By Carol aka Catfish
Based on an idea by Diane Kachmar
“But it’s for a good cause, Skipper,” Riley pleaded as he faced the two officers in the captain’s cabin. “That’s not the point,” XO Chip Morton replied. “Assignments for hosting the tours during Fleet Week here in Jacksonville have already been scheduled.”
“Well, I sure can’t see how, like, a few guided tours aboard Seaview are more important than surfing for charity.”
“Riley,” Commander Crane said, his hands folded together on his desk, “there’s more to this than that. Now, tell me the truth. Are you more interested in this event to raise money for the Daytona Humane Society or simply catching some waves?”
“Okay, Skipper, I guess like, it’s more that I want to surf. Daytona hardly ever gets waves this big. And, well, the entry fees for the tournament will help keep some dogs and cats from being euthanized, at least give em’ a little more time to get adopted. The shelter’s way overcrowded. Kitties mostly…”
Chip realized that Riley had used his trump card. Most everyone from NIMR knew that when it came to felines, friendly or ferocious, Captain Lee Crane had a soft spot for them. How many times was it now that had Lee volunteered at the Santa Barbara Animal Shelter. Petting, playing, and sometimes just trying to help the strays, abused and abandoned creatures to acclimate or reacclimatize to human contact. Sometimes his ‘charges’ were indeed adopted. Sometimes they weren’t and it was a depressed Lee who’d returned to the office at NIMR wishing he’d been able to adopt some of the less desirable critters himself. He’d often urged NIMR staff into adopting some of them and it worked, but only sometimes. Contributing funds really all that was left to him in the effort to help stave off the inevitable. Certainly Daytona must have the same problems. You had to hand it to the Humane Society’s staff, that using the unusually high waves for a tournament was a good way to raise awareness and money.
“All right, all right,” Crane was saying, pulling Chip out of his musing, “you can go. “I’ll cover for you. Dismissed.”
“You, sir?” Riley gulped.
“Uh, on second thought,” the crewman began.
“No. I’ve made up my mind. It’s okay. Run along now, enjoy the beach, and catch some waves,” Crane said. “And don’t speed. It should only take you about an hour and half if there’s not much traffic, two hours or more if you do. Sailors on leave, civilian or military always get a bad rap. You don’t want to add to the reputation.
“Pat’s driving. He got a rental for while we’re here. I’ll tell him what you said. And I’ll try my hardest to win, sir. There’s a hundred dollar purse and I promise to donate it to the organization if I win.”
“Tell you what,” Lee pulled out his wallet and took out a hundred dollar bill, “give this to the organizers from me.”
“Gee, thanks Skipper. I sure hope they get a slew of surfers. It was kinda’ short notice.”
“So do I, Riley. So do I. Dismissed.”
“Are you out of your mind?” Chip berated his captain after Riley left. “Do you know how much trouble I had arranging the shore leave rotations while we’re parked here? My ears are still ringing from all the whining.”
“He was honest with us. I think that deserves a reward. And it is for a good cause.”
Chip didn’t say anything for a moment. Sometimes his skipper and friend could be too considerate for his own good. But Chip had a trump card up his own sleeve.
“The tours mean dress whites, Lee.”
“And sticky fingers from the kids poking into everything.”
“Look,” Chip said, sitting down on the edge of Crane’s desk, “because you spent most of your naval shore leaves traipsing off playing James Bond, you probably never had to host a sub tour for Fleet Week…”
“Just lucky I guess.”
“You always reported back to a boat with a nice clean deck, right? Well, that was due to a lot of hard work and a lot of complaints. Lee, the Navy goes all out for Fleet Week to show off. Sometimes the crews pull together to hire food trucks for their families, friends, and all the tourists. And that means sticky fingers and soda pop spills. While food and drink aren’t allowed aboard, it can still be yucky hands.”
“Aren’t I lucky then, to have my trusty XO to keep the visitors in line,” Lee smirked.
“No way, Jose. I have plans.”
“Ah c’mon, to insure that nobody gets too touchy feely with my best girl?”
“Sorry, bro. I’m outta’ here.”
“I don’t recall seeing your name on the shore leave roster, Mister,” Lee smirked.
“That’s because I only just decided to take it. And, Captain, sir,” Chip said, poking Crane’s chest with his finger, “nothing you can say will stop me from going.”
