. Touch it, and you die.”
Bethany sat down at the edge of the water and tied the twine to the sailboat mast. Then she set the sailboat in the water. To her delight, it began to sail away. She let out more twine as it sailed further out into the lake.
“I’ll bet it would make it across the lake if it wasn’t tied,” her father said. He had seen the whole process and walked over to watch.
“I think you’re right,” Bethany said.
That gave Bethany an idea. She pulled the sailboat back in, picked it up, and ran back to the cabin. Her father shook his head and went back to the grill.
Bethany pulled out some paper and a pencil from the kitchen drawer and wrote a note:
If you find this boat, please write a message and send it back across the lake.
She folded the paper up and tied it to the mast with a piece of twine. Then she headed back down to the lake. She put the tiny ship back into the water and gave it a push. Like earlier, it started sailing toward the other side of the lake. Bethany sat down and watched it until it vanished into the horizon.
Pike Lake is a relatively large lake. You can see the other side, but just barely. It is a shallow lake. No motorized ships are allowed, only rowboats, sailboats, and canoes.
Bethany’s mother sat down next to her and said, “I heard about the sailboat. Can I see it?”
“Not anymore. It’s probably halfway across the lake by now.”
“I let it go.”
“You let it go? Why?”
“I tied a note to it and want to see if someone will send it back.”
“Your father is going to be mad.”
“Don’t tell him until later. Let’s not ruin dinner.”
They didn’t make it through dinner.
“Did you show your mother the sailboat, Beth?”
“Not exactly. I let it sail across the lake.”
“What? I can’t believe you. Why would you throw away something so nice.”
“I didn’t throw it away. I let it sail away. And I attached a note asking whoever found it to reply and send it back.”
“Well, the odds of that happening are about zero. I shouldn’t have given you the boat.”
“Carl, you’re acting childish. Bethany found the sailboat. It was hers. She is free to do whatever she wants with it,” Donna said.
After cooling down, Carl said, “You’re right. I’m sorry for snapping at you, Bethany. We can take the rowboat out in the morning and look for it.”
“Alright,” Bethany replied.
The next morning Carl and Bethany rowed around the entire lake but didn’t see the sailboat anywhere.
“I’m sorry, Honey. Someone must have taken it. Or it sank,” Carl said.
“Maybe someone took it to write a message,” Bethany replied.
“Maybe. We can look again tomorrow if you like.”
“That’s alright, Dad. It was a dumb idea.”
“Let’s go get some ice cream,” Carl said.
The rest of the day, Bethany walked the shoreline looking for the sailboat. Nothing. The following day, she walked it again. This time, Bethany found the boat stuck in some reeds by the shore. Her heart jumped. She grabbed the sailboat and checked it for a message. Sure enough, there was a piece of paper attached to the mast. She unfolded the paper and read the note.
Your ship is beautiful.
Someday, I will build a sailboat also.
Bethany ran back to the house to get paper and a pencil. Her mother was in the kitchen, making sandwiches.
“Mom! Mom! It worked. Someone sent it back with a message.”
“Really? What did the message say?”
Bethany read the message to her.
“That’s great, Beth.”
“I am going to send another message right away.”
Bethany wrote her next message.
Daniel, how old are you?
Do you own a cabin on the lake?
Two days later, Bethany found the sailboat again. She quickly opened the message.
Bethany, I just turned 15 yesterday.
My Dad owns a cabin.
We visit every year, on the first week of July.
We are leaving tomorrow.
Write me next summer.
Bethany spun around with joy. Daniel was only four months older. Bethany spent the rest of the summer imagining what Daniel was like and looking forward to next year.
Continue reading in part two: