The compiled journals
By Carol aka Catfish Foss
1. Chip’s Journal
It was a glorious Saturday afternoon and while I tried to decide between an overstuffed raspberry filled doughnut or a confectioner’s sugar coated chocolate brownie, I happened to notice some of the crew arguing with Kowalski in front of a Tattoo shop. I wondered which new designs they’d sport on their biceps and other parts of their anatomy on their return to the boat. It’s a sailor thing. While I’ve just never been interested in maiming my body with needles, ink, and a lifetime of regret if I ever changed my mind, I do understand the ancient desire to decorate oneself, be it the blue paint of my mud tossing ancestors, or the names of one’s current (and hopefully forever) girlfriend etched on one’s skin.
I had to laugh, thinking of girlfriends and remembering an incident at NIMR a few years ago, in fact it had only been a short time since Lee had joined us. ….
I was chatting with Angie about what a quiet day it was, at least until Lee stormed out of Nelson’s office. He was livid, and if I expected him to say anything to me, it was quelled as he practically dared us not to say anything. Its’ an eye thing. And believe me, Lee knows how to put into words the fire in his eyes.
So we were both surprised when he glanced at Nelson’s hybrid (and experimental) Venus Fly Trap.
Grabbing Angie’s letter opener, and before she or I could stop him, Lee tried to prick his finger with it!
“What the devil do you think you’re doing?” Nelson had emerged from his office door, scowl on his face.
“You want blood, Admiral?” Lee almost spat, “I’ll give you blood!”
“For Heaven’s sake, it’s not like I asked you to fall on your sword for me.”
“Well, it amounts to the same thing!” Lee managed to prick his finger and dripped a few of the red drops onto some of the plant’s sticky leaves. “There. You happy now?”
“Are you speaking to me or the plant?”
Almost as if in answer, the plant’s leaves closed, and began to digest Lee’s blood, satisfied that at last somebody fed it. For the Institute had a contract with a pest control company and nary a bug, fly, or roach ever dared invade the Admiral’s domain.
“I’ll take that as the plant.”
“Suit yourself. You always do,” Lee huffed out, slamming the outer office’s door behind him.
For a moment I wondered if the Institute had a personnel ‘return policy’ with the Navy. But instead of ordering Angie to pull out an NIMR termination form and a request for Crane’s transfer back to the active Navy (Lee was Naval Reserve now) Nelson decided it was in his best interest (after all, we’d been witnesses to their little tirade) to inspect his plant rather than comment on how pigheaded his Captain was. (Nelson had been finding it difficult to find just the right words for any given situation with Lee, and was becoming more and more referred to with that particular moniker.
“Seems okay,” he was saying, “Angie, contact Professor Green and see if this non- flesh eating hybrid can metabolize human blood without getting sick. If he asks what happened, tell him it was an accident. Oh, and get with the duty Corpsman and find out what Crane’s blood type is, too.”
“Yes sir,” Angie said warily.
“And get Admiral Cartwright at ONI. See to it that I’m not disturbed,” he added as he returned to his office.
“What was that about?” I muttered.
“Oh, he’s just trying to find out about Captain Crane’s tattoo.”
“Tattoo?” I asked, startled. First, because I had no idea Lee had a tattoo and secondly because Angie seemed to have telepathic abilities as to what had transpired behind closed doors.
“Yes,” she woke me out of m reverie, “seems the Captain’s not too happy about the Personnel Dept. wanting a detailed description and photo of it. For Identification purposes. You know, if he’s in a bad accident and it’s all that’s left to identify him.”
“But Washington has all our DNA. What can be more identifying that that?”
“Beats me, but Personnel’s adamant.”
Well, I had work to do, namely reports in my ‘in’ basket that had my name adhering to them with little sticky notes. On these, Angie, or in some cases, Chief Jones, Lt. O’Brien, and even Nelson or Lee would scribble just what it was that I needed to do. Approve this, Decline this, Purchase that, Initial here, Disciplinary Action Needed, Send to Procurement, Machine shop, Order more Uncle Charlie’s Potato Salad , etc.(Nelson’s favorite, and while Cookie made a good imitation, it just wasn’t the same and woe betide anyone who came within an inch of Nelson before he had his weekly side, ashore or aboard Seaview).
On my way to my office, I passed by Lee’s, actually a former broom closet. Lee didn’t seem inclined to use our late Captain Phillip’s office, so when he’d seen the unused broom closet, he immediately purloined it. (What wonders a new paint job will do.)