Chip headed to the door then paused, turning toward Lee, “Well? Aren’t you going to try to stop me?”
“You’d just leave anyway. And locking you in the brig for insubordination would defeat the purpose. So, unless we’re drafted to active emergency service, you’re free to go. But at least you can think of me while I’m strangling to death in my stiff collar, and having to be on my best PR behavior all by my poor little ownsome and...”
“Oh for God’s sake,” Chip interrupted. “Riley was just the designated tour guide. You can always delegate it to somebody else. I managed to keep seven deck crew aboard. And Chief Sharkey’s here. He just wanted some down time to read a book without interruption. But, whoever you choose, you’ll still have to wear dress whites. All officers with a chance of meeting the public have to. Though, it’s more a tradition than a rule. Technically.”
“I wonder how long my life expectancy would be if I did ask Sharkey…”
“Oh, he might gripe, but he’d do anything for you, you
“I did promise Riley I’d do it.”
“Riley’s not here. He and Pat are probably already on the highway.”
“I thought you were a hurry to get ashore?”
“I am. By the way ‘mon capitan’, I’ve already had the off limit areas marked with security tape and danger cones.”
“Danger cones?” Lee asked, incredulous.
“Danger cones. In case the kids and parents can’t be bothered to follow directions. Even Navy families have problems with their kids at times. And who knows what kind of discipline the civilians here have. You know, Lee, even if you change your mind and try to get Sharkey to do it, I’m beginning to wonder if I should stay…”
“Absolutely not. If you don’t go, I’ll have to listen to you griping about all the fun you missed in beautiful downtown Jacksonville when you get back.”
“Pick, pick, pick. Cheech, try to do a pal a favor…”
“Be careful what you wish for…”
“Okay, okay, I’m gone. Have fun,” Chip added as he grinned and fled.
“Coffee, Skipper?” Chief Sharkey, also in dress whites, handed Crane a steaming cup of coffee. Crane had just slid down the ladder after escorting some stragglers from the first tour back topside.
“Wish it were booze,” Crane sighed, accepting the brew. “I had no idea how much work it is to be to keep a ‘happy to see you’ face on.”
“I’ll still be glad to cover for you and …”
“Must we go through that again, Chief?”
“Mr. Morton was oh so right about sticky fingers,” Crane
said as he wiped his hand over a smeared sonar screen.
“Safe to come aboard?” a familiar voice called down.
“Admiral?” Lee called toward the hatch, “I thought you were supposed to be meeting with the brass.”
“I was,” Nelson said as he climbed down the ladder, “but I passed by Chip as he was leaving. He told me about you probably taking the duty…what’s that on your collar?”
“Oh gawd, sir,” Sharkey mustered.
“One woman,” Lee interrupted and shuddered, “was holding a baby who just couldn’t resist playing with my collar. I know it wasn’t the kid’s fault that it spat up on me. It was the teenagers I was more concerned about; the way they looked at me. Hell, I was almost afraid to smile for fear of what their fathers might think. And then…”
“Some of the older dames, well,” Sharkey butted in, “well, they….”
“Well, what?” Nelson asked.
“They told him how proud his own mom must be.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“They ruffled his hair.”
“Ah,” Nelson said, trying in vain to hold back a smirk, “I should have noticed your hair’s not quite up to Navy or NIMR standards, Lad.”
“That’s not the worst of it,” Lee almost whined, “some of the kids in the group, well, they stepped under and over the security tapes. And the ones that stayed where they were supposed to on the tour, they, oh gawd…….”
“They got the periscope. The handles, the lens,” Sharkey said as his captain was too overwrought to speak. “They got just about everything smeared, even the view ports with their sticky fingers.”
“There’s even a ‘happy face’ on the viewport!” Lee moaned.
“They do seem to have left a few souvenirs,” Nelson said as he lifted off some spent bubble gum from one of the ladder rungs. “Well, you’ve had quite a time, Lee. How many more tours are scheduled?”
“Five more. And it’ll be a blessed relief to get out of this uniform. The designer should have been drawn and quartered.”
“Well, you can get out of the whites now. I’ll take over. Go ahead, go get cleaned up. By the way Chip mentioned something about a surfing tournament in Daytona and how you were suckered into letting Riley go.”
“I wasn’t suckered into it. It’s for a good cause.”
