“I’ve been weeping for a mighty long time. Yes, I’ve been weeping for a mighty long time.”
Kim Whistler sang The Five Blind Boys song as if she was in the Overtown Baptist Church choir. She sang with the harmony of happiness and claps of praise. But she was three blocks and one little boy from the church. Her voice bounced off the inside of the boat as the acoustics allowed the sadness to sink into the old sea worn wood of a boat, forty feet in length.
In this neighborhood of Miami, the boat was a memorial for the fatalities of two boys and one little girl, all under the age of 16. This memorial was similar to the grief T-shirts, which displayed a heaven-like cloud of pink and blue hues, airbrushed photographs of the kids who died, and accompanied by the dates of their lives. Kim’s boat, raised on eight cinder blocks, sat in the center of her mother’s small yard of her home on a corner lot. Everyone could see this memorial with its exterior examination of black youth dying on their streets. However, those who lived next to her only praised by God the portrait on the starboard side: Robin “Captain” Whistler, her son (2009-2014).
Captain, as everyone called Robin, loved boats of all sizes. This passion to collect model boats, take photos of boats, and talk, sometimes to the point where Kim or her mom would tell him to change the subject, began when he was age four. Kim’s boyfriend, who worked at the Port of Miami as a customs agent, would take care of Robin when she or her mom worked. He too had a love of boats so he shared this with Robin by taking him to the port to see cruise and freight liners, or down to Bayside to look at the yachts. He even gave Robin his modest model boat collection. Robin told Ozzie, Kim’s boyfriend, “I’ll be sailing the world.” So the nickname was a given for this little boy with big dreams.
One day, Ozzie’s friend told him about a boat for sale. He said it was a good price, but a lot of work and emphasized in Ozzie that it was just a shell of an idea. Ozzie did not have a place to dock and work on the possible purchase so he talked with Kim, who told him that he if wanted to park a boat in her mother’s yard, “You better put a ring on my finger first.” He proposed and one month later the boat backed in on a trailer, hoisted atop cinder blocks.
When Robin arrived home from school that day he wanted to cry with joy. He was ecstatic for two reasons, the obvious bigger than life boat and the new name for Ozzie: Daddy.
He ran around and climbed into the boat like it was a toy. Ozzie laughed and took some photos. Kim yelled at them by saying to Ozzie, “I need a man not another kid.”
Those dreams for Robin were ended on one particular Saturday at his friend’s house. The nightmares for Kim and Ozzie would last much longer because on this day, a couple of months after the boat was docked, gunshots were fired. The police would later say it was an argument over a girlfriend. These shots were fired in the area of Robin: one bullet grazed his friend’s arm, and the other bullet hit Robin in his chest.
The community was outraged, again, but not shocked. Younger kids were just beginning to be the victims of gun violence. After the funeral, Ozzie did not continue his relationship with Kim. He couldn’t face the memories, specifically the boat’s association, symbolism, with a family, Robin.
Kim became depressed and then angry one someone tagged the boat with graffiti. This is when she decided to take action and lift herself from grief and a good man she lost.
She found a group of young men who were making the grief-T’s, and asked them to create a memorial on the side of the boat for Robin. They did the project and Captain was immortalized. Then Kim became active in the community against what had turned out to be a violent two years of more youth dying from gun violence. It was not her intention, but she needed to express the problem. Therefore, more portraits with the dates of the deceased were added.
So there she was in the boat singing when she had her vision. Captain came to her from the starboard side with a smile telling her that good things happened to good people. He was right. Ozzie would eventually overcome his grieving, marry her, and begin to work on the boat, not for the seas, but for Captain.
“Captain’s Boat,” was a Contest Entry Composition
(Writer’s Weekly 24 Hour Short-Story Contest-Summer 2016)