“I’m sorry, Commander,”
Lee said in the morning after he’d come to my cabin as I’d requested. You see, I’d
decided to show him pictures and shared some of the episodes of our lives aboard and off of Seaview in the effort to help
bring back his memory.
“I know you’re only trying to
help,” he kicked his legs back and forth on my bunk, like the child that he was, (at least in his mind), still attired
in his pajamas and barefoot, “but…these people don’t mean anything
to me. The car’s nice, though. I like red.”
“What about this picture?” I asked
of a group photo of Lee, Nelson and I, in uniform, huge grins on our faces. It had become an icon of Seaview lore, that picture.
The ‘Three Musketeers’ as the NIMR staff called us. The crew, well, I’m sure they had their own terms of
endearment for us…or not…
“So there you are, son,” Starke
interrupted us from my cabin door. “I promised to show you how to shave, remember? Can’t have you go around the
boat looking like that.”
“He’s only got a bit of stubble,” I began but Lee hadn’t taken offense like I’d thought he would
and he hurried after Starke like a favored puppy. This being in a grown up body was new to him and he accepted the Admiral’s
‘holier than thou’ attitude without question. Seaview was on Active status and as a military vessel Starke demanded
we follow the rules, though I sure didn’t think a little five o’clock shadow could be all that detrimental to
our equipment testing mission.
Nobody can grow a beard better than Lee. He
has 5 o’clock shadow at noon and in the morning, it’s worse. But
Starke teaching Lee to shave? That’s something a father should teach a son, or maybe a brother, like me. And
since when did Starke start calling Lee ‘son’ ? Surely he can’t mean it like Nelson does. Just an expression. I hope.
Apparently old battle britches must have endeared
himself to Lee last night by telling him a bedtime story. It’s all over
the boat that he’s been taking this whole ‘in loco parentis’ business a bit too seriously. As for Lee, well,
he has to have a brain embolism in addition to the amnesia if he’s actually been enjoying Starke’s company, even
My plan for today was to have Lola appear
on the Control Room monitor after breakfast. Surely Lee’s girlfriend (well, off and on) might trigger a memory or two. But there was a more pressing need right now. Like walking past Lee’s cabin
to see just how the shaving lesson was going.
As I peeked in and spied the two in the head,
I felt myself fuming. The Admiral was helping Lee attach a few pieces of tissue to the nicks that were bleeding. He even had one arm around Lee, as he helped guide Lee’s hand with the other. Of course, Lee didn’t know any better but to allow the familiarity. But that kind of fatherly and/or
affectionate liberty belongs to Nelson and I, not old blood and guts!
I jealous as I saw this kind of personal interchange? Am I still? You bet.
“She’s been briefed?” I
hissed to O’Brien as I took my seat in the Wardroom after I’d regained control of myself, making sure that Lola had been fully informed about Lee’s
amnesia ahead of time. No matter what I hoped, Lee might not recognize his lover.
When Starke and Lee entered, they didn’t
give us much of a greeting except a polite nod, filling their plates from the sideboard. It was impossible not to notice that
Lee copied Starke’s selections, right down to the same kind of jelly for his toast.
“Er, you want some jelly doughnuts too,
Skipper?” Cookie approached as they sat. Yesterday, brownies hadn’t done the trick. Perhaps Lee’s all-time
“I’m not sure…” he
paused, looking at Starke’s plate of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast, “no. Toast is fine…and I think maybe
you’d better not call me Skipper anymore. That’s Commander Morton now. That’s
right, isn’t it, Admiral?”
“You’re a quick learner Lee!”
Starke gave him a pat on the shoulder and dug into his breakfast. It made me
wonder what else Starke had been teaching Lee.
“I’ll um, just leave em’
here in case you change your mind,” a discouraged Cookie sat the plate on the table. No trigger to his memories there.
Still, I took some satisfaction that Lee didn’t
seem to have as much of an appetite as Starke did and he looked a bit apologetic as Cookie returned to the galley. All too
soon I’d finished eating and was about to head to the Control Room, leaving Starke discussing Navy protocol and discipline
with his ‘protégé’ when most of the officers began to depart for
their various watches, to a man, shaking their heads.
the real one, was still lost.
appeared in the Control Room with Lee later as planned, I nodded to Sparks to
contact NIMR, and turned on the monitor. While I discussed the test results for the new sonar array with the lovely lady, it became apparent that Lee still had no memory of her. I’d told him beforehand
that we’d be in touch with his girlfriend. He’d seemed surprised that he had one. Even more so, he seemed a bit
scared by the thought. After all, emotionally he was all of 7 years old, if that.