“Yes, Lee. He told me all about it. You know, lad, after what you’ve been through today, I think perhaps a quick visit to Daytona Beach yourself is a good idea. Urge Riley on. Though, I doubt if there are any, what does he call them, hot tubes down there? The waves may be abnormally high but only for Daytona.”
“Hey, that’s jake by me!” Chip hollered as he climbed down the ladder, “Lee, you look like shit. Go on, get your trunks on. There’s no place to change down there unless you’re a registered guest of a hotel or something.”
“What are you doing back?” Lee demanded. “ And remember, my trunks kind of got eaten up by that protoplasmic whatchamacallit we investigated.”
“Oh yeah…well, you can borrow the trunks my sister sent me. Never been worn.”
“With good reason. I’ll just wear jeans.”
“No, Lee,” Nelson said, “I demand you enjoy the beach in all its glory and that means getting in the water. “You can borrow mine.”
“Hey, it’s the ‘world’s most famous beach’, Admiral,” Chip said. “He needs to live a little. C’mon bro, you’re going to Daytona in style.”
“And just who said I was going, anyway?”
“Well, I’ll need someone to keep me company, won’t I?”
“You don’t have to go,” Lee said.
“No, but it sounds like fun, actually. And somebody’s got to keep an eye on you.”
“I’m getting a bit tired by everyone thinking I need a keeper.”
“Boys, enough,” Nelson said, “Go on, get changed, both of you. I’ll arrange for a car.”
“Look out!” Lee yelled as yet another 18 wheeler passed their rental on the highway. “Why’d you have to choose I-95 anyway?”
“Because all the other roads are putt putt, stop, go. We’d never get to Daytona in time for the splash off on the others.”
“Everything’s moving at 80 to 90 miles an hour on this damn interstate.”
“You don’t hear Sharkey complaining, do you? And don’t exaggerate. They’re only going 85.”
“The speed limit’s 75!”
“Anyone ever tell you that you’re a backseat driver? Now shut up. You’re not in command of my car. Close your eyes or something.”
Sharkey, safely seconded to the back seat, was beginning to wonder if riding shotgun had been such a good idea. Mr. Morton and the Skipper had been badgering each other since the trip began. Still, it was his, Sharkey’s sacred duty, at least that’s what he still tried to convince himself of, to see they didn’t kill each other.
Crane was quiet for a minute, but only for a minute.
“My trunks itch.”
“Probably the fabric finish, sir,” Sharkey said quickly. “Especially if they were made in China. The seawater should rinse out any chemical residue…er…if you gotta’ scratch, it’s okay. We’ll understand. Won’t we, Mr. Morton.”
“I’ll wait for the beach, thank you very much.”
“Glad to hear it,” Chip said.
Sharkey enjoyed the blessed silence except for the whooshing of the semi’s past them.
“I’m thirsty,” Lee declared after a moment, knowing Sharkey had insisted on filling up a cooler with ice, soft drinks and water.
“You sure that’s wise?” Chip said. “ Last I looked, the beach doesn’t have porta potties.”
“Excuse me sir,” Sharkey said, “but I’m sure they gotta have some set up for the tournament and all.”
“I can always pee in the sea,” Lee said.
“Eeeyooo!” the men groaned.
“I was kidding! Besides, fish do it,” Lee began to sing to an old tune*, “sharks do it, even educated dolphins do it. Let’s do it. Let’s pee in the sea. Relax, will you?” he added, seeing Chip’s raised eyebrow. “ I was just trying to lighten things up. I’m still thirsty though. How about a cool one, Chief? And I won’t pee in the sea.”
“You’d better not,” Chip said. “Or we won’t be responsible for the quality of life in the Atlantic.”
“Watch it!” Lee interrupted, grabbing the steering wheel, turning it to the right, as a van veered a tad too close into their lane. “Damn cell phones! Why don’t they watch what they’re doing? Everyone okay?”
“Yeah, sure, Skipper,” Chief Sharkey said.
“Thanks, Lee,” Chip said, “I had my eye on that other car…this one, well…thanks.”
“So next time, we take the scenic route?” Lee asked with a grin.
“Yeah, yeah. Only next time, you drive.”
Nelson almost sagged in relief after the latest tour group left. Never again. Never again would he agree for Seaview to participate in Fleet Week. Though, if it meant getting Lee off the boat for a bit of relaxation, he’d just have to put up with the aggravation. He had some time before the next tour, and headed to his cabin for a little ‘false courage’. Breath mints would take care of any tell-tale signs during the next tour.
