The Miracle Fish
By Madeline Shea Boccone
Miracle is a sheltered town girl with plenty of smarts. Nessa is tired of being a servant in her own home. When they run away together they have to figure it all out on their own.
Nessa grasped her hands and looked up at her with a frantic look, begging, “Come with me, please!”
“Where are you going?” Miracle asked, searching her face.
“Away,” Nessa said. “Please just say yes.” Miracle nodded slowly and went back into her home, bringing what she expected to need. A book of maps, her cat—who she begged to bring—and the loaf of bread her family was supposed to eat. Soon enough they were at a dock on a boat, and seemingly so far away from home. Damn her father, Nessa thought. Damn her destiny to housekeeping, damn her destiny to marry a man as awful as he was. All she’d need was her friend to teach her reading and the boat to give her all she’d need to get by.
At sea, Miracle quickly became weary. The first days were exciting, it was the only reckless thing she’d ever done, and Nessa was so headstrong, all angry as she was from the family conflict. The two of them were filled with adrenaline and stayed up all hours, drinking from stashed bottles in the cabin and eating from the loaf of bread. A week later they were still on the water with only the stale, crusty heels left to eat, and an inability to catch any food. Nessa was still sore and it seemed like it wasn’t a vacation, but a journey with no going back.
Presently, Nessa was trying to catch something—anything—and Miracle was watching, and occasionally looking out for her sea sick cat. Nessa was decent at sailing, Miracle thought, but she wasn’t so good at fishing. There were only nets, no rods, and neither Miracle nor Nessa knew how to use them. They suspected it was a waiting game mostly, but neither of them were patient enough to just let the net sit. They checked it too frequently, desperate for something to come their way. Nothing ever did, only driftwood and seaweed.
At each pull of the net Miracle could see her friend grow increasingly frustrated. When daylight began to dwindle, Nessa groaned and threw the net to the deck, Miracle came and put a hand on her shoulder.
“Why don’t you take a break?” Miracle suggested gently. “Have some supper. I’ll try, you sleep. Don’t worry, I hear we’ll have more luck at night.” She picked up the net and nudged Nessa toward the cabin.
“I’ll take care of it,” she pressed.
“You’ve never cast a net before,” Nessa said, sighing and trudging away.
“I’ll figure it out,” Miracle replied. Nessa shook her head, mumbled something about the stale bread, leaving Miracle to make some headway.
She threw the net overboard and tied it to a railing. Then, she scooped up her cat and they sat on the deck, Miracle and Faith, waiting for something to happen.
The sea was a beautiful element that was as unfamiliar to Miracle as a pit of fire or a perch upon a cloud. Her parents were townspeople and her life was spent in the town square she’d always known. The only experience she had with water was her family’s annual beach trip, when her father sacrificed a busy Saturday’s worth of sales and her mother cleaned extra the day before to compensate. She couldn’t swim—she had no swimsuit—but she would often go down to the shore and watch the tide wash over her feet, and feel the ocean air rustle the long curls that fell down her back.
That was when she wore her hair down. Now, she was quite grown up. Her mother had said as much one day as she left for school. She even put Miracle’s hair up herself, pinning it into the simple bun she’d worn every day since. From then on, she did women’s chores, spoke in a woman’s tone and went to school not simply for an education but to show she’d make a suitable wife.
Here, she smelled the salt all around her and felt the breeze of the breathing water brush her face cooly. It was like the start of a new day. She was with Nessa, who valued her knowledge. She was far from the world of eligible young men and her looming marriage to one of them. She let down her hair, took off her shoes, and let her head fall back.
Just as she was relaxed, the rope line pulled and she snapped her head up. The heavy cord thumped against the railing and the wooden deck of the boat. Miracle let down the cat and started to yell.
“The net!”she cried. Nessa came rushing out. Nessa grabbed onto the rope and pulled hard, and soon Miracle was tugging alongside her. Whatever was caught in the net was strong, and, both of them hoped, big. They pulled, groaned, finally pulled the net aboard.
With all that effort, they had expected a whole school of fish, but when they peered into the netting, all they saw was one bright carp, flopping around in its trap. Miracle laughed, quietly at first, then a howling guffaw. It wasn’t large, but it would be enough for a great feast that night.
After that night, days came and went. Faith grew used to the swaying, and the two girls sailed still. Nessa became an expert captain and Miracle never had to marry. Though they never caught another fish, they were never hungry again, their bellies still full and their spirits still high from the miracle fish they captured at the start of their new beginning.
My first move was writing the whole story on paper. The Nessa and Miracle were TK1 and TK2 respectively, and there were plot holes upon plot holes to be sorted out. After that I typed it out on my computer, editing as I went. My mentor Erin V. Mahoney took a look at it and suggested a few changes. I edited accordingly, gave it to her for a second pass through, and then I excerpted the part I wanted to submit. After a final look through by both Erin and I, it was ready to submit.
Madeline Shea Boccone is a young author based in Brooklyn, NY. Not only does she write, she also is an excellent chef, loving dog owner and an artist in her free time. Boccone is a junior in high school and hopes to attend college in the future.