LUCK OF THE IRISH
The cool trades did nothing to ease the pain in Leeís head. It was supposed to have been a simple assignment, but then again, that should have been a clue. His head ached from trying his effort of pulling Chip from the wreckage of their boat and then trying to prevent them from getting killed. Worse yet, the large explosion from the boat engine had left Chip blind and more angry than normal.
So here he now stood, nursing an injured Chip Morton and a bruised ego. Nelson had dared, no, ordered him to take Chip out on a vacation. Seems Chip was going through some problems and refused to give them up. And if the Exec wasnít happy, the crew wouldnít be happy. Been there, done that, Lee whispered recalling his days on the submarine U.S.S. Rickover.
Lee stood on the beach, looking for what he didnít know. He looked out on the cove and tried to find some remains of their boat. He looked back at his tropical paradise. More like a small atoll. A strip of beach and a few palm trees. No, real paradise was a good 500 to 1000 southeast of their current position as near as he could figure. He rolled up his pants legs as the waves crashed on the beach and soothed his tired feet. Ever since he had been beached he had been rigging some shelter for the injured Chip and trying to formulate a plan. Neither had been working well. Between Chipís constant complaining and his headache, nothing seem to be going right.
Their boat had been smashed against the coral and he had no emergency equipment to speak of. And just whose bright idea had that been? His. All that remained was bits and pieces of wood and a destroyed engine. It was supposed to be a pleasure cruise, something to get Chipís mind off of what ever was bothering him.
What made matters worse; he had ripped his brand new shirt to make a bandage for Chipís damaged eyes and was now scouting for some sort of firewood. Been there, done that. And look where it got me, Lee chastised himself.
"Lee! Lee!" Chip yelled. Where the hell is he? Chip stuck his hand in his pocket, it was missing, my lottery ticket. Dammitt. My one chance to at happiness and I lost it. Thanks, Lee.
Lee angrily walked back into the rainforest, where he had put Chip out of harmís way. A lot of good it had done him though. It seemed as if Chip called him every five minutes for something, forcing him to restart over and over as his patience wore thin.
"You know Chip, if you give me half a chance, I can find us some firewood and at least we wonít get cold," Leeís anger seeped through. "Canít you wait at least five minutes?" He stood there his hands on his hips, just waiting for what Chip would want now. He had found Chip just where he had left him. Sitting on the soft sand, his legs stretched out and his hands behind him. Chipís khaki pants torn and dirty, his polo shirt in disarray and the same anger radiated from him the minute they stepped on the small boat together almost twelve hours ago.
"Aye, aye, sir," Chip mock saluted and his voice returned the anger. "With friends like you who needs enemies, right?" Chipís mouth now in a constant frown and a combative mood to boot.
Lee let Chipís remark slide, knowing Chipís injury had something to do with it. The engine blowing up and then the storm didnít help matters. So now blind, temporarily Lee hoped, whatever was bothering Chip was now intensified. He counted to ten before saying anything. He and Chip had been through many things and surely they would get through this, he hoped.
"Iíll be back with dinner and firewood okay." Lee patted Chip on the shoulder and walked back to the beach.
Chipís hands played with the palm fronds and sand as he waited for Lee to return. He mused over Leeís supposed subterfuge on this trip. Lee was as transparent as a ghost. The bandage Lee managed over his eyes worked but it sure as hell didnít take away his pounding head. Okay, he wasnít exactly in the best of moods lately, but . .
"Whoís there?" Chip asked he had heard some breaking branches and knew it wasnít Lee. He tried to pinpoint the location, praying it wasnít some hungry animal waiting to make him dinner. "Whoís there?" he called again.
"Why its me, old friend," a familiar voice answered. A nice soothing cool voice immediately putting Chip at ease.
Chip tried to recall the voice. Couldnít be they were nowhere near the Christmas Islands. As he shook his head, no, trying to clear the cobwebs from his clouded brain.
"Aye, its me laddie. John. Figure you could use some company by now." John said as sat next down to him and started playing his flute.
Iím hallucinating! What the hell? "Hello, John. What are you doing here? I thought you only helped small children." Chip felt for Johnís hand. Feeling his way, Chip could tell he was dressed just like he had last seen him on the Seaview, on that fateful Christmas assignment two years ago.
"Well you see, children come in all sizes. And when I see one in need, Iím around," John laughed and smiled. "Now donít you go pouting on my, my good fellow." He laughed again.
