I start to paddle towards the tree but it quickly fades as I lose track of it when the waves carry me up and down. The water is not peaceful anymore and I was right about the rain. Gentle droplets fall on my face. It feels good and I lick the drops that fall on my lips. I am lucky I had a big breakfast. I am not hungry yet but if I don't find the shoreline or get help soon, I will be.
The rain is falling steadily now and the drops feel like tiny spikes hitting my bare skin. It actually hurts a little. Who would think rain could hurt? I move around on my tube to get more comfortable and access my situation. The waves have calmed but I still cannot see the shoreline. My tummy grumbles but I ignore it. This is no time to be thinking about food.
There must be some way for me to let someone know that I am in trouble. I check the tube for any shiny objects to use as a signaling device. There is rubber and some rope but nothing shiny. Next I check what I have on. My shirt has no pockets so my hand reaches in to my front right jeans pocket. I pull out some lint. That won't do me any good. I check the left pocket and find a stick of gum. I put it in my mouth. At least when I am rescued I will have nice breath. I snicker to myself. I realize I have back pockets and wiggle my hand under my body past the tube to try and reach them without falling in. The left back pocket is empty. In the right back pocket I feel something hard. OMG... it's my cell phone!!! I had totally forgotten about it.
The phone is wet. I dry it off as best I can and turn it on. My heart is pounding as I see the phone light up and the familiar bars blink on, one at a time. One bar... two bars... three bars... no 4th bar lights up. I am close to civilization. That is good. Three bars are better than none. My battery has a half charge. That is good enough to make a phone call or two. I see the time is 12:54 pm... I have been in the water for almost 4 hours. That is longer than I thought. I told the family I should be home about noon for lunch. They won't be worrying about me yet.
My hands are shaking as I speed dial my home phone number. Hopefully someone is home. They should be finishing lunch about now. Three rings and no answer. The fourth ring my little brother answers the phone...
"Hello???" I hear his voice say. "Hellooooooooo???" There is a lot of noise in the background and I hear dishes being banged about. I yell "Hello Tommy??? It's me... Rose... your sister..." but he does not answer me. I hear him say "There's no one there mom" and she tells him to hang up.
I need to get closer to the shoreline to get a better signal. I remember I have a gps on my phone and I quickly bring the program. I can see I am about a mile from shore. I start paddling to the spot of land that is the closest. The water is not cooperating. I am moving against the current. I paddle until I am exhausted. I have made it a little closer to the shore but I am loosing battery power fast. I have another bar on the phone... 4 bars now. That should be good enough to try calling home again. A half hour has passed and the dishes should be done by now.
The phone rings 6 times and no one answers. I was always taught to give it 10 rings... I just hope someone answers soon. As I hear the 10th ring I am about to hang up when Tommy answers the phone again.
"Hello???" His voice is out of breath.
"Hello Tommy this is Rose. I need your help," my voice is shaking.
"Rose??? Where are you??? Lunch is way past and mother is mad you didn't show up to eat. She says she's not making you a separate lunch... You can make your own...” his voice was bratty.
"Tommy... Listen to me... Be quiet and listen. I need your help. I am lost..." he cut me off.
"Lost??? Lost what??? Mooooooooooooom... It's Rose... she says she's lost," he yells. I can hear mother yelling to him from a distance. Soon her voice gets closer and she grabs the phone from him.
"Rose???? Where are you? I've been worried... Lunch is done and I'm not going to make you a special one. You get home this instant!" Her voice was firm.
"Mom... I would love to come home but I am marooned at sea on my inner tube. I fell asleep." I proceeded to tell her what happened and her voice changed to that of a frantic mother. "What are your coordinates dear?" She asked... and told Tommy to run and get a pen and paper so she could write them down.
"Come find me mother... the battery on my cell phone is going fast and I'm not sure how much longer I can stay on the line." She told me to hang up and she would call the coastguard. She would call me back when the coastguard was on their way.
As I lay on the inner tube waiting for mother to call me back I notice the rain has stopped falling. The sun is coming out again and now I am getting hot. The seagulls are flying over me so I know I can't be far from shore. I still can not not see a shoreline though, only water. The waves are bobbing me up and down and I think I will be sick. I concentrate on home. Sweet wonderful home. With all its hustle and bustle and, yes, even the bills. You never know what you are missing until you're not there. Whoever said "THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME" was right.
In the distance I think I could hear the faint sound of a helicopter. I'm not sure. The noise from the waves is quite loud and my eyes and ears are playing tricks on me. The phone rings. I jump and almost fall off the tube.
"Hello???" I said.
"Rose... it's me... mother... The coast guard is on their way. Hopefully you haven't drifted too far and they will find you. Hang on dear... I love you!"
"I love you too mom, Thank you... I think I can hear a helicopter." I said practically crying.
"Call me when you are safe Rose. I will be home waiting for you... and so will your lunch!" and she hung up.
Lunch... My tummy growled. I guess I was getting hungry. The gum had long since gone flat and I spit it out into the water. I watched as it floated down into the abyss. Above me I could hear a helicopter. The sound got louder and louder until I could see it above me. A loud speaker blared.
"Stay calm. A rescue boat is on the way!" A voice told me. I waved a friendly hello and waited. I had been found and soon I would be home with my family.
I didn't have long to wait. The rescue boat was upon me. Soon half dozen arms were grabbing me out of the water. "My tube... Please... someone grab my tube. I can't leave it. It saved my life." I watched as a man with a hook grabbed the tube, as the air in it slowly escaped. Within a few moments it was completely flat. "Little woman... you were lucky. It looks like there's a hole in it somewhere. Somebody up there must really like you." The captain winked at me.
When my mother answered the phone a few moments later I could tell she was relieved. "I'm coming home mother... Sweet wonderful home!”