Come Help Me: How you can turn a story into reality


Read the first page from the story below:

On May 1, aboard the Morning Star, Yulia is learning the various meanings of May Day. In Russia she knew it as a major holiday. In the Soviet days it had meant speeches and parades in Red Square and, later, in her time, it was a pleasant day for celebrating spring and workers. In America, Peter is teaching her, it involves putting flowers in a basket and dancing around a pole with ribbons and maybe, too, depending on who you are, Communist sympathizer or not, saying kind things about workers. But, more importantly for them now, mayday is all one word and is what she must shout into the radio in the occasion of the boat being on fire or sinking. She should shout it three times in a row, and give the location.

This is how you work the radio, Peter has shown her. This is the emergency locater beacon, and this is how you turn it on, although it should turn on automatically if it goes underwater. This is the emergency life raft, and this is where you release it. These are our survival suits. Now we put soap on the zippers. Now we practice getting into our Gumby suits. Gumby is a rubber man, yes, from a cartoon. No, hood now. Zip all the way. Now we do it again, faster. He uses the timer on his big, complicated, good-under-water watch. Now you are dead of hypothermia, he says, if she is too slow to zip or can’t get her hair tucked into the hood.

But why is she going to shout mayday? Peter says the French: venez m’aider, come help me.

Yulia can barely imagine her other life, the one that is disappearing, as behind fog, with every minute on the water and every mile from land. Only two days ago—just when finals week started—she’d sold off her textbooks, tossed piles of papers into the trash, kissed her favorite microscope good-bye, and flown to Kodiak to meet Peter. Her master’s degree in marine biology and the award she’d received for her thesis were happy achievements, but she hadn’t needed the long robe and flat hat and for so much hugging.

Nancy Lord ‘Come Help Me’.

Meet the author: Nancy Lord

Nancy Lord, an Alaska resident and former Alaska Writer Laureate, is the author or editor of ten books related to northern subjects and the environment. She addressed the climate crisis in her narrative nonfiction book Early Warming: Crisis and Response in the Climate-changed North (2011) and her novel pH (2017.) She is a former commercial salmon fisherman and currently teaches science and medical writing for Johns Hopkins University. Her MFA. degree is from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her website is