A big thank you to Carol Foss for her invaluable suggestions and editing. It certainly improved the flow of the story, not to mention the punctuation and grammar!
Christmas Wish - Dizzy Dolphin
Admiral Harriman Nelson looked out of the feature window of his two story cabin in the
He and Crane had always tried to arrange Seaview’s schedule to allow holiday leaves for the crew.
Lee was already supposed to be here; they’d spent Christmas here for the last four years.
Lee had no family, his father having passed away when he was young, his mother shortly after Lee accepted the Captaincy of Seaview. Nelson only found out about this by accident when one of Lee’s friends extended his condolences. Lee had always been a very private person but there were exceptions, primarily Nelson himself, Chip Morton, Doc, and surprisingly, Kowalski!
Interesting watching that develop, thought Nelson, given the rocky start between the two men when Lee had floored Kowalski with a well aimed and powerful punch when he snuck aboard to test security. But it was commonplace now for Lee to choose Kowalski to be his partner when diving or going out on the FS1 to collect samples or go exploring. For his part Kowalski was always pleased to go with his Captain, and heaven help the seaman that criticized Captain Crane in his presence.
Nelson had a sister, Edith, who sometimes joined he and Lee for Christmas, but this year she was otherwise occupied in Europe, travelling with a friend and, Nelson was sure, having a wonderful time. At least the postcards said she was. He rather had hopes about Lee and Edith but so far they only seemed to enjoy each other’s company, nothing more. He’d have to arrange for them to spend a little more time together when Edith returned.
The ONI mission had been simple enough, for once. Lee and Stephen* had infiltrated the rebel camp, taken pictures and gathered info on armament supplies and who the rebels seemed to be trading with. There was that one ‘incident’ where Lee had inadvertently insulted one of the rebels, resulting in a split lip. While Lee knew several languages he did sometimes get his words mixed up. So it was that when trying to tell the rebel to go get a rooster for the evening cockfight, he implied something totally different. Stephen nearly doubled over in laughter, which distracted Lee so that he didn’t see the punch coming.
Neither Lee nor Stephen approved of the cockfights, but it was what these guys did for entertainment. It was shortly after that that they decided they had all the Intel they were going to get, ‘folded their tent and disappeared into the sands’, as the saying goes. Stephen claimed they had to leave because they couldn’t risk what Lee might say next.
plane landed in
They collected their backpacks from the luggage carousel and stood in the customs line. Lee thought they might get a once over given their appearance but the agent just stamped their passports and sent them on their way. Neither man knew it but the agent was also an ‘agent’ and when she examined their passports with her concealed scanner it informed her that these men were extended ‘family’.
Pity, she had thought, wouldn’t have minded searching those two.
to grab a coffee or something?” Stephen asked Lee. “I've got a half hour wait for my connecting flight."
"No, just have time to get myself over to the gate for mine."
"Think again Lee, just saw your flight up on the board; you're delayed."
"In that case it's a definite yes.”
As they enjoyed the more than welcome brew, they found themselves discussing their holiday plans. Stephen was heading to his brother’s after he dropped ‘the package’ at ONI headquarters. Lee planned to spend the holiday with Admiral Nelson in the mountains. He'd be late but should be there in time for dinner and tree decorating.
Stephen's flight was called, and the two shook hands, "Great working with you again Lee, even with the, ah, language issue, have a Merry Christmas!"
Lee laughed, “Just glad I didn’t say anything else offensive…I’m still not sure how I'm going to explain the lip to the Admiral. Hope you have a Merry Christmas too."
Timed passed slowly after Stephen left, and Lee paced the airport concourse for the umpteenth time waiting for his flight. He’d thought about renting a car but it was a 6 ˝ drive and he was tired. When the flight was finally cancelled, he tried going on standby for another to no avail.
Nelson switched on the stereo, and punched the CD player on. ‘I’ll be Home for Christmas’ started, “I wish you were son, I wish you were,” he sighed. He started to putter around in the kitchen, made himself a generous brandy laced coffee and took it into the living area.
A picture of Lee and Chip, taken last summer by the lake near the cabin was on the fireplace mantle. They were standing at the end of the dock in swim trunks, Lee lean and well tanned, 6-pack abs in evidence, dark hair a riot of damp curls. Chip was leaning against Lee with his arm around Lee’s neck. He was heavier built but equally muscular, lightly tanned and blonde in contrast to Lee’s dark looks. Nelson remembered the incident, the two had made quite a pair. Chip had pushed Lee off the dock into the water. As Lee climbed out Chip had hesitated a bit too long before trying to get away. Lee’s sprint was better than his and they both ended up in the lake, seeing who could drown whom first, like a couple of river otter pups at play.