As he rounded the corridor past the crew’s mess he heard the shouts of encouragement from some of the remaining crew, as well as from a few of the men who had returned to the boat a bit earlier than expected. He peeked in to see the monitor tuned to a local TV station. Well, not exactly local. This newscast from a station in Orlando according to its studio logo.
“As you can see,” the reporter was saying from the video feed behind her, “the charity surfing championship in Daytona Beach is in full swing. While meteorologists have scientific explanations for the heavy waves, a few religious zealots have touted them as being a portent of doom. Not so for the semifinalists. Let’s go to the beach and our reporter on the scene. Sean, what do you have?”
“Well, Sally. Despite limited parking due to the tournament as well as the swells edging a bit too close to the hotel seawalls, there’s a fine turnout. One of the contestants, semi- finalist Stuart Riley, has promised any winnings to the organization and the other contestants have jumped on the bandwagon to promise the same. Here he is now…Mr. Riley, how did you become interested in both the Humane Society and in surfing?”
“Like, well, I’ve always been surfing. It’s really boss hanging ten or doing a duck dive, man. As for the cats and dogs, well, I wasn’t really into them, like, till I discovered that my skipper volunteered a lot with our home port animal shelter and all the problems it had, like most of ‘wm. Well, when you all got these big waves down here, and made a tourney out of it, with the entrance fees are going to help the animals I thought what a great way to have fun and help at the same time. The skipper let me come down and he even gave me a hundred to donate for him.”
“Skipper? You in the Navy, son?”
“Not exactly. But Seaview is Navy Reserve.”
“Seaview? The submarine with the big windows?”
“Isn’t it frightening knowing they might break?”
“Aw heck, They won’t break. And they’re not glass. They’re made of some weird alloy the admiral invented. And the view is way cool, man…hey, is that an ice cream truck?”
“I believe it is, here,” the reporter took out a five dollar bill, “go get yourself a treat on us.”
“Like, thanks man!” Riley grinned and hurried off.
“That was Stuart Riley of the submarine Seaview, helping the Daytona Beach Humane Society. Remember, there’s an urgent need for your help. Back to you Sally.”
“You can call in your donations to the phone number below to pledge your support,” she said. “And now, in other news…”
Nelson couldn’t help grinning. Stuart was the epitome of youthful exuberance. He also liked the plug regarding Seaview and Crane. Nelson suddenly realized he didn’t really need the amber refreshment in his cabin, and headed back to his front porch.
“Can’t be too much further,” Chip said as he and Lee lugged one of the hampers toward the beach. They’d had to park off of Atlantic Avenue, actually in a 7-11’s parking lot. And since parking there was for customers only, Lee insured they were good customers, purchasing bags of potato chips, chocolate cupcakes, sandwiches and the like. Of most importance were additional cold drinks and ice for the long day ahead, which necessitated another hamper. Chip wasn’t sure if he saw additional money change hands, but the manager assured the men that their car would not be hauled away since they were contributing to such a good cause as the animal shelter. He even let Lee use the ‘facilities’.
“Cheech, look at those waves!”Sharkey exclaimed right after they’d crossed the avenue and headed down a beach ramp.
“No wonder he wanted to come here,” Lee said.
“News trucks even.”
“This must be the place, ” Chip said, “look at the barriers to the beach parking right here.”
“Any sign of Riley or Patterson?” Lee asked.
“No, but I see an ice cream truck.”
“You and your tummy!”
“Tell you what, Lee. Let’s get some ice cream first, then you can tease me about my healthy appetite all you like. Besides, I need a reward after having to listen to you gripe about everything all the way down here. In seconds Chip was purchasing some ice cream cones.
“Er,” Sharkey began, hesitant. “You still got to scratch, Skipper? We can hold your ice cream for you to get in the water.”
“That would be good. Scratching in the 7-11 didn’t help much.”
“Skipper!” Patterson hollered and ran toward the men. “Er…is there an alert?”
“Relax, Pat. No, the admiral beached me. Literally. Where’s Riley? How’s he doing?”
“He’s a semi- finalist…right over there,” he pointed toward the hot dog truck. “That’s his second visit. The first was to the ice cream truck. I swear he’s going to give himself and upset stomach.”
“Where can I get in the water?”
