CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE BY COMMITTEE (32)

You look at Gavin and hook a thumb out toward the bow. He immediately gets up and pulls Drew to his feet between the two of you and you see a hint of concern flash across Drew’s face. The swelling above his eye has stabilized and the whole right side of his face is a rough scarlet from pressing against the thin carpet of the passenger cabin. There is a funny texturing slowly working its way out of the flesh of his cheek.

‘We’re going outside,’ Gavin says to Drew, leaning in close over his shoulder. Gavin’s eyebrows are drawn down in a kind of caricature of sinister intent. He grabs Drew’s arm and pulls him off of his balance and moves him forcefully in your direction.

You step back out of the way and pull the door open to let Gavin frog-march Drew out into the sunshine and the wet wind that pushes across the bow and rattles in your ears. You follow them and leave everyone else inside—Rick Chavez as an ad hoc guard looming over Royce, who is seated in the front row of the blue passenger seats; Pauline, still holding Drew’s backpack in one hand and surrounded by her classmates and strangers and the parents of strangers; Marjorie Shorter, her small grey body cooling still in the evaporating puddle by the boarding door.

Gavin walks Drew over to the port ladder that leads up to the open-air deck and sits him down and then climbs up over him to a spot higher up on the steps, his knees angling up into the air like spiders. Drew looks up at you and he tries on a rapid succession of expressions and attitudes, from anger to bewilderment to innocence to boredom, all in the span of a hand’s breadth of seconds.

‘Drew,’ you say. You stop and let the sound of the wind and the wake and the rumble of the boat’s engines and the shrillness of the gulls above play out. You watch his eyes. ‘Talk to me.’

He looks straight at you and the whites of his eyes are huge and shine in the glare of the Pacific sun. ‘I think Pauline’s cheating on me,’ he says.

Gavin barks a laugh behind him. His knees are wide and to either side of Drew’s head. He leans over to one side as if to get a good look at Drew. ‘That’s you, right?’ he says. ‘Drew? You suck at Spanish, man.’

Drew looks back at him over his left shoulder. ‘What?’

‘You’re Drew, right?’ Gavin says. ‘She cheating on you with your own backpack?’

‘What?’ Drew says again.

‘Drew,’ you say, ‘what are they talk about in there? Why are Royce and Pauline mad at you?’

He shrugs, his shoulders making overlarge rotations. You suddenly recognize just how young he is. He casts his eyes down and past you.

Gavin knocks one knee against Drew’s head. ‘Speak, witness,’ he says. There is that particular wide grin on his face again.

‘Drew, what were you doing when Mr. Chavez was talking about the porpoises out here?’ you say. ‘Where were you?’

He looks up at you again, his eyes hollow. ‘I didn’t kill that woman,’ he says quietly.

‘Where were you,’ you repeat.

He exhales slowly. ‘I had to pee,’ he says. ‘I guess I didn’t lock the door. She just walked right in, I swear. I swear. I don’t even know her, she must be crazy. Or hormonal, I don’t know.’

You lean down and make yourself eye level with him. ‘Who,’ you say.

Drew digs into his back pocket and pulls out your notepad, folded in half, the middle of the fifty or so pages bunched into a thick and sloppy V. He bends it backward to unkink the cardboard backing and then holds it up to you. You see your own handwriting in four feeble lines, the jaunty Islander Express logo. In the middle of the page in Drew’s own angular scribbling is the name Marjorie Shorter with a lopsided circle around it. Branching off of that circle is a short straight line and then another circle inside of which is the name Esmee Shorter which is crossed out.

‘You spelled it wrong,’ you say absently.

Drew taps a finger to Esme’s misspelled name on the paper. ‘If that was when the old lady went over,’ he says, ‘there’s no way she did it. Trust me.’

You look up at Gavin who makes a big-eyed expression of shock at you.

‘Doesn’t make up for your Spanish quizzes,’ he says.

You hold up one finger and look at nothing in particular. You feel the cool breeze moving across your skin, across your face. Your cheap flip-flops feel almost completely worn through already, like each skip and divot in the cementing of the deck is pressing itself directly against your feet. You turn and see Long Beach approaching, no longer an undifferentiated lump on the near edge of the earth but now twisting itself into glass and steel, the indistinct white birdshit marks on the far ocean resolving themselves into motorboats, jetskis. A huge cargo ship loaded with bleached pastel shipping containers churns across the water a certain distance away.

‘Do I need a lawyer or what,’ Drew says. He looks back at Gavin. ‘Cuz I already said I didn’t do anything.’

Gavin leans forward.

DO YOU:

A.    Head up to the bridge to tell Joan what you know.
B.    Climb to the open-air deck where Bob and Esme are.
C.    Go back into the passenger cabin to talk to Royce and Pauline.
D.    Stay out here on the bow with Gavin and Drew.
Shared publiclyView activity