By R. L. Keller
A familiar cadence to the steps coming down the spiral stairs alerted Admiral Nelson that Seaview’s Captain, Lee Crane, was entering the Control Room. Positive identification was verified as Nelson heard a loud sneeze. With a quick smile to the XO, Chip Morton, standing to one side of him at the chart table, he quickly reverted to his normal brusque tone and turned around.
"Lee, what are you doing out of your cabin?"
"I just came down to get the rest of the status reports," Lee defended himself, punctuated with another sneeze.
"We’re going to be here a minimum of another three weeks. The last thing I need is the rest of the crew down with your cold, and that includes me! You are supposed to be confined to quarters until Doc releases you, and if you want something, use the intercom. Is that clear?" He watched as several replies played across Lee’s face, but another sneeze ended the stalemate.
"Aye, Sir," came the reluctant response. Lee grabbed the clipboard he wanted off the chart table and headed back up the stairs. As soon as he was out of sight both the Admiral and Chip got huge grins on their faces, and Nelson noticed several more on crewmembers’ faces as he glanced around the Control Room.
"Poor Lee," Chip snickered.
"Serves him right for being careless," growled Nelson, but he was still smiling.
Seaview was on an extended trip to Antarctica, checking ice conditions and density, and comparing the readings to previous records. On one of the survey trips out onto the pack ice Lee had wandered too close to a thin spot and fallen through into the frigid waters below. Other members of the survey crew had quickly gotten him out, but they were quite a distance from Seaview at the time and he’d been thoroughly chilled before he could get back. Two days later he’d developed a fever and the CMO, Dr. Jamison, had confined Lee to Sick Bay and put him on meds in hopes of heading off any further complications, mostly pneumonia. Fortunately all Lee had gotten was a rotten head cold. Jamie saw no real reason to keep him in Sick Bay, but neither the Doctor nor Admiral Nelson wanted him contaminating the rest of the crew. This kind of thing spread far too rapidly in the close confines of the submarine. Nelson had therefore decided that for the time being, at least, Lee would stay in his cabin, doing not only his own reports but Chip’s as well, and those of Nelson’s the Admiral chose to give him. Lee hadn’t been overly thrilled but wasn’t given a choice.
"I hate to say this, Admiral," Chip broke into Nelson’s thoughts, "but he gave up far too easily."
"You noticed that, too." Nelson was thoughtful for a bit as he glanced toward the staircase. "Hopefully he’s just feeling more miserable than he wants to let on."
"I’ve already asked Cookie to make up a tray for both Lee and I for dinner tonight. Figured I’d keep him company for awhile."
"Chip…" and the XO heard the warning in Nelson’s voice.
"It’s OK, Sir, honest," Chip hurried to explain. "Our last shore leave I spent a week at my sister’s. All three of her kids had colds and I never got so much as a tickle of one. Figure I’m immune," and he smiled as the Admiral just got a look of disbelief on his face. "Besides, if Lee doesn’t get some kind of distraction from being locked in his cabin doing reports all day, when he does get out he’s going to be impossible to work with."
"Good point," Nelson reluctantly agreed. "But the first sniffle…" and he didn’t finish the implied threat.
"Understood, Sir." Just then a large iceberg broke off not far away, setting Seaview to rocking slightly with the wave it created. It had been happening off and on all the while they’d been here and by now the crew was used to it. Neither Nelson nor Chip said anything, just glanced around as the crew compensated quickly and the stabilizers leveled the submarine once again, then both went back to what they’d been doing.
* * * *
Cookie whistled softly to himself, scattered refrains from various shanties he’d picked up in his travels around the world, as he prepared the tray his XO had requested. Like everyone on board he knew the Skipper wasn’t feeling well, and decided he’d do his part by fixing several of the Captain’s favorite foods. He’d hunted all over for the chicken pasta salad recipe he knew Crane loved, but just couldn’t lay his hands on it. Instead he’d made do with Chicken Parmesan, baked potato stuffed with broccoli, cauliflower, onions, bacon bits and cheese sauce, tomato and avocado salad, and peanut butter cookies. As another iceberg-generated wave caught Seaview Cookie picked up a couple long-handled wooden spoons and started beating out a rhythm on the pots and kettles suspended on big hooks over his workspace. It was a favorite pastime of his when Seaview started rocking and rolling. Of course, if there was a serious problem and "Battle Stations" was called, he’d quickly shut down anything cooking and head for the Reactor Control Room, his emergency duty station. Some people thought it unusual that such a highly trained nuclear technician should spend most of his time in the galley. It was just that his real love was cooking. Of course, there were crewmen aboard, mostly those who had injudiciously taken too big a bite of Cajun Chicken, or perhaps chili, who swore Cookie got some of his secret ingredients from the Reactor Room!
