The Star



K. Corris

It was Christmas Eve.  All was quiet in Santa Barbara.  Admiral Nelson had flown out to Boston to celebrate with his sister Edith, and Chip Morton had flown home to Kansas to be with his family.  Both had invited Lee to join them.  There were no missions scheduled for the next three weeks and all of the crew were on holiday leave.  Seaview floated silently in her pen.  As he did every year, the Admiral had shut down the Nelson Institute from two days before Christmas until the beginning of the new year.   Let his employees spend some much deserved time with their families.  Of course, any scientific experiments going on had to be monitored by the people responsible for them, and Security had to be maintained.  Other than that, the Institute campus was pretty much a ghost town.  As the Admiral told his Captain, “No one is needed to mind the store, Lee.”

Lee told them he had plans of his own, but the truth was he just wanted to be alone.  Too often, ‘down time’ was an exhausting vacation somewhere, or was spent with many other people.  Every once in a while though, Lee needed to be completely alone to recharge his batteries, so to speak.  Not have to deal with anyone or anything.  He believed this was the result of the enormous amount of responsibility on his shoulders at the Institute, and especially as Captain when they were at sea.   He was not only responsible for a one of a kind multi-billion dollar research submarine, but more importantly, the lives of at least 125 men.

He wasn’t lonely on Christmas Eve.  He’d gone to a lovely evening mass at his church, came home and made a simple dinner for himself.  Steak on the grill, baked potato in the microwave, and he tossed together a fresh green salad.  He moved it all out onto his back deck overlooking the majestic Pacific Ocean and ate in peaceful solitude.   He thought about taking his boat out tomorrow, Christmas Day.  It was supposed to be a beautiful day for sailing.  Do some fishing, finish that Tom Clancy book he was reading.

After cleaning everything up, he grabbed a cold beer and headed back out onto the deck.  He sat in his lounge chair, enjoying the evening air and meditating on the reason for the day itself.  He soon put his head back, and dozed off.   

It was dark when he woke up, but the clear skies gave a breathtaking view of all the beautiful stars.  Being a sailor, Lee knew all the constellations like the back of his hand.  So he wondered about this one beautiful star that seemed to shine so much more brightly than the others.  He couldn’t place it.   The more he stared at it, the more it seemed to be pointing down to some specific place in the ocean, and almost seemed to be beckoning him.  

He tried not to pay attention to it, but yes, yes that star was calling to him.  He simply couldn’t ignore it any longer.  He had to investigate.  He grabbed his jacket and some waters, locked the house, and went down to his dock.  He was out on the water in a few minutes, heading straight out to sea, to where that star was pointing. He hadn’t raised his sails but engaged the boat’s little motor instead.   For a while, it seemed like the star’s rays were always keeping a little bit ahead of him, always just beyond the horizon, bringing him further and further out, like he would never find where they pointed.

But then he saw it, a little rowboat with two people in it.  A man stood up and waved desperately.  Lee quickly cut the engine.  He carefully maneuvered his boat next the tiny craft.   The man stretched up and grabbed the rope Lee threw down and tied it to his boat.   He then reached over and helped the woman stand up.  It was only then that Lee realized she was not only pregnant, but very pregnant and was obviously having contractions.  It took both men to do it, but with great difficulty and care they finally got her onto Lee’s boat.  The man explained, with a heavy accent that Lee couldn’t quite place, that they had been adrift at sea for two days.   Having lost his job and apartment, he had borrowed the boat of a friend to try and get her to her family’s home up the coast before the baby came.  It should have been another couple of weeks, but after the fire in the boat and their narrow escape in the row boat, watching the boat burn and sink from a distance, she soon went into early labor.  Both had hoped the pains would stop.

Lee had his suspicions, but now wasn’t the time to deal with them.  They obviously were fleeing something, somewhere, or someone.  So many poor refugees in this world with no place to go, no one who wanted them.  He knew they weren’t Americans but were trying to get into the country for whatever reason, probably to have the child born on American soil.  Her groans bought him out of his reverie.  “Let’s get her below.”  As he turned he looked up onto the night sky.  The beautiful star seemed to be right over head.

