By Agent Catfish
“Harry, why don’t you come have hot dogs and watch the fireworks with me? The mayor invited both of us to the VIP celebration, remember,” Edith Nelson encouraged her much older brother, home on leave from the Nautilus, and brooding in their father’s old study.
“I’m sorry, pumpkin. I’m just not in the mood.”
“Still no word on Ensign Crane?”
“If there had been, it certainly wouldn’t be relayed to me. I was only his Captain for a few months and his real boss was and probably still is, Admiral Cartwright . And...well, I don’t know the details, but...”
“But he’s MIA,” she shuddered, “it’s a real shame. I really liked him.”
“Sweetheart, you don’t actually think he’d ask you out? You’re only 15 and...”
“And there is such a thing as ‘morally wrong’ for him to be interested in me. Yes, Harry, I know all about that. Still, why couldn’t we just be friends? Go on picnics and to movies and things?”
“Because, while he might behave like an officer and gentlemen, you, my dear, would act like the star struck teenager that you are. And no man, no matter how morally uptight, would be hard pressed to refuse your advances....and you’re not arguing.”
“Well, a girl can dream, can’t she...don’t be such an old fuddy duddy. Times have changed. Why, even some of my classmates are sleeping with their boyfriends.”
“Lee Crane has never been your boyfriend, is not your boyfriend, and never will be, not if I can help it.”
“If he’s alive.”
“If he’s alive.”
“The limo is here,” Edith’s governess said, “I hope you’ve changed your mind about not going, Captain.”
“Actually, I think I will...”
“Splendid! You’ll take the limo with Edith and I, and the rest of the staff will follow in the mini bus.”
Boston Harbor was alive with anticipation. July 4th was a very special day for the city. Most everyone, even if they couldn’t boast of patriot ancestors, were proud of the town’s heritage and even Old Ironsides, now a ‘living museum’, but still commissioned by the US Navy, was decorated with red, white, and blue ensigns .
The Nelson’s were among the few VIP’s that had been invited to watch the fireworks from her highly polished decks, while the Nelson staff was being fêted at the street party, complete with hot dogs, and popcorn, bleachers having been set up for a fine view of coming spectacular.
“Champagne, Miss?” one of the Navy Mess Specialists asked.
“What else do you have for my fifteen year old sister?” Nelson interrupted.
“We have Iced Tea, and soda for teenagers and teetotalers.”
“Ah, that’s funny,” the mayor chuckled, “you know tea...Boston Tea Party...good evening Edith, Harriman, or should I say Captain. ”
“Harriman’s fine, Mayor Munn.”
“If I’d known in time you’d be on leave, I’d have asked the Navy if you could be part of the crew that took her out and turned her around yesterday.”
“I think it would take more than mayoral influence. And I’m afraid I don’t have tall ship experience.”
“Yes, spend most of your time underwater, don’t you...well, I hope you’ll enjoy the evening...I must mingle...”
“I’m sure we’ll both enjoy it very much. Won’t we Edith? Edith?”
“Went ashore,” one of the duty crew nodded toward the hatch. “With Lt. Jg. Crane.”
“Crane? Lee Crane?”
“Yeah. Lee Beauregard Crane...you know, I don’t think he likes his middle name much. But I guess we gave him a hard time about it when he was assigned to us for the turnabout. Knows his stuff. And I could’ve sworn he was part Tarzan the way he handled himself in the rigging, when he had to be in the thick of things. Wouldn’t have thought the Navy would assign him to us, even for such a short posting, being all bruised up like that. Has a limp, too. But you can’t fight orders...”
“Captain Nelson?” Mrs. Munn called out.
“Captain?” the rating asked, “oh shit, sir, I didn’t know...”
“That’s all right, sailor. I’ve enjoyed speaking with you.”
It was getting noisy with people dockside, and Nelson almost wished he could rub elbows with the ‘ordinary’ folk. In fact, he knew he’d enjoy the hot dogs and popcorn more than the sophisticated canapés being served on deck.
As for his missing sister, escorted by a Naval officer or not, he was concerned, so his attention wasn’t altogether on the fireworks and their reflection on the water.
The harbor was crowded with cabin cruisers, sailboats, and even a rowboat or two. In fact, he was having a hard time taking his eyes off of one of them. A couple, the man’s arm around the woman’s, as they leaned on the stern, both pointing at each of the starbursts, and clapping, even canoodling ..normally he wouldn’t have thought anything about it. Except the man was in dress whites. It couldn’t be Lee, could it? It was hard to tell the owner’s hair color in the night sky, but it could have been black, and hers...reddish blonde?
“Enjoying the show?” the Mayor asked.
“Mm, yes. Thank you,” Nelson managed, half relieved that Lee Crane might be alive, half worried that the young man would succumb to masculine desires at the expense of Harriman Horatio Nelson’s innocent little sister, and that there wasn’t a damn thing that he, Nelson, could do about it.
It was getting late, and all of the VIP’s had left, except for Nelson.
“I’m sure they’ll be back shortly,” the Constitution’s commander said.
“That doesn’t exactly make me feel better,” Nelson said.
“I can assure you that Lt. Crane...well....I’m sure he’ll mind his manners, sir... you don’t get those kinds of medals for dishonorable behavior and...ah..there he is...”
The couple, hand in hand, were laughing as they meandered toward the berth. And then...Lee Crane kissed Edith Nelson. On the forehead.
“See what I mean?”
“I still don’t have to like it, Commander,” Nelson said and strode down the gangplank.
“Skipper! I mean, Captain Nelson,” Lee grinned and extended his hand.
“Edith, get in the limo,” Nelson said. “Miss Cavenaugh has already gone back with the others.”
“I told you he’d be grumpy,” Edith said. “I had a wonderful evening Lee.”
“My pleasure,” Lee said.
“Well, it wasn’t mine!” Nelson exploded. “Taking her out, staying out, alone together, and on a rowboat of all things!”
“Rowboat? What rowboat?” both Edith and Lee asked, confused.
“Then it wasn’t you two I saw out there canoodling?”
“Canoodling?” Lee asked, aghast.
“Harry, really!” Edith shook her head. “I’m not that stupid. Sure I’d have liked it, and maybe one day, but I’ll have you know Lee behaved like a perfect gentleman!”
“Well, where the hell were you and what were you doing?”
“We went to the Oyster House, had dinner, then watched the fireworks from the roof with all the other patrons. Show him the receipt, Lee.”
“I’m sure he’ll take our word for it,” Lee said. “I had a great time too. How about a picnic tomorrow? Er...you too, sir.”
“Very well, besides we have a lot of catching up to do...if you can talk about things, that is...”
“Actually, Skip..er..Captain, I can’t, except that I’m between subs...”
“Is Admiral Cartwright still your commanding officer?”
“Afraid so,” Lee sighed, “er...I mean...”
“Never mind, son, never mind. Well, we’ll expect you tomorrow. 1300 okay?”
“That’ll work out fine, sir.”
“Well, then, good night Lee.”
“Good night Captain...Edith...”
Just then a few people still in the dockside area set their own skyrocket firecrackers, illuminating the sky as Lt. Jg. Crane sought and was given permission to board the Constitution, turned, grinned, and waved.
Nelson wasn’t sure, but Edith sure looked as if she was ogling him. Perhaps he’d better have a little talk with her. No, he’d been through all that with her. Perhaps instead he’d have a little talk with Lee tomorrow. No, a long talk would probably be more in order.
After all, one had to make sure any fireworks between those two would be properly staunched.
At least for now.