ChrisHalf400Flute 02



Thetis Island Ferry

Thetis Island Ferry


hasn’t changed in twenty years
it is still flat bottomed
its deck
open to rain, wind,
and corrosive salt water spray

the small bridge sits elevated on the port side
accessed by an open flight of stairs
of perforated metal
to let the water run through
with a boom in front
painted black
supporting a search light

the ship’s propeller spews white foam in all directions
from its spinning blades
propulsion in all directions
you can see it from the car deck
a roaring tiger
trapped within a wire safety cage


the captain I knew was
plump, with a demeanor that seemed routine
he knew my father, somehow
and so I got to steer the ferry

he put his hat on my head
a captain’s hat
with golden stitches
and brass bars
but the hat didn’t stay on very well
it leaned to one side immediately 

on the horizon
I could see the countless trees of the inner Gulf Islands
and the gently sloping hills
extending around the cockpit
the small channel felt as though it went on forever

I piloted the Thetis Island ferry
following the direction of the captain’s index finger
aiming towards Chemainus
until it was time to dock


one day
the captain was unsteady
his eyes were glazed and his forehead sweaty
he was approaching the dock too fast

in the past he liked to throw the propeller into reverse
at the last moment
for sport

this time, however, he was too late
the tiger caged beneath the car deck
began to lash out
white foam spewed out uselessly
until the bow of the ship came smashing into the piling
crumpling them towards the shore

the cement causeway
the guard-rails and wooden bumpers,
all crushed

into a jumbled array of elements
coming to rest
on the rocky shore

the captain’s hat
now rested upside down on the floor
next to the steering wheel

and there was no way
that I could pick up that hat
I knew
that it no longer belonged on my head