“Hello, Lee,” Lola finally said.
supposed to know you I guess,” he replied cautiously. One doesn’t dump a beautiful woman on a boy that age without
expecting him to stare at the exquisite creature with his mouth agape or run in sheer terror. Lee did neither and just seemed
disoriented. Lost .
Lost, there was that word again…we’d
all used it regarding him…it was becoming monotonous.
don’t remember me at all? What about the dog? The cats? The moonlit nights?“
“’Fraid not. The Admiral says
we sleep together though. Do you take the top bunk or do I?”
“Oh, Lee!” she whimpered after
the shock, and began to cry.
I on the other hand was having a hard if not
difficult time as the rest of the crew, from chortling at his innocence. Innocence. That was it. His life was a blank page
now. So much he wasn’t aware of, erased along with his memory.
“I’m sorry,” Lee furrowed his brows. It was apparent that he felt he’d
done something wrong… “I’m real sorry, lady,” he added, walking backwards and bumped into Starke who
happened to be holding a cup of coffee which spilled all over him. “I’m sorry…I’m sorry…”
he looked like a pup expecting to be whipped, though to his credit, Starke hadn’t yelled at him, or indicated any kind
of punishment, and only registered some justified displeasure on his face at being scalded, his uniform stained. “I…” Lee couldn’t finish whatever he was going to say and fled aft.
“I couldn’t help it Chip,”
Lola panted, “my fault…he’s just so…not Lee…”
“Well, we tried,” I said, “any
word from Nelson?”
“Some delays…but he’s trying
to get a military helicopter to ferry him to Seaview… Chip…”
“We don’t know much of anything
“Blast it,” was all Starke could
say, as he patted his damp uniform with a handkerchief, “I’ve tried
so hard, Morton. Told him a story last night. Every kid knows about Peter Pan. He’d never heard of it. Thought the dog
nanny was stupid, after I had to tell him what a nanny was, still, he thought it might be fun to fly without wings. This morning
I told him more about himself, his career in the Navy, even here aboard Seaview… showed him his full dress jacket
and explained all the awards and decorations. …and now this fiasco with Miss
Hale…nothing. Zero. Ziltch! Damnation, what’s wrong with the boy!
He has to remember something! I wish Harry were here.”
“It’ s only been two days…and
the experts haven’t seen him yet. Let’s not all give up yet,” I said loudly enough to be heard by the men
at their stations. “Admiral, we have the sound amplification unit tests this
morning. Would you care to observe?” It was not really a question and Starke knew it wasn’t. I guess you could call it a test. Did Starke really care about Lee, or not. Would he leave me to the tests myself or go after Crane
The Admiral answered my question by taking
a seat on the stool by the plot table. In a way I was glad. Glad that Starke would be unable for the next few hours to brainwash Lee with any more with all his fine Naval traditions. Lee was hurting enough as it was.
“Kowalski,” I turned to the crewman
at his station, “go see if you can distract the Skipper. Maybe a game of
cards…Monopoly or something…”
“What good will that do?” Starke
piped, “he can’t even count to ten. Can’t add two and two…a toddler
knows more than he does…”
“There’s something he does know,
sir. He knows he can’t remember. It’s a start. Go ahead Ski. He’s probably in his cabin, maybe the Wardroom….”
“Why would he go there? He doesn’t
like doughnuts any more either…”Starke complained as Watson relieved Ski.
“You seem more concerned about his memory
than the man, sir,” I braved, “I thought you were supposed to be his ‘acting father’. Buddy, buddy
even. I’d have thought you’d be trying to comfort him already. ”
“Look, Morton. I may have to take that
kind of flippancy from Crane when he’s himself, but not from you! I do care about him, believe it or not, but I have
Harry’s boat to take care of and when her Captain’s lost his memory,
well, getting it back is more important than he is! Now, are you going to stand
there all day or get these blasted tests over with?”
I ran the tests of course, though my mind
was in turmoil. The look on Lee’s face…his eyes….so…alone.
“Sir?” Ski returned to the Control Room at the conclusion of the tests a few hours later. “I’ve looked everywhere. Even got all the guys I could to help scour the boat. The only thing
we found that might be a clue was a trail of doughnut crumbs but we lost that awhile back…”
“Doughnut crumbs? “Starke asked,
“that’s absurd. Some crewman just didn’t sweep them up.”
“Begging your pardon, Admiral, but Chuck
said he’d seen him come out of the Wardroom earlier with a few doughnuts stuffed in his shirt pockets and in a big napkin.
Said hi to the Skipper but hasn’t seen him since…nobody has. And..er…well,
you see sir, Chuck said at the time, the Skip muttered something about wanting everyone to leave him alone.”
