Thank God It’s Friday
Thank God it was Friday. Lee had had a terrible day, a terrible week, as a matter of fact. It was one problem after the other, without the time in between to completely take care of any of them. Nothing life shattering, he realized that, but frustrating and annoying just the same. He was not in the greatest of moods because of it, and it showed. He didn’t lose his temper often, but he could slip into a bad mood pretty easily. It seemed every time he turned around, something unexpected went wrong. Things happened on the boat, at the Institute, at home, etc. He was so off balance because of it that he had even managed to distance the people closest to him with angry words, conflicts, and by overreacting.
He had come home from this last cruise to find his hot water heater had broken. There was water all over the kitchen floor. The living room carpet was saturated. He was probably going to have to replace it, but he wanted to wait until it dried out first. It had to have happened no more than the day before they docked, everything was still too wet and squishy. All he wanted when he got home was a long hot shower, after four weeks of Seaview’s three minute limit hot shower rule. Instead he wound up having to shut his water off as soon as he walked in. The plumber charged him a small fortune to replace it. Oh well. The old one was so small and took so long to fill up and reheat that he had to time and space out his laundry, dishwasher, and even his showers. This was probably a blessing in disguise. And he had thought about replacing the carpet a year ago but had decided to wait. Now he had no choice.
Then the hard drive on his desktop computer crashed, and he hadn’t backed it up recently. He did everything he could think of to get it back up and running. ByteMe, the local computer repair shop, was going to give him a new, bigger, faster hard drive, but the technician couldn’t guarantee they would be able to restore all or even any of his old files. He had back ups, just not recent ones. How many times had he thought of backing it up and then decided to wait until tomorrow? He had been meaning to pick up one of those new flash drives Chip was always talking about, but kept forgetting about it every time he went out. Of course he still had his laptop, but that belonged to NIMR and was only for work. And that’s where it was, in his office. None of his personal files were on it anyway.
When he came out of the computer shop, he had a parking ticket on his car. He’d put money in the meter, enough for a half hour, and he was only in there fifteen minutes. But the timer was on zero, and the needle in the red. He put a note on the meter that it was broken, but he knew that would not get him out of paying the ticket. He stuck the ticket under the visor of his car. He would just plead guilty and send them a check. He didn’t have time to go to court to fight it, and that really bothered him. He was innocent. It just wasn’t fair.
He wanted to go out for a ride, get away from it all for a while, but he couldn’t do that either. His car had broken down and was in the shop. He kept it in such good repair; he couldn’t figure out himself what was wrong. It just went dead in the middle of the highway and he was lucky to be able to coast over to the shoulder without causing an accident. Then he had to wait two hours for his roadside service to come tow it to his favorite garage. It was still there and would be until at least Monday, when his favorite mechanic, the only one he trusted to work on his red baby, would be in. At least they were kind enough to drive him home.
At work he was having a personality conflict with the new temp, strange for him because he usually got along with everyone. But Agatha knew more about everything than he did, including how to run Seaview. He only hired her to complete a massive Excel project he wanted to use for comparative and historical data. Nothing else concerned her, but that didn’t stop her from putting her two cents in on everything. And she was bossy, too. He couldn’t wait to get out of his own office. Trying to get out of there so fast was how he had left his laptop behind. And he wasn’t going to go back to get it. For once, he just didn’t want to be there.
Going to Chip’s was no better. He couldn’t complain or let off steam on him. Chip was still upset with him about how Lee had treated him on the boat, and was just getting over a nasty breakup with someone he really had feelings for. He had hoped she would have a change of mind while he was away at sea. Sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder, as the old saying went. But she hadn’t returned any of his phone calls or emails since he got back. He just wanted to be left alone. Lee had hoped he could talk him into going out for a few beers, they both needed it, but no such luck.
He was steering clear of Admiral Nelson. Not only was Lee still fuming about the Admiral belaying one of his orders on the way back, but both his sister Edith, who constantly thought Lee would make great husband material, and his friend Jiggs Starke, were in town when they docked. ADMIRAL Jiggs Starke, who was not fond of Lee. Lee could barely tolerate being around one of them, let alone both of them at the same time. Especially not in the mood he was in. He wanted to avoid any social invitations from the Admiral, but didn’t have a good reason to do so.
And so he was stuck at home. The weather was bad outside, rain, wind, and the temperature had cooled way down. He couldn’t even enjoy a walk on the beach, or relaxing on his deck. The cable company couldn’t be here until Monday to fix his cable, so he had no television until then, only his DVDs’ that he had already watched several times. And his favorite team was playing tonight. If he had his car, he could go rent a few DVDs, or go to his Winners Sports Bar and watch the game. Damn.
Seaview was in port for the next few weeks, no solace there.
No upcoming mission to plan for to take his mind off everything. No repairs needed after this mission. All his reports regarding the mission were
completed. His problem on the boat had been the first thing to go wrong, and was
still being investigated by both the
Lee was sitting in his cabin doing paperwork when ‘Ski knocked on his door. Lee could tell he was upset the minute he walked in. He was quiet for a second, as if he didn’t know how to start, and then just exploded. He was furious. Lee quietly listened to the whole story, getting madder by the second, and then exploded himself. He grabbed the mic and paged Security to come to his cabin. Then he paged Dr. Jamieson to come to his cabin. He hung up the mic, thought for a second, then picked it up again and paged both Chip and Chief Sharkey to come to his cabin. Three minutes later his cabin was crowded. Then the door opened again and Admiral Nelson stepped in. Lee hadn’t paged him, hadn’t wanted to bother him with a crew problem, even if it was a serious or lawbreaking one.
The Admiral saw the confused look on Lee’s face. “Well, Captain, after listening to all your pages down in my lab, I thought either something was very wrong, or that maybe you had a party going on in here and you forgot to invite me.” The Admiral could feel the tenseness in the room and was trying for a little levity. What could be so terrible? Everything was fine when they had dinner together not an hour ago, and he knew everything was all right with Seaview. Their mission had gone well, even if they were on their way home later than expected, and there weren’t any civilians on board to cause problems. There hadn’t been any radio messages or contact with the Institute. What had Lee so livid?
“No, Sir, but I am glad you’re here. I want all of you to listen to what ‘Ski has to say.”
When Kowalski got done talking, you couldn’t tell who in the room was the most shocked. Usually nothing surprised the Admiral. Nothing like this had ever happened before on Seaview, or even at the Institute.
Lee had Security throw the crewman in the brig for the rest of the cruise, and radioed Institute Security to be ready to take custody of him as soon as they docked, at least until the Santa Barbara Police could get there. He ordered Sharkey, Kowalski, and Patterson to search the crew’s quarters for his drugs, or any drug paraphernalia, and to have any crewman who had any dealing with Jack for any reason to report to his cabin. He would question them himself. Lee never before doubted Jamie’s medical competency, but he demanded to know how this crewman had passed Jamie’s physical, including the urine and blood tests. Then the Captain ordered the CMO to get both a urine and blood sample immediately, analyze it, and give Lee a written report as to what he found. Lee wanted documentation to support the man’s dismissal and any charges Lee intended to file against him.
“And I want tests done on all crewmen from the Junior Officers down.”
Jamie looked at him, stunned. “Captain, I know how serious a situation this is, but you’re over reacting. Let’s wait to see what kind of drugs are found before we start testing innocent crewman. These are decent, honest, loyal men that you supposedly trust. You can’t start accusing all of them, or treating them like they are automatically guilty.”
“Then why didn’t any of them report it the way Kowalski did? And if you wait to long, nothing will show up in their tests!”
“Do you know how long it will take me to test that many men? And I don’t have the amount of the necessary medical supplies on board to do it with. Don’t you think making this example of Jack is a better deterrent?”
“I’m not interested in prevention at this point, Doctor. I’m interested in disclosure. And blame. I don’t want any drug users of any kind, for any reason, on my boat. There has to be a reason everyone else kept silent. Implement any supplies you need. I’m sure the Admiral can help you, with all the chemicals and supplies he has in his lab. Follow your orders, Doctor. Dismissed.”
He was even harder on Chip. You would never have known they were friends.
“How did this happen, Mr. Morton? What about his security and background checks you did before you hired him? Did you even bother to read them? Did you even do them? How did he get through the boarding security check with drugs on him? Was he performing his duties without any problems? I thought you kept a constant, tough eye on new crewman. What happened? I want any work he has done checked by Sharkey. And why did this only come out when he tried to sell to ’Ski? Why wasn’t this discovered sooner? Why didn’t any of the other crewmen report anything? Go get his, file I want to read it myself. NOW, Mr. Morton.”
Chip just stood there for a second, shocked. Lee rarely spoke to him like this. He was as surprised about the whole thing as Lee was, he had no inkling. Why was Lee making it sound like he wasn’t doing his duty? He was by-the-book, and Lee knew it. He turned and left, uttering only a quiet “Yes, Sir.”