Lee was sitting in one of the airport cafeterias having yet another coffee and thinking about various crew members.
Francis Ethelbert Sharkey. Lee had had a hard time
controlling himself remembering when that little 'bomb' was dropped in the
Control Room during a discussion between Sharkey and someone he’d known while
growing up. Lee had kept his head down, studiously looking at the chart
on the table but his grin kept trying to surface. The Admiral had made
things harder by repeating, "Oh, Francis Ethelbert Sharkey eh," and
giving Lee a dig in the ribs that no one could see.
Sharkey was definitely the 'Admiral's man' and made no secret of it, even to the point of keeping important information about Nelson’s health from him, outright insubordination, and countermanding an order Lee had given to Kowalski. Sharkey had then ignored the Captain’s order to confine himself to his cabin. It was only as a result of Nelson's intervention that Lee didn't severely discipline the man.
Lee did give Sharkey credit for not ratting him out to the Admiral when he had gone mermaid hunting, not that Sharkey had known what he was after. Rank certainly had its privileges when the Captain busted standard diving protocols. Lee also had to admit that the COB kept the crew on top of things.
Patterson loved to needle Sharkey, and Sharkey was always threatening to put him on report. Thinking of Patterson naturally brought Kowalski to mind. Lee had plans for Kowalski; he’d found him to be dependable and capable and Lee enjoyed his company. All good reasons to frequently pick Kowalski to go with him on various duties. Granted, he needed some of the rough edges smoothed off a bit but one day he might make a very fine Limited Duty Officer**.
Then of course there was Admiral Nelson. Lee wasn’t sure when or how it happened but one day he’d realized that the Admiral had come to mean more to him than being his employer, his mentor, or even his friend. He knew the Admiral felt the same towards him. In fact the relationship had developed into that of father and son, making things a bit tricky at times. Their ‘discussions’ could reach considerable volume and did not always take place behind closed doors. The two of them could empty the wardroom in record time or cause the Control Room duty watch to try and shrink into their chairs.
The Admiral looked out the window again. Clouds covered the moon now and there was a light snow falling. ‘Frosty the Snowman’ was playing. He was remembering looking out this window a couple of winters ago....
Chip had come up with Lee on December 21st to spend a couple of days at the cabin and wasn't heading home to his family until the 23rd. The Admiral opted to remain in the cabin while Lee and Chip went out and started to make snowmen. Naturally, it turned into a contest as to who made the better one. Size seemed to be an important consideration and both of their snowmen were reaching a considerable height and girth. Lee sculpted arms and legs for his, Chip went with the traditional tree branches for arms and no legs. Lee somehow got a fairly good semblance of a tongue on his snowman's face, predictably sticking out at Chip's snowman. Chip considered his own creation for a moment, Nelson knew what he probably had in mind for his snowman’s response but didn't think he'd be able to bend the branch appropriately, or if he’d dare. He never did find out if Chip could or would have. Two very large fluffy snowballs, fired almost in salvo, nailed Chip.
A furious snow-war began, the two friends went full out, no-holds-barred. Lee managed to get Chip down first and stuffed snow down his front. Chip dislodged Lee and pinned him face down just long enough to get a handful of snow down his back before Lee ‘bucked’ and threw Chip off. By the time they’d finished rolling in the snow and pelting each other with the stuff they looked like snowmen themselves. Finally Nelson took a broom to the pair of them, ‘sweeping’ the snow off before letting them inside. Then it was brandied hot chocolate with whipped cream all around.
Lee’s airline offered to provide complimentary rooms at a nearby hotel for any passengers that had to stay the night because of the flight cancellation. He’d take up the offer after another coffee. His mind wandered to Jamie; he really must make a New Year’s resolution to try and be a bit more co-operative where the doctor was concerned. Of course he’d made this resolution every year; it just never seemed to work. He knew that on more than one occasion Jamie was probably the reason that he was still breathing. The doctor took good care of the men on Seaview, sometimes under very difficult conditions. Wasn’t easy trying to figure out how to treat men who had been put into deep shock by a rampaging mummy, especially when you didn’t know about the darn thing. “A broken arm would be much simpler,” Jamie had told the Admiral in exasperation.
