Jan couldn’t find the sense of adventure his father swore was within him. His older brother, Lars, was excited to leave Liverpool and start the journey across the Atlantic, claiming he hadn’t slept the past week due to his excitement. One could claim he had good reason. Even though Lars was 15, he hadn’t done much sailing with his father, nothing to satisfy his hunger for long voyages and daring adventures. Being five, Jan had never left the Netherlands, and he was fine with that. As England faded in the distance, he was missing his comfortable house back home in Amsterdam. He thought of his mother and friends from school. When he thought of his mother, it pained him to think about how she didn’t want him to go. Ever since Jan’s dad told them he was bringing them to Nova Scotia for Canada’s sesquicentennial, Lars and his sister Lotte were ecstatic, but Jan was worried. He had spent countless hours before school studying the globe, and realized the oceans were enormous and the trip was long and would take forever. “What happens if we get lost, Daddy?” he had argued with his father, Captain Nicolaas Schwarzenberg every day since he had announced the voyage. “Is it safe for me to go?”
“Don’t worry, son,” he said, chuckling, “just prepare, pack all your important stuff and everything will be fine.” Of course, he always said the same thing, which never helped boost Jan’s confidence. He knew his dad was right though. The only optimism he felt was due to Lars’ positivity. Lars was always searching for adventure and he had definitely lucked out. As the tugboat left Liverpool and the cheering crowds, the giant duck rode the waves behind the boat, not minding the salt water spraying at its face.
“Jan, what could be cooler than towing a giant inflatable duck to Canada across the ocean?” questioned Lars.
“A lot of things, especially things where there are no sharks,” Jan replied staring blankly off the starboard at the endless stretch of water.
“Nothing bad is going to happen, Father is experienced,” Lotte said coming out from her bedroom. Jan didn’t want to spark an argument, but he certainly thought, there’s always a first time. Jan quickly went to his small room to check one last time he hadn’t forgotten his backpack full of snacks from his stash.
“Nope,” he said after finding the green sack hanging on the wall in the room. He sat down on his bed. “Maybe, this will be okay,” he repeated to himself about 20 times. He sure hoped so.
Up on deck, everyone was enjoying ham sandwiches.
“Figured you would be back soon for lunch!” said Captain Schwarzenburg, “I know how you love ham sandwiches!”
“Thanks,” mumbled Jan, sitting down on the deck next to Lotte. Lotte and Lars were deep in discussion about activities for the nine day trip.
“We should go swimming, the water wouldn’t we too cold this time of year,” suggested Lars.
Jan interrupted suddenly with a hint of panic in his voice, “What about sharks and...other sharks and what the boat could sail away without us! You want to go swimming? Are you insane?”
Lars shrugged, “Sure.”
Lotte got up and handed her plate to Captain Schwarzenberg. She ran to her room and found her backpack on her bed. She rummaged through the pouches before revealing a note pad with a list of games. She presented the list to Jan who had appeared at the entrance.
“A list of possible games. I’m certain we can make something for entertainment.” “Yes,” thought Jan and he ran off to his room, inspired. He grabbed a bag of trail mix, which he discovered, expired a few years before and emptied the packet onto his favorite book from home. He arranged the raisins and different nuts in neat rows on the opposite sides of the . He lastly decided on a big brazil nut to represent the king, and he marveled at his makeshift chess board.
“Not bad,” he said to himself, “I’ll surprise Lars and Lotte later” He quickly shoved the game into his pack as his father’s call summoned all his siblings to the deck.
“It’s getting windy kids, after supper I need another line securing the duck Make sure your knots are taut. The duck mustn’t float away, that’s very important. I trust you to do this well, so I will be in my room,” he said firmly. The kids were the first to finish their stew and hurried away to complete their task. Lars and Lotte nimbly climbed on a thick rope over to the duck resting carefully its edge. Jan grabbed another rope from a crate and tossed it over to Lars, who almost fell off reaching to catch the end. The duck rocked on the choppy water.
“Woah!” Lars and Lotte screamed, grabbing onto the duck desperately. Lars carefully tying a complex knot. “Hey Jan, can you secure those knots on your side?”