The file showed nothing. No drug arrests or treatments. There wouldn’t have been a file to look at if there were, he would never have been hired. His file only showed a healthy, intelligent, able bodied man of good character, with good references, who wanted to experience sea duty before deciding if he wanted to join the Navy. He had a spotless police record, not even a parking ticket. His background check was clean. He was only assigned to the cleaning crew, not anything classified, or that he needed training for. Those positions Chip usually recruited Naval Reserve officers for, who already had the training and the security clearance. Somehow though, none of this made him feel better. No other crewman came down to talk to him. He knew Kowalski couldn’t be the only one solicited. Were they all afraid of him or what he might put in their file if they did say something? He wished Jamie would hurry up and get back to him with the test results.
Lee still hadn’t calmed down much when the Admiral came back to his cabin not an hour later. “Jamie told me what you ordered. I belayed it. At least the part about testing all the crewmen. The rest stands. I know how upset you are about this, Lee. I don’t blame you. But you can’t fault the entire crew for one new crewman’s offense. And as much as I hate to say it, I certainly do believe Kowalski’s account, but for now it’s just Kowalski’s word against Jack’s. We can’t prove any crime has been committed here until we have proof, even if it is just other crewmen coming forward to corroborate ‘Ski’s story. Hopefully Sharkey and ‘Ski will find something more material to incriminate him with. If Jamie does find medical proof he is a user, at least we will have strong legal grounds to dismiss him from the Institute.” The Admiral stood there a moment longer, not liking one bit the look Lee was giving him. So he turned and walked out. He was not about to get into an argument with Lee when the Captain was in this kind of mood, if it could be avoided. He intended to speak further to him about it tomorrow, after they had any evidence that could be found and after Lee had a chance to cool down. Or maybe he should wait until after they docked. He had no idea at this time that Edith and Jiggs would both be waiting for him.
Lee couldn’t believe it. Not that he hadn’t had orders countermanded by Nelson before. But usually he eventually understood the Admiral’s reason for doing so. Not this time. Didn’t Nelson realize the gravity of the situation? Sometimes Lee feared that the Admiral had his head stuck so far into his research, he didn’t realize what was going on in the real world around him. In fact, that was pretty much why the Admiral said he had hired Lee to command Seaview in the first place. He wanted his boat run so well he would never have to worry about having his research interrupted by any problems. Not that that hadn’t happened, either. But even Jamie had said he was overreacting. And he was a doctor! Didn’t either of them recognize the problem for what it was? What it could have turned into if it hadn’t been discovered and dealt with?
Jamie couldn’t find any evidence of drug use by the man. His blood and urine tests were negative. He had none of the physical signs, and swore he never used drugs. That statement didn’t surprise the doctor. Not because it would be natural to lie about it, but because a lot of drug dealers knew better than to become users themselves. The crewman continued to profess his innocence, and was confused at as to why the Captain had him locked up. Something about the whole thing bothered Jamie. A submarine crew might prove a captive audience for some things, but as a market for drugs to be sold to? The behavior of anyone using drugs would be discovered and reported immediately. Unless… could he be setting up new clients to sell to off the boat, after they docked and were on shore leave? But that would mean that some of Seaview’s crew were already drug users, if only occasional recreational users, and looking for another supplier. The doctor refused to believe that; he knew these men too well, especially from a medical perspective.
Although he knew Jamie was keeping a medical eye on him on the way back, Lee didn’t give a damn if Jack suffered through any kind of withdrawal. He had zero tolerance for drug users and dealers. And on Seaview no less! He didn’t believe Jamie that the man was clean. It was just too long after his last use for anything to show up. The guy probably found out he had to pass a medical exam and blood test before boarding for the first time so he abstained from using for the few days before. Lee was frustrated. He wanted solid legal grounds to have the man arrested, and dismissed from the Institute. He knew Kowalski couldn’t have made the whole thing up; he was too outraged, too principled, and too honest.
They didn’t find anything after searching the crew’s quarters. Could he have gotten suspicious after he heard Lee’s pages, right after he had talked to ‘Ski? Could he have gotten rid of the evidence? He wasn’t on the boat long enough to know that Kowalski was not only first mate, but Lee’s right hand man and diving buddy. He probably would not have approached him if he had known how close they were.
Lee had called Kowalski down to his cabin and went over everything with him again. ‘Ski stuck to his account, was adamant the man had tried to sell him drugs. He wished now that he had played along a little bit, to try to find out more about the deal. What kind of drugs, where on board they were, how much he wanted.
Lee had to smile when he remembered the expressions on the faces of the two security guards when they heard why they had to find and lockup the new crewman. This was a new one for them. They were both former Marines, both big beefy men. Security was their second job on Seaview, since it was so rarely needed on routine or simple supply missions. One also served as the weapons and tactical officer, and the other was, um, the crew’s barber. When he told you to sit still, you sat still.
And so Lee was in a terrible mood already when they docked. The man was arrested, but was soon released on his own recognizance. There was no reason to hold him. There was no evidence against him, only Kowalski’s word that Lee believed implicitly. Then the Admiral informed him he did not want to press charges, but would dismiss the man from the Institute as soon as the Institute’s Legal Department and Human Resources could sort everything out. They needed some kind of legal grounds for dismissal. If he was an addict, the Admiral wanted to see that he got help. Lee just wanted to see him gone.
It was one of the few times Lee was glad to get off Seaview, get away from his problems there. Not the problems so much as the people.
He was caught up with all his reports and paperwork at NIMR, no distraction there, except for the temp. Thank goodness he didn’t have to be there. He had offered her overtime to work Saturday to get ahead on the project. What he really wanted was for her to just get done with it ASAP and be gone, forever.
He hated to say it, but he really felt like a good ONI mission. He was bored and wanted excitement. He was cooped up and wanted out. He was frustrated and wanted satisfaction. Well, he couldn’t create a mission himself. Maybe he should call ONI and see if they need him? No, on second thought he had better wait until tomorrow and see if he was in the same mood. Maybe once the weather improved he would feel better. Besides, going on an ONI mission in this black frame of mind was akin to suicide.
Having something to eat might help, he was getting hungry. Maybe getting his blood sugar level up would improve his mood. He opened up the fridge door and stared inside. That’s right. That’s where he was headed when his car broke down, the supermarket. It was his first chance to go since they got back. Well, he could order out, a pizza or Chinese. Nuts. He had intended to get cash back at the supermarket. He only had a couple of singles on him now; he used his debit card for everything. His debit card, where was his debit card? On the visor of his car with the parking ticket. He had gotten it out to top his tank off with but his car had broken down first. He had forgotten all about the card with the concern over his car. He wasn’t surprised. This is the way his life had been going all this week. Was he hungry enough to put food on his credit card? No. He had some emergency rations he kept aside for ONI missions. That would get him through till the morning. He’d work something out then. Things couldn’t possibly seem this bad after a good night’s sleep. That is, if he was able to get a good night’s sleep with all of this on his mind.
He really felt like talking to someone, but not Chip, and certainly not Jamie or the Admiral. Okay, I’ll call Mom. It’s been a while since I did. Boy, I must really be desperate. He reached in his pocket for his cell phone. Where the devil was his cell phone? Did he lose that, too? He stopped and thought for a minute, but for the life of him he couldn’t remember where he left it. He picked up his house landline and called his cell phone. Nothing. It wasn’t in the house. Well, at least he had his landline.
He started to enter the # for her speed dial, and then
suddenly hung the phone up. He had
nothing better to do, why not actually go out and visit her in person? Surprise her, if only for a couple of days. Getting
away from all his problems here was a good idea. And it was a good excuse to get out of any of
the Admiral’s social invitations. He needed it. Give the carpet a good chance
to dry out. Hopefully mold wouldn’t
grow; he would leave all the windows open a bit. He called the airport; the next direct flight
Wait, he was forgetting something. He had to leave word at the Institute that he would be away for the weekend, especially since he wouldn’t have his cell phone with him in case they tried to reach him in an emergency. It was only a couple of days. He called and left a short voice message on Angie’s phone, he was going away for the weekend, and he would be back on Monday. Ok, that’s it. Out the door.
He had the cab stop at the repair shop first so he could retrieve his debit card and look for his cell phone. They were closed at this hour, but thankfully, they hadn’t locked his car in one of the bays. He had a key hidden underneath the car he could use to open the door. Thank goodness. Maybe his luck really was changing. Then again, maybe not. His cell phone wasn’t in there. Next, he made a fast stop at an ATM to take cash out to pay the cab driver with and for pocket money. He made it to the airport just in time to glide through the security check. The flight was uneventful, surprising given the way his luck had been going. He even enjoyed the in-flight movie. More than that, he even enjoyed the meal! He must have really been hungry. He was actually getting kind of excited. He hadn’t seen his mother in too long, and, well, everyone likes to go back home once in a while. And he was finally starting to relax and forget about all his problems. Getting away, far away, was a good idea.
He rented a car at he airport. He got to his Mother’s house, still his house actually, a little before three. He parked on the street. He knew she wouldn’t still be up at this hour, so he quietly let himself in.
