By: Darla M Poulos
"What is this stuff?" asked Lee Crane, Captain of the Seaview, as he tentatively poked at the food on his plate. It looked like dried-out noodles, mixed with tomato sauce, herbs, cottage cheese and a splash of brown bits disguised as ground beef. He’d been late joining his wife Heather, Admiral Nelson, and Seaview’s executive officer, Chip Morton in the observation nose for dinner.
A giggle was heard from the redheaded woman next to him and chuckles from the men. "Lee," grinned his XO, "that’s what you get when you tick off the cook." Ignoring his dour look, Chip went on, "Besides, he probably thought you wouldn’t eat it anyways. That’s why he gave you the end piece, he figures it will end up in the garbage disposal."
"Oh, for crying-out-loud, Cookie can’t still be sore at me for picking Sharkey’s raisin bread puddingover his peach cobbler? I mean, give me a break, you know peaches are no longer one of my favorite dishes." He heard Heather groan next to him. "See? She agrees with me," he lightly quipped, feeling justified, as he reached over and squeezed her hand under the table.
The other two men chuckled again and the admiral asked, with a twinkle in his eye, "Peaches, they’ll forever be a reminder of your old girlfriend, huh Lee?" A scowl from his captain and a mutinous look from his daughter more than answered his question. "Well, that’s another story. Now, tell me, how is it you chose Sharkey’s dish over Cookies?"
Lee took a bite of the stiff garlic bread and chewed the cardboard substance getting a strong taste of greasy butter. He picked up his glass of water and chugged a quarter of it down to dislodge the bread stuck in his throat. Cookie’s revenge no doubt. He then decided to try the yellow and green beans. They came out of a can, I’m sure they’ll be all right. They coated his teeth with a wax and strangely crunched in his ears. In defeat, he gave up pushing the plate aside and started in on the Italian salad. It was wilted, but he kept eating it for he was somewhat hungry.
"Well, Admiral, it was like this. The NIMR cook-off, as you know, was a complete success in bringing up the morale of the base and Seaview personnel, especially after the events from our last mission. We raised a good amount of money for Edith’s orphan charity and had fun doing it, even though I don’t know how I got roped into being the judge," he raised a brow and pointedly looked over at his wife, who fidgeted in her chair. A ghost of a smile was exchanged between father and daughter, as Chip cleared his throat. So, it was a plot, to get me to eat…and I just bet, Doc was in on it too…well, it worked, I was never, so stuffed. He grimaced at the memories, I didn’t know there could be, so many categories of food…
"The food was great. It was hard to pick a winner out of each category, in the end I just ah, picked every third one that I tasted," he sheepishly looked down at his plate waiting for their comments. They weren’t long in coming…
Heather chided, "Lee, you’ve got to be kidding? After all the men’s hard work?"
He defensively came back with, "Well, they all tasted great, it was hard to choose and besides you know how I hate taking time out to eat," with that, he hurried up and finished his salad.
Nelson knew that statement to be more fact than fiction. It was the reason this scheme had been cooked up to begin with. They were all worried about his most recent eating habits. He’s eating less than he ever did and Doc thinks he’s wasting away…literally. Granted, we just came back from a hard mission rescuing an ONI agent. Lee and Heather, with part of the crew, had been captured. We got them back after a hair-raising adventure. Their boat had been sunk with a box of dangerous chemicals, which we also recovered. There’d been loss of life including his own child…that’s got to be the crux of the problem…he’s still brooding…
Chip looked at his friend aghast, "All that …that wonderful food and you didn’t enjoy it?"
"Food is food," flatly replied Crane taking a sip of water from his glass as he stared at his plate.
"But, Lee, it was the best! Every man’s dream is to eat delicious food. No wonder Cookie’s put out with you."
"What’s that suppose to mean?" he testily asked, bringing his hazel eyes up to meet Chip’s blue ones.
The conversation was taking a serious turn and Nelson decided Chip was well able to handle part 2 of the plot. He got up from the table and quietly stated he was heading back to his cabin.
Heather, taking her father’s cue, grabbed her cookies to take with her as she got up and softly said, "I’ve got to get back to the books."
Lee, seeing the big chocolate chip cookies in her hand, looked down at his own plate and noticed the tray was devoid of the treat. "Where’s my cookie or should I say, who’s got my cookie?"
Heather had the good grace to blush and stammered, "Ah, well Lee, since you seem to have an aversion to food lately…I didn’t think you’d mind if I took these for a snack." She watched his face darken. "I mean, they taste awfully good and I didn’t want them to go to waste," she sighed dramatically, " and besides, I don’t want Cookie mad at me for not eating his food." Before he could retort, she pushed in her chair, winked at Chip over the back of Lee’s head and quickly followed the Admiral up the curved stairs.
Staring daggers at his wife’s retreating back, Lee heard his exec bite into a cookie. It crunched and Chip moaned with pleasure.
"Do you have to make such a big deal about it?" he scowled as he picked up his fork and played with the dried-out, over sized noodles on his plate, trying to decide if he really wanted to eat them or not. I am hungry. Why, can’t they understand? I can’t just drop everything when its mealtime. I have responsibilities…meals are low on my list of priorities. He inhaled the smell of the fresh cookie and it made his mouth water as Chip took another bite. His stomach growled in protest.
Chip knew he was getting on his commander’s nerves. He slowly chewed the cookie savoring each bite. He watched as his Skipper ground his teeth and took a bite of his cold lasagna. He waited until he swallowed, then weighing his words carefully said, "You know Lee, Cookie really thinks you don’t like his cooking."
Lee stabbed another forkful of beans and stopped midway to his mouth to protest, "That’s ridiculous." He chewed the beans, unconsciously grimacing as he swallowed.
