Subscribe
Check out our Specials

Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter for periodic updates and valuable coupons.

Email Address:
HTML   TEXT-Only

South of Heaven Chapter 1

Chapter One

 

 

 

Kendra Drake sat on the end of the pier gazing out across the Gulf. The western sky filled with hues of red, orange, and gold as the sun sank toward the horizon. Gulls swooped and dove between a boat’s wake as a late day shrimper headed for home. Heaven can’t be much better than this. She took a long pull from a bottle of Corona and placed it beside her on the time-worn wood of the pier, then took an envelope from her breast pocket. Her heart raced as she pulled out the enclosed letter.

 

She read the letter for the tenth time that afternoon, the smile still plastered to her face. The state Fisheries Commission had taken two months to review and approve her application for a license to fish for Royal Reds.

 

Kevin, her father, had decided to retire after thirty years at the helm, and her objective was to take their small shrimping operation to the next level. Her family had thrived on the brown, white, pink, and rock shrimp caught locally off the Northwest Florida shores, but her dream was to move to deeper waters during the Royal Red season. Only captains with a special license could fish for the cherished red shrimp, sought after by every seafood restaurant and market along the Gulf coast. The special license she now held excitedly in her hands.

 

 

Earlier in the day, returning from the morning run for browns, she saw her father approaching down the pier. The years of hard work shrimping had taken a toll on his body, and they showed as he painfully limped toward the boat. The grin he was wearing as he waited for her to dock let her know he had good news to share with her. When the crew had them tied off, Kevin stepped aboard. As the crew began unloading, he met his daughter in the wheelhouse.

 

“I do believe this is what you’ve been waiting for.” He handed her the envelope and waited for her response.

 

Kendra looked at the return address and smiled up at him.

 

“Go ahead. What are you waiting for?”

 

Her hands trembled with excitement as she pried the envelope open and pulled out the one page letter. Her eyes traveled down the page to where the license number was located, and she let out the breath she had unconsciously been holding.

 

“We got it, Dad. We got a license to fish reds.”

 

“I knew it would come,” he replied with a smile of pride. “You’ve been out fishing the boys around here for two years now.”

 

Even the weathered wrinkles of his face could not hide the tear that slid down his cheek. Kendra stepped forward and hugged him tightly.

 

“Don’t forget, old man, you taught me everything I know.”

 

“You were an eager learner, and that brings me to my next bit of information.”

 

“More good news?” she asked.

 

“I think it is, or can be depending on your decision.”

 

“That sounds serious. What’s up, Dad?”

 

“I got a call this morning from an old army pal of mine in North Carolina. He’s also a shrimp man and has a daughter a few years younger than you that he hopes will take over his business one day.”

 

“That’s good, but how does that affect us?”

 

“His daughter, Lindsey, has got in a bit of a bind. Her father thinks it’s time for her to leave town for a while to let some things cool down a bit.”

 

Kendra cocked her head at him. “Trouble with the law, would we be harboring a fugitive?”

 

Kevin chuckled, “No, nothing that serious. It’s more of a personal nature. I’ll let her tell you about it herself, and if you want to hire her to replace your old man on the crew, then it’s your decision. I do think you need one more seasoned hand since you’re going to be out longer in deeper water going for the reds.”

 

She let his words sink in for a few long seconds. “When does she arrive?”

 

“Lindsey will be here this weekend. If you don’t think she’s right for your crew, then we’ll send her home.”

 

Kendra knew her father wouldn’t ask this of her if it weren’t important. She was also glad that he would allow her to make the decision without any pressure. The last thing she needed was a troublemaker, especially if they would be out on the water for nearly a week at a time. She had no time as captain to deal with emotional baggage from either male or female hands.

 

He was right though, she did need to hire another deckhand, especially for the extended trips, and finding another man to be gone from his family all week would be difficult, even though the pay for reds would be better than local shrimping

 

“We have a week left on the browns before the reds’ season begins and we head out for our first trip for reds, so if she seems like she might be a good fit when I meet her, she’ll have next week to prove she can handle the work.”

 

Kevin smiled at his daughter. “That’s only fair, Captain Drake.”

 

She returned his smile. “You’ll always be Captain Drake.”

 

“I’ll be Captain at home, but the boat is all yours now.”

 

“Thanks, Dad. The boys have the weekend off so I’ll be home once we get the haul delivered and the boat cleaned.”

 

“Get hungry. I’ve got some huge steaks marinating.”

 

“Oh, you’ve got my mouth watering already. Do I need to bring anything home?”

 

“I’ve got beer on ice, but you can clean up a batch of those blue crabs in your pot. They’ll make a great appetizer while the steaks cook.”

 

“That’s an easy request.”

 

“I’ll see you at the house then.” He smiled and left the wheelhouse.

 

Kendra followed him to the pier and watched as he made his way back to his truck. The crew was bustling around the deck, bringing tubs of iced shrimp to the dock just as the delivery truck arrived.

 

Her first mate, Harvey, walked up to her with a clipboard, handing it to her for a signature. “Sixteen hundred pounds is a good way to end the week.”

 

“Yes, it is. We also got good news, so gather the boys after they load the truck and I’ll tell everyone at once.”

 

“A reds license?” he asked. Harley was the only one of the crew to know she had applied for the license.

 

She nodded with a smile.

 

“All right,” he hollered, and went to help the others load.

 

 

Kendra walked back into the wheelhouse to finish some paperwork while the crew unloaded the day’s catch. She was writing out paychecks when Harvey knocked on the doorframe to get her attention.

 

“We’re about to start the cleaning, Captain. Did you want to talk to the crew first?”

 

“Yes, thanks, Harvey.” She followed him out on deck where the men had clustered together.