Wow! Did she have a feeling he was coming? She had baked some of his favorite cream cheese squares. A couple of those with a tall glass of fresh cold milk and he was ready for bed. He used the downstairs bathroom so as to not alarm her. Funny, every where’s else he called it a head. Back here, he only thought of it as a bathroom, like he did when he was a kid. It was good to be home.
He tiptoed up the stairs and into his old room. Well, the bed was made, and he didn’t care at this point how fresh the sheets were, he was exhausted. It didn’t take him long to fall into a sound sleep.
He opened his eyes the next morning and woke to the smell of bacon, sausage, eggs, and toast. And coffee. Boy, did that smell good. And was that pancakes he smelled as well? How did she know he was home? She would never cook a big meal like that for herself!
He dressed and went downstairs. He wasn’t sure how to approach her; he didn’t want to frighten her if this was all a coincidence. She could have just microwaved some frozen breakfast entrée that smelled good. She was still in her robe, her back turned towards him, washing dishes in the sink across from him on the other side of the table. He walked slowly and quietly, forgetting about that old floorboard before the kitchen doorway that still creaked. She turned her head slightly, enough for him to know she heard it, but she didn’t seem surprised. Somehow she had found out he had come home last night. And he had been so quiet!
Look at the feast on that table! Bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, toast, pancakes, and beside each of the two place settings, a tall glass of fresh orange juice. He sure felt like a kid again now, and a hungry one. He went up behind her and put his arms around her and hugged her.
“Well dear, it’s about time you got up! I thought I was going to have to eat all this food myself! Are you exhausted from last night?” She laughed, as she continued to wash dishes.
“No, actually I feel wide awake, refreshed and hungry. This sure smells good. Thanks, Mom. How did you know I came home last night? I tried to be quiet.”
First, she stopped washing dishes and stood stock still, and then he saw the glass slip from her hand and break in the sink. Next she spun around, still in him arms. First her jaw dropped open, then she turned white, then her face turned red.
She wasn’t surprised to see him, she was absolutely shocked. No way did she know he had come home.
“Lee, Lee!” She took a deep breath, trying to compose herself. Then she put her hands on his shoulders and stood on her tiptoes to kiss him, and then she wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him.
“Did you ditch me for a younger man already, honey? I thought I did pretty good last night.”
Lee quickly turned around to find a distinguished gentleman, in his pajamas and robe, standing in the doorway to the kitchen. Now he was the one who was shocked. It took a minute for it to fully dawn on him exactly what was going on, what he had walked in on. Now his jaw dropped and he felt his face turning red. None of his Naval or ONI training to be prepared for any situation had ever covered anything like this, and neither had any of his life experiences. He had absolutely no idea how to respond, what to do or say.
His very first reaction was to give the pervert a punch in the jaw, knock him down to the floor, then drag him outside to finish the job. How dare he do that to his mother? HIS Mother!
“Uh, hello, I mean, good morning, Sir. I’m… I’m Lee Crane.” He stepped around the table and offered his hand. The man took it and returned a firm handshake.
“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Lee. I’ve heard so much about you from your Mother. She is very proud of you. My name is John Lawson. I can tell from your reaction your mother hasn’t mentioned me to you yet.”
“No, no she hasn’t. I would have called before I came if I had known. I apologize for the intrusion. I – I …”
“Intrusion? What intrusion? This is your home, Lee. You belong here more than I do. And what a wonderful surprise for your mother for you to come all the way back home for Mother’s Day.”
Mother’s Day? Was this Sunday Mother’s Day? What a lucky coincidence! This would be the first one he had been home
for in years. Usually he was only able
to send flowers and a card with gift card in it, and he tried to call even if
they were at sea. Now no one back in
“Lee, please, sit down and let’s finally get to know each other. Your Mom certainly has cooked enough for an army. Oh, I guess I should say a Navy. And before this goes any further, I want you to know I love your mother. This isn’t any kind of a one night stand or clandestine affair. This has been going on for quite some time, and we are serious. Now, you must have been awfully quiet when you came in last night, I never heard a thing.” The man had a warm, caring voice, and he seemed to truly mean what he said. He was only a couple of inches shorter than Lee, in good physical shape, with a full head of salt and pepper hair and a quick, friendly smile. He had the darkest blue eyes Lee had ever seen. Lee was beginning to get a good sense about him. He seemed to be a truly decent, honest man of integrity. He hoped this was someone he could trust his Mother with, that would take good care of her, and he seemed to be about her age. At least that was Lee’s initial impression of him, now that the shock was wearing off. He had to get to know this man better.
As they were talking, his mother set another place at the table and poured another glass of orange juice.
She was calming down, and was secretly relieved this had happened. She had been trying for months to tell Lee she had a new man in her life, but couldn’t find the right words. She had no idea how he would take it. They may be far apart geographically, but they were still close at heart. She worried about him constantly. Even after all these years, she was afraid Lee would think she was trying to replace his father, whom he still idolized. Lee had never quite gotten over his father’s death, to this day. How would he take it when he realized she finally had? She would always love her husband, always miss him. She was not doing anything to disrespect him or his memory; she was just going on with her life. She prayed Lee would understand that. For the first time in over twenty-five years, she was happy, she felt alive, and she wasn’t lonely. She hoped Lee didn’t do or say anything to ruin it for her. She didn’t think he would, but, well, you never know. But to think, he had come all this way just to spend Mother’s Day with her! Oh, how she loved her son!
They ate breakfast while they chatted. John was telling Lee all about his children. His wife had died in childbirth having their
last child. She had suffered an aneurism while still on the table. So he had become a widower at a young age,
and had raised his four children himself, including the newborn, and the baby
made the score two boys and two girls.
His youngest son had finally moved out and all the way to the west
“I hope you can meet them tomorrow, Lee. We are all going out for a Mother’s Day Dinner. But if you had other plans for the day with her, we can all just get together later in the afternoon or evening. They are all a bit younger than you, in their twenties. But they all grew up in this area, same as you, so you have that much in common. They have already met your mother, except for my youngest. He left before I had a chance to tell him.”
Step-siblings. Just what I need at this stage of my life. But something else was needling him at the back of his mind, but he couldn’t put a finger on it.
“I’ll look forward to it, Mr. Lawson. I had thought about taking Mom out for a Mother’s Day Brunch, if that was what she wanted to do. I’m only out here until late tomorrow afternoon this visit, but I can take a longer shore leave in a couple of months, after our next mission. Maybe we can set something up then. Perhaps, in the meantime, you can talk to your son and see if he can schedule a trip home. It will be barbecue weather by then out here; maybe we can have a nice afternoon family barbecue and all get to know one another. What I would really like is to be back in time for the Newport Jazz Festival in July.” Lee got his love of jazz from his mother. They both loved the festival, but usually she wound up attending with friends if he was at sea.
“Lee, if you keep calling me Mr. Lawson, I will start calling you Captain, and saluting you. My name is John. Please call me that. And a cook-out sounds like a fine idea. So does the Jazz Festival. I actually took Kristen to a jazz club on our first date. Now, your Mother and I didn’t have any real plans today, so what would you like to do? Or if you prefer, I have several errands and chores I need to take care of. Give you some time to spend alone with your Mother. I’m sure you both have a lot of catching up to do. In fact, the more I think about it, that’s a good idea. How about I meet you two back here around six and take you both to dinner. How would that be?”
Before Lee could answer, his Mother did.
“Thank you John, that sounds wonderful. I would like some one on one time with Lee. And I think he would enjoy dinner at that new seafood restaurant that just opened. What is it called, ‘Poseidon’s Table’? You still love seafood, don’t you Lee? Although I am sure they have other things on the menu.”
Lee wasn’t sure how to respond, he didn’t want to feel like a third wheel on his mother’s dinner date.
But a seafood dinner at a new restaurant certainly sounded tempting. And he did want to get to know this man better. A social engagement would give him the perfect chance.
“I’m game, thank you Mr. Law..., I mean, John. I hope its casual dress. I didn’t bring any good clothes or my uniform with me. But I could always run out and get something.”
“What you are wearing now Lee is fine. It’s a relaxed atmosphere there. But the food is excellent, and the view
fantastic. It’s right at the head of Narragansett Bay, near where the
Yeah, and I’m beginning to wish I was still there. For the first time in my life, I just don’t feel comfortable here. I wish I had called first.
“Yes, I love it. It’s convenient to the Institute, and I have a great private beach that’s partially protected by a rock jetty. It keeps the waves from eroding too much of the beach. I have a nice deck with a grill, and a patio set. I probably spend more time out there when I’m home than I spend inside. I try to soak up as much sunshine and fresh air as I can in between missions, to makeup for all the recirculated air and artificial lighting on Seaview. I’ve even fallen asleep overnight on the lounge chair I have out there. There’s usually a nice, cool ocean breeze that keeps it more comfortable outside than it is inside on a hot, muggy night. I even have it wired so I can use my computer out there.”