“I don’t think so, how about you come do it” Jan got out of way, so Lars could could back aboard. “I’m going to help Lotte,” Jan said, thinking himself useful. He scrambled on top of the railing and onto the rope.
“Wait, Jan!” Lars tried to grab his little brother before he was out over the water. He forgot all about securing the knots and leapt over the railing onto the ropes. The ropes shook violently and Jan and Lars fell into the ocean. They followed the ropes leading to the duck and joined Lotte just in time to watch to realize the duck was no longer tied to the railing. The huge yellow bird drifted further away from the boat, speeding away in the opposite direction before the children even could truly realize what had occured. The sound of the boat faded away just as the sun hid beneath the horizon.
Jan wouldn’t calm down, he couldn’t calm down. He was in a complete panic, as the siblings went inside through the zipper door at the back. The ducked rocked back and forth as Jan sprinted in circles, fretting. “Jan, calm down! Lars grabbed his brother’s shirt. There is way this will go unnoticed. Dad will notice the duck has vanished, and he will find us. He knows where we are, were we are going, the currents, navigation, everything. He will find us!” Jan could tell his brother was serious and he took a deep breath.
“Maybe you're right, but so much could go wrong,” He sat down and removed his “chess board” from his pack. “Do you guys want to play a game?” His siblings, who both loved chess, feverishly arranged their nuts. Jan lied next to the board, trying to relax
“You guys should try and rest too. Maybe when your done the game?” Jan suggested, slightly annoyed with his noisy siblings.
“One second, let me focus. If I do this...checkmate!” Lars yelled joyfully as he placed a cashew next to the brazil nut, and removing a raisin. Lotte pulled a small blanket from her backpack and lay adjacent to Jan.
“Good night,” whispered Jan.
Jan awoke early to find everyone very much alive and he was feeling much better. His father would’ve noticed the duck’s absence by now and began the search for his children. He clambered up onto the inflatable’s beak and leaned back in between the eyes. He sat down to try enjoy the sunrise, which his father said was always phenomenal at sea, but instead he saw the gathering storm clouds in the distance. A harsh wind slammed into Jan as he clung to the duck’s huge, orange bill. He cautiously climbed back down to warn Lars and Lotte.
Lotte was reading a novel from her pack, she looked up when entered through the zipper flap.
“Hey Jan, how are you this morning?”
“Okay, I guess. We got to hurry though, there’s a storm coming. It’s going to be rough, I can tell.” Lotte raced over to wake Lars. He mumbled, sat up and rubbed his eyes. Lotte explained the scenario and looked back at Jan, who was munching on an apple. Lars understood.
“Just watch Lotte, he’ll be fine. Not much we can do about it. Man, I wish dad was here, he would fix this situation.”
“Well, he isn’t,” muttered Lotte, checking to see the zipper flap was sealed and sitting down. “Lars is right Jan, everything will be okay, we just have to wait it out,”
“Okay, are you sure we’re safe?” asked Jan again. Lotte nodded as a streak of illuminated the duck’s interior, turning a brighter yellow. He snatched one of the water bottles from Lars’ backpack, whose backpack held all the bottled drinks, and gulped the contents quickly.
Jan grabbed a book from his own bag, “Can I come read too?!” The duck rocked suddenly, a violent quake causing Jan to fall onto Lotte. Lotte yelled in anguish and scrambled out from under her little brother. The duck lurched again sended Lars to fall back, hitting the side forcefully. Outside, a large crack of thunder could just be detected over the crashing waves attacking the duck. The gloom outside was shared by the duck’s miserable inhabitants. The siblings found themselves clinging to the walls all through the day until the storm had finally passed. Jan’s face was a pale green as a he scrambled onto the bill again to view the sunset. He was lucky he did, experiencing the beautiful colors in the sky and reflectected on the surprisingly calm water. He watched in astonishment and remained on his perch long after the sun had vanished from the sky, replaced with a crescent moon. A shooting star blazed towards the moon, remembering how Lars always made wishes when seeing shooting stars. “I wish to be reunited with my father tomorrow,” whispered Jan hopefully, “please.”
