Daily Archives: 28 October, 2014

Cruel Punishment for Courage

Cruel Punishment for Courage

By Howard Gaukrodger 28 Oct, 2014  (284 words).


I opened the window to ventilate the stuffy room. A bee wandered in to review the space. And, like the bee, I wandered back to the garden. I would never see my husband again.

The first time I met Brent, he was just seven. His mother had given him a present: a wooden speedboat. Dropping it into the garden pond, he’d leant over too far and cracked his head on the edge of the pond.

“Come here, Darling,” his mother had said. “Let me put some butter on that bump”.

Twenty-three years later, the boat was the Firewire – a 7-metre jet engine of flaming red. He’d chosen the colour in my honour to complement the ruby in my engagement ring. And while his model had been just the size of a shoe, and its fuel a push from the hand, the boat of his dreams was a fibreglass arrow that ran on hi-octane jet-fuel.

Five miles long and wedged between the glaciated peaks of the Cumbrian mountains, Coniston Water was to become the focus of the impossible. Brent Peters was to attempt the world speed record on water by racing his Firewire across the unforgiving waters of one of England’s most picturesque lakes.

Like the alternating colours of a raccoon, the shimmering sunlight on the surface of the lake disorientated the pilot. His rocket-powered dart swerved off course and somersaulted – to the horror of thirty million TV viewers.

His family now entered the empty bedroom, their only son gone. In the shadows, the wooden model sat atop his mantelpiece, dust motes floating in peace, like his soul.

(Inspired by events relating to Donald Campbell, d1967.)