“There’s a break in the competition right now. You can get in the water right here if you like. That anxious to cool down, sir?” Pat asked.
“Don’t even say it, Sharkey,” Lee said and headed toward the surf. “I’ll be right back.”
Just then Chip returned with three ice cream cones.
“Mr. Morton too?” Pat asked. “Hey, Stu’s gonna’ be real pleased he has more of a cheering section than just me, though the news people sure liked him. Come on down where we’re set up…here, let me help with the hampers. Hey Stu!” he called out, “look who’s here!”
“Finally,” Nelson muttered under his breath as he unbuttoned his dress whites, and headed toward his cabin. The visitors were gone. There were to be no more. And Seaview felt…empty. She wasn’t, of course. More and more of the crew were returning to the boat, either bored with Jacksonville, or having heard through the grapevine that Riley had been granted permission to enter a surfing competition.
“Admiral?” one of the men called from the crew’s mess, as he saw Nelson pass by from the open door. “You gotta’ see this, sir!”
“Well, Sally,” Sean was saying on the newscast, “the competition is down to two contestants, Stuart Riley and Mike Sanders. Both have had brilliant rides, and it’s down to the next few minutes to see which man will earn more points from the judges to be declared the winner and…Riley’s just wiped out…that makes Sanders the winner and….it seems to be taking a long time for Riley to surface….the lifeguard’s are going into action and…who’s that? Someone else has dived into the drink to try to help. Which is something I’m sure the lifeguards are none too pleased about. Anyone know who that was? He hasn’t come up either…”
“Get outta’ the way!” Sharkey yelled as he raced past, shouting as he splashed into the surf, “Skipper! Skipper!”
“You heard him!” Chip followed suit, “Lee! Riley!”
“Ohmygod!” Patterson whooshed past, “Stu! Stu!”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Sean said, “I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that recovering anyone in trouble in these waves is not a job for amateurs and…there they are! Riley’s being helped by the man in red who’s carrying the surfboard and slapping Riley on the back. He’s waving the lifeguards over as they struggle ashore through the heavy surf. Mr. Riley seems to be coughing. The other men that went in after him aren’t too far behind, helping each other wade back to shore as well. Ah, there’s a thumb’s up from one of the lifeguards regarding Riley but they’re taking him to the first aid station. Some of the lifeguards are yelling at the men, and waving their arms about. They’re probably telling them that their rescue attempt was foolish and dangerous…. ”
“Sean,” Sally asked, “remember Riley spoke about his skipper. You don’t suppose the first man who went in after him that the others called ‘skipper’ is the captain of the Seaview?”
“Portent of doom,” the man with the grey scraggly beard barged his way into the foreground, giving the camera his almost toothless smile.
“Not today, apparently, at least not to them,” Sean said “Sally, we’re going to try to find out more about Riley’s condition and get back to you.”
“Thank you Sean, ”Sally said, “and now the weather.”
“I’m not sure, Jiggs,” Nelson said after taking the call from his old friend in the Observation Nose. “I don’t know anything yet except Riley wiped out and Lee went in after him… look, the station’s trying their best to find out, I’m sure…ah…it’s back on…”
“We have here,” Sean said, “Mike Sanders, the champion of the surfing tournament here at Daytona Beach. Congratulation Mike, what do you plan to do now?
“Oh, just follow the waves to the next tourney.”
“What do you think of the actions of Stuart Riley’s friends, going in after him like that?”
“It doesn’t matter what I think. I know the lifeguards weren’t too happy that they might have more folks to rescue. But in the end it was that first dude who saved Riley’s life, not them. So the lifeguards really don’t have too much to complain about, do they?”
“Well, I’m sure we’ll have more opinions about that. For now, congratulations.”
As Sanders moved off, Sean turned his attention toward the first aid station and motioned toward the first aid station. “Stuart Riley is still being seen by the paramedics, but perhaps we can get an update. Excuse me, Mr. Riley? Are you okay?”
“Yeah, like, I got a hard head. At least that’s what the chief always says. Oh yeah…uh, this is Chief Sharkey. He’s the CPO aboard Seaview. And this is Mr. Morton, the
XO and….”Riley looked around, “where’s the Skip gone off to?”
“Then the first man who dove in after you ‘is’ the captain of the Seaview?”
“Yeah. You know, he just can’t get a break. He came down here to relax a little and ended up risking his neck again.”
