Where's Your LIfe Jacket? | Teen Ink

Where's Your LIfe Jacket?

July 8, 2013
By Quartermaster PLATINUM, Los Angeles, California
Quartermaster PLATINUM, Los Angeles, California
21 articles 8 photos 28 comments

Favorite Quote:
"They tell us sir that we are weak. Unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when will we be stronger?"

11:15 p.m. First Officer William T. Murdock receives three messages from the lookout and a phone call. An iceberg. Dead Ahead. The officer does nothing. 11:25 p.m. He answers the phone. 11:30. William T. Murdock attempts to steer the 66,000 ton goliath champion of White Star Cruise Line, the Titanic, past an iceberg. The iceberg cleaves a gash on the starboard bow. John Hurley is fast asleep.

His first class stateroom had been meticulously crafted in a Louis XVI style. His father and mother’s boasted a Louis XV style, and John Hurley’s new comrade, Joe Page claimed his resembled the Gregorian period. Needless to say, they were gorgeous, lavish, and luxurious. Even John Hurley could see that. True, he was sometimes (or usually according to his sister) oblivious to “obvious” beauty, but he did have an eye for everything else. Math, Science, History, English, he aced them all. Although thin, he had strength in his sinews and bronze in his arms. He excelled at the footraces and the field games. Sometimes he even beat his father at golf.

1:16. John Hurley awoke to a pounding on the door and groggily pried open his eyes.

“Who’s at the door?”, whispered his fifteen year old sister.

“Who cares?” groaned John, turning onto his belly, and thrusting his pillow on his head.

His sister had already slipped out of bed and padded to the door. The lock clicked open and the door swung in. Their father’s massive muscular silhouette filled the door frame.

“Get up, get dressed. Warmly and quickly. Grab the lifejackets.” John could sense a hint of fear. Fear? In his father’s steadfast whisper?

“What’s happened?”, quivered the girl, donning her jacket and hat.

“The ship’s struck an iceberg children. Don’t be afraid. Just get dressed. We need to get to the B deck.”

In the pale gloom of the room, John shivered. He pulled on his coat and realized his hand was shaking. Why? The image of Robison Crusoe flashed in his mind. They could be stranded on an island, fight cannibals, build a shelter and survive on pure ingenuity. He smiled a weak grin at the thought. He did not know exactly what he was afraid of. They had lifeboats. He had read of Captain Bligh as well and he trembled at that test of ingenuity. He was very awake. He grabbed the lifejacket.

1:19. They scurried out into the hall and down toward the aft first class staircase. The walls were paneled in solid oak, shining with polish even in the dim light. Eerie. Then he saw his mother all bundled up as if a whirlwind had dressed her. His heart shook. His legs began to ache. He realized he was moving very fast. Almost running. Why? His father ran.

They mounted the steps two at a time. With a groan, John Hurley envisioned the three flights of stairs before him. Two at a time. The second class smoking room appeared to his left. Louis the XVI styled, or so boasted Joe Page. John had retorted that the 1st Class Smoking Room, in Gregorian style, had mahogany walls inlaid with pearl and whicker chairs around a blazing fireplace. The “Approach to a New World,” an art piece of some worth, hung over the mantel. This had beat Joe’s smoking room. Not only this but elements of the “Approach to the New World” had been etched into the windows, every one representing great ports around the world; every port except the one where they were heading. They would not see the first class smoking room. They were already on deck.

John Hurley immediately realized why they exited through the aft stairway. Every single life boat on the forward side had disappeared. Gone. Except for two, the collapsible boats. Didn’t sound safe to him. The notion of lifeboats for all was shattered. Hundreds of men smoked or talked or stood in silence on the deck. All men. Then he saw the women, assembled around the remaining lifeboats. Order reigned, for now. Their family pushed toward the line. A crew member stood by organizing the loading. He was armed. Then John saw the tears. A white noise had covered it but as he drew closer he saw tears on the women. The lilting, singsong voices wept. The booming voices were reserved for comfort. Patting, embracing, kissing, the men did not board the ships, and John Hurley knew why. There was not enough room. The lifejacket felt like an anvil in his hand.