“Lee, that reminds me. Speaking of computers, if you have a few minutes while you are here, maybe you could take a look at your mother’s computer. I think there must be a problem with her hard drive. I’ve looked at it, but I’m afraid I’m not very good with computers. I know how to use one, but not fix one. She really misses it.”
“Sure, I’ll take a look at it. Mom, is this the same computer you’ve had for the last 10 years? I wish you would let me get you a new, more up to date one. They may be able to copy all the data from your hard drive onto a new one that’s bigger and faster; you’ll never know the difference. Let’s go look at one this afternoon. We can get you one with a bigger screen, better colors, and more memory so it runs faster. It can be a Mother’s Day present.” He was still aggravated at not being able to fix his own hard drive; he really didn’t feel like messing with hers. Not the way his luck was going. And it solved his problem of what to give her for Mother’s Day. But he’d still get her flowers, though. He knew how much she loved them. And he would get a dozen for Mrs. Morton, too. Two dozen yellow roses, with white baby breaths.
Okay, a new computer for Mom, two dozen roses, a new hard drive for me, and the labor involved to install it and try to retrieve my data, the new hot water heater and its installation, car repairs of an as-yet-unknown amount, and new carpeting. I might have to replace my cell phone. And without knowing what was wrong with the cable, I might have another bill if it isn’t a problem with their equipment. And I have no idea yet exactly how much damage the flooding has caused, there might be more repairs. Oh, and the round trip plane ticket out here and the rental car. And brunch tomorrow. Boy is Visa going to love me this month. At least when I have problems on Seaview, there are resources to take care of them and pay for them!
Lee had expected her to choose a new desktop computer, but she wanted a laptop instead. She wanted the portability of it. Lee knew he himself needed both, he needed the laptop to bring on board Seaview with him and he had desktops both at home and at NIMR. His mother was a free lance writer part time, and a part time paralegal. She had told him in the car that was how she had met John. Lee finally convinced her to get both a new laptop, and have her desktop repaired and upgraded as well. They would need the hard drive to copy the files from anyway, if they could, and he wanted her to get a new motherboard with a faster CPU and more memory. And a faster modem, now that she was using the Internet more. This way she would always have a backup, one she was familiar with. Being closed on Sundays they wouldn’t be able to get it done before he left, so John was going to have to pick it up and reinstall it for her.
Dinner was delightful. Lee loved the restaurant. He almost felt like he was dining in Seaview’s observation nose. There were aquariums full of beautiful fish all around, and the nautical décor made him feel right at home. There were ocean sounds playing in the background, waves hitting the shore, seagull sounds. The mural on one wall showed Poseidon in all of his glory, with his gold trident in hand and long white hair and beard flowing in the water. He was surrounded by beautiful mermaids, and behind him was a half buried pirate’s chest, the wooden lid open with jewels falling out, and gold doubloons scattered on the ocean floor around it. Green sea ferns were waving in the currents, with an octopus peeking through. Various sea creatures swam around him. Lee smiled to himself, wondering what his mother would think if she knew about some of his sea adventures and experiences on and off Seaview. The real laugh would have been if Lee ever found out how truly relieved his mother had been when he had told her about his new command on Seaview. Surely her precious son would be out of harm’s way serving on a privately owned research vessel!
He was very relaxed, thanks in part to a few of his favorite
beers. Samuel Adams was hard to find on
the West coast. But the company also had
something to do with it. His mother was
thoroughly enjoying herself with her two favorite fellows, as she put it. The view was fantastic; it easily rivaled any
of the best coastal restaurants he had ever dined at, maybe more so because
this was home. Even though still celebrating their Grand Opening, the
restaurant enjoyed a busy dinner crowd; Lee knew it was because of the
combination of the view, the food, and the atmosphere, plus people being just
plain curious. This place was going to
do well. But they were still able to sit and relax after dinner for a
while. Lee thanked John again for the
dark blue herringbone tweed jacket he had lent Lee so he would feel more
comfortable in his jeans and black turtleneck.
Lee was also glad for it because he had forgotten how chilly it could
still be back East this time of year. His
blood had certainly thinned out since moving to
But boy, he sure enjoyed that meal. He didn’t get lobster that fresh and
delicious at his own favorite seafood restaurant right near the Institute. At John’s suggestion, he had ordered the Deluxe
Surf and Turf, and the filet mignon was done exactly as he liked it, black on
the outside and almost completely rare on the inside. The Alaskan King Crab Legs appetizer and New
England clam chowder before dinner were both mouth watering. He could have filled up on just more of those. The hot sour dough rolls, Caesar salad, and afterward,
the apricot cheesecake and after dinner cordials to top it all off made it one
of the most memorable restaurant meals he’d eaten in his life. And he’d been to many formal dinners, some of
them as the guest of royalty. He now had
a new favorite restaurant. Too bad it
wasn’t closer to
The more he talked to John, the more he liked the man. Especially when Lee found out John was a Red
Sox fan like him. He was a lawyer, and happened to specialize in Admiralty
law. So they found a lot to talk
about. He confided to John that if he
hadn’t made it into
But his father had also taken him several times to visit the
No wonder Lee grew up conflicted!
Still, Lee couldn’t help but feel a little bit envious when John
told him that
“Well, Lee, if you ever take early retirement from the
Institute, Harvard awaits you. Don’t
think you are too old to go to school, or change careers. You can use your current career to help you and
still stay in the Navy. I know from
working with them that JAG is always desperate for good lawyers, especially ones
that have your command experience. And I
heard you graduated first in your class at
John had no way of knowing the seed he had planted that night. At the time, neither did Lee.
John dropped them both off. He said he was tired, but Lee thought he probably was just giving them more time to spend together, and he really appreciated it. It did cross Lee’s mind that if he hadn’t been there, John would probably have stayed overnight again, but Lee wasn’t about to bring the subject up.
To tell the truth, Lee was a bit tired himself. He hadn’t had much of a chance yet to relax
after the last cruise. Sleeping and
relaxing were two different things to him. It had been one thing after the
other, and now it was all catching up with him.
He wanted to be up early tomorrow not only to take his mother to brunch,
but he wanted to go to church with her.
He usually went in
For whatever reason, Lee really didn’t feel like going home tomorrow. Whether it was the good time he was having back here, or the knowledge of all the problems waiting for him at home, he wasn’t sure. It was probably a combination of both. He knew he had plenty of shore leave accumulated. Taking another couple of days wouldn’t matter. But he did have his problems back home to deal with, and he had the appointment for the cable company to come out. And he was concerned about his red baby. Well, at least there was nothing for him to worry about with his Grey Lady. Oh, well. He would just make sure he came back again in a couple of months as he had told John he would. And he had to remember to call Mrs. Morton tomorrow.
Lee sat down in the living room, and his mother brought them both in tea. He always enjoyed Earl Grey with her, and wondered why he never drank it at home. There he was just a coffee drinker.
They had a long talk, the first one in a long time. Lee assured her he was happy for her, and liked John. He was truly relieved she had found a good man to be with, hopefully to spend the rest of her life with. He never said the word ‘marriage’; he wasn’t too sure how serious things were between them yet. But if she ever asked for his blessing, he would surely give it, not that she needed it. He hoped they were both too old fashioned to just start living together. That he couldn’t deal with. It was bad enough they were already obviously sleeping together. That was okay for him to do, but certainly not his mother. Lee didn’t consider it a double standard, just a difference in accepted generational values, morals, and lifestyles. He knew she was lonely, and he wanted her to have someone to grow old with who could make her happy. And John was well-to-do, being a lawyer. He could take good care of her. They did make a nice looking couple. Although Lee had his mother’s facial features and eyes, he had his Armenian father’s dark curly hair, skin tone and build. His Swedish mother was blonde, with a peaches-and-cream complexion, and the same bright green gold eyes Lee had. A perfect compliment to John’s graying dark hair and dark blue eyes. He would make a respectable looking judge some day, if he chose to be one.
Naturally, it wasn’t long until the conversation turned to Lee’s personal life.
“No, Mom, sorry, no one yet. I’m too busy with Seaview to get into a serious relationship right now. I’m still young. I have time.”
“You have time, Lee, but I don’t! I want to see you happily married, and I want grandchildren. Remember, you are the only one to carry on the Crane name. And you aren’t as young as you think. You may be young to be a Captain, but you are not too young to start a family. You are going to turn around one day and realize how old you really are and how alone you are, and by then it will be too late.”
He had heard the same words from her a hundred times before, knew word for word what was coming next. He didn’t want to tell her he was always looking, but just couldn’t find the right girl. Of course he’d had many relationships, but he never felt like making any of them permanent. The right feelings just weren’t there, on either side. It was hard to find a woman who wanted to share her life with a man who was gone to sea so much of the time, especially if children started coming. He didn’t want to be an absentee father anymore than he wanted to give up being Seaview’s Captain. At least he felt that way right now. Maybe when he got older, his priorities would change. He still had time.
