Short Story Exercise: Ghost on a Boat

(using The Storymatic, pulled four cards, set timer for ten minutes, wrote short story, lightly edited)

Steve hung over the side of the boat, staring into the sloshing blue waves flowing beneath him. The ocean spray didn’t touch him any more than the rope moving across his torso. Steve drowned eleven years ago, but his ghostly spirit still remained aboard shrimping boat The Painted Lady, his home for most of his life. The men working her now hadn’t known Steve when he was alive, though they heard plenty of stories about him at Marla’s Pub.

Steve rolled himself up tall then floated down through the deck to the galley. Skipper was eating beans on toast, listening to the greenhorn complain about blisters on his hands. Steve leaned forward and covered the kids hands with his own. It took a minute, but finally the boy brought his injured hands to his face and stared at them with a bewildered look on his face.

“Stop hurtin’, did they?” Skipper asked.

The kid nodded, dumbstruck, and Steve sank through the floor. He checked on the engines and the cold storage, and then he peaked through a porthole hoping for a glance at the elusive mermaid. One day, he thought, I’ll see the gal ol’ Henry was always going on about.

Steve elevated himself back up to the deck to watch the sun fall below the horizon. As the sky faded from orange to red to purple Steve told himself again that, lonely as he may be, this was as close to heaven as he could hope to get.


Steve’s head snapped towards the sound. A deckhand had pulled a plastic, muscular doll from one of the nets. He pushed on the fearsome toy’s chest and a mechanical voice yelled, “Hey punk!”storymatic-ghost-boat