come to volunteer, sir,” Ski stood in the doorway of my office at NIMR.
Now, volunteering has never been a problem with Kowalski. In fact, he had often been ‘selected’ by Chief Jones, and
later Chief Sharkey for some of the more disagreeable tasks assigned to the men of Seaview. I had to wonder if this was such
“For real, sir,” he read my
I racked my brain in the effort to figure out just what he was volunteering for. Seaview wasn’t scheduled for anything
right now except for the most mundane of tasks as the crew was finishing up a little shore duty until the weekend. NIMR was
in need of a new paint job, but that was being handled by the Paint shop and usually not given to the crew. Perhaps a proactive
attempt to avoid some kind of punishment?
“I want to be your assistant,”
“My assistant…” I said
drolly, confusion still apparently upon my face.
“For the beauty contest, sir.”
“The Santa Barbara Beauty Contest,”
he answered as if I were suffering from a ‘senior’ moment, “the Skipper said you were selected as one of
the judges. And I was figuring there must be lots and lots of paperwork to do, checking transcripts and stuff, since the babes,
er...contestants have to be smart, and I know how much you hate spreadsheets…”
“I see…and um…when did
you want to begin?” I asked, not having a clue as to one, if this was some kind of practical joke of Lee’s, or
a legitimate challenge to my powers of observation.
“Well, the Skip said the Contest Committee
meets this afternoon so you might need someone to take notes.”
“Would you give me a moment? I need
to discuss something with the Captain.”
“Sure sir, can I get you a refill?”
He nodded at my empty cup.
“Thanks,” I said, beginning
to wonder if I was on to a good thing. Even our joint secretary refused to fetch and carry.
As I left my office, I was surrounded by
a sea of seamen offering me assistance for the weekend, just as Ski had. I had no choice but to refuse them, claiming the job was ‘already filled’. Finally I managed to escape their disappointment
by darting into Lee’s office, closing the door firmly behind me.
“And just when were you going to tell
me about it?” I asked my CO, good friend, and sometimes pain in the six
“Huh?” he looked up from the
mound of folders and paperwork on his desk. I swear Nelson had started to give him more stuff to do ashore than he’d
ever given Capt. Phillips. Must be a father-son thing.
“The beauty contest…”
“Oh, that…”he sat his
pen down and leaned back in his chair, hesitant.
“Yeah, that,” I sat on the edge
of his desk.
“Careful! I just put all these in order!”
“The contest, Lee.”
“I was going to tell you…kind
of slipped my mind,” he rummaged around in the top desk drawer and handed me a letter.
“This is from the committee thanking
you for accepting the post as judge.”
“Special assignment coming up?”
I whispered, uneasy. I’d lost count how many times he’d either volunteered or been drafted by ONI or the SEALS
for some mission.
“Er, not exactly…um…”
Now I was sure something was seriously wrong.
I mean, Lee appreciates a good looking woman as much as I. Was he having some kind of mid life crisis? Was he suffering from
a decreased libido? I mean, it happens. I was worried. Until I considered something else.
“Lola won’t let you?”
“That would be the size of it, if
she knew about it that is....”
Yes, sometimes my brilliance as to their
relationship amazed even me.
“ So,” he continued, “
I kind of volunteered you. And before you argue, it’s a PR thing…we could use the publicity.”
“This letter also says that you were approved to represent NIMR because Nelson had a scheduling conflict.”
“T- Time at the golf course.”
“Kowalski’s volunteered to be
my assistant. I don’t suppose you had anything to do with that.”
“Who, me? Well, I might have mentioned
it to him…in passing…you know, technically it’s not strictly a beauty contest…the winner has to be
sharp. Really smart. So the judges have to check out high school and college transcripts; figure out scholarly questions to
ask them, things like that. If you had an assistant, well, it would leave you
more time for the more difficult equations…like which girl looks better, the one in the red bikini or the blue.”
“I’m sure Kowalski would want
to help me with that, too.”
“No doubt….will you do it, Chip?
If not, we’ll have to ask Angie and you know how she feels about beauty pageants. Could give NIMR a bad name.”
And so I found myself at the first meeting
of the contest committee later that afternoon, while Ski, sitting beside me, in his best suit, a bit disappointed that none
of the contestants were practicing nearby or anything, taking notes about the rules, going over the contestant files, etc.
can only hope that he cleans up the drool on the entrant’s pictures in their files. I need to take some of them home.
To study, of course.