"Sorry, Cookie," Kowalski munched on another crab cake in the small diner, "but these are well, better than yours."
"No offense taken. .I'm just glad we got ourselves a few hours shore leave."
"You know," Malone lowered his voice, glancing at some midshipmen waiting for a booth, "I get the willies just seeing all these officer wannabe's. Like ants, all over the place..."
"What did you expect?" Patterson downed his beer,
"I know, but still.. I mean, these snot nosed kids gonna' be giving us, well, ordinary seamen, orders one day..."
"Mr. Morton went here and he turned out just fine," Pat said.
"Sure, but he's...different. Probably popped out of his mother's womb fully grown and holding a clipboard!"
The men laughed, unaware of the interest their conversation and Seaview jumpsuits were causing.
"Well, if Morton arrived like that," Riley asked, "what about the Skipper?"
"With a toy submarine in his hand, what else?" Ski said.
"You know guys," Riley said amid the merriment, "I know it sounds kinda' weird, but after some of the things we've been through, well...it's like...fate, you know? Lee Crane was born for Seaview."
Amen to that," Ski said in agreement.
"What about the boss?" Malone asked.
"Ah, now well, that's easy," Cookie said, "He arrived with books in his hands about Einstein, John Paul Jones and Jules Verne!"
"I kind of feel sorry for the middies today, actually," Ski said after awhile, "I mean, there they were, college kids really, going to get an hour or so out of class to hear the great Admiral speak. They were thinking he'd be expounding some earth shattering theories, but instead he ends up telling them all about ballast tank bacteria."
"Oh gawd, don't remind me..." Cookie groaned theatrically amid the laughter.
"You're not kidding?" Riley asked, "That's what he told them today?"
"I heard him practicing it with the Skip, just this morning," Ski said.
"And what did Crane think of it?" Pat asked.
"Hard to say," Ski laughed, "He fell asleep. But afterwards Nelson insisted he come along with him today, in spite of all that paperwork Crane said he had to get done.....in triplicate."
"Excuse me," one of the middie's walked over and interrupted, "We couldn't help overhearing. You're from the submarine Seaview?"
"Yes, actually," Ski was ready for the usual accolades that went with being a part of the greatest submarine on the planet.
"What are you doing here? Of course, I guess you probably weren't around when it happened... No sooner than your Captain sets foot on Academy grounds when a couple of guys in black suits flashing badges at him escorted him into the main administration building. All the while everyone could hear Nelson complaining he'd been framed..."
"Oh my gaw...what did the Skipper do?"
"Well, I heard the word 'conspicuous', but I really can't say more...."
"We gotta' get to him..."Ski pulled out more than enough bills to pay for his and his shipmate's meal and fled with them, barely noticing the middies taking their vacated booth.
"I'd just hate to be in your shoes," one of the middie's said, "when their Captain finds out how you conned them out of the rest of their lunch."
"Lunch, smunch, I just wanted to sit down..Ah that's better," he stretched his legs out, "they finished most of it anyway. Maggie? They left you a big tip," he held up the bills.
"They certainly left in a hurry, anything wrong?" she took the money and started to clear the table.
"Seems their Skipper was framed for something..."
"Framed? I don't recall any..." she mused..."Oh! Oh, you boys ought to be ashamed of yourselves!"
"Yes'm. But we're also tired and hungry, so how about feeding some overworked and brain dead boys in desperate need of some good home cooking..."
"I'm almost tempted to refuse you service after the stunt you pulled on those poor crewmen."
"Don't see how you can...after all, wasn't it Midshipman... Fourth Class, I believe at the time, Lee Crane who...
"Okay okay, I remember...good heavens...well, what will it be boys?"
"Hot apple pie and whipped cream."
"Some things never change," she grinned. "Lee always ordered that too, did you know?"
"Ski-eee!" the crewman's friends groaned in the marble floored lobby.
On easels all around, with a short bio of the captain's career were an assortment of official and unofficial photographs.
"Well," Ski shrugged, "he's been framed all right."
"Ah, gentlemen," Nelson approached through the crowd, "What do you think? Though, I have to warn you, men, he's not at all pleased about 'being framed' for the Museum's alumni gallery. "I had a hard time keeping it up, letting him think he was in for it. Ah good, Lee, you're back. I was wondering when you'd manage to escape...what is it about women and ruffling your hair...." he grinned at the ladies, mostly instructor's wives and society matrons still ogling his Captain.