 

“What’s up, Captain?” Charlie asked.

 

“Thanks for another great week, boys. We only have one more week of browns to go.”

 

“Then what, Captain?” Charlie asked.

 

“Well, about two months ago, I applied for a license to fish for Royal Reds and today we received word that we were granted a license.”

 

“Oh, hell yeah,” Charlie hollered. Even the youngest of her crew knew the value of the prized shrimp.

 

“So, after next week, we’ll have three months to catch all the reds we can.” She grinned.

 

“I can finally replace my old truck,” Harvey declared.

 

“I can promise you much higher paychecks once we start catching reds. It’ll make more time away from home but worth the investment.”

 

“Out on Monday and back the following Saturday?” Charlie asked.

 

“Sooner if we fill up our freezers faster,” Kendra answered.

 

“What freezers?” Harvey asked.

 

“The ones that will be installed next week after we get back to harbor. I’ve had them ordered and ready for weeks now, with faith that we’d get the reds’ license.”

 

“That sounds really good, Captain.” Harvey grinned.

 

“We will also have a new crew member working with us next week, to see if she can hang with us.”

 

“Did you say she?” Charlie asked.

 

“Yes. A friend of Dad’s from North Carolina is sending his daughter down to learn from us. So if she works out next week, she’ll be joining us for red season.”

 

“It’ll be nice to have an extra set of hands. We’ve been working short since Captain Drake retired,” Harvey reminded her.

 

“Especially if they’re attached to a cute girl,” Charlie joked.

 

“You better not let your wife hear you talking like that,” Bobby teased, bringing a round of laughter from the crew.

 

Kendra shook her head at their antics. “Do any of you have questions?”

 

When none came, Harvey set the crew to task. “Let’s get to work cleaning the boat while the Captain writes us some big checks. We all need to have a good weekend.”

 

“I’ll second that,” Charlie grinned.

 

Kendra returned to the wheelhouse to finish calculating and writing out the paychecks while the crew prepared the boat for the night. As with each Friday night, the tradition was to pass out checks with a cold Corona to start the weekend off for her crew. She pulled out a tub with a six-pack of iced down beer and passed out checks while Harvey gave each man a beer.

 

When everyone had a beer, Kendra raised hers in the air. “To the reds we will be catching.”

 

“Amen to that, Captain,” the crew cheered.

 

 

After the crew finished their beer, they left for home. Harvey was the last to leave. “Are you headed home soon?”

 

“In just a bit. I promised Dad I’d clean some blue crab to bring home, and I have a few other things to finish.”

 

Harvey grinned. “I heard you earlier. I’ve already cleaned your crabs and they’re in a bucket of ice in the back of your Jeep. Bobby carried them out for you.”

 

“Thanks, Harvey.”

 

“If there’s nothing else I can help with, I’m going to head for home. Congrats on the license. I know you’ve wanted this for a long time.”

 

“It will take us to the next level financially. Dad always hoped to add another boat to the fleet, so maybe this will make it happen.”

 

“A bigger boat would be nice if we’re going to have a future in the reds,” he agreed.

 

“I’ve got my eye on one already, but we need to have a good red season to make it happen.”

 

“It’ll come, boss. Have a great weekend.”

 

“You too, Harvey. Tell Helen hello for me.”

 

“Will do. She still expects you for dinner one night.”

 

“Tell her I haven’t forgotten. I’ll take her up on her offer soon.”

 

“Good night, then.” He waved and left the wheelhouse.

 

 

Kendra closed her logbook and her eyes landed on a photograph of herself and her dad from several years ago. She was fresh out of high school and beginning her first year of working full time. She loved being out on the water, and working beside her father was an added bonus. Kevin had been more than a parent to her. He was her best friend and had always been supportive of her decisions, even when he didn’t agree with her choices.

 

He had been there for the heartache when her first lover betrayed her. Jude, the woman she had given her heart to had cheated on her, while Kendra was working her tail off to provide them a good life. After the breakup, Kendra had moved back home and for two weeks had cried herself to sleep every night. Jude had been a difficult lesson for her and left Kendra determined never to be so vulnerable again.

 

 

After a hot shower and a fantastic dinner, Kendra retired for the evening. She wanted to spend the next day working on the boat, providing that extra bit of cleaning to give it a good shine. She helped her dad clean the kitchen and then climbed the stairs to her room.

 

Their home, just a few blocks from the Gulf, built with a wrap-around balcony on the second floor, gave her a view of the harbor. She opened the doors, allowing the cool breeze to float into the room. She could hear the waves crash into the jetties outlining the harbor, and smell the scent of salt that was in the air as she climbed beneath fresh sheets. She listened carefully as her dad made his rounds through the house, locking doors and checking windows. He had followed this routine every night for as long as she could remember.

 

She and her father had lived alone in the house since her mother left, abandoning them when Kendra was twelve. Karen Drake yearned for a more exciting life and left town with a traveling salesman. Years later, Kevin received divorce papers from an address in New York, and they never heard from her again. Both were devastated in the beginning, but time and hard work helped them heal and formed a stronger bond between father and daughter.

 

Kevin excelled at being a single parent and Kendra grew into a strong, independent young woman. She graduated at the top of her class in high school and, when given the option to attend college, Kendra declined, choosing instead to continue working by Kevin’s side learning about shrimping. She knew he was pleased that she wanted to remain with him to learn and eventually take over the business. He often told her he felt selfish for denying her the college experience, and the chance to enjoy her youth. Then she would remind him of her love for fishing and that she was where she wanted to be.  

Content

Affinity Rainbow Podcasts

Listen as our authors read from their books.



Zen4dummies, our web-mistress