Post 77 — Liner Notes

Matson-Monterey-LOGOBoat Day was happening in full force as Chrissie and Liz made their way through the crowded marketplace. Tourists haggled with Samoans over the price of mats and carved wooden outrigger canoes, each feeling sure that they gotten the best of the other person. It was an age-old dance that happened every time a cruise ship docked and everyone enjoyed it. The real winners were the palagis who lived on the island, who would swoop in after the boat had left and buy all the carved kava cups they had been coveting at rock-bottom prices because they knew the Samoans wouldn’t want to cart the stuff back to the village.

A large British woman walked away from the market back toward the dock, fanning herself with an intricately woven fan embellished with bright feathers that she had just purchased. “Look, Bertie,” she exclaimed to her sweating, red-faced husband. “They must have exotic birds on this island. How colorful!” If Bertie realized that the wispy parrot-like decorations were actually dyed chicken feathers, he did not share that information with his wife. He just wanted to get back on the ship and have a G&T.

“Let’s follow them!” whispered Liz, grabbing Chrissie’s hand and pulling her toward the enormous Matson liner. From the dock, the SS Mariposa loomed above their heads, its sleek white sides both indimidating and exciting. As they approached, tourists on the upper deck waved at them and tossed coins down into the bay. “Little boys!” called one lady. “See if you can find this shilling in the water!”

Chrissie looked around to see who they were shouting at. Both girls were barefoot and deeply tanned, their hair cut short for convenience against the humidity. She supposed that Liz could be mistaken for a boy, but puberty had hit her hard and fast and those simple shifts her mother made for her suddenly had to have a lot of darts in them. Liz muttered something out of the side of her mouth about stupid tourists thinking they were pearl divers from the Philippines and pushed Chrissie forward.

Before she realized what Liz had in mind, they were halfway up the gangplank, trailing behind Mr. and Mrs. Bertie. “Look like you belong to them,” whispered Liz. No one even glanced at them as they boarded the ship, and as their British surrogate parents headed toward the bar, the girls ducked around a stack of deck chairs and collapsed into giggles. “I can’t believe we just did that!” gasped Chrissie.

“Let’s go explore the ship,” said Liz. “I bet nobody pays any attention to us at all.” Liz was correct, although it seemed impossible to believe that the people in charge would not question the right of two pre-teen girls (one of them wearing a red bandana-like fabric shirt with an orange Fanta stain on it that was buttoned up incorrectly) to be roaming around a luxury cruise ship.

There was a pool on board with a tiki bar that looked very much the one at the Pago Pago International Hotel, but the girls barely glanced at it. If they wanted to see Polynesian decorations, they could go sit in their living rooms. The dining room was elegant and spacious, with white cloth tables already set for dinner. “This is going to be a really fancy meal,” whispered Chrissie, who knew from her own cruise ship experience that the more silverware involved, the higher the nose of the waiter. They found a tiny elevator and went up two decks, hoping they might be able to find an open stateroom. There was a garbled announcement coming over the loudspeaker, but between the giggling and the British accent, it was unintelligible.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” announced Liz, as they passed a door with fancy gold script that said Ladies Lounge. The bathroom was more ornate than any other space, and they were astonished to see small bottles of lotion and baskets of fruit just there for the taking. “You could live in here,” exclaimed Chrissie, stretching out on the leather divan. “Imagine if we were stowaways — we could sail around the world and use this as our hiding place.”

In one corner of the room, there was tall standing scale with a little weight that could be moved back and forth. “Hey, look, I weigh 87 pounds!” shouted Liz, who apparently had the metabolism of a border collie. Chrissie did not want to step onto this device with her friend standing next to her, for it would be the equivalent of putting up posters in every classroom in school, but she knew she had no choice.

“Wow, 112 pounds,” said Liz in a hushed tone. “Your new boobs must weigh a lot.” Two well-dressed women entered the lounge and looked at them quizzically and Chrissie took that as an opportunity to dash out of the open door.  “We need to get out of here; we’re going to get in trouble,” she called back to Liz as she ran through the narrow hallways, trying to find the elevator they had come up on. Fifteen minutes of increasing panic later, they finally found the lift and quickly pressed the down button. As the doors closed, the tail-end of an announcement suddenly sounded crystal clear: “The Mariposa is leaving this harbor in ten minutes. All visitors must disembark immediately.”

“It’s okay,” soothed Liz, as she saw the look on her friend’s face, “we’ve got ten minutes.” Before she had even finished the sentence, the elevator jerked to a stop, but the door didn’t open. Chrissie punched the down button again, but the elevator did not move. Visions of being trapped while the ship sailed to Tahiti filled her head and the image of her father’s face when he landed in Bora Bora to pick her up made her pound on the panel until every circle was lit. “Open the damn door!” she shouted. “We’re not passengers – we’re palagis! For God’s sake, look at the way we’re dressed!” Her panic was infectious, and now Liz was throwing all of her 87 pounds at the door, only to bounce off and land on the floor, stunned.

“Excuse me,” said a very British voice, “do you young ladies require assistance?”

A tall man holding a screw driver stood in the open door. “I do apologize. This one sticks occasionally. May I escort you to the exit?”

A few minutes later they were back on the dock, having been unceremoniously frog-marched to the ramp and then pointedly watched by the purser until they were on dry land. Chrissie thought about dropping to her knees and kissing the ground but was too shaken to make the dramatic gesture.

“You know,” mused Liz, “this is just like at the end of The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy realizes that there’s no place like. . .”
“Shut up, Liz,” Chrissie interrupted. “I am never listening to you again. And if you tell anyone how much I weigh, I’m going to say you wet your pants in the elevator.
“But I didn’t!” Liz wailed.
“I know that, but I’m going to tell everyone you did!”
Liz stomped away across the now empty malai, and Chrissie headed in the opposite direction, grateful not to be going to Bora Bora. “You know,” she thought, “there really is no place like home.”

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