“Then, he did save your life.”
“Well, I didn’t black out or anything. But my board sure knocked me down. The waves were sure heavy so I was having problems getting up..so yeah, guess maybe you could say he saved my hide again…”
“It’s what the skipper does,” Sharkey said. “Ah there is he is…who’s he with?”
“That’s Ms. Allen, the tournament organizer,” Riley said, after swallowing the aspirin the paramedic gave him.
“Channel 13 News, Captain,” Sean said, “that was a very gallant or foolhardy act of yours, rescuing your crewman. Which do you think it was?”
“I guess that all depends on your point of view.”
“You might like to know” Ms. Allen said, “ before you continue your interview, that Captain Crane has donated over $500 dollars to the shelter, and wants to put in a little volunteer time this afternoon. But first I’d like to steal him away for a publicity picture for the cause. May we borrow your surfboard, young man?”
“Yeah, sure,” Riley said. “Only…”
“Don’t worry, Riley,” Lee said. “I won’t scratch the paint.”
In minutes they’d vanished down the beach.
It was late by the time the men returned to Jacksonville, returned their rentals, and got a cab to the Navy base.
They were surprised to see an official limo meet them. Orders, the driver said.
“Now what?” Morton hissed, bundled in his Daytona Beach Humane Society sweats, as they all were.
It became clear that something was up as they drove up for Seaview was illuminated with holiday lights in the darkness.
“Did we miss something?” Sharkey asked. “It isn’t nowhere’s near Christmas.”
“Maybe they’re throwin’ you a party, Stu,” Pat said.
“But I lost!”
“We’d rather you lost,” Lee said, “ and be none the worse for wear except for a bump on your noggin, than be the winner with a posthumous prize.”
“You can say that again,” Chip said.
As the car approached, the deck lights came on revealing an almost full assemblage of officers and crew.
As the men got out of the car, they were greeted with applause.
“See?” Pat nudged his friend.
Nelson was the first to greet the men.
“Welcome home Captain, Commander, Chief, Pat, Riley.”
“It’s like this, Admiral,” Lee said reaching under his sweats top to pull out something furry.
“It was abandoned,” Riley said.
“Nobody wants it,” Sharkey said.
“It’s over 5 years old,” Chip added.
“Its chances to be adopted are nil,” Pat added.
“It ain’t it’s fault that it’s so ugly,” Riley said.
“It got burnt,” Sharkey added.
“Lee,” Nelson said taking him aside, “I understand you have a compulsion to help but…”
“Other boats have ship’s cats,” Lee said. “At least we can take her to Santa Barbara if she or you aren’t agreeable for that. Surely somebody at the institute can find her a good home.”
“You’ve gone through everyone already with the last ones you brought home. And nobody’s going to want an old ugly cat. Damn, it’s purring.”
“Yeah, that’s what cats do, sir,” Riley said. “When they feel secure and happy.”
“I see the scratches on your hand.”
“Oh, uh, my own fault, when I squeezed her a bit too hard.”
“No,” Lee said. “Don’t lie Riley. She did scratch him without provocation. Scratched just about everyone…was scheduled to be put down this afternoon. Harry, what else in all good conscience could I do? I’ll keep her out of your way…I’ll figure out something…”
The cat started to purr even louder.
“Want to pet her?” Lee asked.
As Nelson reached toward the feline, she hissed.
“Well, maybe not,” Lee said, “ but…”
The purring began again.
“Damn,” Nelson muttered, running a hand through his hair. “What’s its name?”
“Don’t know. She didn’t tell me.”
“Don’t be funny, captain. I’m only agreeing to this because I won’t hear the last of it if she has to be destroyed. Very well, Chief, please arrange for er…kitty litter or something.”
“In the trunk,” Lee said, smiling. “With a supply of cat food too.”
“Thought of everything, have you?”
“And she’s had her shots.”
“I suppose she’s been spayed too,” Nelson said.
“That’ll have to wait. She’s going to be a mama. So you see, by taking her in, we’re really preventing the deaths of more than one cat..”
“I guess she’ll be bunking with you tonight. So if you’re going to have a lady in your quarters, I think she ought to at least have a name. I just can’t think of something to suit such and ugly creature.”
“How about Phoenix,” Riley said, “like, rising from the ashes, you dig?”
“No, too masculine sounding,” Lee said.