Chip was speechless and shut his mouth. He now felt as small as a five year old.
"Now, if you donít know by now. Money doesnít buy happiness. The king with all his gold wasnít happy until he had a friend. Just because it was me, didnít make a difference. Everyone needs friends, Chip."
Lee pulled all of his survival training out of his dulled and tired brain. Chipís foul mood didnít help and constant interruptions made matters worse. Trying to rig a net of some kind, along with some sort of dried wood, was wearing his patience thin along with every else in this messed up trip. He had been there and done that many a times. This was supposed to have been nice and relaxing trip. Fat chance! His luck had proven that.
He had managed to save the canvas from the sail, what was left of it. Otherwise, dinner would have to be coconuts. Sitting down on the beach, he started tearing the canvas, using his trusty pocketknife. He started to weave palm fronds and canvas together and made a basket, similar to the ones he had seen in history books. Not exactly Navy, but it would have to suffice.
Rolling up his chino pant legs, he slowly waded into the water. His shirt, already in shreds, billowed in the wind. Looking in the clear blue water, he tried to spot some fish. He saw a very large fin and immediately jumped back on the beach. Shark!
Only after he was back on the beach, did he think he heard womanís laughter. He looked again as he saw a large tail fin submerge into the water. Lee shook his head, no way. A mermaid. "Lee, old boy," he said, "youíve finally lost it." Refusing to give in, he went back into the water and was able to snag a few fish. He wouldnít give into his hallucinations. It was just exhaustion, plain and simple. Trying to appease a stubborn Chip Morton was all.
Walking back into the clearing, he found dried branches along the way, and stuffed them into his basket. Dinner was starting to sound good, only his dinner companion didnít exactly meet his expectations. He expected to find Chip in the same state he last saw him. Angry and defensive for whatever Chipís reasons.
"Chip, I have. ." Lee stopped suddenly finding himself staring at a bandaged Chip and a familiar face. "John? No it canít be. I . . I. ."
John hadnít changed a bit. Still a bit scraggly and dressed in denims and flannel, his appearance unnerved Lee just slightly.
"Now, now, boyo. I see you got us dinner and the makings of a fine dinner. I shall start the fire and you can prepare the main course." John started to clear a small area and before Lee could say anything, John had a small fire going.
Sitting on the soft sand, Lee began to clean the fish and kept glancing at Chip and John. Why are you here? I didnít send for you.
"Oh, yes you did, boyo," John smiled. "You two have been friends too long to let a little bit of hardship come between you. Like I was telling Chip, children come in all sizes. Blonde haired and dark haired too." John winked at Lee.
A slight smile played at Leeís lips for just a fraction and then became serious
"So John, if you work miracles how about getting us home?"
John looked at both him and Chip. "And that would solve all your problems, eh. Chipís sour mood and your annoyance. Just like that, " he snapped his fingers. "No, boys. A miracle wouldnít solve your problems. Now lets get that fish roasting."
They ate in silence as each tried to size each other up. The fish was on the palm leaves and each picked at the fish with their hands, it made for sloppy eating but anything tasted good by then. Lee constantly looked at Chip wondering what he and John had talked about before he showed up. John kept on complimenting him on the fish, but Lee wasnít buying it.
Chip had grown quiet, making Lee nervous. Chip had been complaining the whole trip and suddenly was silent. Not to sit idle, Lee took a deep breath watching the sun set on the small patch of land, they now called home. Soon the winds died down and Lee was glad the fire was going. It was going to be a long night.
"All right. Weíve eaten. Now tell me the real reason youíre here John." Lee couldnít contain his curiosity any longer.
John looked at both Chip and Lee. "Well boys, seems you both arenít happy. Youíve been friends a long time and you canít let the little things get to you. Take it from me."
"All right. So Chip and I have been friends. What is that to you?í Lee demanded.
"Youíve been more than that laddie. What about the time at Annapolis, when Chip almost caused you to have a heart attack? Mr. Morton loves his practical jokes, now doesnít he."
"I. I almost forgot about that. Yes, Chip and his practical jokes," Lee smiled. "Remember the time you took my CD for my report on Practical uses of submarines in limited warfare?"
"Yes. My god, Lee you had been obsessing for the whole two weeks, you were writing that damn paper. I couldnít even get any sleep. Thatís why I took it, you know. You were so . . so.."
