The next day, Dashiell spent the morning touring Fergus around the Friendship. Fergus’ feet were much improved and he could now walk longer distances, so he began the day doing laps around the perimeter of the vessel with his new friend, albeit slower than Dashiell, who, we can all agree, is uncannily speedy, even for a boy of 6. Both having woken early, they joined the sun as it rose, sailed through a small cloudburst, and then basked in a rainbow, which, although brief, was more brilliant than either boy had ever seen.
Dashiell could hardly wait to play all his favorite onboard games with Fergus. They began with basketball, a game only vaguely familiar to Fergus. Dashiell was an enthusiastic teacher, who gleefully demonstrated the more important aspects of the game, like running, dribbling, shooting, and most importantly, scoring. Although he was not very tall, Fergus did manage to make a few baskets, until his feet started to ache, so he sat down to watch Dashiell do lay-ups. As he watched, Fergus recalled that he did know something about this game: that it had been invented in 1891 by one James Naismith, who, though born in Canada, was of Scottish origin, and that’s why Fergus knew of him. Fergus explained to Dashiell that the early version of basketball that he knew well was a game called Duck on a Rock. Dashiell was eager to learn more about this strange and ancient game, so Fergus proceeded to elaborate.
“First,” Fergus started, “We need a big stone or brick or something. We can use the basketball as the ‘duck,’ like so.” He balanced the basketball atop a perfectly-sized table near the sports court. “Now, I’ll stand guard, while you try to knock it off with stones.” Both boys looked around for stones, which were of course not to be found on deck; this game was meant to be played on terra firma. Having a ship deck strewn with stones would be a tripping hazard–what if Mrs. Pierce came walking by, and slipped on a stone and broke her hip? Dashiell would feel very badly about that, and his parents might then want to help her feel better by insisting she returned to her cabin, where it would be easier for her to recover. No, even if he could find some stones, he would not leave them where someone might trip on them.
“I know, we can use the golf balls for stones!” Dashiell ran to the nearby putting green and retrieved a handful of the small but heavy balls for this purpose.
“We really need a team of people, but you’ll get the idea. Stand behind an imaginary line–the throw line. Now, throw your rock at the ball, as if you’re several people at once. You want to knock it off its base. When the duck falls down, run and fetch your stones. I’ll set the duck back up and try to tag you. You’ll be safe if you get back across the throw line before I tag you, otherwise you’ll be the guard.”
Now, time had gone by, and the sun was now at a height that invited passengers to leave their cabins and stroll the decks, to enjoy the painterly views of nearby monolithic rocks, waterfalls, fjords, and islands, cups of strong Scandinavian coffee in hand. Dashiell, having a cultivated a fierce yet precise throwing arm thanks to a love for baseball, pitched his stones at the duck with determination. The duck was down, and Dashiell hurriedly gathered up several stones. He was just about to cross the throw line when he was tagged on the back of his shirt!
Thinking for sure he would make it safely back, he uttered “What the heck??” and then spun around in surprise to see the face of a girl, with carrot red hair and giant blue eyes, smiling widely.
“Gotcha!” she cried. “I ran for the guard,” she explained, pointing over at Fergus, who was laughing, and holding his foot up. Dashiell laughed too, and then he saw a whole group of children had assembled behind the duck, curious and eager to join in.
“Let’s go again,” he hollered. “I’ll be the guard!”
And so it was that the morning hours were spent among the children, new ones arriving and others leaving, but always, it seemed, fitting seamlessly in. The rules were simple enough to not require many words, and so they organized themselves like bees in a hive, like they had always been there, on that ship, together, passing by waterfalls and islands. It was a once-in-a-lifetime view, the grown-ups said, but that wasn’t as important, or indeed as memorable, as seeing that duck slide off its rock, over and over again.