“A chair, a desk, a phone,” Lee had told me, ‘”what else do I need?”
File cabinets, I almost responded, but decided to let him discover that for himself. I’d learned since his arrival at NIMR that he was the kind of man who, so used to delegating, enjoyed being in on the hunt, so to speak. Who was I to displease him?
Anyway, back to his tattoo. He was on the phone in his office with one of our communication specialists. Lola Hale by name. They had hit it off right away, despite Lee having had and who was still casting a few passing glances elsewhere, at NIMR and during his Seaview adventures.
“I didn’t tell them anything!” she stressed, “But I don’t know what the problem is, it’s just a tattoo.”
“They want pictures!”
“He’s even contacted ONI!’
“Do they know what and where it is?”
Before I could discover the answer, Lee saw me in the corridor.
“Ah, Chip, how much longer for those reports?” Yes, he was still po’d.
“Should be done by lunchtime. Speaking of which, I hear the cafeteria has a great Cream of Broccoli Soup and fresh salad with strawberries today.”
“Does Nelson have to be so health conscious?” Crane said, running a hand through his hair. “Whatever happened to jelly doughnuts and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?”
“I have peanut butter and jelly in the employee’s lounge, Lee,” Lola’s voice said sweetly. “No bread but I do have some multi grain crackers. They’re almost as good as doughnuts. Sort of.”
“It’s a date…thanks Lola. For keeping quiet,” he added softly.
“Part of my job description,” she ended the call.
“You know, Captain,” I said, (I was still calling him by his title for the most part, we still hadn’t become very close at that point in time),” the Admiral’s gone to a lot of trouble to insure the Institute follows the new Navy nutritional guidelines. Doughnuts and peanut butter sandwiches aren’t exactly on their list of healthy foods.”
“Screw the new guidelines!” he shouted, running a hand through his hair, “er, sorry Chip. I’m a bit on edge…you were there…you know the Admiral and I had words…”
“I didn’t want to intrude….”
“You might as well know. He wants me to give the Personnel Dept. some rather personal information and I have no intention of giving it to them. “
“Very. The problem is it’s a legal thing. In case I’m maimed, incapacitated or dead or something so they can identify me.”
“Has a point.”
“I know he does…I just don’t want to do this. It’s embarrassing. It’s more of a ‘where’ than a ‘what’ that’s the real problem. I can’t even bring myself to tell you either.”
“But if Miss Hale knows, why not personnel?”
“I’m not sleeping with personnel.”
‘And you are with her?’ “I thought you were pretty much playing the field, after all, you dated Melina Gounaris, Carol Denning….”
“It just kind of ‘happened.’
“Lee, what’s sleeping with Lola have to do with your tattoo?”
He got up and began to pace around the room, then looked at me sorrowfully. “You remember that comedy* about a diesel sub in a modern day war game? And her Skipper?”
“Yeah, it was a good movie.”
“I know the writer. So guess where he got one of his ideas from.”
It was taking me awhile to fathom what he was talking about.”
“Do I have to spell it out?”
“Uh, yeah, I guess so.” Never have I felt so helpless.
“Just rent the movie and watch it again okay? You’ll get the idea…in any case, I need to talk to the Legal Dept., see if I can really refuse to give Personnel a description and photo of it without getting fired. I think Nelson’s close to the breaking point. Lola risked her own job to keep it to herself, and the Corpsmen adhered to client/patient privilege. I’ve never known such loyalty….well enough tattoo talk. I’m going to lunch.”
Being in effect, dismissed, I drove to my favorite bakery, purchased a half dozen doughnuts and returned to the Institute and Seaview, along with my rented movie that Lee had told me about. We had a new VCR/DVD player aboard the boat, for the convenience of our guests, so I had an excuse to test it out.
Yes, that must be it, I told myself as I munched what was left of the doughnuts after I’d shared them with the security watch, and watched the movie’s Naval Promotion Board berate the sub’s skipper for his tattoo. My God, it suddenly dawned on me. Had Lee, in a moment of drunkenness or diminished capacity actually gone and done something similar? A million questions were going through my mind by the time the film ended, such as how to keep Lee’s tattoo quiet. If Angie knew about the tattoo, not what or where it was, (the same as Nelson), word had probably already spread that he had one.
