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Chip Morton's Journal

Bed Bugs

It was nearing 0300 and I just couldn’t sleep. Too much stress. Come later this morning I’d be donning my runner’s ‘bib’ for the Santa Barbara Marathon. My number?  003, picked at random yesterday, to the chuckles of the crew. ‘Gotta’ be fate’, Sharkey’s grinned as I am actually number 3 on Seaview’s totem pole, so to speak.  That grin which Sharkey shared with most of the crew watching to the news broadcast at NIMR  soon turned into dumbstruck awe as the number for Lee came out as 007.

I could almost hear Doc groan in absentia when that  was announced. He  wasn’t happy about Lee running. Even if Lee had trained well enough  under my tutelage before, during, and after Seaview’s latest cruise, his BP, pulse, electrocardiogram, well, everything Doc had put us through just ‘one more time’ to make sure we wouldn’t drop dead, boded no good.  Lee Crane just wasn’t normal if he wasn’t getting himself hurt in some way at least once a month, or a few times a cruise, whichever came first.

Lee hadn’t been abducted by aliens, terrorists, bumped his noggin on the plot table, been shot, tortured, or even morphed into something outside the norm in over three months…he was overdue. And this Marathon wasn’t a simple little run. Doc cut short his seminar and returned post haste to Santa Barbara to be here for when his CO collapsed, got stung by bee, or hit on the head by a piece of space junk falling out of its orbit.

Yes, sometimes it was good not to be Lee Crane.

We’d become a familiar sight to the community s we ran on the golf course, around NIMR, and along some of the less trafficked roads of Santa Barbara. Sometimes we were greeted to a few cheers and even a few friendly jeers as it became clear that the locals had begun to place bets about ‘Nelson’s boys,’ as they called us.  Could two bubbleheads that spent most of their time underwater compete, really compete, with men and women that had been running forever?

That remains to be seen. One thing’s for certain, though. Harriman Nelson has never been or will ever be a coach.  Though I’m still Lee’s trainer, Nelson took  to riding shotgun on the golf cart  along the golf course perimeter we ran, and even used his own when we ran all about NIMR. But he just couldn't bring himself to holler at us like I did at  Lee, without adding an almost contrite ‘please’ .

Anyway, back to the present. I needed to do something if I couldn’t sleep, so I donned tennis shorts and headed to NIMR. Nothing  like a bit of paperwork to take my mind off things.

Lee must have had the same trouble sleeping as I noticed his little red car already parked in his assigned slot.

But he wasn’t in the office. That meant he was either aboard Seaview, (he wasn’t) or on the outcrop looking out over the ocean.

There he was,  sitting, his knees to his chest, in a set of some rather disreputable sweats, looking out over a black sea. Hey it was night, and one couldn’t see much except the harbor lights, the moon and stars.

“Couldn’t   sleep either?” I asked and sat down beside him, not caring if my tennis whites would be stained by the dew.

“Not a wink…Chip?” he hesitated, looking for the world about ten years old.

 “ What  if I come in last? What if…what if I don’t finish at all?” he barely managed, deathly quiet.

For a moment I was stunned. This was Lee Crane, Captain of the mighty Seaview. A man who stared danger  in the face without batting an eyelash.  A man who’s courage was without question. A man who didn’t know the meaning of the word quit.

“Everyone’s counting on me,” he continued, “the crew, you, Harry…what if I disappoint them? There’ve even been some bets I hear,” he began to pluck at his sweats.

“Lee,” I said, “nobody could ever be disappointed in you. Even if  you don’t win or aren’t even able to finish the race.”

“You mean that? You were  awfully hard on me the day before yesterday. Told me I might as well not start…”

“I didn’t mean for you to take it literally! Besides, it  was your own fault I had to chew you out.  You asked me to be your trainer you know. Not my fault you pigged out on doughnuts and got a sugar high that came crashing down on you, not to mention a belly ache in the process. ”

“You didn’t let me have any coffee either,” he complained, but before I could, yet again, defend my no caffeine rule, he looked at me with a little grin, “you’re a good friend Chippee. Even if I don’t say it as much as I should.”

Lee had first used the childish nickname when he’d been drunk  several months, or was it years ago, and I’d had no choice but to put up with it. Now, however…I was about to complain but decided against it. Seemed to help him,  using this apparent term of affection over ‘bro’ or ‘slave driver’ depending on his mood.

“Gentlemen?” Admiral Nelson was suddenly upon us, “apparently I’m not the only one with insomnia…you both okay?”

We replied in the affirmative, then he placed his hands on both our shoulders.

“C’mon, lads,  I’m not letting you sit out in the evening damp. With me…”

He took us up to the apartment  ‘above the shop’.

“Sit,” Nelson ordered as soon as we entered the door , “nothing like a little chicken soup for what ails you…er…that is allowed on your regimen isn’t it Chip?”

“That's an affirmative, Better than doughnuts, anyway, sir,” I tried to joke.

Lee just glared at me.

And  so we spent the next few hours reminiscing about this or that, letting the boss regale us with stories of his past and of course, he had to talk shop, all about plankton, while we waited on the balcony for the sunrise light up the bay (while he fed us soup and toast and some kind of herbal tea.)  Suddenly I realized I wasn’t   stressed out anymore.  Lee certainly wasn’t. He’d fallen asleep, sprawled out on the lumpy sofa and Nelson draped him over with a granny square afghan he said had been in his family for so long nobody remembered who made it, his grandmother or great grandmother. It was a bit threadbare, and a bit musty, and some of the colors had run, but it had a warm homey look, so I guess that’s why he kept it. And it came in useful, we could both see, as Lee slumbered underneath it.

The next thing I knew, Doc was gently nudging my shoulder telling me to wake up from my seat on the balcony, and to get ready. He’d already gone to our apartments (he had our emergency keys) for a few incidentals,  running  gear and ‘bib’s. Then he  told me that he was going to drive us to the sign- in table.

Nelson had already left to go do whatever it is official sponsors  had to do, so ‘in loco parentis’ (Everyone knows he’s more of a father to Lee than a brother or boss) Doc took over that job.


After breakfast, and we were ready to go, I patted Lee’s shoulder as we got into the car (there’d be no time for a public display of affection later) and wished him ‘good luck’…and that  I’d meet him at the winner’s circle.