"Can we go now?" Crane asked smoothing back some of his wild curls, "I want to lodge an official complaint. You're not even mentioned in the museum, I certainly shouldn't be going there at all. And I want the display here taken down."
"Sorry, but you're an official notable now, Lee. As soon as the wing's open, you'll be on permanent display in the Museum. I'm suddenly hungry. I wonder if 'Old Sleazys' is still in business."
"Uh, actually," Ski began, "We just came from there."
"Splendid, splendid, come along Lee, my treat."
"Thank you, no. I just want to get back to the boat. My reports..."
"Can wait...I could make it an order.." Nelson smirked.
"Oh, uh, Admiral?" Ski asked, "If some middies are there..Booth 13, could you tell them we really appreciate their, uh, news."
"Very well, Ski," Nelson said impatiently and herded Lee out ahead of him, while Crane looked back at his men curiously.
"What's that all about, I wonder?" Lee asked himself.
You know, its kinda of awesome when you think about it," Ski said a half hour later, finally able to take their own leave of the women who'd asked Crane's crewmen question after question about him. "I mean, in a hundred years or more, he'll be on the wall for all to see, when we're all forgotten and....uh oh..."
"Sirs!" the familiar midshipmen approached, halting at full attention.
"Huh? Us?" Riley asked.
"If you'd accept our apologies it would be much appreciated, sirs."
"The Admiral put you up to this?" Ski asked gently," works fast, the boss."
"Uh, well, no actually. We saw your Admiral come in just as we were leaving but he didn't say anything."
"No, not him either, looked at us funny though...Please sirs, will you accept our apologies?"
The crewmen conferred then Ski spoke for them, "Sure I guess, but uh, why? It's pretty clear you wanted the booth, all you had to do you know, was ask. We'd have made room for you, or gotten some doggy bags for take out."
"Yes sir...we're sorry sir. In fact, while we ate, we
started talking about Crane...and well, even though he pulled the first 'you've
been framed' joke when an ex roommate
Astronaut was put in the museum, we figured we should find you and apologize. I
mean...that's kind of his motto isn't it...doing what's right. What makes him
who he is...what
"We are at that," Cookie said, "And who knows, maybe one day you'll be just as good...but I doubt it."
"Something to aim for then sir. By your leave gentlemen?" the middie saluted with the rest and departed.
"What do you think of officer wannabe's now, Malone?" Pat asked.
"They still remind me of ants all over the place, but I guess they'll turn out okay."
As they made preparations to get underway, Kowalski couldn't help thinking about the portraits he'd seen. While he, like all of Seaview's crew, knew Crane's Service record, at least the abbreviated and non classified version, the pictures had showed a side of Lee Crane he hadn't seen before.
"Let's take her out Chip," the man was ordering. "Then when we've cleared the harbor, come on down to the Wardroom. And bring your stomach."
"My stomach? Lee, you didn't?" Morton's eyes lit up. "Pie? Homemade Pie? From Old Sleazy's?"
"Well, I couldn’t forget the man who minded the boat for me while I suffered the indignities of being framed, could I?"
"It's a surprise."
"Skipper?" Cookie approached," I got that fresh batch of whipped cream made up. Enough for all of the pies and..."
"All the..."Morton began.
"Well, I could hardly let my crew go hungry either," Lee said sheepishly and headed aft.
"What kind did he buy? And how many?" Morton asked.
"Oh a bunch of 'em. All kinds...but yours uh, well, yours is a surprise sir. Wouldn't let me open the box. Big Do Not Disturb label he put on it himself, and another lable saying 'Property of the Bottomless Pit'" he added, embarrassed, " Doesn't need to be refrigerated...but said ice cream would go good with it. Vanilla."
Morton's lips curled up, and turned to O'Brien, "Well what are we waiting for? The faster we clear the harbor the sooner I get my pie!"
"You, uh, know what it is sir?" Cookie asked.
"Yeah, Cookie, I know," Morton smiled.
It didn't matter to Ski that neither he or his shipmates or even Cookie were let in on what kind of pie the Skip had gotten for the XO, as they cleared the harbor. All that mattered was that the middies had been right. Ski, his shipmates, Morton, even Nelson, were mighty lucky dudes to have Lee Crane aboard. And it seemed right that the future would know it too.