But tattoos were no big deal to sailors as a general rule and as time went on the topic was conveniently forgotten, at least officially by NIMR. Perhaps ONI had its claws so deeply into Lee that they decided to keep Lee’s little secret to themselves and prohibited certain facts from NIMR and even from Nelson.
Lee certainly never spoke about it to me again. And when I checked Lee’s personnel file just to satisfy myself that the matter was closed, nothing was listed under ‘Identifying Marks’ except the mole on his cheek.
So why go on and on about Lee’s tattoo? Why don’t I just come out and say what and where it is? Because this is a semi-public blog and some things, well, should just never come out in the open.
Of course, you can always ask Agent Catfish.
By the way, the Admiral's Venus Fly Trap is doing just fine, even sprouting so many leaves that Professor Green's been requesting Lee to make scheduled donations. So much for it being a successful non meat eating hybrid. Back to the drawing board, gentlemen.
2 Nelson’s Journal
“Everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes they regret,” Morton was telling me yesterday as he took a bite out of what appeared be an innocent looking doughnut on Lee’s desk.
“That doesn’t mean I’m willing to give Kowalski extra leave,” I replied, “just because the girl he was head over heels in lust with broke up with him.”
I searched in vain for the report I was looking for. It wasn’t an important report. I was simply interested in the research Lee had done regarding the mutated Venus Fly Trap of Dr. Green’s that was spilling over each new planter I put it in, located in my outer office.
“But he needs the extra time to get his tattoo removed,” Chip said, “Appointments are hard to come by.”
“They can do that?” Lee asked, surprised, from the doorway.
I couldn’t help noticing that he didn’t seem so surprised that his breakfast was being consumed by his XO.
“Lee, where’d you get this doughnut?” Morton was asking after a moment, his brows furrowed, “not up to Cookie’s standard.”
“It’s not Cookie’s. It’s Doc’s”
“Doc’s?” Chip and I groaned at the same time. Lately Will Jamison was into the health benefits of soy and barley products….
“Yes, Doc’s, you scavenger, and you deserve that disgusting mouthful, Chip. Next time, simply ask if you want one of my doughnuts. Now,” he turned his attention to me, “what can I do for you, Admiral?”
“I need that report on my Dionaea Muscipula.”
“Huh?” Chip asked.
“My Venus Fly Trap. I can’t find your report, Lee. Neither can Angie.”
“That’s because it’s still ‘up here’,” Lee said knocking on his head.
“Oh,” I squirmed. “Um…”
“Babycakes will just have to put up with protein shakes for now,” Lee said, showing off his fingertips,” I’m getting a bit tired of having to use a diabetic lance every week just to prink my fingers to feed your damn plant. Why not let the contract with Bugs- B- Gone lapse? The flies will come back soon enough.”
“So would the roaches. No Lee, we’re keeping the contract.”
“How about an exotic food shop, then? Perhaps they have dried grasshoppers or you can raise them yourself in one of the labs. Besides, Will was just telling me the other day that a diet of honey and grasshoppers is really very nutritious. After all, John the Baptist lived on them and….”
“My fly trap is not John the Baptist!”
“I’m out of here,” Morton said fleeing.
“At last,” Lee said pulling out a tented paper plate from one of his desk drawers, revealing a luscious looking jelly filled doughnut, coated with powdered sugar.
“You sneak, you hid that on purpose!” I laughed.
“All’s fair in love and goodies. Hey, he ate all of my mother’s home made brownies. It was payback time….um, Harry, about Ski’s tattoo… can they really be removed?”
“Well, yes and no. A lot depends. On skin tone, color of the ink, and age of the tat,” I began. (Now to most people, had they been listening in, would have simply thought Lee’s inquiry was one of a concerned commander. But I knew, and Lee knew, and he knew that I knew, that his concern was about his own tattoo. One he’d been unwilling to describe or share a picture with Personnel a short time after he’d first joined NIMR. The one on a part of his anatomy that isn’t usually displayed out of the bedroom.)
"Salabrasion," I continued, "is when a salt solution is rubbed into the tattoo, heated and scrapped away. With dermabrasion, the skin is scraped away or sanded. In each case, while the tattoo might be taken care of, there’s massive scarring…er…you okay, Lad?”
Lee was getting pale. Not surprising considering the rather…er…private location of his tattoo. I knew all about it now. I couldn’t help having seen it once when I had to quickly rip off his clothes and shove him into the emergency shower in the lab after a chemical burn.
