The Mighty Sharleen Chang - Brian Simmons
“I’ll be there bright and early,” I told Captain Chang.
“You better be!” the captain said.
The night before I could not sleep. I was excited, but also a little nervous. Doubt started creeping in as to whether I was able to perform the required tasks.
Captain Chang was a stout, stern, man. He looked like he had been out to sea his entire life. The captain was familiar with western names, but had a hard time pronouncing mine. Chang assigned me, at registration, the Chinese name of Lee Jintao. He felt it would draw less attention to my immigration status. Everyone in the neighborhood just called me Sims.
Eight weeks earlier, I had separated from the United States Navy and moved to the Kowloon Peninsula. As an undocumented worker, I mostly performed random day labor, for little pay. My fortune and future awaited in the bustling metropolis of Kowloon Bay.
I met Captain Chang almost by accident. His mother, Sharleen, lived in my apartment complex. She was an elderly woman who required help with her daily activities. She offered me fifty Hong Kong Dollars to fix her toilet. I unclogged it, for free, and went on my way. Upon returning, her son was waiting for me at my front door. I thought he was a gangster, but he was there to offer me a job. Chang told me it paid well and would allow me to be back at sea.
I arrived at Keswick Pier around 0530 to see Captain Chang and another crew member loading up cargo. The Mighty Sharleen Chang was plastered across the back of the stern, in bold black letters. The vessel was named after the captain’s mother. There was a massive hole in the portside of the ship. The fishing nets were also tangled and intertwined.
“Hey Sims, we wondered if you were going to show,” the captain said.
“I’m ready, Sir!”
“We’ll see about that,” he replied. “Wong, give Sims his assignments!”
Wong was Captain Chang’s first mate. Over the next few weeks we patched holes, scraped off barnacles and put on a fresh coat of paint. We even repaired the old nets.
“Get some sleep. Tomorrow is a big day. We will be firing off,” Chang said.
“Yes Sir!” I replied.
I rented a hotel close to the harbor. It was only a five minute walk to the ship. I was sore from working and just wanted to turn in. Rest was very difficult that night.
Upon arriving, in the morning, the captain and Wong reeked of stale cigarettes and beer. “I’m going to get us out of Victoria Harbor and into open waters. After that, you will take the helm, while Wong and I sleep it off,” the captain said.
Once we departed the harbor, I took command. Wong and the captain awoke to a loud thud. One of the starboard engines went out. The portside engines were still running. The captain ordered me to cut the portside engines and allow the tide to drift us ashore.
When morning arose we were hundreds of miles off shore. Wong, clear headed now, went down to replace the valves on the starboard engines. As he did, a massive explosion shook the engine room, killing him instantly. The ship started taking on water. The captain ordered me to abandon ship.
“What about you, Sir?” I asked. “What will you do?”
“I’ll be fine! A captain always goes down with the ship!”
I awaited, on the deck, until the entire ship submerged. After a while, it was of no use treading water. The captain had already drowned hours earlier. I blacked out and awoke, a few days later, on a Canadian frigate. The doctor told me that they had located The Chang using sonar. The captain did not make it. Wong had already perished. The only one they could save was me. “Life is a gift,” the doctor said. “You better use it wisely, because second chances are very rare!”
I arrived back in port, a few days later, with the doctor’s advice still running through my head. I decided to return to America and give up the ways of the sea. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of the crew aboard the Sharleen Chang. Fair winds and following seas.
Brian Simmons is a school teacher in Johns Island, South Carolina. He served in the United States Navy during Operation Iraqi Freedom. His previous flash fiction work, “Morning Drive” and “Ghost Tour” have been featured in Fiery Scribe Review Literary Magazine. His flash fiction piece, “Ghost Ship” was featured in Bullshit Lit. Magazine. “The Mighty Sharleen Chang” is his latest flash fiction work.