Short Story: The Broken Paddle

The Broken Paddle

Years ago I started rowing. My boat was ready and I made some great miles. Goal after goal I met. Sometimes the race was a bit harder, sometimes it was easier than I had anticipated. But overall, life was good and I found satisfaction from rowing hard. My experience grew and I learned new techniques along the way, which allowed me to race more effectively. Or take a sneaky shortcut every now and then. Every day when I came home, I knew what my next day would more or less look like. The goal was clear. Sometimes the only thing that would be unpredictable was the weather and many times the waves would hinder my progress. That’s life.

I changed boats a few times, but the principle was still the same. The game hadn’t changed much. Life was simple and everything was manageable. That was until recently. They say that frogs don’t feel that they’re being boiled alive, that, because of the gradually rising temperature they don’t know what’s happening until it’s too late. The same thing happened to me, sort of. Over the past year I never noticed how much mistier the lake had become. I thought I was doing okay, but somewhere along the road the mist just kept creeping further up until I was entirely lost. To make matters worse I also seem to have lost both of my paddles. There’s no goal anywhere in sight and I have no clue where I am.

Here I am, in a boat without paddles. In the middle of the mist covered lake, without a finish line in sight.
“Hello?” I shout in frustration.
I don’t get any reply and watch as the mist closes in on me. It becomes so thick I’m almost starting to feel claustrophobic. Do I really have any chance on my own? I curse myself silently. How did it ever come this far? Why hadn’t I noticed the mist and when did rowing ever become my job in the first place?

If there’s a meter sight left, it’s much. I haven’t been in a situation like this ever before. I try to remain calm, but I long to be safely on the shore again. Suddenly from the thick mist I can see a shape coming closer. It’s another boat! The figure aboard seems shrouded, almost like a specter. Wondering if I’m not hallucinating I look away and then back. He’s still there, offering a paddle of sorts. I look at it, thankful for the help offered. Bending slightly forward I move to accept the offered help, but upon closer inspection I notice that the paddle is broken. This thing will be of little help and will probably get me to the shore, but it will be far from optimal. The question is, do you accept the broken paddle and continue forward, or do you drift away into the mist and hope you’ll find a better shore with new opportunities?

I consider my options. Maybe it’s time to quit rowing and take my chances on something else.

Copyright © 2020, Jeffrey Debris

2 replies »

  1. Jeffrey, Your allegorical short story, “The Broken Paddle,” “flows” with meaning(s). And I always adore your sketches & sometimes fail to say so. This was another nice “change-up” as a piece & I suspect you wrote it years ago. –Compliments! Phil


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