“Go on,” he was saying, but with a bit of difficulty. I was glad he was sitting down now.
“Well, there’s also surgery.”
“Surgery?” Lee said, perking up. I could see the wheels
turning in his head; no doubt he wanted to get rid of his tattoo as much as Ski
“Yes, the tattooed skin is cut away and the remaining skin stitched back…you really don’t look well, son, perhaps that doughnut?
“Yeah…er…thanks, forgot all about it,” he said taking a large bite. For Lee to forget about a doughnut meant he was (and rightly so) taking all this very seriously. Surgery was apparently out of the question as well.
“Then there’s scarification. That’s like a chemical peel. An acid is used and the scar covers up whatever’s left of the tattoo….”
Lee was squirming in his chair now, so I might as well milk it, after all, his tattoo was his own fault and he’d been very curt with me even discussing it.
“There’s also Cryosurgery,” I said, “using liquid nitrogen to burn off the tattoo…like an unwanted wart.”
“Well,” Lee said, dejected, “I hope Ski won’t get his new girl’s name tattooed on him again. It’s not worth it….”
“Oh, he’s not going in for any of these treatments, Lee. He’s going in for Laser removal. The Laser searches the contrasts between the ink and the skin, pulses and breaks the ink into mini particles so tiny, they’re absorbed into the body. Takes about 12 or so sessions.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this in the first place?” Lee asked, glaring at me.
“You asked me how tattoos are removed. You didn’t ask which method is best. And Laser treatments aren’t always successful. For example, it won’t work with fluorescent type colors; greens and purples are just about impossible to get out. Light skin with dark ink are removed best. So it should work pretty well for Ski, but…”
“I hear it feels like getting burned with hot grease. Some patients actually hear the skin sizzle, like bacon in a frying pan…”
I wasn’t sure, but he looked about ready to hyperventilate.
“And Ski knows about all this?”
“He spoke to Doc about it extensively.”
“Braver man than me,” Lee muttered.
“Are you going to speak to Doc, or going for the treatments yourself?”
“A little of both,” Lee looked up and grinned and offered me half of his doughnut.
“Lee, you really don’t have to get rid of the tattoo,” I said as I downed what was left of the doughnut’s doughy goodness, “after all, only a few people know the details. And it’s not as if the Reserve will ever hold it against you like the Navy did that skipper in that movie*.”
“I don’t want it generally known that the captain of the Seaview has a tattoo down there reading ‘All Hands on Deck.”
“I’ve seen the tattoo Lee, remember. That’s not quite what it says.”
“Okay, so the tattoo artist must have had an evil sense of humor.”
“Or got his vowels mixed up,” I laughed wondering if he’d actually meant to use an (i) instead of an (e).After all, Lee had to have been drunk at the time all those years ago. Perhaps the artist had been too.
Just then Angie appeared at the door with a protein shake. “Time to feed Babycakes.”
“Why me?” Lee groaned.
“Because I’m not going anywhere near that monster. I swear it’s alive. Hovering over my poor African Violets. Oh, by the way, Captain,” (Angie almost never called Lee by his name) “Lola says for you to remember not to pick her up for lunch. Has that Dr.’s appointment.”
“Oh yeah…almost forgot. Thanks.”
“Dr.’s appointment?” I asked, concerned, after Angie left. I might not like Miss Hale personally and I still don’t think she’s the right girl for Lee, but she is one of NIMR’s top Communication Specialists.
“She's just been a bit queasy lately,” Lee explained, “Mostly in the mornings. Speaking of Dr.’s, Harry, you got the name of the one Ski’s going to see?”
“Um, actually,” I pulled out a business card. “I took the liberty of scheduling you a consultation. I thought you might be interested.”
“Today?” he asked, aghast, as he read the handwritten date and time, "now?”
“I think I’ll go with you,” I took his arm before he had a chance to change his mind. He might want to get rid the tattoo, but this was a big decision and no doubt he’d need a little emotional support for whatever he decided. “I have a wart the Dr. next door can look at while we’re there. Then we can go to lunch,” I added to make my overly paternal concern less apparent. Lee never liked being mollycoddled.
But he knew. And he knew I knew he knew. At least he wasn’t going to have to go through this alone.