“There’s an online site that can generate a name after you put in some info,” Riley said. Ms. Allen told me about it.”
“Very well, for now, we’re just going to have to call her Kitty. That okay with you, sweetie?” Lee rubbed the cat under the chin.
She only purred louder.
“I think she likes it!” Lee said smiling.
“Get your lady friend aboard,” Nelson said, sighing, half amused, half wary. As ship’s cat was one thing. A ship’s cat that didn’t tolerate others very well, except perhaps Lee, well, that was a portent of doom for sure, at least for the cat. Still, Lee would figure out something.
Nelson still couldn’t sleep. They’d been underway since the wee hours and even though their stint for Fleet Week was over, Nelson was on edge waiting for the official review, and took refuge in the Observation Nose.
Apparently Lee hadn’t been able to sleep either, at least for a while. Perhaps too much adrenaline from his busy day. Nelson couldn’t help grinning at the sight of the pajama and robe clad Crane, sound asleep now, however, even as the cat kneaded his tummy, purring. The purring stopped as soon as she saw Nelson, and looked at him askance.
“A word of advice, young lady,” Nelson told her. “You cause Lee or my boat any trouble and I won’t be responsible.”
‘Kitty’ yawned and after a few more rounds on Lee’s stomach, lay down again and began her slumbers.
“Excuse me, sir,” the duty ‘Sparks’ whispered awhile later, interrupting Nelson’s enjoyment of the undersea life through the viewports, “this came from the Humane Society. They said the Skipper would want to approve it before it goes to press. I didn’t think you’d want me to wake him…”
“Thank you, Sparks,” Nelson said, taking the radio photo in hand. It was a picture of Lee with Riley’s surfboard with the beach in the background. Written below the image was the proposed logo, ‘Captain Crane of the submarine Seaview, one of the many contributors to the Daytona Beach Humane Society. Please, donate today.’
Nelson wasn’t sure the advertisement would make much of a difference as a fund raiser. Yet, it was good PR for Seaview. He sat the page on the table behind him for when Lee awoke.
When Lee awoke, he saw Nelson and ‘Kitty’, sound asleep, the cat on Nelson’s stomach. Perhaps, just perhaps she could become a ship’s cat, after all. As for the advertisement on the table, well, Lee had had second thoughts about the picture in the first place, in that the photo seemed to indicate that he could actually surf. There was really only one thing he could do, though he wasn’t really looking forward to it. But it was the principle of the thing.
“Yeah, Epic’s a good name,” Pat said as Riley punched in another go at the cat name website on the interactive computer in the crew’s mess. The crew’s mess was crowded, and naming the cat had become a welcome diversion.
“But will the Skipper like it?”
“It only matters that the cat likes it.”
“Riley?” the Captain interrupted from the doorway.”
“Yes sir?” the crewman rose as the others did.
“At ease, men. Riley, I’m going to need your help with something.”
“It was a few weeks ago,” a reporter from the Santa Barbara News was saying on the beach, “that Captain Crane of the Seaview so gallantly rescued his crewman, Stuart Riley during the Daytona Beach Surfing Tournament. Well, it appears now that he’s taken to surfing himself.”
“I’m afraid I’m still not very good at it,” the dripping wet Lee said, Riley standing next to him, “but with a little instruction from a champ and a little practice, who knows?”
Just then the call of ‘surf’s up!” sounded. Lee grinned, turned, and headed toward the moderate surf along with Riley. Lee managed to catch a wave, but promptly fell off his board, again.
“Perhaps with a ‘lot’ of instruction and practice,” the reporter said. “And now, in other news….”
“Well,” Nelson said from Lee’s living room sofa, while he watched the newscast and Epic made a few rounds on the cushion next to home before curling up, “he’s doing this for you, you know. And all your kind. Making sure nobody gets a bee in their bonnet about false advertising.”
He reached to pet her but she growled.
“What happened to sleeping on my lap in the Nose? Well, suit yourself,” he sighed, “It’ll take a miracle to get you adopted and you’ll never be a ship’s cat. Lee can only keep you so long…”
Just then the doorbell rang.
“Yes?” Nelson answered.
“No. Admiral Nelson.”
“Oh dear, I was sure this was the right address…”
“Lee works with me. May I ask what this is about?”
“I’m from Cat Whisperer’s Incorporated. Mr. Crane hired us. We understand that Epic has some issues?”
