I had never liked the ocean, and that was before I fell off the boat and into it, headfirst. My dad and I were on one of his boating trips. He was a scientist on climate change, and every few months, he ventured out into the deep Pacific waters, and took a temperature of the water, with a tool called a thermometer. This was the first time he had let me come along, I was ten years old after all, and despite my great dislike of the water, I had always been eager to see what he had done on these mysterious trips, and when he walked into my room the prior Sunday and asked if I wanted to come along, I had jumped at the opportunity.
Now, though, gripping the bar that surrounded the seats, as the boat rocked back and forth on the teetering water, I wasn’t so sure. My dad unlocked a cabinet beneath the control panel, and pulled out a bin, in which he kept all of his gear. He pulled out his thermometer from the bag, and placed it gingerly on his palm.
He grabbed my hand, and helped me steadily to my feet, and he lead me slowly across the deck to the slide door where he took the temperature. “You’re okay, Tara.” He soothed, pushing me gently down onto the cushiony seat, and carefully opening the slide door. “Let’s take temp, okay?” He looked up at me, and I swallowed the lump in my throat, and moved my head in what I hoped was I nod.
I was so scared and seasick, I didn’t know exactly what I was doing. He held my arm with one hand, and with the other, he slowly extended his fingers into the dark, murky water, with the thermometer clenched tightly in his hand. He stopped when his elbow was completely submerged in water. “That’ll do,” he said, and glanced at me “Last time I checked was last month, in September. It was 64.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Let’s hope it’s changed.” He sighed, and pushed a tuft of graying hair out of his eyes, resuming his grasp on my wrist. It was silent for a moment, except for the rhythmic slosh of the small waves against the side of the boat.
Suddenly, there came a beep! from down below. My dad and I automatically turned towards it, like a puppet string connecting us both. My dad reached down and pulled out the thermometer. The reading blinked on and off, in black, digital font: 64.71.
My dad heaved a frustrated sigh.
“It’s only a little bit more than last month.” I offered soothingly.
“Tara,” he said, in a clipped voice “.6 degrees of an increase isn’t a little bit, not in a span of a month.”
The next moment seemed to happen in slow motion. I moved towards the slide door, crouching down onto the bumpy white surface of my dad’s boat, and slowly extending my hand outwards to feel the water. My dad moved across the deck to the steering compartment, and pressed the ignition as soon as my hands dipped into the water’s murk. I felt the surface of the boat beneath my bare feet slip away, I felt myself plummet into what felt like ice, my legs kicking beneath me. My head dunked below the surface, and a mouthful of salt swallowed down my throat.
“Dad!” I screamed, gasping for breath “DAD!”
My dad’s boat was fast, and while he had just ignited the engine moments ago, he was already some fifty yards away. Somehow, the wind carried my words over to him. He turned around, and his face contracted, seeing me struggling in the water.
“Tara!” Without a second’s hesitation, he put the boat in reverse and revved up the engine. He brought it ten yards from where I stood, and as though he did this every day, dove off the boat from the bar. He had a rope with him, and as soon as he got a few feet from me, threw the rope to me. I immediately understood, and grabbed the rope with all my might, my breath coming in rasps. He pulled me behind him, with so much strength, strength I didn’t know my father even had, and we got to the boat in seconds. “I’m sorry, T.” Dad sighed, and rubbed a hand through his ruffled hair.
“Dad, that was actually pretty cool!” I told him, and has I thought about it more, it was. “I mean, I’ve always wanted to see what you do. You and your colleagues have probably fallen in before! I remember the stories you used to tell me. Remember Mike? He fell in taking the temperature!” I grinned, the sun warming my back.
Dad shook his head, smiling “I don’t even know how that happened.”
I laughed, and moved to the other side of the boat, where the sliding door opened. “What’s that?” I asked curiously, pointing to an invisible piece of dirt.
“What’s what?” Dad replied, hurriedly walking over. He bent down “Where?”
In one fluid motion, I slide open the door, and pushed him over the side of the boat, laughing. He grinned before he even hit the water- he must have been used to it. “Smooth move, Ex-lax!” he teased, catching my ankle, and pulling me down with him.
“Hey!” I called, but I was laughing as I hit the cold water, that didn’t really feel that cold anymore. Happiness that I couldn’t even describe lit through me, warming my body despite being in the icy water.
That evening when we got home, my mom was waiting for us. She wrapped me in a hug, but after a moment pulled back. “Why are you so wet?” She asked in amusement. She didn’t sound angry, just a little amused.
My dad and I looked at each other “A little water fight.” I answered, and we both burst out laughing.