From the upper deck of the ferry, Lillian watched her car roll into Lake Champlain. She charged down the narrow, twisting stairway with Ralph’s, voice ringing in her ears, “Remember to set the hand brake!”
Coming to an abrupt stop two feet from the edge of the boat, she saw that her car was bobbing in the water. Maybe if she could get someone’s attention, they could catch it before it sank. She turned, but saw no one—including Ralph. Where was everyone? Was something more urgent happening on the other side of the boat?
She sank to the hard surface of the boat. What was she going to do now? In spite of her initial burst of hope, she knew the ferry didn’t have the right equipment to retrieve her car. What would Ralph say? Tears filled her eyes. She knew what he would say. What could she say back?
She heard Ralph coming as fast as he could on his crutches, and stood just as he reached her side. Together they watched the car disappear.
“Well, now we won’t have to fix the dent,” she mused.
“Oh, that’s really funny. What’s up with you anyway? Yesterday you drove straight into a pole. Today you almost ran down the man guiding you onto the ferry. And now you’ve sunk our car!”
Lillian had hoped getting Ralph out of the house while he recuperated from his surgery would be a good thing. When they were first married, they’d loved to throw a couple suitcases in the car and take off for points unknown. They had talked about everything under the sun, listened to music, and done a lot of laughing. So far, that hadn’t happened on this trip.
The ferry man sauntered over to where their car had been parked and inspected the empty spot, then gazed over the side. He shook his head. “There’s a fine for that, you know,” he informed them. “It’s considered littering.”
A small spurt of amusement slipped past Lillian’s throat. Ralph threw her an exasperated frown before rounding on the ferry man. “It’s not our fault. It’s your job to insure our car stays on the boat.”
“You must not have set the hand brake.”
“My wife swears she set it. You must’ve had us park on an uneven spot. Right, honey?”
Ralph and the ferry man both turned to Lillian. She nodded, but as she did so, giggles slid out the side of her mouth.
“She set the hand brake. It wasn’t our fault,” Ralph insisted.
The ferry man shrugged. “Talk to the Captain,” he said as he walked away.
“He acts like we did this on purpose. Like people do it all the time.” Ralph threw his hands in the air and his crutches clattered to the ground.
Lillian put a hand over her mouth to smother her laughter.
“You think this is funny? You stood there and watched our car roll off the side. You didn’t even try to hop in and stop it!”
Laughter overtook Lillian, and tears ran down her cheeks.
“Are you crazy? What are we going to do now?”
Drawing in a deep breath, Lillian wiped her cheeks with her sleeves. “I don’t know what you’re going to do, Ralph, but I know what I’m going to do.” Two steps took her to the side, then she executed a graceful dive into the water.
“Oh, that’s real smart! You never learned to use your head…”
She smiled as she swam back toward shore.