DARLA M POULOS
Two submarines, Seaview and Sea Cub were docked side by side at the Naval Port in St. Martin. They had each participated in the grueling war game exercises held during the past ten days. Before that, each had been a part of an intricate mission involving a traitor. Both crews desperately needed some rest and relaxation before heading home.
"Are you sure this is the right place?" asked Patterson
"As sure as my name is Francis Sharkey," stated the Chief of Seaview.
"What kind of a name is ‘The Sea Sprite – Spirits’?" asked Riley looking at the sign on the bar’s dirty window.
"It’s the name of the bar and has spirits to drink," replied Sharkey.
"Spirits? As in the ghostly kind?" asked Riley.
"No, you dolt, the drinking kind!" explained an exasperated Sharkey.
"Well then, lets get to it," smiled Kowalski.
"When’s the Skipper and Mr. Morton getting here?" asked Patterson.
"I don’t know Pat. The Skipper just said they’d meet us here. Now, if you sub jockeys are all done jawin lets get to drinkin," growled the Chief.
All four men stepped into the bar and were immediately hailed by Ed Davis, Chief of the Sea Cub. "Bout time you sorry guys got off the boat. The beer is cold and the ladies are dying to get their hands on you!"
"Yeah right," mumbled Sharkey as he clapped the Sea Cub Chief on the back. The man was huge with a barreled chest and muscled arms. Strong arms with a powerful punch, thought Sharkey. He still had bruises to show for it from a fight both crews were in a couple of weeks ago.
The crews of Seaview and Sea Cub were in the Naval Reserves. Both of their Captains, Lee Crane and Anthony Masters were ONI operatives. The Captains at one time had been good friends, but as time went on they had drifted apart mostly because of a difference of opinions on ONI tactics and women. (Sharkey personally thought it all stemmed from a fight over a woman.) Therefore, the rivalry between the crews and captains ran deep in everything they did.
The men put a few tables together and ordered their drinks. As they waited for their beer Chief Davis asked, "You think your Skipper will be peeved that we’re sitting together?"
"Naw, most likely he’ll join us. This is a busy place." Sharkey did a quick look around noticing other officers with their crews scattered around the room. "What’s the worst that can happen?" countered Sharkey lighting up a cigarette.
"Well, we could land up in the brig again for starters."
A moan was heard from the whole table. The two Chiefs looked at their men and smiled. "Too soon for another fight?" asked Sharkey.
"Hell," said Ski, "I’m still sore from the last one."
"Not you Ski?" kidded Fred Hertz from the Sea Cub. "You cleaned most of our clocks. I thought you had won."
Ski pleased, "It was a good fight until the Shore Patrol showed up."
"Yeah, I wasn’t even done drinking my beer," whined Riley.
"That’s because knucklehead, you hit poor Owens here over the head with the first mug," replied Davis. Bobbie Owens laid his head on the table in a pretend faint, laughter was heard from around the table.
"I thought the barkeep lost his mind after you ordered another beer," kidded Chief Davis.
"By the look on his face, he did think old Riley here was crazy," chimed in Patterson.
The beer was served and before long the men were swapping stories about their exploits, bar fights and women.
"I tell you Davis, the wildest adventure we had, was when Admiral Nelson and a Russian scientist were in the diving bell and it got swallowed by a giant whale," exclaimed Sharkey.
"A whale, you say?" replied Chief Davis in doubt.
"I kid you not! It was humongous," exclaimed Sharkey spreading his hands wide then taking a gulp of beer. "The whale thought the bell was food and he swallowed it hook, line and sinker."
Disbelief showed on the faces of the Sea Cub crew. "Wh…what did you do?" asked Hertz.
"Why, we went inside the whale and got them out," Sharkey calmly replied taking a puff of his cigarette.
Owens choked on his beer and Hertz put his cigar in his mouth backwards.
Ski cut in with, "Beggin your pardon Chief, but it was Riley, me and the Skipper who went inside the whale. You stayed in the boat. The whale had been tranquilized, thank God and was sleeping like a baby most of the time."
"Okay, okay, so I messed up a few minor details," mumbled Sharkey.
"Get back to the story Chief!" begged Hertz. "What happened next?"
"Well, ya see, the Skipper, Riley and Ski carried a cable with them and went right down the whale’s throat."