Soon they had made her as comfortable as possible.  She didn’t look like much more than a child herself.  Maybe mid-teens, but the man was at least middle age, or older.  Lee didn’t have the feeling that she was his daughter.  Lee explained he was going to call the Coast Guard to get a Medivac in the air to have her airlifted to a medical facility.  They both became quite upset with the idea, almost hysterical.  Ok, no authorities. The man asked how far they were from shore.  Were they yet into American coastal waters?  Lee explained as quickly as he could that, as he understood it, the child had to be born on American soil to be an American citizen, not in the coastal waters.   The response to his statement made it obvious that was exactly what they had hoped would happen.  He briefly considered trying to get them to shore, but her next cry changed his mind. 

Of course Lee had taken the Navy’s first aid course that included delivering a baby, but he had hoped he would never have to use it.  He had an extra set of clean sheets on board, and clean towels.  He explained to them that he was with the US Navy and had been trained in childbirth. But his on-board first aid kit wasn’t going to be much help. He took out the small scissors and then removed his own shoelaces, rinsing everything and his hands with the Listerine mouthwash he had in the little head and then sat down on his tackle box at the end of the bunk, putting several towels over his lap.  He had her scoot down and asked the man to please remove her undergarments. 

It wasn’t two minutes later when Lee was holding a precious, perfect little boy on his lap, gently cleaning him up with a wet towel. The child never even cried, and Lee swore the baby had smiled at him.  He wrapped the newborn in a folded sheet and handed him to the man.  “Ok, Dad, just hold him steady right here while I tie and cut the cord.”

Lee would never forget the man’s response.  “I am not the father, we do not know who the father is.  But I am here for her, and will care for them.”   Okay, it wasn’t for Lee to judge, or even comment.  After all, he didn’t even know who either of his own parents were, he’d been abandoned at birth and grew up in a boy’s home.

Lee finished up with the cord and afterbirth.  What a mess.  He looked up at the girl, now holding her newbornson with a loving glow on her face, the man beaming down at both of them.   Lee sat back and sighed.  What to do next?  He didn’t have the heart to report them.  They had wanted better for the child, to be safe as an American citizen, but he was born at sea, not on American soil.  Wait a minute, wait just one minute.  Lee suddenly remembered reading something, something about a child born in flight or in International waters being granted the citizenship of the plane or vessel’s registered owner.  Could Lee’s boat, owned by an American citizen, be therefore considered American soil?

He tried to explain this to the couple, and assured them he would do everything in his power to get the child American citizenship.  This precious little one seemed to be starting life with enough disadvantages as it was.  He went back up and turned the boat back to shore.  He radioed the Coast Guard and requested an ambulance be waiting at his home.  Soon he was pulling into his dock, grateful to see both an ambulance and a small but official Coast Guard boat waiting.   They both would give them the official documentation they would need to confirm the child was born on an American boat.  The ambulance crew and Coast Guard officers took over caring for the mother and child, while Lee pulled the man aside to talk to him.   He tried to find out where they were from, but the only answer he could get from him was that “It doesn’t matter, we cannot go back there again for many years, the child’s life would be in great danger”.   Lee just shook his head, then went over and gave his statement to the Coast Guard officer and soon both the ambulance and Coast Guard boat were gone.  And so was the beautiful star.

Lee wearily climbed the steps up to his deck, collapsing into his lounge chair and immediately falling into a dead sleep.   He woke up there about an hour later, and decided it was definitely time to go to bed.   But boy, that sure was some dream, so realistic.  He’d fallen asleep while thinking about the reason for the day.  He looked down at his hands as he was about to brush his teeth before turning in.

How the heck did I get blood on my hands?


The End

Merry Christmas to all!

And to all, a good night!

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