"He even went as far as to ask me what he could do to get you to eat his food." Thinking back to the conversation Chip grinned to himself. The big burly cook had been beside himself after the cook-off…
"Mr. Morton, Doc wants me to fix more meals in accordance to the Skipper’s tastes, but it’s near impossible. The man just doesn’t eat, besides he seems to prefer Sharkey’s cooking over mine."
"That is not true and you know it."
"Yeah, but Sharkey got all A’s in cooking class. He really is the better cook."
Chip couldn’t believe their cook was actually feeling sorry, for himself. He tried to bolster his confidence, "That doesn’t make his cooking better than yours. Where did you learn to cook?"
"In the Navy," he frowned, "we learned to use what we had on board. As you know, after a few days at sea, the fresh variety runs out and we have to make due with what we have in the cans or freezer. So, how do I get the Captain to enjoy my limited…concoctions?"
He didn’t know what to tell the down trodden cook, Lee’s got us all beat on that score, "I’m sorry Cookie, but I can’t force the Captain to enjoy your culinary creations. You’ll just have to figure that one out for yourself. You can do it, I know you can." He was relieved when he had been called forward…
Chip was brought back to the conversation at hand with an exclamation from his Skipper. "Blast it, Chip! I’m not that hard to please, why, I can eat anything the man prepares…if I have too." He dropped his fork and made a grab for Chip’s other cookie, but Chip was faster, snatching it up before his eyes and taking a bite.
"This is my cookie, you’ll have to ask Cookie for your own if you can con your way back into his good graces." He inwardly grinned as Lee reluctantly stabbed another forkful of beans. So, the man’s finally hungry. Time to start the next phase…
A moody Crane, who suddenly realized he was very hungry, hesitantly replied, "Now, how am I suppose to do that?"
Chip paused a few moments deep in thought. He broke off a chunk of cookie and nibbled on the edges making sure he had Lee’s attention. He stuffed another piece of cookie in his mouth and snapped his fingers, "Okay Lee, I’ve got it, here’s what you do." He waited a bit as he slowly pulled off a big hunk of melted chocolate from the cookie and brought it to his mouth. He slowly, ever so slowly, chewed it and swallowed, moaning in delight as he did so. Knowing that he had Lee’s rapt interest he pointedly said, " Eat everything on your plate and take the empty dish back to the galley yourself." He stifled a chuckle at the horrified expression on his friend’s face. "I bet you can’t do it."
Lee’s instincts picked up with the last statement. I smell a rat here. Hating himself, he couldn’t help but ask, "What are you willing to bet?"
Chip rubbed his chin in thought. This has to be good or he’ll never fall for it. "Let’s see…Melonie and I are fond of the theater as you and Heather are…how about 2 tickets to any show playing in Santa Barbara and dinner at any top 4 star restaurant?"
"All that just for taking my empty plate down to the galley?" asked an astonished Lee. This is too easy. It’d be like taking candy from a baby.
"Oh no, Lee," protested his XO, as he took a sip of coffee. "With that kind of money involved, you have to do more than that."
I should have known, there’d be a catch. A sigh was heard as he picked up his fork and used it to cut into the rubbery substance on his plate. "Okay, let’s hear it."
"All right, Lee, since we’re only a few days out of New London, I’ll wager you this: for the next couple of days, you have to eat everything on your plate…no matter what it is, until we come into port."
A myriad of expressions ranging from horror to disgust marched across his captain’s face. Lee put down his fork and looked at his friend with a knowing smile. "Doc put you up to this, didn’t he?"
Chip kept his eyes focused on his cookie and slowly took another bite, careful to keep his poker face intact. "Now, why would he do that? He’s a doctor not your mother."
Lee stared intently at his exec’s blank face and knew he was being well played. Chip is well known for his practical jokes and unreadable expressions. Maybe I should take him up on the bet, if only to prove them all wrong. He looked at his half eaten food, his stomach rebelled, he brought his eyes up to Chip’s cookie as he ate the last bite and licked the crumbs from his lips. He could practically taste that cookie and 2 tickets to a play with an expensive meal, (and he would make sure it was very expensive) sounded inviting. All I have to do is eat. How hard can that be?
"All right, you’re on, under one condition."
"What’s that?" Chip asked warily, as he wiped his hands on a linen napkin.
"No one’s to know about it, especially not Cookie. Comprehend?"
Chip did, for he could well imagine the extra food Lee would find on his plate. "Okay, deal."
Cookie was shocked when his captain came into the galley and returned his empty plate. Lee seeing the cook’s surprised expression, knowingly asked, "Is something wrong, Cookie?"
Cookie practically dropped the dish as he put it in the sink to be washed. "Ah, no sir, nothing…" he noticed his skipper seemed to be inspecting his domain. Has the stove been washed yet? Are the tables wiped down? What is he looking for? Tentatively, he politely inquired, "May I be of some help, Sir?"
Lee was keenly disappointed. He didn’t see any telltale signs of the chocolate chip cookies he’d envisioned, to be sitting out on a tray waiting for him. Fool. The men would devour them in an instant. Not wanting to be obvious about it, he reached for a cup that was in the hopper, always sitting on the counter by the coffee urn. He poured himself a cup, added a spoonful of sugar with a splash of milk and nonchalantly remarked, "I sure wish there were some cookies left over." He continued his impromptu inspection, taking in the spotlessly clean stove and the shiny pans with locking lids hanging above it. He briefly wondered how Cookie kept them on the stove during Seaview’s rock and roll periods. Looking closer, he noted the specially designed straps that secured them to the stove and the counters built-in wedges along the edges. That must be the key, he privately mused, to keep the various galley paraphernalia from hitting the deck.