They went to Mass the next morning, it was good to see Father Owen again. All these years and his Irish brogue was still as thick as ever. And he was so thrilled to see Lee again. Then it was on to brunch. A nearby four star hotel was putting on quite a spread for Mother’s Day. Was there any food they didn’t have here? The only thing that surprised him more that the two Tanqueray and tonics his Mother had last night at dinner, was the three Bloody Marys’ she had with brunch. His mother had never been a drinker, but she seemed to be handling them fine. Lee could only assume that she was probably going out a lot now with John, and drinking with him when she did. Well, it wasn’t any of his business anyway.
It was only a little after noon when they finished, so they headed up to the cemetery to pay their respects to his father. Lee hadn’t been there in a few years, but his mother kept the grave well maintained. He was glad to see she continued to do so even though she now had John in her life, but when he asked her about it, she told him John’s wife’s grave was only a few rows away so they went together. What a weird thing to share or have in common but, well, it worked for them. At least it meant that they both understood and accepted the soft spot the other would always have in their hearts for their first spouse, the other parent of their children. He knew that as much as he wanted to see his mother happily remarried, he didn’t want her married to a man who was going to resent the feelings she would always have for his father, or who would try to say or do anything to make his father look bad or try to compete with him.
Next they went to the beautiful park not too far from their home,
There was an art exposition for painters and sculptors in
the park supported by the art museum
Lee found a beautiful moonlight seascape with a rock jetty that had a black and white striped lighthouse on it. The moon was full and touching the water’s horizon. A pod of dolphins were swimming in front of it, one jumping out of the water. All were black in profile against the silver moon shining on the royal blue waters, with white-foamed waves crashing against the jetty, while gentler waves lapped against the sandy shoreline. White seagulls were dipping and soaring in the air, and the night sky above was filled with bright stars. The artist had paid close attention to detail, as Lee was able to pick out two constellations accurately depicted. He could almost smell and feel the salt air, hear the birds and breaking surf, and feel the ocean breeze on his face. He stood there staring at it for so long, mesmerized by the serenity and peace it projected, he didn’t realize his mother had gone over to the artist and purchased it for him.
“I know you can’t take it home on the plane safely, so he is going to ship it to you this week. It will look beautiful in that bare space on the wall over your bed. Just think Lee, you can be under the waves even when you are home sleeping!” They both laughed, and then he took her face in his hands and kissed her forehead. His mother knew his tastes all too well, and that is exactly where he would hang it.
They walked around admiring the flowers, the children playing, and visiting their favorite spots. It was a beautifully landscaped park, and huge. It was a very relaxing afternoon, beautiful weather, and he always enjoyed her company. They made small talk, but caught up on a lot of things, too. He again wished he didn’t have to leave in a few hours. He wasn’t going to have her to himself much longer if things worked out between her and John. But he was happy for her.
They strolled back to the car and headed home. John would be by to pick her up for dinner about
the same time Lee had to leave for the airport. He had no idea how she was
going to eat another dinner after that huge brunch. He made a mental note to call her from
He called Mrs. Morton before he left. She was surprised to hear from him. When she hadn’t received a call from Chip during
the day, she thought they were out to sea. What happened to Chip? He always came to see her on Mother’s Day if
they were in port. Lee didn’t want to mention Chip’s romantic problems to her, but
now he had a feeling something else might be wrong. He suggested that Chip would probably call
before the day was out, and that perhaps, with him being out here on the east
coast, Chip may have had to cover for him at the Institute if a problem had
come up. Thankfully, she didn’t question
why that would keep him from calling her. After asking about everyone’s health
and well being, he wished her a happy Mother’s Day, and promised to come out to
visit them soon. She told him to wish
his mother a happy mother’s day from her as well. The two mothers had met several times, mostly
Lee hung up, and immediately dialed Chip’s cell phone number. He got the answering message, and used it to remind Chip that it was Mother’s Day and that he had just talked to his mother and she said she hadn’t heard from him yet. “Call her, pal, she’s worried. See you in the morning.” Lee hung up, more than a little concerned. Chip always answered his cell phone, even in the dead of night, and now it was only early afternoon back there. Since he was going to have to rent a car at the airport until he got his back anyway, he would head over to Chip’s on the way home. He sure missed his cell phone!
He said goodbye to his mother, followed by a hug and kiss, and was just throwing his overnight bag into the passenger seat when John pulled up. Lee thanked him for everything, especially the dinner. He told John his jacket was hanging in the hall closet, and yes, he would call when he got home to let them know he arrived safely. Gee, he didn’t even do that when they docked after a dangerous mission, let alone a routine air flight!
Again, he got to the airport just in time to return the rental car and pass through the security check. It took a little longer this time, so many people returning home after visiting their mothers.
Half way back, changing gears from son to Captain, it hit
him. The thing that
had been itching in the back of his mind. John Lawson had a son who had
just relocated to the west coast,
They landed and he rented another car and drove to Chip’s house. No lights were on, and his car wasn’t in the driveway. Lee had a key, but there wasn’t much sense going in when he obviously wasn’t home. Where could he be this late on a Sunday night? He sat there in the car, feeling more and more like something was wrong. Well, he would drive to the Institute before going home and check on things there to ease his mind.
He got out of his car, after parking it in his reserved spot right in between Chip’s car and the Admiral’s. What could be going on at the Institute that had them here after 2330 on a Sunday night? And why did the guard at the security gate seem so surprised to see him? He thought it was just because it was unusual, but not unheard of, for him to come late on a Sunday night, but now he wondered if there wasn’t more to it. He entered his security code into the keypad for after hours access, then walked through the lobby and entered the glass elevator that rose up the outside of the building, allowing a breathtaking view of the ocean. Half way up, he was able to look down and into Seaview’s pen.
Seaview was gone.
He ran to his office, unlocked the door, ran to his desk and
picked the phone up. He called the Institute’s weekend radio operator, asking
her to put him through to Seaview immediately.
It took a few minutes, then
“Captain, the Admiral is down in his cabin. I’ll patch you through. Hold on, Sir.”
“Nelson here. Lee, where the devil have you been? I know you left a message you were going away for the weekend, but you didn’t say where and why haven’t you been answering your cell phone? I must have left you twenty messages. We had an emergency, and I needed you. A crack suddenly appeared in the dome of one of our undersea labs. It had to be caused by that last undersea earthquake that registered on the Institute’s seismograph last week. I know the dome was structurally sound up to that point. We’ve been ferrying the lab personnel back to Seaview in the flying sub. Seaview won’t actually make it there until late tomorrow night, even though we’re running at flank speed. Fortunately FS1 is faster. Chip and I left in the flying sub as soon as we got deep enough out to launch her. So far there are no casualties, but the crack is getting worse, and we can’t salvage any of the equipment until Seaview gets there. O’Brian is running the sub, and I have to alternate between relieving him of duty so he can get a few hours sleep, and relieving Chip every third run for the same reason. I needed you. Now again, where the blazes have you been?”
“Admiral, I apologize.
I flew home to
“I just wish you were here, Lee. We’re running with a real skeleton crew, only as many as we could round up immediately. Everyone is exhausted, doing double duty. It’s bad timing because so many of the crew, like you, went home to visit their mothers. Chip himself was actually at the airport when I got through to him, and he had to cancel his flight to turn around to come back here. We don’t even have Cookie, Chief Sharkey, the Doctor, or any medical corpsmen on board. Thank goodness there haven’t been any injuries, at least not yet. We didn’t even have time to take enough provisions on board. I’m sorry Lee. It never occurred to me that you might have gone back east for the holiday; you so rarely take shore leave. But I probably wouldn’t have called your mother’s even if I had known that was where you were because it would have taken you too long to get back here and we couldn’t wait.”
”Sir, what are your coordinates? Which lab is it?”
“What are you going to do Lee, swim? I’ll transfer you back to the control room, Bobby can give them to you. It’s the Oceana SeaLab, southwest of
“Absolutely, Sir. I’ll be in my office. Let me know if you need anything and how things are going. Please patch me through to the control room. Crane out.” He certainly had no intention of going for a swim, he just wanted to know exactly where his boat was. And he was sure the only reason Admiral Starke stayed behind was to use the opportunity to give Lee a hard time while Admiral Nelson wasn’t around to defend his Captain.
Well, I don’t have to worry about Chip anymore. He’s busy doing my job. The one time I go away. Well, guess my luck still hasn’t changed. And now I have to deal with Admiral Starke. I hope Edith isn’t still in town, too. Maybe a long swim to the lab isn’t such a bad idea!
