Determined to write more fiction, and inspired by the OWFI Writers’ Conference and the example set by Marian Allen (who, annually, writes me into her stories, much to my delight!), I signed up for Story a Day in May.
My chosen prompt? I visited Creative Copy Challenge #382 for ideas, where the latest prompt is to use the following ten words in a short story: Extensive, Versatile, Legally, Overblown, Sound, Blubber, Stolen, Remember,
So here goes – a new short story before breakfast!
Collecting the Debt
The sound of the foghorn cut through the icy silence. Delia waited, dockside, ready to help the whalers clean and butcher their catch. In exchange for her help, they would give her a portion of the whale meat and a share of its versatile blubber, enough to feed herself and keep the lamps lit for a little while longer.
They worked side by side, silent, remembering how Korsten had gotten twisted up in the ropes. Delia and the whalers sliced through the beast’s thick skin, peeling it away from the muscle and sinew. Delia didn’t flinch from its dead gaze, but stared coldly into its one open eye. Unlike so many of their fellows, Korsten’s friends didn’t need to tell overblown fish tales. They preferred not to speak of the horror in Korsten’s eyes as the whale slowly dragged him a hundred feet below the frigid black sea. They couldn’t say, with certainty, whether he had died of strangulation, drowned, or frozen. By the time they retrieved his body, still bound up in coiled rope attached to the dulled harpoon lodged deep in the whale’s flank, it didn’t much matter which came first.
That was two years ago. Delia worked as hard at the butchering as any of the men. They rarely spoke, but sometimes sang to make the work go faster. They cursed the dull blade, the odd sick whale, the searing cold wind that penetrated their sweat; Delia’s store of profanity was extensive and spanned six languages including Inuit, Icelandic, and Norwegian. The men would have shared their catch with Delia for nothing, out of respect for her late husband. But she had her pride; she wouldn’t be beholden to any of them. Legally, her position was uncertain, but Delia was determined to stay on this frozen, inhospitable island, if they would have her. None would challenge her claim on Korsten’s property, what little of it there was. His friends pitied her, at first – she of the adventurous spirit and soft hands – but now they respected her as they had Korsten. None would have a claim on her; all regarded her as one of their own.
Life here was simple, hard, and clean. The lessons Delia, that once-suntanned girl from the urban tropics, had learned in the past five years were harsh, but she accepted them without complaint. Turning her face toward the wind, she reminded the gods that she, too, was a force to be reckoned with. Nature had stolen Korsten from her; Delia figured Nature owed her a whale or two.