"Down his throat?" repeated Owens in astonishment.
"Man, it was awesome!" continued Riley, "It had the worst bad breath of any monster I have ever encountered."
"Bad breath?" snorted Davis.
"He’s not lying about that. What we really needed was a toothbrush," grinned Ski.
"Ah, get out of here," grumbled Davis. "You’re making this up."
Snickers from the Sea Cub Crew, "No, not all of it," smirked Patterson.
"I suppose you were in there too?" sarcastically asked Davis looking at Patterson as he took a swig of beer.
"Actually, I was in the giant jellyfish that captured Kowalski and the Skipper."
Davis choked and spewed beer all over the table and a few men.
"Yuck!" cried Riley getting the worst of it. He wiped off the beer from his uniform with a paper napkin while Chief Davis tried to catch his breath with Chief Sharkey pounding on his back.
"Enough!" he shouted. "Next, you’ll be telling us a monster from outer space took over you and the Seaview!"
"Been there, done that," mumbled Kowalski carefully checking out his beer for floaters before drinking more.
"No way," complained the Sea Cub Chief.
"The Admiral saved the day," Pat replied seriously.
Seeing the rapt attention of the Sea Cub men Sharkey nonchalantly went on, "Yeah, he created a battery charged power pack and walked right into the monster that looked like a big blob and hugged it."
"And?" asked three men.
"He fried it," said Sharkey as if it were an everyday event. "The men all passed out and had a whale of a headache for a few days."
"Speaking of whales, how did you get the bell out?" questioned Hertz as he ate a handful of salty popcorn, "This is better than the movies."
Sharkey gave him a wry glance then went on with the story. "The men pulled a cable with them down through the whales throat and into its stomach."
"Just like that?" asked Owens.
"It wasn’t just like that, the going was slow and treacherous. I even got my foot stuck," exclaimed Riley.
"And I slipped and fell and couldn’t get up, some strange part held me in place," chipped in Ski.
"What did you do?"
"The Skipper pulled my foot out after using a stun gun," shuddered Riley as he swallowed a big gulp of beer.
"Before that he used the ultrasonic waves from the short-wave radio he was carrying at the time," stated Ski.
"Don’t leave us hanging, what did the whale do?" queried Hertz.
"The whale got mad."
His eyes large now, Owens asked, "Then what happened?"
"The cable got away from the Skipper," Sharkey said in a bored voice.
"But, it got caught in the muscle of the whales’ stomach…or something or other," clarified Riley.
"NO, YOU BONEHEAD," yelled Chief Davis, earning some scornful looks from other tables, he lowered his voice, "you said the whale was mad, what happened then?"
"He woke up and more or less fell off the ledge he’d been sleeping on," replied Kowalski.
Slamming down his beer Chief Davis irritably said, "Will you clowns quit stalling and tell us how you got the bell out?"
"We ah, hooked the cable to the top of the bell while the Skipper climbed inside with the extra air tanks we had brought with us," began Riley.
"Good thing too," added Ski, "for the air supply was almost out. The Admiral was ready to blow the rocket launcher explosive when the Skipper tapped on the bell’s windows."
"Got there, just in the nick of time or we’d have all been dead…at least the Skipper, Ski and yours truly," smiled Riley enjoying himself.
"And?" asked Chief Davis totally annoyed now.
"And what?" replied Sharkey knowing full well the Sea Cub’s Chief’s patience had run out.
"Don’t get coy with me Sharkey! For the last time, how did you get the damn bell out?"
"We just reeled him in," said Sharkey with a glint in his eye.
"Reeled him in," repeated Davis dumfounded. He looked at his crewmembers. They seemed astounded. "No, impossible, you don’t just reel in a whale."
"I tell you we did! The whale fought it and was going deep, but the diving bell made it to the corner of his mouth and sat there for a moment. To tell you the truth, it looked like he had a big yellow jaw breaker stuck there," defended Sharkey.
Chief Davis rubbed his hand on his forehead as if he had a headache and looked at his former rival, then half in jest asked, "I know I’m going to regret this but, what happened next?"
"Well, we were still reeling the cable in, the wench got hot and we had to hose it down. Finally, the bell just popped out. And if you still don’t believe us, we have it on tape from the nose camera," smirked Sharkey.
