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Water Ghosts by Linda Collison -1The doomed ship is set to sail at ten A.M. and I am to be aboard. The taxi has dropped us off at the marina – my mother, her boyfriend and me. They’re here to see me off. From the parking lot I can see it. Good Fortune is unmistakable because it’s bigger than the other boats and because it’s old and foreign-looking. Three masts rise up like pikes from the rectangular deck. A tattered pennant hangs limply from the smallest one. Faded yellow silk. I don’t want to go but Mother is making me. Walking toward it, carrying my sea bag, I already feel like I’m drowning. Dragging my feet along the rickety wooden pier, past neglected powerboats and sailboats covered with blue plastic tarps, I’m trying to resign myself to my fate. I’m trying to do what Dad used to tell me to do when I was afraid. Think of something funny! But nothing funny comes to mind. Looking around at this run-down dockyard in an industrial park near the Honolulu International Airport I’m thinking it’s wrong, it’s all wrong. Hawaii is not paradise – at least, not for me. A jet takes off, flying low overhead, drowning us out momentarily with its thunderous roar. Mother covers her ears with her hands and squeezes her eyes shut until it passes. The boyfriend glances at his big gold watch and grins. “Nine-forty,” he says. “You’ll be boarding soon.” “Oh, James! It looks like an old pirate ship, doesn’t it?” Mother’s perky voice edges toward hysteria. “A Chinese pirate ship, how cool is that! You are going to have the time of your life. I wish I was going!” She continues to talk but I can’t hear her anymore. Her words are bursts of color, blinding me. I look away. I see things other people don’t see. The old wooden ship lists in its slip. Doesn’t look anything like the picture on the website. Up close the Good Fortune doesn’t look fortunate at all. It looks bedraggled and unseaworthy; it looks like it’s about to sink right here at the dock. I think of a lame cormorant, riding low in the water, awaiting its fate. Cormorants are different from most other water birds. Cormorants will drown if they don’t dry their feathers. That’s why you see them on a pier or on shore with their dark, dripping wings spread out in the sun and the wind. But they’re the bravest of birds because they are not really at home in the water; they’re not as buoyant as ducks and geese. They’re marginal creatures, living on the edge. They have to work harder to get by. My father taught me about cormorants. He was a wildlife journalist, specializing in birds. Dad always said he was going to take me on a photo shoot 73

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