Admiral Nelson called back not an hour later. “There’s nothing you can do right now, Lee, but be back there by tomorrow afternoon. Get some sleep, and let Admiral Starke know you are there. He’s staying at my house. Just call him. Oh, and speaking of calling, I checked your cabin and your cell phone is nowhere to be found. The situation is still the same here. I’m hoping we can evacuate all the lab personnel and remove the equipment before the dome gets any worse. If we can manage that, I intend to go in and see if we can temporarily repair it on the spot, just to keep it from getting any worse until we can replace it. I went out with Chip on the first run to see how bad the crack was. I think it is fixable, temporarily at least, but I don’t want to attempt it with people in there. But we’ll have to come back and replace the dome as soon as possible. I want to see if I can at least patch it up somehow now, try to keep it from caving in under the water pressure until we can come back, at least try to keep the lab intact. Call me tomorrow after you get in. It’s after 0100 now Lee. Go home and get some sleep. Get some for me too, while you are at it. Nelson out.”
So Lee went home, deciding to wait until the next morning to call Admiral Starke. Starke was grumpy enough when he was in a good mood; Lee couldn’t bear to think what he would be like woken up in the middle of the night. Especially by one Lee Crane.
He was so tired when he got home all he did was change and fall into bed. He did notice that everything seemed to have dried out nicely; he couldn’t see or smell any mold or dampness. He would look more closely in the morning, in the daylight, but by now he was looking forward to buying new carpeting anyway. And for some strange reason, he fell asleep thinking of that portrait of his distant grandfather.
The next morning was interesting. Lee had to take care of everything before he reported back to the Institute that afternoon. The cable company came and went within 20 minutes, replacing a wire outside that had come loose. No charge. He was just about to call a cab when there was a knock on his door. He opened it, surprised to find Fred, his mechanic standing there, and spied his red baby sitting in the driveway behind him.
“I hate to tell you this Lee, but, uh, all I did was put gas in her. You know, there have been about twenty reports of gas being siphoned out of cars in this area. My kid brother is a cop and he was telling me all about it. They haven’t found the culprit yet. You now have a full take of gas, and I took the liberty of putting a locking gas cap on we had laying around. I put the key for it on your keychain. I know you probably keep your car locked and the control to open the cap with is inside, but this is just an extra safeguard. You now, for the times when you park with your top down. Other than that, she’s fine. Doesn’t even need an oil change yet. You only owe us for the gas, but I also need a ride back to the station, if you don’t mind.”
“Well, uh, how embarrassing! I don’t think I even bothered to look at the gas gauge, I always keep the tank full, and I just top it off. Ok, I’ll take you to the station and we can put it on my card when we get there. And thanks for bringing her over to me. I was just about to call a cab. Give me a minute, I’ll be right out.” He was embarrassed, but more than that he was relieved. Most material things didn’t matter much to Lee, but this was his car. His beloved red baby. The only material possession he truly treasured and cherished.
The ride back to the garage was full of car talk. Fred had been taking care of Lee’s Corvette for years now. “Oh, and by the way, my kid brother took care of your parking ticket for you. He was over talking to me while I worked on your car and spied it on the visor. He recognized it because it was his handwriting. Turns out, they had several complaints about that meter already, but hadn’t gotten around to fixing it or even putting a bag over it. Someone put a note on it, though. He said to tell you he was sorry, and not to worry about it.” Lee asked him to be sure he thanked his brother for him. Whew!
He dropped Fred off, paid the bill, and then headed over to check on his computer. Boy it was good to have his red baby back! He felt better already.
“Mr. Crane. Yes, your computer is all ready. And we were able to restore all of your files. I also added more memory. It will run much faster now, with none of the ‘freezes’ you were complaining about. I did a virus sweep on all your files before we restored them. You are all set to go. Oh and here is one of those flash drives we were discussing. Very easy to use, but if you have a problem with anything, call me. Will this be on your card, Sir?”
Ok, on to the Institute. And I forgot to call Admiral Starke. I’ll have to do it as soon as I get there. I hope he doesn’t show up and catch me out of uniform. Well, my luck does seem to be changing a bit.
He walked into his office and the first thing he saw on his desk was a note from the temp. “I worked all day Saturday and half a day today, everything is done and here’s my time card. Call me again if I can be of any further assistance. Oh, and by the way, I still think you should hang curtains inside Seaview’s windows. All windows need curtains. A lovely blue calico pattern would look nice. Agatha.” He’d rather clean the bilge tanks out himself than to ever call her back again. Now, relieved that she was finally gone, he allowed himself a good laugh about the curtains. He had to remember to tell that one to Chip and the Admiral. But as he opened the file on his desktop computer, he was truly impressed with the beautiful work she had done. Not only exactly the way he wanted it, but with a few of her own touches that made it more readable and flexible. He could do a lot with this. Well, it turned out she was worth the grief she caused. Guess everyone does have some good points, and this was what he had hired her for. I’ll give her two more hours of time and a half than she worked to makeup for the way I treated her.
Next he reached for the phone to call Admiral Starke, but before he could take it off the cradle it rang.
“Crane, where the hell have you been? Nelson was going crazy trying to find you! Do you have any idea what is going on?” Admiral Starke’s fiery temper was in full swing.
“Yes, Sir, Admiral Starke. Admiral Nelson has explained everything that happened. I was home visiting my mother for Mother’s Day. The Admiral said to tell you it’s all right for you to go home now that I am back. Everything is going well with the evacuation. I expect to be in contact with him again shortly. And everything is under control here at the Institute, Sir.”
“Well, I’m certainly relieved to hear that Crane, because I happen
to already be back at
“Sir, if I had been here, I would have been on Seaview and no one would have been here anyway. I..”
Before he could finish, Starke slammed the phone down
without even so much as a goodbye. So,
Starke was gone. Back home at Pearl
Harbor Naval Base in
He found himself finally starting to relax a little. It wasn’t often he had the Institute all to himself. Even Angie, the Admiral’s secretary and Deputy Director of the Institute when both he and the Admiral were away, wouldn’t be back from her mother’s until the day after tomorrow. Ok, back to work.
Next, he called Mrs. Morton. He didn’t want her worrying about Chip. He explained what was going on, and that he would be sure that Chip took shore leave when it was over and Lee would send him home. Lee would order him to go, if he had to. She laughed, thanked him for the beautiful flowers, and invited him to come out, too. He said he just might do that. And it didn’t sound like a bad idea at all.
Lee opened his bottom desk drawer and pulled out his laptop to transfer the new file onto it. He opened the bag to pull it out and… well, hello! Where have you been, getting chummy with the modem? He held his cell phone in his hand, and suddenly remembered throwing it in there in a fit, furious with Agatha and in a hurry to get out of there and away from her before he lost his temper. In such a hurry that after he put his uniform jacket and cover on, he slammed the drawer shut, grabbed his briefcase, and stalked out leaving his laptop behind, forgetting that his cell phone was in there, too. Well, it was dead now. He put it on his office charger, relieved to know it wasn’t lost.
This day was just getting better and better. He wondered. Did it only take a visit back home to be with family to “reset” your karma?
He called his mother.
She talked nonstop about the lovely dinner they had all had last night,
and how well John’s children treated her.
They told her she was the first “mother” they had ever had. “Lee, you should see the beautiful gold watch
they all chipped in and gave me. Of
course no one can ever take your place, but I have to tell you, it is so much
fun to finally have a daughter again, two of them. We get along so well. Diana asked me to teach her how to sew. She wants to be able to make clothes for her
“He’s named John, after his father, Lee. But everyone just calls him Jack. I haven’t met him yet, though. Maybe being out there on your side of the country, you’ll meet him before I do!” She laughed, thanked him again for everything, and then ended the call with her usual “Keep in touch, and take care. I love you. Goodbye.”
Thankfully, the connection was broken before his mother heard the swear words that erupted from his mouth. He had to find that folder.
Wait a minute. Did his mother actually say it was so good to have a daughter, again? He was an only child. What did she mean? Maybe just a slip of the tongue? Well, certainly something to talk about when he went back out.
Next he had Katie, their regular radio operator, put him through to Seaview. This time he got Chip.
“You picked a great time to go home, pal. The Admiral’s took FS1 out this time. We still have at least one more trip to make after this one just to get the people out. Everyone is beat. No injuries, but we’re on rations. After rescuing the rest of the personnel on the next trip, the very next thing we are going to bring back is some of the food stores at the lab. We just didn’t have enough time to wait for supplies to be ordered and delivered before we left port. So ‘Ski did an emergency run to Costco’s. We went through all the normal supplies fast because at the time we didn’t realize we would have to evacuate and then feed all the personnel. The Admiral didn’t realize how bad the dome was until we saw it on our first trip out. If our last mission hadn’t taken longer than expected, we would have had more food stores left on Seaview after it. Basically we are living off of what we have left, PB&J sandwiches on stale bread and reconstituted milk. Can you believe we even ran out of coffee? What we had here didn’t even last one day. The one combination we don’t need is being exhausted and not having coffee to keep us awake. I have to do the next run, and right now I would kill for an underwater Starbucks! And on top of that there aren’t even any chocolate chip cookies on board!”