Then there was Chip. Couldn’t
ask for a better friend or XO, Lee thought warmly. They’d seen a lot of years together, starting
right back at the
It was getting late and Nelson decided it was time to bank the fire, turn off the lights and secure the doors. He noticed that the moon had come out again, and the beams shone through the double glass doors that opened onto the deck. The moonlight glinted off the tinsel hanging on the tree. He and Lee usually decorated it together; Nelson had done the best he could but his heart hadn’t been in it. He’d kept hoping Lee would appear. He trudged wearily up the stairs to bed.
Lee finished his second cup of coffee and was about to go make his hotel arrangements when he heard ‘HO HO HO’ in the distance.
Guess Santa is
doing the rounds of the airport, thought Lee. A couple of minutes later over the paging
system he heard, “If Lee Crane is in the airport, please come to gate 15C, I
repeat, if Lee Crane is in the airport please come to gate 15C.” That was strange, he
knew there was no possibility of a flight to
As he approached the gate he saw a people with children standing around it. He could also see Santa talking to the children and hear the giggles.
Well at least someone is having a good time, he thought.
He walked around the gathered children so as not to be in the way of those wishing to have a few words with the jolly old elf, getting in last minute present requests.
“Hello, I’m Lee Crane, I believe you paged me,” he said to the attendant at the desk.
“Yes, I’m glad you’re still here, the gentleman over there in the red suit wants to talk to you.”
Lee wasn’t sure what to make of that and he guessed it showed on his face as the attendant started to laugh.
Lee moved to get a good look at Santa, Santa looked over at Lee and in a big booming voice said, “Ah there you are Lee, have you been a good boy this year?”
“Aren’t you the one who’s suppose to know that?” laughed Lee. Something about Santa was familiar, the beard hid most of his face but there was something.....then Lee had it.
Not wanting to break the magic for the children Lee played along. “Haven’t seen you in a long time Santa.”
“Afraid I’ve been pretty busy, making toys, overseeing the elves and checking the lists is a full time job.”
“I’m sure it must be,” Lee replied. A little boy looked up at Lee and asked him, “Are you friends with Santa?”
“I’d like to think so.”
Santa had moved closer to Lee and leaned down to hand the little fellow a candy cane. “HO HO HO, have to go now, need to talk to my friend Lee here and discuss whether he’s been naughty or nice, HO HO HO!” The attendant directed Santa and Lee over to a private area where they could talk.
“So, ONI has you in deep cover do they?” Lee asked once they had some privacy, "Not that it's not nice to see you again, but what on earth are you doing here Mike***?"
"One of the elves gave me a jingle, said that you might need some assistance," grinned Santa, "gotta' love computers and flight tracking!”
Lee figured the ‘elf’ in question would have been Stephen. “Uh huh, and you’re in a Santa suit because?” Lee actually figured he knew the answer to that one. Mikes’ family lived in the area, he loved kids and when he could would volunteer at the Children’s Hospital. Some day the man would make a great husband and father, but like most ONI agents didn’t feel that he could think in those terms just yet.
Thinking about families brought to Lee’s mind the men and women of the armed forces, from his and other countries, serving away from home to bring peace and protection to others. God Bless them and bring them safely home, Lee prayed silently.
He realized that Mike was talking to him and he refocused, “...so we just finished at the hospital and thought we’d see if you were still here.”
He realized he’d missed who the other half of who the ‘we’ was, he didn’t see anyone else in the area that appeared to be with Mike.
“I was just going to see about getting a hotel room.”
“Nope, no way. Santa is going to see that you make it to your Admiral’s cabin, tonight.”
“You’re hiding your sleigh and reindeer around here somewhere?”
“Next best thing. TH-57C Sea Ranger Helicopter, she’ll get us there in around 3 hours.”
“Do I even want to know how you got your hands on one of those? Not to mention that the last I knew, you weren’t rated to fly one.”
“I’m not telling, and I’m not the pilot. ‘Rudolph’ is. Come on, let’s get in the air.”
Lee followed Mike out to where the chopper was, he did a bit of a double take when he saw the pilot. Turned out it really was ‘Rudolph’, sort of. Blinking antlers adorned the pilot’s head and he was wearing a brown velvet jacket, white ‘bib’ and brown pants. The two of them must have been quite a hit at the hospital.
Mike made the introductions, “Lee, ‘Rudolph’ aka my brother Jim. Jim, the ‘infamous’ Lee Crane.” Lee wondered just what stories Mike had been telling his family about him.
Lee and Mike climbed in, put on their head gear and were airborne in short order. Jim hit a switch and Lee heard ‘Run Rudolph Run’ playing through his headphones, Jim turned and gave him a wink. They made the trip in under the estimated 3 hours.
