Writing Exercise 2/17

Write an argument between a parent and a child, then write it again from the opposite perspective.

The wind was heavy, thick, and wet. No surprise — this was the weirdest February Jos could remember. 6° on Sunday, 45° on Tuesday? It played havoc with her skin and the water in the air couldn’t figure out what form it wanted to take.

“Throw me the rope, Jos.” Again, with the commands. Her dad raised her to be capable in any situation, and he did do a good job. “Better to be ready for anything than the best at one thing,” he always said. But lord, she just couldn’t get her dad to trust her. Or anyone else, for that matter. He always had to control everything.

“You sure I shouldn’t wait for Captain Rockwell? He told me to wait till he-”

“Go ahead ‘n toss the line in, then climb aboard!” Captain Rockwell’s voice boomed through the fog from the aft of the schooner.

“Just throw me the rope, Jos, you heard the man.” He didn’t smile, but she could see he wanted to. Celebrating this small victory would cut off the possibility of further ones. She rolled her eyes and tossed the rope to him.

It wasn’t exactly her first time on a boat. Girl Scouts, Uncle Mark’s sailboat in Maine, crabbing with the Tumillos, and these annual sea-fishing weekends had given her more than ample practice on a ship deck. She knew her way around, she had long since earned her sealegs-

“Watch your step, Jos!” His ongoing cautions cut through her thoughts like the old pier’s barking sea lions through the mist. The buoy was easily ten feet away, and she saw it before she even set foot on deck. “Gonna roll an ankle.”

“I see it Dad, thank you.” She wanted to tell him off, but didn’t. Venting the frustration would just give him more to work with. But she couldn’t help adding a bite to her thank you.

She pulled a life jacket over her faded blue windbreaker, threw her hair back in a messy bun, and topped it with a navy cap she found in the car. USS Baltimore. Uncle Mark’s? She was pretty sure it was Uncle Mark’s. She curled her toes in her white keds. She should have dressed more warmly, but the sun would be up soon.

“Life jackets, all a ya. When your name’s on the boat, you can jump overboard with rocks tied ta yer feet for all I care, but on my boat yer wearin’ life jackets.” Captain Rockwell, straight to business.

“How’s this, good? It fit? You sure?” Her dad came up and tugged on the straps, smacked the yellowed orange floats on her torso.

“DAD! Dad, I’m fine!” She swatted his hands off her and stormed up to the front of the boat. She was already putting up with the second-guessing, the subtle barbs, the little digs coded so only she could hear them — she wasn’t going to sit there while he manhandled her.

She heard him mutter something to Rockwell, and the captain’s rumbling chuckle in response. She could already tell today was going to be a fight.


Carl checked the life jackets once more, just to be sure. Can’t be too sure. Can’t ever be too sure. They were fine. Damp in the early morning fog, and a bit musty from their years on Rockwell’s schooner, but full and floaty all the same.

He turned back to see Jos standing on the dock with the rope, trying to instatweet a picture or something. Whatever she called it. She didn’t see it, but the rope was slowly slipping from her hands.

“Throw me the rope, Jos.” From the way she looked up at him from her phone, he could already tell today was going to be a fight.

“You sure I shouldn’t wait for Captain Rockwell? He told me to wait till he-”

“Go ahead ‘n toss the line in, then climb aboard!” Captain Rockwell’s voice boomed through the fog from the aft of the schooner.

The worst possible time for him to say that. She was going to hold that one against him. There was no saving this one.

“…just throw me the rope, Jos. You heard the man.” She rolled her eyes, tossed him the rope, and jumped on board. She dove back into her phone as she walked up to the prow — and right towards the buoy rolling on the ship’s floor.

“Watch your step, Jos! You’re gonna roll an ankle!” She stopped and glared back at him.

“I see it, Dad, thank you.” Did she think she was being subtle? Did she think he couldn’t feel the disdain dripping off her words and slapping him in the face? He didn’t care — he wasn’t going to watch her break her ankle. She could hate him as much as she wanted, so long as she was safe.

He watched her pull the top life jacket out of the cabinet and pull it around her new windbreaker. The one from that hippie store, American Apparatus or something. She pulled Mark’s service cap over her hair — was she actually as excited about it as she seemed in the car, or was this another one of those ironic things? It was his brother’s naval service cap, for chrissakes. It wasn’t something to laugh about.

“Life jackets, all a ya. When your name’s on the boat, you can jump overboard with rocks tied ta yer feet for all I care, but on my boat yer wearin’ life jackets.” Captain Rockwell, straight to business.

Rockwell had a point. Jos had just pulled the first jacket she touched from the box, and some of those in there were older than her. Carl walked up and checked the straps and floats.

“How’s this, good? It fit? You sure-”

“DAD! Dad, I’m FINE!” She smacked his hands away — really, smacked them away—and stormed off to the prow with her phone.

He could put up with the rolling eyeballs, the glares, and the venomous tongue shouting loud enough for Rockwell and any of the East Pier sea lions to hear, but he wasn’t going to sit there while she trusted her life to a faulty life jacket.

He turned to Rockwell. “Teenagers, huh? They love us, in their own way.”

“Heh heh heh,” Rockwell chuckled, “They’ve got an odd way of showing it.


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