Getting the hint, Cookie smiled and replied, "Well, Sir, I might be able to help you out there." He took in his skipper’s thinly veiled look of hope and quickly reached up into a cupboard and pulled out a plastic container filled with cookies. "These are my emergency supply when an officer, namely the admiral, comes calling in the middle of the night…just don’t tell Mr. Morton or there’ll be hell to pay."
"Cookie, your secret is safe with me," grinned a happy Captain Crane as he bit into a fresh, soft, melt in your mouth cookie. "Mmmmm, these are soooo good."
"Thanks, Skipper, but the credit this time goes to Sharkey and Heather." He heard his captain cough as he put the container back in the cupboard.
"You mean they baked these cookies?" Crane sharply asked. The rat is getting closer.
Surprised at his reaction, Cookie reluctantly went on, "Well, ya see, Sir, Sharkey came in and said he had to bake these cookies and I had to get down to engineering to go over some damage control stuff. So, I gave him Heather, who is still assigned to the galley for her extra duties from her last fiasco." Seeing his skipper’s perplexed look, he hurried on, "You know, the one with the shark or maybe it was when you two went down in the bell and she forgot to tell you about…" Seeing a flash of pain in his Skippers eyes and the tightening of his jaw, Cookie mentally kicked himself for bringing up bad memories and quickly played it down, "I don’t know, she’s always in trouble and there are so many incidents, I get them all mixed up." He nervously started wiping off the counter as he talked, "Any ways, Sharkey said it was important that he bake these cookies for tonight’s dinner." He meticulously brushed the crumbs back to his cupped hand and looked up in time to see his captain’s displeasure.
"Cookie?" Lee didn’t give him time to answer, "Was Sharkey under orders to bake those cookies? Did he ever say?"
A look of confusion crossed over the cook’s face, "Ah, no Sir, he didn’t say."
"I see," said the captain, as he strode from the galley, his body rigid.
"Whew, for a minute there I thought I blew it," he said out loud to the empty galley. Now, let me see, what are we going to have for breakfast tomorrow? Powdered eggs or lumpy oatmeal, we’re getting to the end of our stock. The admiral wanted no foodstuffs left aboard when Seaview goes back into dry dock for the last of her refit. Powdered eggs? Ugh! I wonder what I can mix with them to make them more appetizing? Hmm, I wonder what I did with that recipe for egg casserole? He pulled out the drawer with all his favorite cookbooks hunting for one in particular and finding it on the bottom of the pile. He lifted it out of the drawer and opened the book titled, The Navy’s Best Food and Culinary Delights…."Talk about, ‘Letting the Journey Begin,’" mumbled Cookie as he sorted through the index cards that were stuffed in between the pages. Lets see…it’s here somewhere…Grandma’s special cookies…Jean’s salad…Aunt Esther’s Beef Barfey Soup…Barfey?? He looked at the faded pencil print closer, That’s Barley, ya knucklehead, barley soup…"Ah ha," he shouted in relief, as he found the elusive recipe. The Breakfast Special, my dear old Mom’s secret recipe…
Lee hurried up and finished his cookie, the pleasure now gone, as he walked angrily down the corridor. Doc couldn’t have taken such extreme measures just to get me to eat, could he? I’m a grown man and captain of this boat, I don’t need someone constantly mother henning me! I know I’ve lost weight, but I’m okay. Its just stress and I haven’t been hungry. How can you eat when you’re not hungry? He thought about the bet he’d just made with Chip. So help me, if he’s in on this, I’ll make him swab the deck with a toothbrush, officer or not…
He just made it to the sickbay office, when he was thrown into the bulkhead opposite the door. What the hell is going on now? No sooner was that thought completed, he was tossed against the other side of the corridor, beside the doorframe. He latched onto the frame by his fingertips, holding on by sheer force, as Seaview rolled again. He waited for her to roll back, then opened the door with a frantic twist of the knob and fell inside to the deck. He could hear various objects hitting the deck from inside sickbay proper and Doc’s curses.
"Doc, you all right?" shouted Crane, as he tried to regain his feet.
"Yes Sir, just get this boat to stop heaving," came his reply, as an instrument tray flew off its stand, barely missing his head. It landed with a twang, against the bulkhead behind his shoulder, where he was sprawled on the deck.
Lee staggered to his feet after two tries, lunged for the wall mic, grabbed it and balanced for a moment against the bulkhead. "Control room! This is the Captain! What’s going on up there?"
Chip’s voice came over the intercom, "Lee, the gyrostabilizer went on the blink. The electrician’s mate just reported it was beginning to short out when all hell broke loose!" The nose of the submarine dipped downward at a sharp angle, throwing Lee from the wall he’d been leaning against, over to Doc’s desk that was welded in place. He careened off the corner of the desk and much to his disgust found himself back prostrate on the deck. With the mic cord stretched out beneath him, he could hear Chip over the pager system, yelling to the helmsmen to pull up on the planes. He brought the mic up to his mouth, only to realize Chip still had the button depressed. Come on Chip get off the intercom. He didn’t wait for him to do so. He climbed to his feet with the next roll of the boat and stumbled into the corridor, then ran down the passageway, helter-skelter to the gyro room.
Nelson was in the middle of studying the schematics, of some new technical equipment, that was to be installed in Seaview upon their arrival in New London. He was relaxed in his desk chair, with his legs stretched out before him, as he held the plans in his hands reading them like the Sunday paper. Soft music played in the background, from his stereo, lulling him into a state of rest. Seaview unrepentantly, did her first dip, knocking him out of his desk chair and to the deck. The diagram became trapped beneath him, as various other items, not bolted down, came flying down to land beside or on top of him. He waited for the boat to right herself, and then rolled with the sway of Seaview, coming back up against his desk. He grabbed for the edge of the desk and pulled himself to a standing position, leaning heavily against the surface, as he reached for the intercom speaker, which sat a few inches away. He just managed to grab it, when he overheard the conversation between his captain and exec. Blast it Chip! Let go of the button. Growing impatient, he weaved his way to the door and into the corridor, where he stumbled upon a frightened Heather. Both of them took a tumble to the deck and slid into a bulkhead.