Lee asked Jim to put down in a meadow a half
mile or so away from the cabin, Lee didn’t want to wake the Admiral if he’d
gone to bed. He asked them if they’d
like to stay, there was room in the cabin, but they declined. They’d refuel at the
The snow was dazzling under the moonlight, as if everything was frosted with tiny diamonds. Although extremely tired Lee was enjoying the hike, the crunch of the snow, the crisp air. The song ‘Winter Wonderland’ popped into his head and he started softly humming. He could have used warmer clothes and higher boots but he soon warmed up as he went along . At one point he stopped to silently admire the trees draped in the glistening snow and while standing there a doe and her fawn stepped daintily out onto the trail. He stayed very still and after a couple of minutes the pair moved off into the trees. Lee shivered. He’d better keep moving if he wanted to stay warm. The cabin wasn’t far now.
Lee could see that there were no lights on as he approached. So, he’d been right that the Admiral had gone to bed. He checked his watch, it was just coming up 0100. He still had the spare key Nelson had given him years ago, and let himself in as quietly as he could. The cabin was nice and warm, and he didn’t want to risk disturbing the Admiral by going upstairs, so he decided to sack out on the couch. He knew it was very comfortabl; he’d fallen asleep on it many times before. There was a crocheted afghan draped over the back that would be more than adequate to keep him warm through the remainder of the night, or morning actually. A quick trip to the facilities and he happily collapsed on the couch, pulling the afghan over himself, snuggling down. He thought once again of his friends, his crew and what a fortunate man he was, as he drifted off to sleep.
Admiral Nelson awoke to a white-out snowstorm outside the cabin. “Oh isn’t that just wonderful,” he groused to himself as he looked out his bedroom window, “Lee will never get up here in that.”
He thought about just rolling over and going back to sleep but years of habit kicked in and he climbed out of bed. He bundled himself into his robe and slippers, and headed downstairs to make some breakfast. His mind drifted back to coming down these stairs last year... Lee had already been up making breakfast, had Christmas music playing, and began to sing along. The Admiral had been quite surprised at finding that Lee had a very good singing voice:
Do you remember me?
I sat upon your knee,
I wrote to you with childhood fantasies.
Well, I'm all grown-up now
Can you still help somehow?
I'm not a child,
but my heart still can dream.
So here's my lifelong wish,
My grown-up Christmas
Not for myself,
but for a world in need.
No more lives torn apart,
That wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts.
Everyone would have a friend,
That right would always win,
And love would never end.
This is my grown-up Christmas list.
What is this illusion called the innocence of youth?
Maybe only in that blind belief can we ever find the truth.
No more lives torn apart,
That wars would never start,
And time would heal our hearts.
Everyone would have a friend,
That right would always win,
And love would never end.
This is my grown-up Christmas list.
This is my only lifelong wish.
This is my grown-up Christmas list.
He was halfway down the stairs when he saw a backpack and then the occupant of the couch. A dishevelled Lee Crane, sleeping mostly on his side with his right arm tucked under his head and the left dangling over the side of the couch. His hair was longer than regulation, face slightly bearded and boasting a split lip.
“I’ll have to get the story about that,” he muttered, slightly amused. All in all, it was the most wonderful sight that Admiral Nelson had ever seen on Christmas morning.
The End - and a very joyous holiday season to all!
I’ve heard several versions of the song ‘Grown-up Christmas List’ - David Foster/Linda Thompson-Jenner, liked this one the best.
* A Limited Duty Officer (LDO) is an officer in the United States Navy or United States Marine Corps who was
selected for commissioning based on his/her skill and expertise, and is not
required to have a bachelor's degree. They are employed in
situations where it is desirable to have an officer with strong, specific
technical knowledge and seasoned leadership. Per Title 10, US Code, an
LDO is a permanent commissioned officer appointed under section 5589 in a permanent
grade above chief warrant officer, W-5, and designated
for limited duty. Historically an LDO, prior to World War II, could only
advance as far as lieutenant. Later an LDO could be promoted to commander and,
in the Marine Corps, the senior LDO rank is Lieutenant
Colonel. In the 1990 the ceiling in most
The LDO/WO motto is "sursum ab ordine" which means "up from the ranks" to underline a distinction between them and officers commissioned directly from collegiate programs such as the U.S. Naval Academy, Naval ROTC, and similar pre-commissioning officer candidate programs of the Navy and Marine Corps.
** ONI agent, one of four that Lee has periodically worked closely with.
*** Ditto above. Upon occasion they have all worked together as a unit on ONI assignments. Other two being, Gerald and Daniel.