“Ok, Chip, I hear you and believe me I sympathize. Listen, I have an idea. After you get the last of the lab personnel, instead of bringing them back to Seaview, why not bring them directly back here and pick me up? It would be that many less people on Seaview, and I can have provisions here by then, and Cookie, Jamie, and Sharkey should all be back here now, as well as some of the other crewman. You can get a good meal and coffee, and sleep on the way back. And I can have ready anything the Admiral thinks he needs to fix the dome. Why don’t you run it by him and see what he thinks, then get back to me?
“Sounds like a plan to me Lee, a good plan. I’m sure the Admiral will be up for it, too. I expect him back in a couple of hours; I’ll have him call you. How’s your Mom doing?”
“Good Chip, thanks for asking, and your mother is doing fine as well. I’ll tell you all about it when I get there. Ah, by the way, do you by any chance remember off hand the last name of the seaman we had the drug problem with?”
“Lee, I’m so tired right now I barely remember my own name. I know his first name was Jack, and I think his last name began with and L. It was something like Larson. His folder is in my office. Look, I gotta go. I want to try to catch twenty winks before the Admiral gets back. Hopefully, I will see you back there in a few hours. Morton out.”
Well, at least he doesn’t sound mad at me anymore. He had to laugh about the chocolate chip cookies. He’d tease Kowalski about not remembering, before anything else, to buy a carton of them to keep his Acting Captain happy. It was a running joke on board, since Chip’s favorite chocolate chip cookie, second only to his mother’s home made ones, was ‘Chip’s Ahoy’. People often suspected he got the nickname “Chip” because of his love of the cookie. Chip stated it was because his sister, who was two years old when he was born, couldn’t say Charles Phillip without it coming out as Ch--ip. Lee knew neither was true. Chip’s own mother had told him it was because he was their first son, and her husband Woodrow’s nickname was Woody. Their son was a ‘chip’ off the old wooden block. It had been her father, Chip’s maternal grandfather that had started the joke. Well, Lee guessed, it was better than being nicknamed Splinter!
As soon as I touch base and get the ball rolling with Jamie, Sharkey and Cookie, I’ll get that folder from Chip’s office. First, Cookie. But even before that, for some reason after talking to Chip, I’m craving a cup of coffee!
“Yes, Sir, Skipper. I can have provisions ready by early this evening, no problem. I’ll start getting things together now. And coffee will be at the top of my list, followed by Mr. Morton’s cookies. Let me know what time to have them ready to load, Sir.” Ah, good old reliable Cookie.
“Oh, and Cookie, could you please lay in a box of Earl Grey teabags for me when you get the coffee? Thanks.”
Next call. “Sharkey, get in touch with as many of the crew as you can and have them on standby. We can only fit so many in the flying sub, and there will already be me, Chip, Doc, Cookie and you. Plus provisions in the small cargo holds. You know what the circumstances are and who is already on board. Choose the few men you think we will need most to relieve the crew already there, and to man the posts that are vacant, and for the repair job. Have the rest stay on standby in case we have to come back and get them. We can bring another load of lab personnel back here and pick up more crew members if need be.”
Next, he picked up the phone to call Doc Jamieson, but instead decided to go over to the MedBay and talk to him in person. Lee wanted to apologize for the way he had treated Jamie, and he wanted to do it face to face. He realized now that he had overreacted big time. Then a thought occurred to him. Hey, Jamie has the medical file on Jack! I can find out his last name from him instead of rifling through Chip’s office!
Jamie wasn’t at the MedBay, and his office was locked. According to one of the nurses, he was still
on shore leave, and not expected back until tomorrow or the day after. That’s right, Lee remembered now. Jamie went home to
Well, hopefully there wouldn’t be any injuries on board. There were other doctors here that had occasionally filled in for Jamie on Seaview, but right now Lee just didn’t see the need, and they were already short-handed here with Jamie gone. Plus, they needed the space of the flying sub. Now that he thought about it, if he remembered correctly, one of the lab personnel was a medical doctor. That’s right, Dr. Rizon. Along with being the lab’s in-residence physician, he was writing an article for the AMA about the long term effects of living underwater in a pressurized atmosphere while being isolated from loved ones. Lee remembered Jamie telling him about it, the two had gone through medical school together and Jamie was also a psychologist that dealt with exactly these kinds of problems, from the standpoint of men living on submarines, specifically Seaview, men that were at sea and away from family for months at a time. Hopefully he was on board Seaview already. Jamie would certainly understand if that doctor used his Sickbay. Okay, that problem solved.
He went to Chip’s office to look for the file. Just as he got there the phone rang. Figuring it had to be Institute business he answered it. It was Chip’s girlfriend. Or rather, his former girlfriend. She was a cute little petite blue-eyed brunette. Lee always thought she was the perfect companion for Chip. Her easy going, flexible, fun loving and sometimes mischievous personality was a perfect complement to his Executive Officer’s stoic and sometimes too serious ways. Lee had one of the best laughs in his life when she had turned all of Chip’s very organized, in alphabetical order, VCR’s upside down and backwards in the cabinet. The resulting panic Chip went into when he came back into his living room and saw them was hysterical. It wasn’t until a few beers later that Chip was finally able to laugh about it.
She’d been in a bad auto accident and had just come home from the hospital. Was Chip there, she really needed to talk to him. “No, Joyce, I’m sorry, he’s out to sea on Seaview. I was out East visiting my mother for Mother’s Day and they had an emergency and I couldn’t get back here in time. Chip is acting Captain. I expect to talk to him later today. Can I give him a message for you?” Only if it was a good message though, Lee thought. No way would he get his friend even more upset than he already was about the situation, especially being as worn out as he was.
“Lee, please tell him for me that I am sorry about everything. I had a lot of time to think in the hospital and I realized Chip was the best thing to ever happen to me. I miss him so much. Please ask him to contact me as soon as he gets back. I want to try to work things out with him, if it isn’t too late. Thanks, Lee. ‘Bye.”
That message he would be sure to give to Chip! He was happy for his friend, and relieved. Now, what was it he had come in here for? Before he could remember, he heard a female voice, a familiar one, calling out from the hallway.
“Hello? Anyone here?”
Edith. Damn. And his day was going so smoothly. Oh well. You can’t win them all. He got up and went out to the hallway. “Hello Edith. Your brother isn’t here. Can I do anything for you?” Nothing like walking right into the lion’s den.
“I know Lee. We were
actually out having dinner Friday night with Jiggs Starke when he got the
call. I was just curious about how
things turned out and wanted to say goodbye before I flew back to
“They have almost everyone evacuated, one more trip to
go. We don’t know yet if the SeaLab can
be saved, but the human life is more important.
Then they intend to go back and try to salvage whatever equipment and
files they can. After that, the Admiral
wants to try to temporarily fix the cracked sea dome until we can replace
it. Seaview will probably be out there
at least through the weekend, maybe even the beginning of the week. But I will tell your brother you stopped by
to say goodbye and you are on your way home to
Chip called back as soon as he got in his office. “I just spoke with the Admiral, he radioed
that he was about ready to leaveg the Sealab.
Your plan is a go. He doesn’t
need anything to fix the dome with. He’s
going to use some of the Herculite we keep on board in case anything ever
happens to Seaview’s windows, and reinforce it with sheets of the titanium we
use to fix the hull with. The dome was
made out of the same Herculite. The only
thing he needs desperately is cigarettes. I suggest a couple of cartons. When
he gets back, I’ll take the flying sub back out to the lab and pick up the rest
of the lab personnel and then go directly back to
“Ok, Chip, everything will be ready, including your dinner. You can shower and eat while we take care of the people and load the cargo onto FS1. By the way, remind me I have a message for you. Not now, I want you to keep your mind on what you are doing. See you later, Chip. Crane out.”
Lee made a couple of phone calls to the Institute’s Housekeeping staff, but all in all, it seemed it was going to be too tough at this hour to have all the cottages cleaned and stocked in time. It was just going to be easier to make hotel reservations. He had a feeling that after all they had been through, they would probably be more comfortable there, especially with room service. The Institute’s Valet Service would take them there. Maybe while the dome was being fixed, they could begin ferrying the lab personnel on board Seaview back here and then to the hotel, and bring fresh crewman back. He had better reserve more than seven rooms.
Well, this proved to be an interesting day. And it wasn’t even half over. He’d be kidding himself if he said he wasn’t
tired, and hungry. He had nothing better
to do for a few hours. May as well go
home, grab a quick shower. He had to
pack his bag anyway. He’d have to wait
to sleep once they were on Seaview, unless he wound up doing the first run to
return people to
Where could it be? He
had looked everywhere. Chip was so
organized, especially his files, it should be easy to find. Maybe because of the legal action, could it be
in the Admiral’s office, or down in Human Resources or the Legal Department? He was getting truly frustrated about the
whole thing. He was the Captain. The man had served under him. He had the man arrested. At some point, Lee
had to have known the man’s name. Why
couldn’t he remember it? All he could
hope for was that Chip was right the first time, and the last name was Larson,
not………all of a sudden it hit him. John
They were closed. He didn’t realize it was that late. The heck with it. He had to get home so he could be back in time to make sure everything was ready. He’d have to figure it out on the boat.