Grabbing onto her shoulders, he shouted, concerned, "Honey, you okay?" She could only nod, for her breath had been knocked out of her. Before much more could be said, they felt themselves flattened to the deck, by the pressure of a steep downward angle. Nelson knew they were only two hundred feet from the bottom according to the ship’s latest status report. It was just a matter of time at the rate they were descending that Seaview would eventually find the ocean floor.
The klaxon horn went off, sounding shrill, as it gave an alarm to danger. Chip’s voice was heard over the din, of the noise on the intercom, "Rig for collision! Rig for collision! We’re going down. This is not a drill! I repeat this is not a drill!" All watertight hatches went slamming shut with a clang and the wheels were dogged. Men ran to their stations with one purpose in mind, to be ready for anything that came their way.
"Heather, I’ve got to get down to the gyro-room. Come on, I’ll make sure you get to sickbay on the way." Sickbay was on B deck, by the ladder-well Nelson needed to descend in order to come out by the gyro-room on C deck.
By prior agreement, sickbay had been her assigned station when the klaxon alarm went off. She was heading there before it had started to ring, when she’d crashed into her father. Not giving her time to respond, Nelson grabbed her wrist in an ironclad grip and took off down the corridor to the nearest ladder-well, that led to B deck. Going down the ladder had been tricky, especially at the angle Seaview was at, along with the tossing of the boat. They had tightly clung to the rail, while making their descent, only to be thrown to the deck from the last two rungs.
Cookie had just finished sprucing up the galley, when the big boat began to rock and roll. His pans, hanging over the stove, began to clang together creating their own warning signal. He grabbed his two-way radio and headed out into the corridor, when the gyrostabilizer gave way. Knowing battle stations would probably be called; he automatically headed for his station, as he was Chief damage control officer. His station was anywhere in the boat, where ever he was needed most. He yelled into his radio as he was slammed up against the bulkhead, "Clarke, Simmons, Perez and Patterson, you got your ears on?"
Patterson reported in, "I’m in the gyro-room with Chief Sharkey, working on the stabilizer."
Simmons reported he and his men were in the lab’s corridor, on A deck, while Perez reported from the circuitry room corridor on the other side of the watertight hatch, which separated it from the galley on B deck.
"Clarke?" yelled Cookie into his radio, as the sub cast him into the bulkhead, "Report, where’s your crew at?"
"We’re on C deck, spread out by the main ballast tanks, generator and pump rooms."
"Very well, hold fast and keep your eyes peeled," ordered Cookie, as he struggled to remain on his feet. Various stations were trying to report to the control room amidst the pitching of the boat. When Cookie’s turn came, he lifted the mic to his lips and stated, "Damage Control manned and ready."
In the control room, the helmsmen struggled in vain to hold trim. With a full up angle on the planes they tried valiantly to pull the boat out of its dive, but Seaview was out of control. A few minutes later, the great submarine glanced off a big rock and slid on its belly, making a terrible scraping noise, as it settled in the muck, at the bottom of the sea. Men and loose equipment were instantly thrown to the deck where they remained, until the movement of the boat came to a halt.
Picking himself up from the deck, Cookie, immediately, heard the overhead pager in sync with his two-way radio, "Fire in the circuitry room! Fire in the circuitry room!"
"You on it Perez?" Cookie shouted into his radio as he headed in the direction of the circuitry room. He undogged the hatch, as Nelson came up behind him. Smoke filled the corridor and they quickly passed through the hatch and slammed it shut.
"Yes, Sir, three men have the extinguishers on it." came through the radio, as they approached the door to the circuitry room. Cookie’s main man on the station came out into the corridor, with a fire shield on his head, oxygen on his back and a fire extinguisher in his hand.
"Fire’s out," stated Perez. "We only sustained minor damage."
Nelson went in to inspect the damage while Cookie heard from the other areas of the boat as he followed the admiral into the smoking room.
Nelson silently listened over Cookie’s shoulder, as he received his report from each station. The gyro-room was last and Patterson had just begun to report that they were still working on it, when Mr. Morton’s voice came over the paging system, "Damage Control report."
Cookie picked up the nearest mic, out of the wall bracket, in the circuitry room, "All frames report, water tight integrity, minor damage in the circuitry room, gyrostabilizer out of commission."
"Pat," Cookie spoke into his radio, "how long before repairs can be completed?"
"About 30 minutes, I have to solder some wires together from the short and find the source that caused the problem."
Looking at Perez he asked, "How long before this mess is cleaned up?"
"About an hour, Cookie," replied the crewman as he took off his fire-fighting equipment.
A deep sigh was heard from Cookie, as Mr. Morton’s voice once again came over the paging system, Damage Control, how long before repairs can be made?"
Cookie calmly replied into the mic, "The circuitry room will take an hour and the gyrostabilizer thirty minutes."
"Cut it in half." Nelson burst into a grin and patted his cook on the back, as he left the room and headed for the gyro-room.
Why doesn’t that surprise me? thought Cookie, everything around here has to be done in half the time. "Yes, Sir," replied Cookie and seeing his men staring at him, he growled, "Hop to it, you Bozos. You heard what the Exec said."