"Well, I’ll be damned," said the Sea Cub Chief still in denial. He thought over the whole story then started laughing. "Waitress, another round of beer." When it had arrived he gave a toast, "Here’s to a whale of a tale!"
The evening wore on. Ski spotted a good-looking woman sitting at the bar alone and wandered over to talk to her while Pat and Hertz went and played shuffleboard.
Owens asked Riley, "How about a game of Pacman?"
Riley crossed his eyes and replied, "Nah, been there, done that. How about Dungeons and Dragons instead?" Owens agreed and off they went.
Davis was gazing at the closed circuit TV when he reached into his pocket. A moan escaped him as he franticly searched his other pockets. "Where the devil is it?" he mumbled to no one in particular.
"Where’s what?" questioned Sharkey seeing the Chief’s worried expression.
Davis looked up at the TV again and ordered, "Quick, write those numbers down, I can’t find my lottery ticket. Damn, I just bought it before I came in here."
Sharkey looked around for a pencil or pen, feeling his own pockets but finding none. Finally, in desperation, he lifted one from a waitress’s pocket as she walked by with a tray full of drinks. Sharkey jotted down five numbers on a used napkin just before they disappeared from the television screen.
"A hell of a lot of good that will do if I can’t find my ticket," said an agitated Davis. "What were the numbers anyway?"
Sharkey read them off, as he watched his new buddy’s face grow whiter and whiter. "Something wrong?" he inquired worried now when Davis opened and shut his mouth with no sound coming out.
Suddenly, a woman at the bar yelled, "I won! I won!"
Sharkey had never seen a grown man cry before.
It was around 22:00 hours and the bar was filling up and taking on a life of it’s own. Tables were becoming scarce and couples were taking to the dance floor. Chief Sharkey was deep into a plate of nachos when his one time rival and now drinking buddy, Chief Davis nudged him and asked, "Who’s the good looking dames with your Captain and Exec?"
Sharkey looked up to find Captain Lee Crane and Chip Morton with two women standing in the entranceway waiting to be seated. Sharkey immediately recognized both women and smiled.
"Well now Davis, the tall, blue eyed, dark haired one with Mr. Morton is none other than Adm. Jiggs Starke’s daughter, Melonie. She came aboard when we were in port at Norfolk and is going back to San Diego with us. You do know Adm. Starke is with us this cruise?"
Chief Davis nodded his head that he did. "Okay, who’s the red head? She looks familiar."
Sharkey looked at Davis a bit perturbed. "Ah Ed, you should, she was with us at the White Pelican in Pearl."
Ed Davis had to think a moment, the amount of beers he’d consumed to drown his sorrow from the lost lottery ticket slowed his thinking process. "No, it couldn’t be?" he whispered. "Not the redhead with the long braid, dressed in khakis that caught the lucky punch and landed up in the brig with us?" Then louder he murmured, "This can’t be her, can it?" he asked sobering up a bit.
"One and the same," assured Sharkey, "Her name is Heather and you’d better mind your P’s and Q’s after all she’s the Captain’s wife, Adm. Nelson’s daughter and my goddaughter."
Davis gave a low whistle, which put Sharkey’s nerves on edge. "Francis, she’s quite a looker when she’s all dolled up."
"Look Davis for your own good remember this, the Skipper is very overprotective of her and won’t…" he was cut off by a kick to his shinbone. He reacted with a questioning frown to Ed, who in turn nodded his head toward the door. Sharkey turned in time to find his Skipper bearing down on him.
"Ah, Go...good evening Sirs… Heather… Melonie," he stammered.
"Hi Chief, mind if we join you?" asked his Captain.
"Not at all Sir, do you know Chief Davis here of the Sea Cub?"
Introductions were made as the waitress approached their table. The ladies were seated and orders were given. Heather sat between her godfather and husband, while Melonie and Chip sat by Chief Davis.
"This is a happening place," quipped Heather looking wide-eyed at all the people. Sharkey thought he saw a hint of fear in those lovely hazel eyes. He caught the expressions of his Commanders and knew they were thinking the same thing. His heart turned over and he reached over and squeezed Heather’s hand trying to silently reassure her that everything was all right. She rewarded him with a smile. Sharkey noticed the spark was back in her eyes and relaxed along with his superiors.
"I promised Heather a night out since she missed the big event a couple weeks ago," grinned the Captain as he put his arm securely around his wife. He lightly rubbed her shoulder with his fingertips as she leaned into his protective embrace.
