Float by Beatrice

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Originally this was meant to be a much shorter piece for the fixed-length ficlet challenge, but I submitted another story instead, so I’ve expanded this into a more coherent little vignette.  One-shot... for now.  Enjoy!

 


The small, primitive vessel tossed wildly about on the perilous waves. Devoid of any crew to man the boat, it stood little chance of survival as it thrashed from side to side, more and more water spilling onto the deck. It finally became entirely submerged as a giant hobbit foot came splashing down into the overflowing bath tub.

"Watch it, will you!" cried Merry, as he mopped up after Pippin's handiwork. "It's bad enough I'm cleaning up after your friends while you wallow in a tub- I shan't be your personal servant, as well!"

"They were your friends, too, Meriadoc," said Pippin after pulling the toy boat out from the depths and placing it upon his belly. "Anyway, leave it alone. I can clean it up myself after I'm done wallowing."

"Yes, just like you clean up after every party," said Merry sarcastically while scrubbing a particularly nasty spot where someone had apparently gotten sick the previous night. Pippin could tell his cousin was becoming increasingly disenchanted with the raucous lifestyle they'd crafted for themselves at Crickhollow. And in all honesty, he was growing a little tired of it as well.

"Do you know what we need?" he said, suddenly sitting up.

"Bigger bath tubs?" said Merry, noting how the once scrawny Pippin now barely fit in the tub.

"Well, that too," laughed Pippin. "But what I think we need most of all is a holiday. Just some time to be regular hobbits again."

"A holiday from what? All we seem to do anymore is throw parties and eat and drink and tell stories." Merry threw his rag down and collapsed into the empty tub adjacent to Pippin. Before the younger hobbit could get too concerned, he sat back up and rubbed his temples, adding, "You know, it probably wouldn't hurt to do some real work again. Break a sweat, even."

"Well, let's not go that far," said Pippin with a dismissive chuckle. But then he turned to Merry and spoke quietly and sincerely. "That's what I meant, though, in a way. We need a break from all of this- just a chance to be regular hobbits again."

Merry nodded but stared blankly ahead and let out a rattled broken sigh.

"But we can't ever be regular hobbits again," he said, his voice choking just the littlest bit while he instinctively rubbed his right arm.

At that moment he appeared to Pippin as a hobbit more than double his age. Pippin felt his throat tightening and a soreness in his limbs he often suffered after a particularly intense nightmare. But he shook his head, refusing to succumb to the pain and the memories as Frodo had long ago.

"No, perhaps not," he said, forcing himself to smile however weakly. "But we can do something different." He plucked the toy out of the water and handed it to Merry. "We could go boating. You could teach me how."

Merry gazed at the little boat in silence for a moment and then chuckled. "Well, why not? We can even go today if you ever get dressed."

He tossed the boat back into the water and started to leave, but paused by the door to add, "Even though I know you just want to learn so you can impress her."

"Don't know who you're talking about," said Pippin nonchalantly as he began to thoroughly scrub his toes.

Merry smirked, knowing his cousin and best friend well enough to see through the facade. "All I can say is that there aren't too many good boating rivers up North," he said with a shrug. "Unless you intend to drag her all the way to Buckland for the sake of showing off."

"Oh, why don't you go write another poem for Estella?" shouted Pippin, throwing his soap at Merry and hitting the side of the entrance. He sank into the water in a poor attempt to hide his reddening cheeks.

Merry chortled at the fortuitous miss and walked off, calling behind him, "Be ready within the hour or I shall leave without you!"

"Yes, yes, I'll be ready!" replied Pippin with another great splash. Then realizing the sort of grueling and perilous torture he'd set up for himself, he let out a mighty groan. "Oh, what have I gone and done? I'll be drowned before I even come of age. The youngest hobbit lost to the waves."

And as he left the tub to go fret and worry, the abandoned little boat bobbed peacefully upon the foamy sea of bath water, awaiting whatever rough tides the future was sure to bring.




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