That was yesterday and my wart (yes, I actually had one on my big toe) is gone. Lee’s consultation had been less than encouraging; the treatments only have a 60 % chance of working on him. It remains to be seen if he’ll actually schedule any sessions to try to remove the tattoo. We’ll just have to wait and see.
After the consultation, Lee had handed me the medical description, and photos of the offending artwork. “For Personnel’, he’d said, and I was on my way there before he came back in to join me on the way to lunch and changed his mind.
I can only hope that none of the non-Personnel staff will bother to look at the photos tucked in an envelope in between the medical report pages to look at them, or there'll be hell to pay.
3. Lee’s Journal
If yesterday was difficult to get through, today began starting to look as if it would be worse. It was.
Angie stormed into my office this morning and demanded that I come remove Babycake’s from hers. Babycakes is the name we coined for Harry’s mutated Venus Fly trap. An experimental hybrid of Dr. Green’s, it surprised us when it seemed to enjoy my blood, shed in anger, into one of its toothy leaves. Regularly, Harry insisted, (as a scientific investigation, he said) that I continue to feed it.
Well, finally I put my foot down yesterday, and we began feeding it protein shakes. You’d think the damn plant would have been grateful for a full meal instead of the few drops of blood a week I’d been giving it.
“It ate some of my African Violet’s, Lee!” Angie wailed, on the verge of tears. Her African Violets were the stuff of legend, started from rather pathetic looking plants on clearance from a local grocer, into massive, gloriously abundant plants full of lush leaves and blooms. They had even appeared in the local newspaper!
Of course she was upset as she showed me two of them in her arms, almost shredded to bits.
“What am I supposed to do?” I asked, “it’s simple enough. Move your plants someplace else.”
“They like where they are, Lee! Why can’t the flytrap go into the Admiral’s office? Why mine?”
“Because the outer office is also his,” I muttered, only belatedly realizing that she’d called me ‘Lee’, a Battle Stations warning if ever there was one and I was unprepared.
“I mean it, Lee. If you won’t move it, I’ll tell Chip where you hid his grandmother’s shortbread cookies!”
“You know about that?” I asked with a grin after the revelation that she knew about my stash of some of the items from the ‘care packages’ Chip regularly got from home.
“I’m Nelson’s Administrative Assistant. I know everything. Well, okay, not the top secret stuff, but I sure as hell know what goes on here, so there.”
“Okay, okay…. Give me the damn plants.”
I was glad it was morning and Harry was at the golf course with Admiral Starke who’d flown in last night. Oh joy. So when he did return to his office, Harry would find the move to his office a ‘fait accompli’.
I chose to place it in the corner of his panoramic window overlooking the bay. A nice sunny window like it had had in Angie’s office, so it wouldn’t come to any harm. I couldn’t say the same for me as my hands and arms brushed against some of the leafy spikes, drawing blood, like a cactus. I decided that while it was on a diet of protein shakes now, I might as well let it have a couple drops of me for dessert.
My duty done to avert blackmail, as I returned to the outer office, sucking on one of my still dripping fingers, Angie asked me if she should offer me and Lola her congratulations. After all, Lola had had that Dr.'s appointment yesterday.
“Huh?” I asked, confused. “She’s just allergic to Doc’s tofu barley muffins…”
“Oh,” Angie’s face fell, “then she’s not….er….”she paused.
There are times when even Submarine Captains can be stupid. This was such a time.
“You don’t know, do you?” she said, “you didn’t even suspect?”
“Suspect what? Look, Angie, she’s fine…I bring a lot of Doc’s health stuff home to her…”
She took a sorrowing look at me and told me if I couldn’t add nausea and morning together, she wondered how I managed to keep Seaview from running into undersea mountains. Of course, the boat had, on occasion done so, but those were instrumentation and mechanical failures, not my errors.
Then what she’d said struck me. Lola had been getting sick. Sick in the morning. Morning Sickness?
“Omygod,” I think I said before my vision faded and I woke to find myself on the thick carpet, my face being slapped gently and she holding ammonia under my nose. Then I felt her press hard against the back of my head, which had apparently hit the edge of the coffee table.
“Oh swell,” I muttered as I saw her bloody hands grab more gauze from the First Aid kit to staunch the flow of blood.
“Easy Captain. Lie still. I’ve called for Doc.”
