Seaview had returned home a few days ago and
Jiggs Starke had decided to beard the old goat (me) in his den, so to speak.
“You shouldn’t still be feeling
this way, Harriman,” he leaned back on my brand new sofa in my apartment ‘above the shop’, “Crane’s
going to be fine. All the shrinks and medical tests say so.”
“I know, I know, but I still have
nightmares about the whole thing. Especially how I should have trusted Lee. I
can still see and hear him telling me that he hated me,” I squished my spent cigarette into the ash tray with unaccustomed
violence and some of the ashes spilled out. I’d really have to get around to cleaning it out.
“He said those things with a child’s
mind. He didn’t mean it. He just couldn’t get you, me, anyone, to believe him. So,
what is it, Harriman, this psychic connection he has to the damn boat? Morton calls it ‘one of those unexplained phenomenon’s. What do you think?”
“As a scientist, I shouldn’t
accept phenomenon’s at all,” I said, shaking my head, “but where Lee’s concerned I suppose I should
give up trying to understand them at all.”
“Still, you did put the boat through
some diagnostics for him. You tried Harry. Don’t hit yourself over the head with a shovel that it turned out the ballast
tests weakened the joins in the same area Lee said Seaview was hurting.”
“I’m not sure I can put it behind
A knock on the door interrupted.
“Yes?” Jiggs answered.
“Excuse me, sir,” Kowalski said,
“Admiral Starke’s ride is here.”
“Thank you Kolowski, ” Jiggs collected his cover.
“Kowalski, sir,” the crewman stressed.
“Ah yes, whatever. By the way, Harriman,
I still think ‘Skipper’ is a term that should only be used for a boat’s
“Jiggs,” I warned.
“Okay, okay. Your boat, your rules.”
“Take care, old friend,” I shook
“You too Harry,” Jiggs grinned
I sat down wearily and had to chuckle. Jiggs
might not like it, but Lee was going to be ‘Skipper’ to this crew no matter how many times Chip would have to
take the reigns as Acting Captain. It was a Seaview thing. And for the life of me I didn’t have a clue as to why Jiggs
never got Ski’s name right. Or was it an act? To make a man ill at ease?
I wouldn’t put it past him. When it came to life aboard a sub, he was brass tacks, through and through.
I cleaned out the ash tray and dusted the
small picture next to it. I’d framed it myself; even ironed the crinkled picture so I could get it to lay flat behind
the mat. It was pretty incongruous, the color pencil drawing of Lee’s ‘Chameleon Spider’ in a sterling silver
frame. It was Chip’s spider actually when you got right down to it; after all, the flesh
eating spider was Chip’s invention. Conceived in a moment of ingenuity in the effort to get the hiding Lee out of the ventilation system. The entire episode
of the child minded Lee hiding in the vent and Chip to the rescue, and being ‘rescued’ himself by Lee, was becoming
the stuff of NIMR legend, especially the picture afterwards. The smiling hairy
spider with blood dripping from its fangs was said to have just finished an appetizing lunch of Admiral Starke. But Lee’s regained adult memory didn’t include any of his time as our child-like amnesiac. So
just what Lee had had in mind for the spider to have had bitten and/or eaten was anyone’s guess.
In a way I was glad Lee didn’t remember
any of his amnesiac time. Especially the bedtime story he’d insisted I tell him. Jiggs, while in his ‘loco parentis’
mode, while I’d been in Washington, had taken on this task on full throttle, and Lee had apparently enjoyed it. It was
just hard for me to do. In the end I’d settled on Stuart Little*. Lee had surprised me by not having a problem believing
in a mouse that could talk (due in part, I think, to my taking on the part, and using a squeaky voice.)
I’m also glad he has no memory of
those harsh words he used toward me when I’d ordered him from the Missile Room, not having found any basis for his hysterical
belief that Seaview was in trouble. I know Lee well enough by now to know how he thinks. If he had a clue that he’d hurt my feelings by such an outburst, well, he’d be devastated. And a guilty
Lee is a difficult Lee to live with. He has this thing with his eyes and he can be awfully moody. Even Chip has a difficult
time bringing him out of such broodiness.
Of course, there’s always Miss Hale.
A few days in her presence can usually do the trick to bring him back to his normally cheerful self. Distraught when Lee had
lost his memory, Miss Hale was literally pacing the deck when Seaview docked. I’m sure that Lee, the last person off
the boat, would have swept her off her feet and carried her off somewhere private had he not still been a bit sore from his
re injured ribs. He settled for a welcoming embrace and kiss. A rather long, rather passionate kiss that brought catcalls
and wolf whistles from his crew.
tapped him on the shoulder, “the medical team’s waiting.”
“Go away. I’m busy,” Lee
managed as he took a breath, then continued his ministrations.
“I really must insist Captain…Miss
Hale…we need to examine him.”
“I don’t think he needs no examining,”
one of the deckhands chided to the guffaws of his companions.
“Admiral,” Doc said.
I simply spread my arms akimbo with a smirk.
“Chip?” Doc asked.
“He seems perfectly okay to me, Will.”
“Oh good grief!” Jiggs stomped
over, “Stop that!” he separated the couple physically, “you, Miss, go back to your typing or whatever it
is you do, and you Commander, to the Med Center! Now, get back to duty all of you that are still on duty and the rest of you,
In minutes the dock was all but deserted
except for Jiggs and I.
“I could sure use a drink, Harriman.”
That was a few days ago and for all I know
Lee and Miss Hale have resumed their interrupted acquaintance. I poured myself a drink and silently toasted them, laughing
at Lee’s spider and pulling out some of the other drawings he’d made. I recognized some of the specimens from
the lab right off, but others had taken on rather unusual appendages such as horns, claws, and other instruments of torment,
but most were smiling as well. I reminded myself to show Lee his handiwork sometime. All but one, I quickly decided, that is, and quickly shoved it into one
of the drawers I always kept locked for top secret documents.
I had to wonder what Jiggs and the Navy
would think about insuring such a secure state for it. After all it was only
a drawing of a mouse. A smiling mouse.
a uniform and four stars.