By the time Nelson made the gyro-room, his captain was all ready there. He was bending over Patterson and Sharkey’s shoulders, watching intently, as the rating spliced some wires together. The gyro unit is a long, rounded cylinder that stands upright, which houses a compass, consisting of a motor-operated gyroscope, whose function is to keep the moving boat, level.
A small door on the gyro’s front panel was open and Patterson had an array of wires spread out before him. Sharkey was to his right, handing him the necessary tools. Pat, at present, was using a brown gun with a long silver barrel, which emitted smoke at the end when he touched the wires.
"What happened?" asked Nelson, now watching intently, as Patterson soldered the wires.
"The device that holds the spinning gyroscope shorted out. It momentarily froze the gyroscope from spinning on its vertical plane. I still have to track down the power source which enabled it," explained Patterson.
"Humph," groaned Nelson. "Any indication of trouble with the stabilizer before this incident?"
"None Sir, except for a few years ago, when that plankton ran wild through here," stated Pat with a grimace. He heard a couple of groans from his commanders and Sharkey asked, "That was before my time. What happened?"
Nelson reached up and scratched his neck, "Mmm, an experiment with plants got out of hand and we had to destroy it. Unfortunately, it took a while to do so and we had some major damage when it crashed through the bulkheads."
Sharkey horrified, looked at the admiral. "Was it anything like the time that alien, Keeler, turned Seaview into an over grown garden?"
"Something like that, it kept growing and we had to find a way to destroy it." He turned to Lee and grinned, "The captain here saved the day. The plankton was in the flooding chamber, trying to get into the control room and Crane here suited up, went into the diving chamber and released the flood valve from topside. After it was dead, we flushed it out the ballast tanks."
Sharkey just shook his head in wonder. "I bet you didn’t eat salad for a long time," he mumbled under his breath, as he handed Pat a pair of wire cutters.
Pat snipped the extra length of wires and wrapped electrical tape securely around the soldered parts. "That should hold her until we reach port, Skipper." He closed the door and started picking up the tools with Sharkey’s help.
"Very well, now see if you can track down that short," ordered Crane eyeing the men.
"Aye, Sir," said the men, who turned to do their captain’s bidding. They headed towards the junction box to begin their search.
Lee rubbed his temple, agitated "Admiral, I think the refit crew missed some vital areas when they overhauled us, from that depth charging we took seven weeks ago."
"I have to agree," replied Nelson, stifling a yawn. "The circuitry room is a mess. When we get to New London, we’ll have the technicians go over every inch of wiring with a fine toothcomb, if need be. I don’t want anymore surprises."
A weary Lee Crane was late for breakfast. He’d spent most of the night, working with the electrician mates, tracking down the power source of the short. Not only that, but there had been a lot of cleanup involved, getting off the bottom of the ocean floor. The men, as usual, pulled together and did whatever needed doing. After what seemed like hours, Seaview was able to surface and scrub the air free of smoke from the circuitry room fire. He was proud of his men and well pleased, when he had finally hit the sack at four in the morning.
Breathing in the fresh air, coming from the open main hatch, Lee joined Nelson and Chip at the table in the observation nose. Noticing his wife was missing and their food half eaten he asked, "Where’s Heather? She was suppose to meet me down here." He picked up the lid from the warming plate and tried to identify what was for breakfast. It was a yellow square, filled with an array of colored stuff. He picked up his fork and gingerly dissected the substance on his plate.
Nelson and Morton exchanged glances between them. "Lee, it won’t bite you," murmured Nelson, "actually, it tastes good, in spite of the powdered eggs." He took a sip of coffee and answered Lee’s question. "Heather is down in the galley, where you last assigned her or have you forgotten?"
Lee bolstered his courage and took a bite of the food, tasting sausage, potatoes and cheese. To his surprise, it tasted reasonably good and he deeply sighed. "No, I haven’t forgotten…at least down there she stays out of trouble…or does she? His eyes fell on the other two trays and he noticed they had big, white iced cinnamon rolls for dessert and he had a blueberry yogurt.
"Who brought the breakfast trays forward?" he asked, curious as he took another bite of the egg thing.
Chip finished off his plate, put it aside and picked up the cinnamon roll, waving it under his nose. "Ahhh…this smells delicious." He ever so slowly picked at a corner and unraveled the roll, tearing off a small amount, before popping it in his mouth. He closed his eyes in bliss and moaned in pleasure.
The aroma of the fresh cinnamon roll, meanly teased Lee’s senses, making his mouth water. He watched Chip peel another small layer off the roll. If he moans, I’m going to stuff it in his mouth…icing first…he’ll probably choke…and I’ll have the diverse, pleasure of doing the Heimlich Maneuver on him.
"Heather, did what?" asked Lee, forgetting he’d asked a question. He took another bite of his eggs and chewed faster, determined to get down to the galley before the cinnamon rolls were gone.
Stone faced, Chip said, "Heather brought our breakfast to us." He licked his finger that had a cob of gooey, white icing on it, then tore off another piece and put it in his mouth.
Nelson lit a cigarette and asked, "Did the men find that short?"
Almost forgetting his superior was sitting at the table, in his haste to finish his breakfast, Lee quickly replied, "The men are still working on it. They’ve traced it as far as the main generator."
"Hmm," hedged Nelson, thinking as he picked up his coffee mug, to keep from grinning at Chip’s antics, to keep Lee eating. He took a sip of coffee, put the cup down and slowly started in on his own cinnamon roll. Chip, you should have been an actor. He took a bite and did his part by rolling his eyes heavenward. "No doubt, the problem is probably tied into the same fuse box. Strange though, that we haven’t blown any fuses."
