By R.L. Keller
Dr. Will Jamison stretched, yawned, and reached for the small coffee pot that he kept in his office aboard the submarine Seaview. Frowning when he found it empty, he gave himself a wry smile and headed toward where he knew the coffee pot would never be empty – Seaview’s Wardroom. Cookie had one standing order – he and his assistant would both have to be dead before the coffee urn was allowed to go dry.
It was only mid-afternoon by the sub’s chronometer and there was no particular reason for Will to be tired. This cruise had been surprisingly calm. Even Seaview’s workaholic skipper, Lee Crane, had managed to stay out of trouble the whole three weeks Seaview had been out. But, for some reason Will hadn’t been able to fathom, he’d not slept well the night before and it was catching up with him. I suppose that it could have been that second slab of molten chocolate cake Cookie served last night, he mused with another wry grin as he walked down the corridor. But it sure was good!
From somewhere ahead of him there came a soft thud. Nothing that alarmed him – just something dropped harder than it probably should have been. He suspected that he’d hear about it – probably in COB Sharkey’s familiar grumble as he chewed out whoever of the crew was responsible. Will was, therefore, totally unprepared for the sound of laughter that greeted him as he rounded the next corner. In fact, the closer he got to the Wardroom, the louder and more hilarious it got. Will wasn’t sure who was laughing harder and harder, although it had a curiously familiar ring to it. The sound was infectious, and put a silly grin on his own face as he entered the Wardroom.
There he found several off duty j.o.’s standing around the connecting door to the Galley. While they were all smiling broadly, none of them was responsible for the progressively escalating laughter. Will cleared his throat loudly and the j.o.’s cleared a path for him – reluctantly to be sure. Will was totally unprepared for the sight that greeted him.
Seaview’s very competent, under control, normally serious, but young skipper, Lee Crane, was leaning back against a bulkhead, knees wobbly with laughter to the point that he was barely remaining upright. He saw Will out of the corner of his eye and tried to rein himself in. But he’d no more than gotten himself semi under control than the reason for his most unusual outburst sent him a glare. It totally undid Lee’s control and he was instantly laughing even harder, this time wrapping his arms across his stomach, and blinking his eyes at the tears that were forming.
Age and experience allowed Will to control himself better than Lee. But not by much. Seaview’s ultra competent, meticulous-to-the-point-of-being-anal Executive Officer – and Lee’s best friend – Chip Morton, was standing in the open doorway to the Galley’s walk-in refrigerator. His uniform, normally so dapper, crisp, and neat, with creases in the pants that were nearly sharp enough to slice bread, was at this moment covered with large, gloppy globs of bright yellow mustard. They were everywhere – on his shoulders, down his front, in his hair, oozing down his pants. Very little had been spared.
But as unreal as that scene was, it was the expression on the XO’s yellow-blotched face that was Will’s eventual undoing and he guffawed loudly. Chip’s glare could send crewmen running for their lives. It was extremely rare for him to even have to raise his voice, so easily could he command those under him. Unfortunately, it rarely had any effect on his best friend. Will had heard Lee once describe one of Chip’s expressions as ‘able to peel paint off steel.’ Will himself had seen any number of the XO’s better efforts. None of them even came close to the one Chip was now directing at Lee. Will was totally undone.
But before it could go any further, the j.o.’s once again parted and Will found Admiral Nelson standing at his shoulder. “What’s going on?” the Admiral growled. But the effect was totally spoiled by the grin on his face and the sparkle in his eyes. Chip’s expression softened perceptively, however, and Lee finally got himself back under some semblance of control.
“We just had a little accident, Admiral,” Cookie spoke up, from the relative safety of having the large food preparation table between him and his XO.
“So I can see,” Nelson answered calmly. But it was evident to all that he was having a major problem controlling his own mirth.
Chip finally spoke. “I decided, with things quiet for a few hours until we get to the next charting location, that I’d do a couple of spot inspections,” he told Nelson. It caused Lee to once more start laughing, and Chip sent him another glare.
“Actually, sir,” Lee got out between continuing howls of laughter, “he wanted the last of the chocolate cake that Cookie hid after supper last night.” Again Lee was overcome with laughter. Will snorted as well, and there was muted chuckles from the j.o’s. Nelson was only marginally more successful than his officers.
Chip’s expression finally went a bit sheepish – although he was still sending Lee the occasional nasty look. “I was checking the fridge’s contents against the inventory list,” he tried. It only succeeded in sending Lee into more fits of laughter. Chip’s voice rose to try and drown it out. “I lifted a jar of mustard and it slipped out of my hands.”
“And turned him into a corndog,” Lee barely got out, before losing his battle to stay upright. He only laughed harder as his back slid down the bulkhead and he ended up on the deck, laughing so hard that he could barely breathe.
The j.o.’s apparently decided that it might be a wise idea to be somewhere else, and quickly departed as Will and Nelson both struggled mightily not to join their skipper rolling helplessly on the deck. Cookie braved Chip’s icy look to walk around the long table and hand him a towel.
“I’d better go clean up,” Chip mumbled.
“Don’t you dare walk through the boat looking like that,” Will got out. “You’d have the whole crew running for their lives.” But he spoiled it by again laughing. As Chip threatened to turn the glare back on, Will held up a hand. “I’ll go get you a clean uniform.”
Nelson also had himself somewhat back under control. “And while you wait, perhaps Cookie will get you that piece of cake.” He looked down at his still out of control captain and grinned broadly. “I think you’ve earned it.”
BKA: Because Kim Asked