“He’s gone to ground,” I
sighed, “like a wounded animal. He wants to hide. First things first. Admiral? Would you please page him to come forward.
I may not care for the way you’re handling this whole situation, but he did seem to like you…at first, anyway”
I added under my breath. “Ski, let’s go over everywhere you searched…”
As time went on and there was no response
from Lee, we went over every conceivable place that he might hide. Not knowing the boat very well like this pretty much limited where he would go for even the blueprints didn’t show all her nooks and crannies in way that a boy would be able to fathom.
he can’t have disappeared into thin air!” Starke complained.
“How many times has the Skipper disappeared
on purpose, sir?” Sharkey answered back. “If he don’t want
to be found, he won’t be.”
“Very well,” I replied before
the Admiral would take the Chief’s head off. “Return to your duty stations…report anything you may hear
It was past suppertime and I was getting worried. What if he’d gotten lost, trapped, or fallen again. What if he lay broken and bleeding, unable to call for help…what if…what if…what if…
I had to walk off the stress and found myself
in the Missile Room. Sharkey put his fingers to his lips and pointed to the deck.
Crumbs…and more crumbs with powdered sugar…trailing up to the ventilation shaft.
“He’s in there…Ski’s
gone in after him…”
“Alone? Is he crazy? The Captain may
have the mind of a child, but he still has the body of an athlete…he’ll
pummel Ski to pieces if he tries to drag him out. We have to use a little psychology here. Make coming out more appealing
than staying in there.”
“We know that sir. Ski’s gonna’
tempt him to come out with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Got it right here…”
“You think he’ll be interested
in that after doughnuts?” Starke was suddenly at my side. How he knew I’d come here was anyone’s guess.
Or maybe I told O’Brien where I was going. Frankly I couldn’t remember. Lee was the only thing on my mind.
“If he thinks like a kid, a full stomach
won’t matter. Trust me on this Mr. Morton. The Skip’s as good as in his cabin.”
Well, Lee wasn’t as good as in his cabin.
In fact, it didn’t work at all. At least we heard the whole thing thanks to the vocal reverberations from the shaft
and a well-placed bug on Ski’s jumpsuit.
It kind of went like this:
“You getting’ hungry Skipper?”
told you all not to call me that. I’m not your Captain anymore. I don’t know anything. I’m nobody.”
‘Nobody? Nobody?’ I groaned to
myself, as I was sure the crew that was listening in did as well. ‘
Oh, Lee, Lee, Lee! Oh, my poor friend…my poor poor friend…’
“Okay, okay,” Ski continued,
“but you have to be hungry…”
still have some doughnuts…I swiped them from the Wardroom. They’re good. Really good….I’m afraid I
made a bit of a mess on the way up here…but don’t worry, I’ll clean it up.”
but, you know, you’d better leave it to us. It can be dangerous in the
ventilation shafts. Wires…gears…sparks…even leaks. You could get yourself killed in here.”
the better if I were. Wouldn’t be a bother to anyone anymore. Wouldn’t
have to try so hard to remember. To be the person everyone wants me to be. Well, I’m not! I’m not Lee Crane! Darn it Ski, I didn’t even know my girlfriend…and she’s awful pretty. Commander
Morton’s nice and told me he’d always be my friend even if I never remembered him…says Admiral Nelson feels
the same way and I still don’t know either of them. And everyone stares at me. Everyone wants me to be who they remember
me as. Who I’m not. ”
“Doc thinks the amnesia will pass.”
not what he told his friends in Santa Barbra! I heard him…when I was still in Sickbay and he was in his office. He thinks
he really say that?”
okay, not exactly…just sort of…but I could tell it’s what he thinks.”
Skipper…er…I mean…uh…Lee…Sharkey’s got a couple
of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches he can’t finish and if Cookie finds out he’ll be in real trouble. Waste
and all that stuff. You know…take as little or as much as you want but…”
your plate…yeah, I know. The Admiral told me…Look, Ski…just leave me alone, okay? You can get anyone to help Sharkey finish the sandwiches. Maybe
Morton. I hear he’ll eat about anything.”
please come out…”
Don’t touch me!”
didn’t mean to hurt you…damn, I forgot all about those bruises…”
leave me alone, Ski. Please, just make everyone leave me alone.”
wait! Don’t move further down there… conduit 51…it’s
dangerous…listen to me Skip..Lee? Lee?”
Ski returned to the grate shortly, and shook
his head…”I’m sorry sir…but I managed to put the bug on him…the GPS will show the computer where
he is at all times…sir…there’s no budging him…I sure wish Admiral Nelson was here.”
Oh Lord, so did I, so do I. But he won’t
be arriving for another few hours…in the meantime. I have no choice. Go in after Lee myself. With a hypo.