“No…I’m fine,” I managed and sat up, “embarrassed, but fine.” I took over holding the gauze over the cut, “I’ll use the Admiral’s head to clean up. I’ll bring a clean towel back for the carpet,” I added, as blood and the fluffy white shag rug under the coffee table didn’t exactly mix. He was proud of the little rug which had been made from the sheared off wool of a llama. It had been purchased by his late mother and was one of the few items he’d brought from Boston when he’d laid down the foundations for NIMR.
“No,” she said. “You’ll ruin it. I’ll take it to the cleaners.”
“But he’ll notice it’s not here,” I insisted, while I headed to Nelson’s office.
“Captain Crane,” she said firmly, “it was an accident. He’ll hardly blame you.”
“But it is my fault. How could I have not noticed that Lola might have been….”I still couldn’t say the word.
“Well, she isn’t, after all. She just told me, so it’s a moot point. Now, you go get cleaned up and…”
“What happened?” Will Jamieson arrived, along with two corpsmen and a stretcher.
I looked to Angie for help.
“Must be low blood sugar,” she lied pointedly as he approached, grabbed my arm and began to poke, prod and then examine by eyes with that little pen light I hate.
“Stop squirming and let me see!” he ordered.
“Maybe, maybe not. I keep telling you to eat regular meals. Now, come along. I want to check your blood sugar.”
“Can’t you just take my word for it?”
And so I spent the better half of the morning in the Med. Center as Doc checked all my vitals, and finally determined that I was fine except for the slight, and I do mean slight, concussion and cut to my scalp, and released me to the custody of Lola. I didn’t mind that. We had to have that little talk I’d been promising myself to put a question to her ever since we become lovers. We still need that talk.
First, she wanted to know why I went to the Dr. yesterday. (Angie had told her I’d gone there) So I told her. Bad move. While my consultation regarding the removal of my tattoo hadn’t been all that hopeful, ( I mean, why go through 12 to 14 sessions of agony for something that, in my case, would only have a 60% success rate), she was angry that I had even thought about the procedure without telling her.
I responded that we weren’t married and I didn’t have to get her permission for every little thing I do.
Well, in a nutshell, I soon found myself locked out of the bedroom, until she came out a few minutes later, suitcase in hand, and slammed out of the apartment. The sound of her crying had made me feel like a first class heel. I mean, I hadn’t planned on asking her to marry me. Well, okay, I'm not at that point yet, but we did need to talk about the possibility of children. Do we want them? Do we not want them? We don’t always use protection. Now, however, I doubt we’ll need it if she’s going to make such an issue over me getting rid of my tattoo and locks me out. And it’s not as if she even likes it. But i guess it had been something that she felt privileged to know about first hand. A bedroom secret.
Only time will tell if we’ll get back together again. I left her a note that I was getting the damn tattoo removed. I don’t actually have an appointment, but she doesn’t know that. I’m just so pissed off that she thinks she can tell me what to do or not with my own tattoo!
It’s almost midnight now and my apartment’s a lonely empty place, devoid of laughter and happy memories. God, I miss her. Maybe I should call Harry. By now I’m sure he’s been informed about my little accident and the rug in the outer office, not to mention that Babycakes is in his own office now.
I just need somebody to talk to.
The tattoo can wait.
4. Lola’s Journal
6. Doc’s Journal
It was a gloomy Monday morning and I couldn’t help feeling there was something I’d forgotten. But no matter how much I tried to remember, it didn’t come.
I was busy checking Seaview’s list of medical supplies (we ran out a lot) for Chip’s spreadsheet, when there was an apologetic cough at my office door.
“Admiral, you finally decided on a nicotine patch?” I’d been trying ever since I joined NIMR to get the man to stop his habitual smoking.
“Um, no. You’re needed upstairs.”
“What’s happened?” I said, automatically grabbing my ever ready medical kit.
“You won’t need that. It’s not a medical emergency. Lee wants to talk to us.”
Us? Uh oh. While Nelson might find a little chat or even argument the norm with Crane, if there was one person who almost had to be dragged by his hair follicles to even speak to me on a professional basis, it was Lee Crane. One day I’d have to get to the bottom of his phobia of all things medical, and I could only wonder what he, of all people, wanted to see me about.
I was surprised to see that in addition to Crane, Kowalski was also in Nelson’s office, in civvies, his short sleeved shirt barely covering the bandage over his bicep. Of course, I realized, belatedly, he’d had his tattoo removed over the weekend. For a brief moment, I imagined the possibilities of infection, etc. But the crewman didn’t seem distressed at all. In fact, he seemed edgy about something. That he’d rather be any place but here.