"What a stick in the mud? Too Navy. Well you know you didnít help. I thought I had lost my mind," Lee laughed. "until I found out later that you stuck it in my pillow. I would have never thought to look there."
"Well I figured if I couldnít get any sleep neither should you. And donít forget, you got be back. Making me clean the damn head with my toothbrush after I was put on report. Now is that anyway to treat a friend and colleague," Chip started laughing.
By now Chip and Lee were trading stories of their friendship and misadventures at Annapolis.
John sat quietly laughing and when appropriate, he laughed out loud as he saw the two men renew their friendship. Only later did Chip tell Lee his troubles. The frustration at his Exec position, not being able to prove himself anymore to the Admiral.
Lee reminding him all he had to do was ask and he would be more willing to give him more responsibilities. Chip then volunteered about buying the Irish Sweepstakes ticket, with some wild notion to start his own business and be his own man.
Both laughed at that, knowing Chip had stopped many a mission from going to hell because Chip had been the go between Lee and the Admiral. They exchanged a few more stories before they both drifted off to sleep.
The fire died out long ago as Chip and Lee slept peacefully. He had done his job, once again. Reaching into his pocket, he played with the gold lottery ticket. Chip would still need it, but for all the right reasons now.
Moving quietly and carefully, John put the ticket back into Chipís pocket and put a flute in each of the manís hands. Saying a small prayer, he started whistling as he made his way to the beach. Been there, done that.
Lee opened his eyes slowly as he watched the swaying palms and a familiar face. "Patterson," he whispered. "Patterson," Lee practically jumped up and almost tripped and realized he had a flute in his hand.
"Hello, Skipper. Enjoy your vacation?" Patterson said with just a hint of sarcasm. "We found out you two were missing and for some unknown reason," Patterson shrugged, "We ended up here."
Lee had an idea how they were found, but instead of voicing it, he had a large smile plastered on his face. " We need to get Chip to sick bay. Heís badly injured and . ."
"Speak for yourself, Lee," said Chip, who also had a large smile plastered on his face but the bandage over his eyeís were gone. "Iím fine, Lee. My head still hurts a little but I can at least see my friends." Standing next to Lee and patting his back as he grasped the flute in the other hand.
They both looked at each other and laughed. Drawing weird looks from Patterson and Kowalski.
Lee yawned loudly as he tried to get awake. He was bone tired from the night before. The boat had rocked and rolled more than usual and his body had felt each blow. Sitting up on his bed in his cabin, he enjoyed the quiet moments of the morning. However, last nightís dream, or rather nightmare had unnerved him. He usually didnít recall his dreams, but this one was so vivid, he swore it happened. He recalled Chip, and John, he hadnít thought about John in a long time. What was it about that man to pop up suddenly in the weirdest of places?
Shaking it off, Lee climbed out of his bunk and headed to his shower. It was then that he noticed something on his desk. He knew he had cleared it off before bedding down. He, for one, didnít want to pick up papers off the deck. Walking over in his bare feet and pajamaís he approached his desk. Turning on his green desk lamp, he picked it up. A small wooden flute. A damn flute, he whispered.
A knock on his door surprised him. "Come," he said automatically.
Looking up he saw a huge grin on his exec, Chip Mortonís face.
"Whatís up Lee?" Chip walked over to the desk. "You look worried."
Lee handed him the flute. "Now how the hell did that get in here? I swear, when I went to bed it wasnít here. Any ideas?"
Chip was awfully silent as he played with the blotter on the desk while a slight smile played on his lips. "April Fools." He laughed. "I thought it would be a good joke."
"And what about your Irish sweepstakes lottery ticket, Chip?" Lee asked, not even knowing how he knew. " I thought you never gambled?"
Chip turned pale and then blushed. "How. . How did you know? I havenít told a soul. I mean I won, some. Not enough, only enough to make me comfortable when I retire."
"Tell you what, Chip. I wonít say anything about the Irish sweepstakes lottery ticket as long as you donít say anything about the flute. Deal." Lee reached out his right hand as did Chip and they shook hands. "Now if youíll excuse me, I have to get ready for my watch."
Lee whistled as he made his way to the showers, two could play that game. Even though he had no idea where he got the idea Chip had the ticket in the first place.
John watched from the small alcove, he had done his duty. And the Seaview would again sail smoothly into the sunset. He winked and disappeared.
Who knows what other small children he may encounter? You maybe??