Sharkey saw her relax and noted the fear was gone from her eyes even though they remained alert and scanned the crowd often. The drinks arrived, beer for the men and wine for the women.
Chief Davis couldn’t resist, "Mrs. Crane, you’re looking much better from the last time I saw you." He got a poke in the ribs from Sharkey and realized what he had said, " I ah, what I mean is I, we were really worried there for a while when you were unconscious on the floor." He got a furious look from the lady’s husband. He swallowed hard and hurried on, " I think, one of the Whitefish crew hit you by accident. I, we were glad to see that you were ok when we were all in the brig." That earned him the Captain’s scowl. He thought he’d better quit while he was ahead.
Heather had instantly recognized him when he had been introduced, for he had been the man Sharkey had battled on top of the pool table during the fight at the Pelican. She unconsciously rubbed her cheek where she had been suckered punched. A faint blush crept over her skin at the memory. She took pity on the hapless Chief when she saw her husband’s fierce glare. "Why thank you Chief, I must say you look much better yourself," she lightly teased, "and thank you for that sweet apology."
Chief Davis actually blushed to his consternation.
Sharkey thought she never looked better. Her long thick, red-gold hair normally worn in a tight braid was wavy and free tonight. The Skipper must have taken her shopping for she had on a simple white sundress with matching sandals. Her face was finally free of bruises and she looked the picture of happiness.
The DJ put on a slow song and the two Commanders lead the women out onto the dance floor much to the relief of Chief Davis. Chief Sharkey watched the couples dance with interest. Chip and Melonie were cuddled up and quietly talking between themselves as they swayed to the music. Now, there’s an interesting situation that bears watching. Adm. Starke still has no clue that they’re sweet on each other and are now considered an item. Boy, I want to be on the other side of the boat when he finds out, he silently laughed.
Heather was a foot shorter than her husband; her head only reached his collarbone. She was nestled in his strong arms as they slow danced to the song: You've got a Way, occasionally she would look up or he’d bend his head down and secrets would be exchanged.
The song ended and another one began. Mr. Morton went up to the DJ and had a short conversation with him. The DJ nodded and Chip lead Melonie back out onto the dance floor.
The Captain and his Lady stayed on the dance floor following each slow song. Tan lean fingers slowly moved up and down a slender back coming to rest at the base of her neck. A hand would plunder into thick long hair bringing her face up to meet his. Gentle kisses would follow on the temple, beside her ear, along her neck, brush her cheeks and finish with her mouth. Small hands likewise traveled from broad shoulders, down a strong back to narrow hips and hugged him at the waist. Hazel eyes met hazel eyes as love shimmered between them. They were totally enthralled with each other and lost in their own little world.
"Ah love, its grand if you don’t weaken," muttered Chief Davis to Chief Sharkey as they watched the dancing couples.
Sharkey looked at his drinking buddy and grinned. "Have you ever been in love Davis?"
"Yup, been there, done that," he lamented finishing off his beer. "Waitress!" he shouted, "I need another beer." He looked at Sharkey silently asking. Sharkey nodded affirmative. "Make that two." The waitress smiled and hurried after the drinks.
Sharkey decided this would be his last beer. The night was getting late and they were sailing in the morning. He needed to be alert, for trouble always seemed to follow his captain and goddaughter around. It was an unspoken agreement among the crew of Seaview, whenever either one was in the vicinity, it was their responsibility to watch over them. He looked around the crowded bar and noticed his men had come to the same conclusion.
Riley is talking to the DJ no doubt about surfer-music, Ski is dancing with a pretty dish close by the Captain, Mr. Morton is a little farther away dancing with Melonie and where the devil is Patterson? Sharkey did another visual sweep locating him and the two Sea Cub crewmembers at the bar. Pat gave him a thumbs up sign with his beer mug. Pleased with everyone, Sharkey turned his attention back to Chief Davis who was drunkenly talking about women.
"I tell you Francis, women, you got to watch your back all the time. Ya know, the scuttlebutt about our Captains, don’t ya?"
"No, what about it?" Sharkey asked curious now even though he knew he shouldn’t be.
"Well the Skipper, my Skipper Tony Masters and Lee Crane are or were friends since high school…"
"Naw, you don’t say?" whispered Sharkey, he was nervous about being overheard.
