birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

When I was 22 my father died, and a year later—maybe even to the day, my mother was in the English Channel crossing from Caen, France to Portsmouth, England on a small boat in the middle of a stormy night. I’ve been geographically further away from home, but I’ve never felt so far away from everything and everyone familiar in my life. I had been in France since the previous August, and I’d made the same crossing with a friend in very different kind of boat that fall. When my mother arrived to visit me during my year abroad in France—a trip that had been postponed when I learned my father was terminally ill—I told her about the wonderful trip I’d had on luxurious ferry, and suggested we take that same route to England.

I’m don’t remember what went wrong when I purchased the tickets. I’m guessing I didn’t realize I had a choice of boats, or perhaps I went to the wrong booth in the terminal, but we ended up on a much smaller boat on bunk beds in the lowest level. My mother was still jet-lagged and able to sleep soundly through much of the night, but I was much too busy keeping our vessel from sinking with my special scary powers. As the rough wind and water tossed us mercilessly, I held tight to the steel bed frame to try to keep from being thrown on the floor. Unable to sleep, I walked upstairs to try to get some air, and a member of the crew told me to “arretez-vous” before I could walk out the door. I looked closely and noticed fear in his eyes and sweat on his brow. It was going to be a long, long night.

Bedouin Connection

Bima, Sumbawa