As Cookie got more and more wound up in his whistling and kettle drumming he failed to notice he’d acquired an audience – Chip had come quietly upon the scene. Crossing his arms he leaned on the doorframe, beginning to understand the strange noises the hydrophones picked up once in awhile. He felt Seaview roll slightly to port as Mr. O’Brien made a scheduled course correction, and chuckled to himself as Cookie banged away even harder.
Finally Chip couldn’t contain himself any longer. "You appear to be enjoying yourself." He purposely kept his face neutral, although had a hard time maintaining it as Cookie jumped.
"Oh…Mr. Morton…Sir. Didn’t see you, Sir." and stood there, spoons still in hand, getting red-faced.
Not wanting to cause the man any more embarrassment, knowing he’d pay for it sooner or later if he did, Chip let Cookie off the hook. "I know I’m a bit early. Just wondered if you had the Skipper’s and my dinner tray ready."
"Everything’s done, just take a second to put it on the tray," and Cookie hurried to comply. No one had ever caught him at his little game before, and of course it had to be the Exec! He felt sure Mr. Morton would find some way to rub it in, but was surprised when he handed him the loaded tray that all the XO did was comment on how much food Cookie had prepared.
"Know the Skipper hasn’t eaten much for a couple days. Wanted to make sure he had plenty. Ah, you too, Sir," he added quickly.
"Thanks, Cookie. Everything looks great," and Chip left. With a glance at the clock, Cookie decided he’d better get his tail in gear.
* * * *
Cookie was well into serving dinner when he heard voices raised in the wardroom.
"Hey, that’s my cookie."
"It is not, Keeter. It’s mine."
"Then who’s got my cookie?"
"Hey," Cookie broke in, walking toward the wardroom as he yelled. "I made those cookies especially for the Skipper. I was just being nice putting some out for the rest of you. Now pipe down or I’ll put them all away! Sir!" he added hastily as he spotted Admiral Nelson standing by the door. "Sorry, Sir."
"Not a problem, Cookie. I couldn’t have phrased it better myself," Nelson chuckled softly as he started to fill his plate. Cookie shot the junior officers another glare and started back toward the galley just as Doc and Chip entered, the latter carrying the tray Cookie had prepared, only slightly less loaded than when he had left with it.
Cookie’s face fell. "Mr. Morton, Sir," and let his disappointment show as he took the tray.
"I did my best," Chip apologized. "I’m sorry, Cookie, but I can’t force the Captain to enjoy your culinary creations."
"Right now, Cookie," Doc interjected, "as stuffed up as the Skipper is with that head cold, even your ‘Chili Vesuvius’, which under normal circumstances is guaranteed to turn the average person into a human flamethrower, probably would taste like so much cardboard."
"Actually, Doc, maybe that’s exactly what Lee needs to clear his sinuses," Chip snickered. All three watched as Cookie’s face brightened, and he quickly headed for the galley.
Nelson groaned. "You had to say that," he grumbled. "You know what we’re having for dinner tomorrow, don’t you. The last time Cookie made that stuff I had heartburn for a week!" Doc and Chip just laughed.
"Stop by my office before you head here tomorrow night, Admiral," Doc chuckled. "After the last time Cookie made one of his infamous dishes I laid in a supply of some new antacids. I’ll have you shoveling in chili as fast as Mr. Morton."
"Impossible," Nelson growled, but glanced at Chip and chuckled. Chip did, too, and headed for the Control Room, already anticipating Lee’s reaction to the new cure for the common cold.The End *A note from Seaview Stories: if you haven't already, don't forget to check out The Galley for the author's recipee!