“Skipper?” I asked, deciding to use the more genial term to defuse any potential problem, instead of the more formal ‘Commander’ or ‘Captain’, as he was entitled to both due his rank and position.
He was sitting on the edge of Nelson’s desk and looked at me almost casually before he said, dangerously quiet, “Why didn’t you tell Ski that they’d use a topical anesthetic when they began to remove his tattoo?”
“I’m sure I did…we went over everything.”
“No, you didn’t,” he slammed his fist down on the desk as he jumped up. “And you,” he turned to Nelson, who leaned back in chair somewhat defensively, “why did you give me all that crap about how hellish removing a tattoo could be?”
“But Lee, lad, I had it on the best authority!”
“Whose?” Crane said coolly, glancing at me.
“I don’t know! It was online!” Nelson said, exasperated.
“Why are you so upset, Captain?” I asked, reverting to his title aboard Seaview. One could see he was in no mood to be placated.
“Because if you’d bothered to inform us they’d be using some ,that it wouldn’t be quite so god-awful as we’d imagined and it would have saved us a great deal of apprehension and anxiety, that’s why!”
“I’m not sure just what the Admiral told you,” I said, “and even topical anesthetics don’t cut out all the pain involved in Laser removal. Strictly speaking it’s not a medical procedure, more cosmetic and….”
“The place we had our consultations is in a medical clinic! And Ski had his first treatment in one! I’m going to have mine there, too!”
“Then I’d think you should be pleasantly surprised!” Nelson said.
“Tell, him Ski.”
“Well, the stuff helped. A little. Still hurt....er…”
“He’s allergic to the damn stuff! Had to give him adrenaline and stop short of actually finishing the treatment!”
“That’s too bad, but not Will’s fault if even Ski didn’t know he was allergic to it, Lee,” Nelson came to my defense.
“And now, what’s he supposed to do, go back and get the rest of the job done without benefit of the damn cream? “
“It’s okay, Skipper,” Ski said, “I was going to in the first place…only…er…I’m sorry they had to switch your appointment to take care of mine for next week.”
“I don’t mind about that, Ski. What I mind," he said glaring at Nelson and me, "is that both us were having nightmares about the damn treatments when we could have been thinking of more pleasant things. Even Lola knew I was stewing over it when I couldn’t get it u..uh……never mind.”
“You’re back together?” Nelson asked, not altogether pleased, I could tell.
“Captain,” I interrupted, “Like Kowalski said, despite the topical, the laser still hurts. Not as bad, I grant you, but there’s no guarantee the topical will work for you with any success at all, considering that a human penis has between 4000 and 24, 000 nerve endings…”
“Do we have to be quite so graphic, Will?” Nelson said, flushing.
“I don’t see why not. I wish the procedure was not considered cosmetic, and that we could put both patients under, but there’s risk in any kind of anesthesia, as we well know, especially with the skipper’s record. And frankly, Captain, I’d like to run an allergy test on you for the same family of topicals the clinic has, just to be on the safe side for when you do have your appointment. If you still wish to go through with it, that is,” I added.
“4,000 to 24,000 nerve endings,” Nelson was muttering, turning pale, “ oh gawd.”
Just then the sun came out from behind the clouds, making the Admiral’s cut crystal decanter of some very fine scotch sparkle on the sideboard where he kept the stuff.
“Skipper?” I asked as I noticed Crane studying it.
“I think I know of something else that might work,” he said
Now, I’m a medical physician, not a witch doctor, but even I know dulling one’s senses, including the physical ones, is one of the benefits of a surfeit of booze. How could a solution for our boys be so simple?
And so, after a bit of coaxing (the staff of the clinic was not amused), next weekend, Ski’s going to get plastered, under medical supervision, of course, to be followed the weekend after (should Seaview be in port), by Crane.
I’m not sure the skipper’s nerve endings will be dulled enough for him not to be uncomfortable during the procedure, but he’s determined and there’s no way to tell him to forget the whole thing.
There’s just one problem I’m pondering on how to resolve.
The Tattoo Removal Technician on duty for Lee’s appointment is female. I’m sure Crane will be big enough a man, and/or drunk enough not to notice, but I sure as hell don’t want to be around when Miss Hale finds out.