1:27. The Hurley family stood before the boat and the officer. The ship was sinking. Without hesitation John Hurley Senior placed the lifejacket he held into the lithe hands of his wife. His wife stared deep into his soul and began to weep. She embraced him with shaking hands and kissed him again and again. John Hurley Senior returned the embrace with passion and kissed his wife with love. His eyes were wet, but unwavering.

“No, no, no, no,” mumbled his sister, the tears just beginning to flow. John Junior stared at his lifejacket. He looked at his father. Trembling he forced his listless hand forward and presented the life jacket to his sister. Memories flooded him. Memories of her love, her loyalty, her annoyance, her hatred. She never scored as high as he. No one did. She never ran as fast. She never would. He saw a beautiful young maiden like of the olden stories of knights and dragons. The knights never died though.

“Where’s your life jacket?”

Lifejacket. He recalled an analogy by the pastor, of Jesus Christ as a lifesaver to a drowning man. The pastor had baptized him before the congregation and right now he stood a proclaimer that he did not fear death. He was supposed to believe in heaven. He was supposed to believe in hell, and that he wasn’t going there. The water wasn’t going to take him. He didn’t want to be taken at all.

“Jesus Christ,” claimed the boy.

She didn’t even hear him. She knew the answer.

“I’ll see you in heaven,” consoled the boy, shaking. The scriptures revolved in his mind and he tried to focus. Tried to believe.

For a long while she cried over his shoulder. He felt her warmth, he felt the cold of the arctic winds, and he felt the lifejacket. Before he knew it, she was gone into the boat. He held his mother now.


“Goodbye,” he shuddered, and the boat rocked in violent convulsion. The first of the boilers had blown.

Then they were gone. The boat was gone. The lifejacket was gone.

“We’re going to die?” asked John to his father.

“We’ll meet the Lord.”

1:35. Panicked, the steerage class flooded the deck and charged the final life boat. John was almost run down. Men. The final lifeboat. He could go now. Women still remained. The immigrants jumped the life boat, shots rang out, and the immigrants met their maker.

1:45. The second boiler exploded. The ship shuddered and flung father and son into the sea. The Lord caught them.

The author's comments:
A note on the religious references. In 1912, majority of the European Middle Class passengers on the Titanic were professing Christians. My character is one of these passengers and therefore is also a professing Christian. Also the choice to give the lifeboats to the women and children was largely influenced by the Christian values prevalent in Europe and the United States in that time period.

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This article has 3 comments.

on Nov. 29 2013 at 8:54 pm
AlexanderQ GOLD, Oak Creek, Colorado
12 articles 0 photos 37 comments
First of all really good story! I was captured the whole way through. I like your character descriptions. They really bring the family to life before your eyes. Your sentence structures flowed smoothly with a calm rhythm that was very enjoyable and easy to read. I also liked how you used times to separate the actions. I loved so many lines but here are somee favorites "He excelled at the footraces and the field games." I like this one because in one simple sentence you've captured the whole aura of the time period for me. "He saw a beautiful young maiden like of the olden stories of knights and dragons. The knights never died though." I really liked this line simply because it brings about a sort of innocence and childishness that characterizes both John and his sister really well. "The Lord caught them." This was a such a beautiful, poetic way to end the story. A couple things that lost me were the constant references to Louis XVI or XV and the Gregorian period or whatever. I didn't really understand this too well and for me it kind of muddled the story a little bit. Another thing I thought was missing was a sense of urgency. The ship is sinking and tilting and moving and shaking and John stands for some time hugging his sister. I don't know really I just felt like I was missing a sense of panic. Overall though, I really enjoyed your story and thanks for commenting on mine!

on Jul. 22 2013 at 11:24 am
vegetariangirl, Hamilton, Ohio
0 articles 0 photos 92 comments

Favorite Quote:
Being normal is boring - Marilyn Monroe
You only live once -?
A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit -Richard Bach

I love your story!!!

on Jul. 19 2013 at 9:22 pm
DawnieRae BRONZE, Lancaster, Ohio
3 articles 0 photos 218 comments
This really moved me. It was sad, touching and almost made me cry. Believe me that doesn't happen often. If I could give this 10 stars I would! I have a question for you, are you a Christian?