CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE BY COMMITTEE (4)

You leave Gavin behind and climb the ladder back up to the open-air deck. With the engines off the boat’s side-to-side swaying feels magnified, and you briefly try to figure out if the physics for that make any sense. Something about a bicycle wheel. Up on the deck the sun is even more profoundly bright and warm and you wonder about sunscreen. If you ran a boat like this, you would have a little convenience store area somewhere inside with useful items like sunscreen, Advil, Dramamine, maybe batteries. It’s possible they have one on this boat. You haven’t really looked around.

The deck up here is empty except for a couple of teenagers—a boy and a girl—huddled in a back corner, sitting on the floor with their backs against the bulwark. The boy looks like he has just stopped crying, or is about to begin. The girl is wearing a white hooded sweatshirt unzipped all the way. They do not look up at you.

You walk to the very back of the deck to where you think you were standing when the old woman tried to speak to you. You try to remember how you were standing. One hand on the bulwark, maybe, or leaning out over the edge, looking down at the churning water? There are two short white flagpoles sticking out over the back of the boat, each with a slightly sun-faded American flag. The flag on the left pole is has been torn away at the bottom and hangs from the pole only by the grommet in its top corner. The bulwark comes up to about your waist. You try to imagine falling off, maybe grabbing at the flag for support, to keep you from tumbling into the ocean below. When you were down below looking at the dolphins the boat was bucking on some waves. Would that be enough to toss you off the back of the boat? What if you were elderly? How tall was Mrs. Shorter?

Alternately, could you throw a body over the bulwark here?

You look out over the expanse of the Pacific before you. The horizon curves away to either side, a crisp blue line. Catalina Island is visible as a low dark inkstain. It seems strange to imagine people there, shouting and playing high-bitrate music out of hotel windows, throwing down harsh white towels to friends on the beach below, dew-beaded glasses filled with neon pinks and yellows and blues and cheap silver rum. The inauthentic tiki huts, the plastic leis, the men and women who do not change out of their bathing suits for upwards of a week. All of it on that little blot on the horizon, separated from the world by 20 miles of ocean. Anything could happen out there.

You look back at the two teenagers and the boy is wiping his face with the back on his hand. The girl is looking off at the antennae on the top of the boat’s cabin. She has one hand on his knee. Both of the boy’s legs are stretched out in front of him but the girl has her knees drawn up against her chest and to rest her hand on his knee her back is slightly twisted in what looks like a vaguely uncomfortable way.

You sigh and sit down, too, with your back against the bulwark. You look at your feet in the cheap flip-flops. There is something on the floor that catches your eye. It is small and round.

You lean forward and pick up a large ring. The ring is a dark and uneven metal, like pewter. There is a large blue stone set into a ring with embossed pictures—a book, a jungle cat of some kind, what could be the paths of electrons in orbit around a nucleus. The tiny worn lettering on one side of the ring says Diamond Ranch High School. On the other side is an illustration of a football and the number 57. It is someone’s class ring. You can’t tell if 57 is the year of graduation or the uniform number from the football team.

‘Hey you.’

You look up and see Gavin standing at the far end of the deck, near the ladder down to the bow. You stand up and slip the ring into your pocket.

‘They’re trying to decide what to do with you,’ Gavin shouts. He is speaking unnecessarily loudly.

You glance at the two teenagers sitting against the bulwark. They’re both looking at you. You look back at Gavin. ‘What do you mean?’

‘Maybe you should see for yourself,’ Gavin says. He looks past you to the ocean and lets out a high-pitched noise through pursed lips that is not a whistle but a kind of cartoon imitation of one.

‘What,’ you say.

‘Scene of the crime,’ says Gavin. ‘Scene of the crime.’

You glance at the high school kids again and try to make an exaggerated motion with your eyebrows, a sort of can-you-believe-this-guy gesture. You aren’t sure how well it comes off.

Somewhere behind you are Eric and Lavinia. You may already be late, now. How much time has passed since the boat stopped? When were you supposed to get to Two Harbors? It probably hasn’t been that long. Only a handful of minutes, really. Nevertheless you cannot keep yourself from picturing the two of them running around frantically, stopping at the police station, calling every hospital in Los Angeles, teams of volunteers sweeping through woodlands in linked lines looking for your body in the underbrush. Which is preposterous. If anything they would sit at a bar somewhere, talking about you, about your shortcomings, your inability to plan ahead, your unreliability. Maybe even right now, although you are not yet late, they are laughing.

‘Come on,’ Gavin says, ‘into the galley below.’

DO YOU:

A. Go with him to the enclosed cabin.
B. Tell Gavin to leave you alone.
C. Stay where you are and try to get more information out of Gavin.
D. Ignore him and go to find the captain.
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