“A lifetime of them, I’m afraid. Lee rescued her only a few weeks ago. She likes him, but barely tolerates anyone else… over there, on the sofa.”
“Oh the poor baby,” the woman oozed sympathy as she neared the cat, who hissed in response.
“See what I mean? You think you can help?”
“It’ll take time, and it might not work at all, but let’s begin, shall we.”
It was a few months later when Riley asked for permission to see the captain and stood before him now.
“Er, well, like, it’s this gig coming up…”
“No,” Chip said. “Don’t even think about surfing, Lee.”
“It’s a charity concert,” Riley said, “to raise money for blind and deformed children but..er..”
“But?” Lee asked.
“It’ll be on TV and I’ll even get to play my strings if I can go but the Chief has me on the duty...”
“When is it?” Lee asked.
“Tomorrow?” Chip exclaimed “we won’t even pull in until 1500.”
“No sir. I’m sorry sir…it’s just I gotta’ go. For all those poor little babies…”
“Yeah, most of ‘em.”
“I’m sure we can work around the schedule,” Lee said, “see to it Chip.”
“Er…”Riley said, hesitating.
“Out with it,” Lee said.
“I um, kinda’ mentioned that you might put in an appearance…support the cause…you already contribute to that charity to fix clef lips…so I kinda’ figured you’d want to help out all those babies with these charities…”
Just then Epic strolled into the cabin, and jumped up on the desk demanding some attention.
“All right, Riley,” Lee said, stroking the cat, “ I’ll be there.”
“Ah gee thanks Skipper. Hey there Epic,” Riley said and petted her too. “She’s getting to be a real ship’s cat… likes almost everybody now. ‘excepting the Chief..”
“We’ll work on that…dismissed Riley.”
“Oh, uh one last thing Skipper, you um, well they might, er…expect you to sing a little.”
“Sing? A song?”
“That’s usually what they call it, Lee,” Chip said, “if it’s that surfer stuff, you can probably get away with hollering I’m sure.”
“I’m not that bad.”
“Heck, Skipper,” Riley said, “ nobody’ll care what you sound like, just so you, like, support the cause.”
“Very well. I’ll do it, but you might want to pass out earplugs.”
“Lee?” Chip said as he, too, stroked the compliant cat, “if they let you choose your own song, just don’t choose ‘pee in the sea’.”
“Very funny. Maybe I can just mouth things.”
“Nope. What if someone finds out. Bad PR and all that.”
Nelson stroked Epic as he and she watched TV the night of the big event It was Lee’s turn to sing. After introductions were made, he told the audience that he was as bad at singing as surfing and earplugs were available, for a small fee, payable to the organizers.
“This is a song my mother used to sing to me. I hope you’ll agree that children are the sunshine in our lives, that’s why this fundraiser is so important…here goes…”
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine….”he began. And while Lee Crane couldn’t croon like the professionals, and was a little off hey at times, nobody in the crowd seemed to care. Of course, most of them had tears streaming down their faces.
“You know, Epic,” Nelson said, “ your master never ceases to amaze me.” Setting the cat down, Nelson headed to the phone and dialed the number on the TV screen, “This is Admiral Harriman Nelson. I’d like to contribute $50,000.”
As the tally of contributions began to rise on the TV screen, Nelson had to ponder. The huge response under Lee Crane’s endorsement had really all begun with that photo on the beach.
*Fleet Week, the tradition by the US Navy allowing pubic tours of selected vessels.
*Channel 13 News, Brighthouse Networks, is a TV and online news station for Central Florida.
*The Daytona Beach Humane Society is based on the Halifax Humane Society based in Daytona Beach.
*Cat Whisperers is based on ‘Dog Whisperer’ and ‘My Cat From Hell’
*Parking is one of Daytona Beach’s main attractions. Sometimes, however, the ocean is too high to allow it. Some events are cordoned off, but to my knowledge there’ s never been a surfing championship in Daytona The waves just aren’t that big, unless you count a passing hurricane.
*Friskies has a Cat Name Generator website that takes your description of your cat, and it’s personality to choose a name for you.*Pee in the Sea is not a real song but is based on "Let's Do It' by Cole Porter.('Birds do it, Bees do it, even educated fleas do it. Let's do it. Let's fall in love')
*You Are My Sunshine by Jimmie Davis