Lee finished his egg concoction and cast his plate aside. Standing up he responded, "That was Patterson’s same question. He’d worked on it late into the night. I finally had to order him to his bunk and Kowalski took over." He started to pick up his tray when he heard Chip clear his throat. "What’s the matter? I ate my food."
Chip brought his eyes down to the unopened yogurt and lifted a brow in question. He pinched off another layer of the bread and slowly savored it.
"I’m going to exchange it for a roll," defensively, growled Lee, staring daggers at his exec.
His poker face in place, "That wasn’t the deal," Chip carefully reminded, "You agreed to eat everything on your tray that was set before you."
In a huff, Lee grudgingly replied, "I agreed to eat everything yes, but it didn’t mean I couldn’t exchange something on the tray." He watched his XO unwrap the last tiny curl of the roll and place it in his mouth, while licking his lips.
"Lee, the deal was you had to eat what was on your plate. Now, you can take your empty plate back to the galley and I’m sure, if Cookie doesn’t die of shock first, that he’ll give you a cinnamon roll. He knows you usually prefer yogurt over sweets and I’m reasonably sure, that’s why he gave you the yogurt instead." Besides, you need the calcium. Doc said as much and it’s Cookie’s job to see that you get it. Hinting at the bet, he went on "I wonder which play Melonie would like to see? You know, we should all attend one in New York, after we dock in New London. I could have her fly in to meet us."
Knowing, he wasn’t going to get anywhere with his XO and somewhat embarrassed that the argument happened in front of Nelson, Lee sat down and opened his yogurt. He quickly began to eat the stuff that seemed to grow in proportion.
Nelson tore off a good size chunk of his own roll and waved it in the air, as he exclaimed, "I don’t want to burst your bubble, but the Navy has asked me to do a favor for them." He proceeded to put the piece of bread in his mouth and slowly chewed, swallowed, then went on with the Navy’s request. "It seems, they think we’ll have time on our hands, once Seaview is in dry dock, for a few more weeks. They want us to take an old Gato Class sub from the New London shipyard to a historical museum in Wisconsin to join her sister ship in an exhibit."
Lee’s interest perked up, as he put down the now empty yogurt container on his tray. Chip seeing this thought, mission accomplished. He directed his attention to what Nelson was saying.
"We’d have to take in a day’s training, for most of you have never taken out a diesel submarine. The Navy is rounding up some of her old crew to accompany us, so I don’t think it’ll be too difficult. Of course, this is purely a volunteer job for who ever is interested." Nelson could see the excitement dance in his men’s eyes and that they were more than interested.
"Wow," exclaimed Lee, in awe, "that would be wonderful. I’ve always had an avid interest in the old boats from World War II. They were the backbone of the war and their contribution was invaluable."
"Does that mean I have two volunteers?" asked Nelson, knowing they were both hooked.
"That’s a definite from me," stated Lee. Chip also nodded his head.
"Very well," replied Nelson, pleased as he ate the last of his roll, "I’ll notify the Secretary."
Lee, getting a whiff of cinnamon, decided he’d better move it. "Chip, I’m going to the galley. Here, give me your dishes, I might as well take all of them with me." He stacked the trays, plates and silver from both men. He started aft and could have sworn he heard Chip murmur under his breath; the plan is working only to be followed by a chuckle from Nelson.
Lee walked back to the galley at a brisk clip. I knew there had to be a plot. I just wonder how many are in on it? Who instigated it? It’s got to be Doc. No one else would have the nerve and he’s always on me to eat. He passed a few of his men, who gave him an odd look and steered clear of his stormy countenance. Just how many people know about this? Surely, it’s not on Seaview’s grapevine? Don’t the men have something better to do than worry about my eating habits?
He made the galley in good time. Balancing the trays with one hand, he carefully opened the door, only to get a strong whiff of fresh cinnamon, which made his senses swim. He dropped off the trays on the return dirty dish counter and looked around not seeing Cookie. He also didn’t see any extra cinnamon rolls, except the one sitting before his wife. She was relaxing at one of the mess tables, engrossed in an old fashioned dime novel. He watched her eyes dart back and forth across the pages, as she leisurely drank her coffee. Her breakfast tray was in front of her, the food gone, except for that one cinnamon roll. Hmm…she did steal my cookies…
He sat down in front of her and noted the title of the book, "The Who Done It Caper?" he read out loud. Her face didn’t seem to register that she’d heard him. Studying the book and the reader, he could tell she was almost to the end. Slyly he said, "You know the butler did it."
She slowly raised her hazel eyes and frowned, "Not this time, he’s stiff as a board and stone cold." She lowered her eyes and continued to read.
Grinning, he reached out and plucked a piece off of her cinnamon roll. "Heather, in those old books, the butler always did it."
She briefly lowered the book to retort, "Lee, I’m telling you, he’s dead…D E A D…dead!" She grabbed her coffee cup, irritated and began to read again, as she sipped the brew.
He peeled off another section of her roll and put it in his mouth, Mmm, these are as good as they smelled. "Okay, how did he die?"
Not looking up, she curtly answered, "By poison, he was the first one to die."
"I suppose the next victim was found in the *library, by Mrs. White, with a candlestick lying on the floor next to the poor soul."
Having eaten half her roll, he boldly took off another layer and popped it in his mouth.
She giggled, "Not quite, it was a Mr. Brown, in the den, with a bloody knife." She flipped a page trying to ignore him.
"I’m telling you, Heather," he persisted, not unkindly, as he finished the last of her roll, "you’ll get down to the last person and he’ll come back to life." He loudly licked his fingers and wiped them off on her napkin as he got up to go. He now had her attention as she watched him strut to the door.