"Yeah," he nodded his head, then shaking it to clear his vision. "Masters himself told me this story. We was out in a fishing boat doing sur…surveillance. Ya know how boring that gets?"
"I guess so,"
"Well, ya just sit there pretending like you’re doin something, but all the time you’re watchin someone," mumbled Davis
Yeah, I know, now get on with the story," demanded Sharkey hating himself for gossiping like an old lady.
"Well, ya see, there was this girl that both men were sweet on. She was a cheerleader and the Captains were both on the basketball team. They each took turns dating her, but she could never make up her mind on which one she wanted to go steady with. Frankly, I imag…im…what’s the word I’m looking for?"
"Imagined," said Sharkey.
"Imag…ed, or whatever, she found it to hard to decide. After all they are so much a like and the competition between them is constant or haven’t you ever noticed?"
The beers arrived and Sharkey thought Davis needed another beer like he needs a hole in his head. The hangover he’ll have when he ships out. That thought sobered him, Chiefs don’t get drunk, they have too much responsibility, especially when they’re shipping out in a few hours, warning bells went off in his mind. He narrowed his eyes, swung around and looked carefully at his drinking buddy. Why, his eyes are clear. This is an act just like at the Pelican. What the …?
Sharkey looked around in consternation now afraid he missed something. The mission is over, even though, we never caught the traitor. Is it possible he’s here?
He looked over the men of the Sea Cub; they were alert as his own men. What’s going on here?
A clap on the back and a loud guffaw from Chief Davis brought his attention back to the Sea Cub Chief. His eyes were now smiling with unshed tears of mirth. Sharkey realized he’d been had.
"Why I ought to…"threatened Sharkey not in a good mood.
"Relax man, I was just funning with you," joked Davis as Riley and Owens sat down at the table. Riley hearing the last part of the conversation asked, "What’s so funny?" and before Chief Davis answered the DJ put on a song that caught everyone’s attention.
"The Sloop John B," said Riley singing along, the whole bar sang with them for it was a popular song with the Navy men. After it was over, Riley sighed, "I wonder whatever happened to my CD with those tunes on it? Somewhere between Norfolk and here I lost it."
"Sharkey sputtered, "Don’t you remember? You loaned it to the Skipper and Heather when they were stuck in sickbay for three days."
Riley snapped his fingers, "Oh yeah, but they gave me back my CD player and it wasn’t with the other CD’s," he pouted.
"Look lamebrain, did you look inside the CD player?" asked Sharkey.
A sheepish look from Riley told him he hadn’t.
It was getting late, last rounds were announced and orders were given. Both crews gathered around the table telling jokes and stories. The Captain of the Seaview was enjoying himself along with his wife. The conversation had come back around to the White Pelican outside of Pearl Harbor. Lee Crane finally learned what all had transpired there. Each man, from both crews, gladly told his part. It was now Heather’s turn and she comically told her part, leaving out only how she injured her hand.
Lee Crane noticed that omission and unconsciously tightened his grip on her neck, which only seconds ago he’d been casually rubbing. He leaned over her and whispered in her ear, "Someday Love, you are going to tell me why you slapped Tony Masters."
She gave him a shy smile and murmured, "When hell freezes over."
As they say, thought Chief Sharkey, All good things must come to an end. The men and women of the Seaview stood up and started to say their goodbyes. When someone from the Sea Cub crew commented, "Look what the cat just dragged in?"
All eyes turned towards the entranceway. Complete silence descended on the group. A look of horror crossed over the faces of the Seaview crew.
There stood Tony Masters, the tall, dark and handsome Captain of the Sea Cub with the most beautiful woman Chief Edward Davis had ever seen. She was a tall, slender, blue-eyed blonde. As they approached the table someone exclaimed, "Peaches, I smell peaches."
In unison the Seaview crew replied, "Been there, done that!" They walked quickly out the door with the Captains exchanging formal nods of acknowledgment. The last thing Chief Davis heard Sharkey say was, "Next time, remind me to tell you this story…"
A few hours later, the Seaview was headed for the Panama Canal and home.
You’ve got a Way, sung by Shania Twain on her Come on Over album, written by Twain and Robert Lange
The Sloop John B, sung by The Beach Boys, 20 Greatest Hits album. Arr. by Brian Wilson