Would you like to go on a cruise? This short story is set on a cruise ship and has a very funny ending.

Chain Reaction

by Louise Cooper

Everyone was enjoying the cruise. The weather was warm and sunny, the sea was calm, and the passengers hadn't complained about anything, which was unusual. Even the chief engineer wasn't bad-tempered, which was very unusual.

Until, one morning, the ship suddenly stopped.

'What's going on?' roared the captain from the bridge. The jolt had spilled his morning coffee all over his uniform.

'Don't know, sir!' the third mate shouted back. 'But I think we've snagged our propeller on something!'

The chief engineer hastily shut down the engines (which did make him bad-tempered), and the trouble was investigated. The propeller was snagged, all right. An enormous chain was wrapped around it, and if the engineer had not acted so quickly the blades would have been mashed beyond repair.

'What idiot left a thundering great chain drifting around in the sea?' the captain growled.

'Don't know, sir,' the third mate said again, gloomily. 'But it's going to take some clearing.'

The captain sighed and looked around. It could have been worse, he supposed. The sea was dotted with small islands fringed by white beaches on which waves broke gently. The sun shone from a cloudless sky. If the purser organised a few deck games, then with any luck the crew could free the propeller before the passengers started grumbling.

They set to work, and by lunchtime they had untangled the propeller. But the captain was curious. The freed chain disappeared down into the sea, with no end in sight. Who on earth had put it there, and why? He wanted to find out, and another hour wouldn’t hurt.

'Haul it in,' he ordered the second mate (the third mate was off duty by now). 'Let's find out if it's attached to anything. If it isn't, I'll complain to the local coastguards—it's a hazard to shipping!'

The crew started to heave the chain aboard. It came easily enough, but there was a lot of it. Half an hour passed, and they were still hauling. Then suddenly the chain became harder to winch in.

'I think we're nearly there, sir!' the second mate panted.

The captain did not reply. He was staring at the nearest island. Strange… the beach looked much bigger than before. And the low cliffs weren't low any more, but seemed to have grown. 'Sir!' bawled the second mate. 'Come and look at this!' The captain hurried to the winch. The crew had reached the end of the chain. Attached to it, bumping and clanging against the ship's side as it was heaved up, was a circular object about five metres across. The captain frowned. It reminded him of something. In fact he had a thing just like it, though much, much smaller, in the bath in his private cabin. It was…

A plug

He looked at the islands again. The beaches were getting bigger. The cliffs were getting higher. As if the sea level was dropping…

'Oops…' said the captain.

This story was selected as part of the BritLit project. To find out more about BritLit visit our TeachingEnglish site.        

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Have you ever been on a cruise ship? If so, did you enjoy it? If not, would you like to?


Batgirl's picture
Batgirl 9 April, 2018 - 19:04

I'd like to go on a cruise! I really love sea and tropical countries, so if I went on a cruise, I'd go to some tropical islands like Hawaii or Maldives. And want to see dolphins and other sea animals.

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Ken's picture
Ken 31 March, 2018 - 05:44

Me, either! I realized it was mych better viewing a cruise than actually getting on!! I had no placeto escspe from terrible puke!!

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catastrophe's picture
catastrophe 16 May, 2017 - 14:18

Wow! Awesome story! I'd love to go on a cruise ship, but I suffer from travel sickness. And many people say sometimes ships can be annoying because they're very slow. But I really want to go on one just to admire the architecture!

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Ken's picture
Ken 25 June, 2015 - 01:46

Ah ha, a good imaginary story! I enjoyed it, thank you.
☆♫ ٩( ´ᆺ`)۶♫ ★
I've been on a cruise but frequent waves made me terribly sick! I really wanted to jump out of the cruise.... and swim with fish!!

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toxicvenom2000's picture
toxicvenom2000 25 January, 2015 - 15:25

I have never been on a cruise and I wouldn't like to go on one of them because I'm worried about bad weather causing it to sink

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ahmedonly's picture
ahmedonly 30 May, 2014 - 17:12

hello everyone
it's a great story with a lot of exciting points but I'd like to know the meaning of
" mashed beyond repair"
(anyone can answer. it's not just for britishcouncil team i love to read the other opinions and to ensure the right answer from the british council team )
thanks a bundle

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katharin130's picture
katharin130 23 June, 2015 - 15:21

This phrase means that something is mashed like mashed potatoes and to a state that it cannot be repaired

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Jo - Coordinator's picture
Jo - Coordinator 31 May, 2014 - 06:59

Hi ahmedonly!
I'm glad you like the story. OK, so I'm not going to tell you exactly what "mashed beyond repair" means yet. But I'll give you a clue - do you know what mashed potato is? It's a very popular dish in Britain. What do we do to potatoes when we make it?
I'm interested to hear everyone's interpretations of this phrase. Thanks for asking!

Joanna (LearnEnglish Teens team)

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cklj's picture
cklj 9 February, 2014 - 19:10

Yes, I have been on a cruise ship in Tyrkey last year. I was enjoying all the time, I took some lovely photos and I had an excellent time with my friends. The weather was windy and cold and there wasn't any turkish tea so we were cold, but we were laughing all the time. I want to go on that cruise again, in the same place, with the same people.

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Ilehana's picture
Ilehana 21 July, 2013 - 18:17

No, I've never been on a cruise, but I think I wouldn't , In my opinion I think is boring, and I get dizzy easily

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Natalija's picture
Natalija 27 April, 2013 - 18:10

Yes, I was, and it was really a great experience, which I'll never forget. It was in Spain, which is really the best place for cruise. The ship was so beautiful, with many facilities, and the stuff was really agreeable. I also met lovely and kind people, and I'm still in touch with some of them. I'd like to repeat that experience as soon as possible.

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Alishka's picture
Alishka 27 April, 2013 - 12:04

I liked this story very much.The plot is fantastic and keeps you in suspense to the end. I've been on cruise in Turkey. I enjoyed it. It lasted for five days. But I was little and I don't remember details. I think in summer we will go on cruise again.

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serap's picture
serap 20 April, 2013 - 13:25

I didn't go on a cruise but I want to go on a cruise. This story is lovely. I liked it...

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JoEditor's picture
JoEditor 1 March, 2013 - 11:37

Hi Beauty2705,
When the people on the boat pull the chain up from the bottom of the sea, they see that there's a plug on the end! A plug is the plastic thing you put in the sink to keep the water in. (Type 'sink plug' into Google images to see one!) When the plug is pulled out of the sea, the sea water disappears. It's like the sea was a giant sink full of water. Do you understand it now? 
Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

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