He was back an hour before Chip was due. Everything was just about ready. At the last minute, on the way back, he had remembered the Admiral’s cigarettes. He wondered if he “forgot” them, if the Admiral would finally decide to quit. Well, this probably wasn’t the time to put the man through that. But he sure wished the Admiral could kick the habit.
Chip radioed in that he would be there a little earlier, in fact in about twenty minutes. Lee joked with him that he just wanted to get there while his food was still hot. Lee called Sharkey to have the men and supplies ready at dockside. Then he called the Valet Service to bring the limousine down to escort their passengers to their hotel accommodations.
Chip looked so exhausted when he walked into Lee’s office, Lee didn’t think he could stay awake long enough to eat. But a hot shower first seemed to revive him a bit.
“What? Only one triple decker burger? This is just an appetizer, Lee. Where’s the rest, the main course? I’ve hardly eaten in days, and you only get me one?” By the time he finished saying this between mouthfuls, he had managed to finish the whole burger in just five bites.
“You only have time to eat that much because you have two important phone calls to make when you are done eating, before we leave. Joyce called. She was in the hospital from a car accident and just got home today. She really wants to talk to you, says she misses you and wants to work things out with you. And then you have to call your mother.”
You would have thought someone had given Chip an injection of adrenalin after he had drunk twenty cups of coffee. The man suddenly looked ten years younger, then he got up and started dancing around, no longer interested in finishing his long awaited meal.
“I can’t believe you are this excited about calling your mother. I mean, I know you love her and miss her and all that, but geez Chip, really…” Chip was running out of the office before Lee could finish. The Captain was reasonable sure his Executive Officer never even heard the part about calling his mother.
It was a half hour later. Well, he couldn’t wait any longer. He had to go tell Chip to cut it short. They had to leave. He went into Chip’s office, and found his friend fast asleep in his chair, with a big smile on his face, phone still in his hand. Lee picked up the phone, said hello, but no one was there. He hung it up, and then woke Chip up.
“I hate to do this to you buddy, but we have to go. I don’t suppose you had a chance to call your Mom?”
“Uh, no, but give me just one more minute. I’ll meet you down at the dock. Uh, Lee, could you bring the rest of my food down with you? Thanks.”
Well, his Executive Officer, was showered, fed, rested, and romantically relieved. This should be a fun flight back.
Chip laughed hysterically when Lee told him how he had found out about John. “The looker your mother is, I’m surprised this didn’t happen years ago. He’s a lucky man.”
“Wait till you hear the rest of it. Brace yourself. Our former crewman Jack is his son. They don’t know yet what happened. What am I going to do Chip? I’ve never seen my mother so happy, and now I’ve arrested and fired her lover’s favorite son. At least I’m about 95% sure he’s John’s son.” Although Lee was talking quietly, he was aware the others on board could probably hear him. Well, there were never any secrets on board Seaview for very long anyway.
“Lee, I’ll tell you what, pal. Right now, I wouldn’t take a million dollars to be in your shoes. You just have to keep telling yourself that you did what you felt you had to do. Hopefully your mother and his father will understand that. Oh, by the way, my mother said she is expecting both of us out there after this mission. Said she already mentioned it to you. I think I’ll bring Joyce too, to meet my family. It’s time. And with you there too, she won’t feel too uncomfortable.” Two minutes later, Lee’s co-pilot was, again, fast asleep in his chair.
Lee climbed up the ladder from the flying sub into Seaview’s control room. It was eerie. The few men that were on duty looked like they could pass out any minute. Lee had the four new, fresh crewmen they had brought back immediately take over, relieving the others of duty and ordering them to their quarters, also telling them that there would be provisions unloaded and available to them in the galley in a little while. He left Chip in command while he went down to talk to the Admiral. A very exhausted and relieved looking Bobby O’Brien gladly relinquished command to the Executive Officer.
“Here are your cigarettes, Sir, and I brought you a Philly Cheese steak sub, apple pie, and large coffee. Sir, do you want me to do the first run back, now?” Lee looked around at the deck covered with pillows and blankets.
“God bless you Lee, I don’t know which of these things I am happier to see, and that includes you. Look, it’s late, everyone is probably sleeping by now. We can start returning them tomorrow morning. The main thing is we got everyone out in time. The next big thing is retrieving the data and the equipment, and then fixing the dome. For right now, I think we all just need a little break. Uh, Lee, before I bite into this delicious looking and smelling sub, tell me, did you bring provisions back for the crew?”
“Of course I did Admiral, but only as much as we could fit in with extra crewmen on board. I had to have them sit on the bunk like it was a bench. Thank goodness we didn’t hit any turbulence. Chip said you were going to try to take some of the food from the lab’s stores. After I bring the first people back tomorrow morning, I’ll have more room for food, although I intend to bring more crewmen back with me again. Jamie should be back by then. But for now, we are good for at least through tomorrow. Sir, I know this may be bad timing, but could I possible talk to you for a moment about a personal problem?” Lee wanted the Admiral’s ‘older’ perspective, and to be brought up to date as to what had happened with Jack after Lee left.
“Well, Lee, I can certainly appreciate the position you are in. What an incredible coincidence. But if your mother and this man are truly in love, this won’t come between them. And I really doubt you would be held responsible. If anyone is to blame, it’s the son himself. And his father will realize that. Jack is a grown man with his own life, he makes his own mistakes. Relax, let things take their course, and let the pieces fall where they may. You haven’t done anything wrong. But you had better work this out between the two of you before you go back home again. Don’t let there be any nasty surprises later on when you won’t have control over them. He hasn’t been let go from the Institute yet, we left too fast. If you want to talk to him or give him another chance, that’s up to you as the Captain. Maybe if he knows the relationship between his father and your mother, he will be willing to clean his act up for their sake, or even just so you don’t let his father know. I know it sounds strange Lee, but blackmail can be very beneficial and productive in certain situations. But I have absolutely no idea where he might be now. To tell the truth, I kind of forgot the whole thing as soon as I got the phone call from the Institute about the dome. Now, leave me to my first good meal in days, a cigarette, and my coffee. Then I’m going to get some well deserved shuteye, now that I know my Captain is here to take good care of my boat and passengers. But I want you to get a good night’s sleep too, Lee, so we can get an early start in the morning.”
Lee walked to his cabin, lost in thought, clutching his bag. The very last thing he expected to see when he flung open his door was a woman coming out of his head wrapping a towel around herself after taking a shower. Another one was sitting at his desk in her robe, reading, and two were already asleep scrunched in his bunk. He’d forgotten what Chip had said that his cabin was full.
“Ladies, excuse me. I forgot you were in my cabin.” With that, he turned and walked out. He was just about to go into Chip’s cabin when he heard feminine laughter from within. Where to now? He didn’t want to go back and disturb the Admiral, especially since Chip and the other officers were also bunking in there. He walked down to the crew’s quarters, but all the bunks were already taken. There was only one place left he could think of to crash. Sickbay. Well, no one was on duty in there to squeal on him, and he had to sleep. He sure hoped Jamie never got wind of this. And the first group he was going to take back tomorrow morning was the one his cabin, then the one in Chip’s.
Before Lee turned in, he made sure Cookie had the provisions unpacked and were made readily available to everyone. He grabbed his box of tea and made himself a cup before returning to Sickbay.
Lee relaxed with his Earl Grey sitting in Jamie’s office before turning in, and thought about the day’s events. How different things were since the end of the last cruise. So much had happened he could hardly believe that was only three nights earlier.
Lee couldn’t stop thinking about that portrait. Weird, since he hadn’t thought about it in years, not until the conversation with John triggered the memory of it. The man looked just like him. Well of course he did, they were family. But it was something more. Even without looking directly at him, he felt the man almost seemed to be reaching out to him, trying to tell him something or impart some kind of message that he had been too young to understand before.
Lee thought about it a while. One of the most lucrative but time consuming and boring missions they had ever taken on was when they had sat under the polar ice cap for almost six months. He could have done a year of law school in that time, with nothing else to do but read and study. There were only so many reports you could complete for a submarine that wasn’t going anywhere or doing anything. Only the Admiral was busy in his lab. On any mission, he always had more free time than he knew what to do with. He usually spent it wandering around the boat looking for something to do. Could he put that time to better use?
Lee brought up the Internet on Jamie’s computer. Were there any online schools that offered law courses, or degrees? A major in Ecological law, with a minor in Admiralty law. He’d made his mind up.
Author’s Note: In the course of writing this story, I had to put my best friend, my beautiful 14 year old Collie, Rusty, to sleep. He always kept me company while I wrote a story, either laying next to me, or with his head on my knee. I will never forget his silky chestnut fur, big brown almond eyes, or the way he always wanted to ‘shake paws’ with anyone new he met. One of life’s seven greatest traumas is death. I had always believed that meant the death of a loved one, a family member or close friend, but a human one. Believe me, it has a much broader meaning. K.