"Lee,’ she called, "when I’m done, you can read the book and we’ll see." He nodded and made his exit. Heather looked down at her empty plate, where the cinnamon roll had been and smirked. A noise from the galley drew her attention and she was awarded with a smile from Cookie, along with another cinnamon roll.
The morning passed at a good clip, without much happening out of the ordinary. Ski was having trouble locating that elusive short. The captain had him, along with every available electrician’s mate, checking the circuits and breakers in each fuse box.
"I tell you, Sharkey, it has to be here or in the circuitry room. There’s just no other place," complained Ski, frustrated as he pulled open the fuse box panel, in the generator room for the third time.
"I don’t know what to tell you kid, but it’s somewhere. The power keeps going on and off, with the auxiliary kicking on in between. I really think it’s here," encouraged the Chief, fiddling with a pair of pliers in the toolbox.
"Why can’t we just let the refit crew in New London take care of it? We’ll be there in the morning," whined Riley, who was on the detail to help find it. He was inspecting the wires that led from the fuse box to the generator.
"Because, bonehead," yelled Sharkey, becoming exasperated himself, "The Skipper wants it found now! And you know the Skipper gets what the Skipper wants. So, stop crying like a baby and get back to work!"
"Okay, okay, you don’t have to get bent about it," he griped, as he followed the electrical wire down to the connection, in the generator.
As they worked, Ski said, "Ahh, I smell lunch." He pulled a fuse out and carefully examined it, noticing it seemed a bit corroded. "Hand me some of that sand paper."
Handing Ski the rough textured paper, Sharkey inhaled and patted his stomach, "Chocolate brownies and tomato soup."
"Now, how do you know we’re having tomato soup?" asked Ski of Sharkey. "I can only smell the chocolate and it smells like cake to me." He carefully began rubbing the paper against the fuse.
"Trust me Ski, it’s brownies. You can’t fool this Chief’s nose." In a lower voice, he added, "Besides, I asked Cookie earlier."
A chuckle was heard from Ski. "Well, I don’t care what it is, I’m hungry and at least Cookie has the Skipper eating again." He put the fuse back in the box.
"Yeah, scuttlebutt has it, he made a deal with Mr. Morton," added Riley wiggling the circuits in the generator. He absently pulled on a wire, it sparked and everything went dark.
Capt. Crane decided it was time to pay Doc an overdue visit. He walked into the sickbay office, where he found the medical officer hard at work, reading a nutrition journal at his desk. I’ve got him now.
Hearing the door quietly close, Doc looked up and couldn’t quite hide the surprise that crossed his face, as he got to his feet. The Skipper stood before him, tall and lean, with a stern expression on his face. Doc tried to assess the mood of his captain and the only telltale sign was that of his person, absently twisting his ring. Oh boy, he’s on to the plot and I bet he thinks I’m behind it. He came around the desk, as his commander approached it.
"Skipper," acknowledged Doc, a bit too jovial to suit his purpose, "What can I do for you?" He didn’t receive an answer, only the folding of his Skippers arms across his chest. The man became more erect in posture and he knew he was in for it. Trying to diffuse the dressing down, he knew was coming, Doc continued with, "Everything all right?"
A curt nod was his response.
"Everything all right, with Heather?" he carefully asked, hands spread open in supplication.
The Captain’s eyes darkened, followed by another nod of his dark head.
Lee secretly enjoyed watching his medical officer squirm. He gave him his best Captain’s scowl, as he waited for Doc to incriminate himself. Feeling smug with the cards in his favor, he slowly reached over to the book that was lying on the desk. He skimmed over the page with the food pyramid on it and examined the note pad that was underneath the book.
"Documentation, Doc?" he woodenly inquired, then gazed directly into the doctor’s eyes, "On the men and me?"
"Now Skipper," Doc tried to appease him, using psychology, "You know it’s my job to counsel the cook and oversee the diets and welfare of the men, which happens to include you." Doc stiffened his backbone, as he started his own lecture. "Besides, someone has to ensure you men eat and maintain a balanced diet. My job goes hand in hand with the cooks and Cookie is very good at his job. He’s been worried, like everyone else on board." He left the implied statement open to his own interpretation. "After all, that is what you pay us for, correct?" asked Doc, now feeling self-righteous.
Good answer, Doc, I’ll give you that one. He ran his hand through his hair. Doc had cleverly turned the tables on him. "All right, Doc, I get your point loud and clear. Now, just tell me one thing…"
The lights went out and the auxiliary kicked in, leaving a red glow. A moment later a frantic page from Chief Sharkey was heard on the intercom, "Doc, we need you in the generator room!"
The XO came over the intercom, "Engineering report!"
Engineering responded back with, "Total power failure, main generator."
Crane reached over onto Doc’s desk and picked up the intercom box, while depressing the button. "Doc and I are on our way down to the generator room." He, quickly set the box down and he, with Doc, who had grabbed his medical bag from the top of his desk, took off at a dead run down the corridor, to the ladder-well leading to C deck. There, they were met by Cookie with his two-way radio in hand, all ready checking on the damage to the generator and Doc’s soon to be patient. As they ran, Cookie gave report to both men. "Sharkey said Riley received a jolt from a hot wire. It went in his hand and came out his rubber-soled work boot." They by-passed the gyro room, bilge control and compressor, coming to a halt at a dogged hatch between passageways. The captain quickly undogged it and they made haste to the generator room.
Nelson was on a conference call with the Secretary of the Navy, when the power failure took place. He intently listened with one ear to the squawk box and decided Crane had everything well in hand.
Crane, Cookie, and Doc found Riley sitting on the deck with Chief Sharkey pouring water from an emergency supply kit onto his hand. Ski was working at getting the smoking boot off his foot, as other crewmen were inspecting the still smoking main generator. Once Ski got his boot off, Sharkey transferred, what was left of the water, to Riley’s burned toe.