Jan fussed with his jacket zipper, eyes wide awake. He estimated it was about ten o’clock and he still hadn’t fallen asleep. Lars and Lotte had separated themselves from their younger brother and were engaged in a heated argument.
“This is your fault!” Lars snapped bitterly.
“No way, I was on the duck, not anywhere near the boat.
“What do you mean! It wasn’t even ten feet away. Weren’t you in charge of securing the ropes anyway?”
“That was totally your job! So, it is your fault, that we are stuck on a ridiculous, inflatable duck, in the middle of the Atlantic, where nobody will ever find us!” Jan knew his siblings were fuming, he could practically sense their anger in the air.
“Both of you! We will be found! Within the next week, we will arrive in Nova Scotia with our father!” Jan interrupted, clearly irked.
“Lars you helped me early on, but now I am helping you guys. We need to stay together, because right now, you guys, are all I have. I am all you have. We will remain strong and survive until Dad finds us, whenever that occurs. Now get some shuteye!” Everything was dead silent and Jan was relaxed at last.
Jan shook his outstretched arms and sat up, alert. Today would be his second day aboard the duck. “Any more storms today?” wondered Jan as he quietly opened the flap. On back of the bird, he observed the cloudless sky. He started ascending up the duck’s neck, only to leap down gracefully. Lars awoke instantly bearing a shocked expressions as Jan rushed in. “Guys! Hurry! You have got to see this!”
“What? What’s got you so excited Jan?” murmured Lars, sleep deprived, “relax, what time is it?”
“Late afternoon, I would guess about five o’clock , just hurry up!” With that, Jan exited once more. From his vantage point, he observed the white tugboat hurtling across the water’s surface at top speed, an enormous arc of sea spray flying behind the vessel. “I knew it! Dad!”
At last, Lars pulled himself onto the head. “Okay wh-?” He gasped with surprise and lifted Jan clear off his feet. “You were right, bro!” The boat was even nearer know and the children could hear the whine of the engine, their father pushing its limits to reach his lost children. Lotte appeared a few moments later.
“What’s that humming noise. The annoying sound preventing me from sleeping in, to be specific.”
“Take a look for yourself!” Lotte screamed happily, when the boat came to a slow near the duck.
“Thank goodness, I am glad to have found you kids!” shouted Captain Schwarzenberg, relieved.
“We’re glad to see you too!” shouted the siblings in unison. Captain Schwarzenberg drove to the rear where Lars was already waiting to throw him the ropes. Lars ensured his father had actually secured the ropes before scrambling onto the deck, Lotte followed.
“Where’s Jan, I thought he was with you?” asked their father. As if on cue, Jan dove off the duck’s back and promptly swam to boat. He ran right into his father’s open arms. “I am glad you’re safe, son. I’m happy to see you again”
“Me too, but what about the celebration?”
“Golly, thanks for the reminder. It starts in an hour, so we best hurry!” The captain ran off, Lars and Lotte left for their rooms for fresh clothes and a proper lunch, but Jan followed his father.
“How do you plan to reach Halifax in one hour?” demanded Jan.
“I just finish the journey you and your siblings began”, he replied simply, handing Jan a pair of binoculars, “take a look,” At the railing, Jan put them to his eyes and peered out at the horizon. A gorgeous harbour sat in the distance, very faint without the binoculars. Jan admired the array of sailboats and the looming skyscrapers behind them. The city seemed alive, vivid, a celebration in itself. Jan was now eager to arrive, to join the celebration, to complete his adventure. Jan smiled, “Soon, I’ll have made it through my first trip. My first trip anywhere. My very first adventure!”
The spectacular firework show awed Jan and his siblings. There live music on the pier and hundreds of happy families enjoying the momentous occasion. Their optimism was shared by Jan, who was overjoyed to be reunited with his father.
It was extremely late when everyone aboard had gone to their rooms for the night, except for Jan. He lay on the deck, gazing up at the stars and identifying the constellations he recognized. He knew he would cherish this day for eternity and as he spotter another shooting star he made another wish upon it. “I hope I never lose my sense of adventure.”