The perfect con is one where everyone involved gets just what they wanted.
—The Brothers Bloom (directed by Rian Johnson, 2009)
For the longest part of the voyage, the twenty-six people on board the Zim Qingdao, a ten-year-old, 261-meter-long, 50,689-ton-capacity, Chinese-built container ship under a Liberian registration, included one Israeli captain, four Israeli officers, four Russian-Ukrainian-Israeli engineers, one Russian-Israeli electrician, one Bulgarian boatswain, seven deck workers—three from Sri Lanka, three from Ukraine, and one from Myanmar—one Sri Lankan and one Bulgarian fitter, a Bulgarian cook, two stewards—a Sri Lankan and a Russian-Ukrainian—a cadet from Israel, and a passenger whose duty cannot be publicly disclosed. The ship sailed through the Suez Canal, the Gulf of Aden, and the Strait of Malacca, calling at the ports of Odessa, Istanbul Ambar, Haifa, Nhava Sheva, Port Klang, Da Chan Bay, Pusan, and Shanghai.
The announcement that an artist was coming on board reached the crew by fax, a one-way communication that was printed out and taped to the wall of the galley on B-deck, between the garbage disposal rules and an e-mail warning of the grave financial consequences for publishing images of the Suez Canal. Arriving the same day was a mournful warning about impending food rations. It had come to the attention of management that the chef could make do with fewer vegetables than he had requested. Management would appreciate his economizing in these difficult times for the company.
In keeping with corporate protocol, no one had asked the crew for their opinion on the addition of the artist and they didn’t pay much attention to the memo. At a supplemental briefing, the captain announced that “a woman artist” was coming aboard for “an exciting project sponsored by ZIM, which will be leveraged for public relations and marketing purposes.” Two weeks into the trip the steward pointed at the head shot of the artist on the memo. “You are her?” he asked skeptically, “No way!” As someone less exposed to what constitutes a “celebrity,” he couldn’t reconcile the print version with the real person.
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