Doc immediately bent down on his knees and went to work. He quickly did a pulse and respiration count, listening intently to his patient’s heart rate with the stethoscope, which was always on his person. Next, he examined the entrance and exit wounds, noting them to be only superficial. "Did you touch the wire directly or indirectly?"
"I’m not sure, Doc. I pulled on a contact and the wire held tight, then, I felt a surge of electricity that ran through my hand and out my foot. It all happened so fast," replied the scared man. "Am I going to be all right?"
"I think so," placated Doc. He examined the work-boot and held it up for Riley, as the men gathered around him to see. "You can thank this boot for minimizing your injuries. We’ll get you down to sickbay and I’ll do an EKG to make sure your heart wasn’t affected." With that, he nodded, as he stood up, still holding the boot, as a couple of crewmen escorted his patient up to sickbay, located on B deck. They could hear Riley’s voice coming from the corridor, all ready bragging about his experience, "Like man, it was far out! All those flashes of color…" Doc turned and met the worried eyes of Capt Crane, Chief Sharkey and Cookie.
"Skipper, if anything shows up on his EKG, I’ll do a stress test to confirm or rule out any damage to his heart," he handed the burned boot to Sharkey and added, "He was a very lucky man. I don’t think he got a full charge though," a puzzled expression crossed his face, "but one can never tell with electricity, it does the strangest things."
Crane nodded in agreement, "Keep me posted." He silently dismissed Doc and turned back to Cookie, who started to examine the offending wires of the dead generator. With Crane and Sharkey looking over his shoulder, Cookie followed the wire Riley had been working on. He pulled it just a bit, as Riley had done and noticed it caught on the generator’s shielding-panel, near the base of the unit. He carefully turned the wire over where it seemed to catch and discovered a small bare spot in the conduit, exposing the thin thread. "Hmm, it looks like it was rubbed raw." He carefully laid it back in place and noticed it rubbed against a sharp angle of the open panel the wires passed through, to connect with the fuse box. Drawing his conclusion, he explained, "The wire must have gradually rubbed itself raw over a long period of time. Most likely between the depth charging we took and the normal vibration of the boat, being the main factor. Also, the wire is a bit loose and depending on the angle in which it laid, the wire only shorted occasionally, but not enough to create sufficient damage immediately."
Crane accepted most of Cookie’s explanation, but queried not totally satisfied, "What about the gyroscope? Why did it go on the fritz?"
Cookie studied the power lines and noted both systems were linked to the same fuse. "Well, it’s possible, the generator shorted and bypassed the protective fuse and gave a full charge to the gyroscope. Pat did say the contacts were loose in the housing of that unit. Our best bet is to have the refit crew rewire both systems and the fuse box." He then reached up and pulled out a fuse that corresponded with those circuits. He could see scrape marks and could only assume it had been corrosive at one time. "Putting a new fuse in here probably wouldn’t hurt either, this might have been some of the trouble."
Sharkey and Ski exchanged a silent look of comprehension. Ski stepped forward, "I’ll take care of it right away."
The strong smell of baking chocolate permeated the air reminding the men it was almost lunchtime. "Ah, oh," said Cookie, with a worried frown on his face, "My brownies smell done and Heather is off doing her O.E. duties." He looked silently at his Skipper for permission to leave.
The captain granted him permission, with a nod of his head and said, "Make sure one of those brownies ends up on my tray."
Cookie could tell by his tone, it wasn’t a request, but an order. He started for the hatch when his skipper stopped him. "And Cookie?" he immediately turned in his commander’s direction, "That’s a job well done!"
"Thank you, Skipper," he happily replied, saluted and strode from the room. He hurried back to his domain in the galley, arriving in time to pull the brownies from the oven. "Whew, just in the nick of time." He quickly put them on the wire cooling rack and slid the next batch in the oven, resetting the timer. He turned a burner back on that he’d hastily shut off, when the generator went out, to reheat the tomato soup. Opening a cupboard, he pulled down the last of the bread counting out the loaves, to make sure he had enough to make grilled cheese sandwiches for all of the men. He fired up the grill to preheat, when the galley door opened and in came Mr. Morton.
"Good morning, Sir," greeted Cookie, as he continued to work totally at ease.
Chip watched as Cookie put together a dozen cheese sandwiches and laid them on the grill to toast. That done, Cookie turned to the soup and stirred it a few times, as Chip said in a low conspiring tone of voice, "How do you want us to do lunch?" He picked up a knife off the counter and proceeded to cut himself a warm brownie.
"Well Mr. Morton," Cookie slowly answered, "I don’t think lunch is going to be a problem, he likes everything we’re having, so, why don’t we leave him to his own devices?" At Chip’s nod of compliance, he continued on, "Now, dinner will be a horse of a different color. We’re having tuna noodle casserole and you know how he hates that?"
The XO grinned, as he bit into the fresh brownie, "And for dessert, Cookie?"
"I haven’t decided yet, but I think it’ll be old fashioned lemon bars with lots of powdered sugar."
"Very well, Cookie, I’ll alert the others. Maybe we can have the Admiral steal his bar?" Chip chuckled all the way to the galley door then became dead serious when he opened it and went into the corridor.
Cookie wondered how the XO was able to change expressions, so effortlessly. I guess that’s what makes him a good exec and poker player. Cookie was satisfied. He’d met Doc’s expectations and his own, on getting the Skipper to eat. The XO had left it up to him to find a way and he had, well, with a little help from his shipmates.
*Clue, a trademark of Waddingtons Games Ltd under exclusive license to Parker Brothers, Division of Kenner Parker Toys Inc. (KPT) Beverly MA 01915
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