It was a glorious Saturday afternoon and
while I tried to decide between an overstuffed raspberry filled doughnut or a confectioner’s sugar coated chocolate
brownie, I happened to notice some
of the crew arguing with Kowalski in front of a Tattoo shop. I wondered which
new designs they’d sport on their biceps and other parts of their anatomy on their return to the boat. It’s a
sailor thing. While I’ve just never been interested in maiming my body
with needles, ink, and a lifetime of regret if I ever changed my mind, I do understand the ancient desire to decorate oneself,
be it the blue paint of my mud tossing ancestors, or the names of one’s current (and hopefully forever) girlfriend etched
on one’s skin.
I had to laugh, thinking of girlfriends
and remembering an incident at NIMR a few years ago, in fact it had only been a short time since Lee had joined us. ….
I was chatting with Angie about what a quiet day it was, at least, until Lee stormed out
of Nelson’s office. He was livid, and if I expected him to say anything to me, it was quelled as he practically dared
us not to say anything. Its’ an eye thing. And believe me, Lee knows how to put into words the fire in his eyes.
So we were both surprised when he glanced
at Nelson’s hybrid (and experimental)
Venus Fly Trap.
letter opener, and before she or I could stop him, Lee tried to prick his finger
“What the devil do you think you’re
doing?” Nelson had emerged from his door, scowl on his face.
“You want blood, Admiral?” Lee
almost spat, “ I’ll give you some blood.”
“For Heaven’s sake, it’s
not like I asked you to fall on your sword for me.”
“Well, it amounts to the same thing!”
Lee managed to prick his finger and dripped a few of the red drops onto some
of the plant’s sticky leaves. “There. You happy now?”
“Are you speaking to me or the plant?”
Almost as if in answer, the plant’s
leave shut closed, and began to digest Lee’s blood, satisfied that at last somebody fed them. For the Institute had
a contract with a pest control company and nary a bug, fly, or roach ever dared invade the Admiral’s domain.
“I’ll take that as the plant.”
“Suit yourself. You always do,”
Lee huffed out , slamming the outer office’s door behind him.
For a moment I wondered if the Institute
had a ‘return policy’ with the Navy. But instead of ordering Angie to pull out an NIMR termination form and a
request for Crane’s transfer back to the active Navy (Lee was Naval Reserve now) Nelson decided it was in his best interest
(after all, we’d been witnesses to their little tirade) to inspect his plant rather than comment on how pigheaded his
Captain was. (Nelson had been finding it difficult to find just the right words
for any given situation with Lee, and was becoming more and more referred to
with that particular moniker.
“Seems okay,” he was saying,
“Angie, contact Professor Green and see if this non- flesh eating hybrid can metabolize human blood without getting
sick. If he asks what happened, tell him it was an accident. Oh, and get with the duty Corpsman and find out what Crane’s
blood type is, too.”
“Yes sir,” Angie said warily.
“Get Admiral Cartwright at ONI. See to it that I’m not disturbed,” he added as he returned to his office.
was that about?” I muttered.
“Oh, he’s just trying to find
out about Captain Crane’s tattoo.”
I asked, startled. First, because I had no idea Lee had a tattoo and secondly because Angie seemed to have telepathic abilities
as to what had transpired behind closed doors.
“Yes,” she woke me out of m
reverie, “seems the Captain’s not too happy about the Personnel Dept. wanting a detailed description and photo
of it. For Identification purposes. You know, if he’s in a bad accident
and it’s all that’s left to identify him.”
“But Washington has all our DNA. What
can be more identifying that that?”
“Beats me, but Personnel’s adamant.”
Well, I had work to do, namely reports in
my ‘in’ basket that had my name adhering to them with little sticky notes. On these, Angie, or in some cases,
Chief Jones, Lt. O’Brien, and even Nelson or Lee would scribble just what
it was that I needed to do. Approve this, Decline this, Purchase that, Initial here, Disciplinary Action Needed, Send to Procurement,
Machine shop, Order more Uncle Charlie’s Potato Salad , etc.(Nelson’s favorite, and while Cookie made a good imitation,
it just wasn’t the same and woe betide anyone who came within an inch of Nelson before he had his weekly side, ashore
or aboard Seaview).
On my way to my office, I passed by Lee’s,
actually a former broom closet. Lee didn’t seem inclined to use our late Captain Phillip’s office, so when he’d
seen the unused broom closet, he immediately purloined it. (What wonders a new paint job will do.)
“A chair, a desk, a phone,”
Lee had told me, ‘”what else do I need?”
cabinets, I almost responded, but decided to let him discover that for himself. I’d
learned since his arrival at NIMR that he was the kind of man who, so used to delegating, enjoyed being in on the hunt, so
to speak. Who was I to displease him?
Anyway, back to his tattoo. He was on the
phone in his office with one of our communication specialists. Lola Hale by name. They
had hit it off right away, despite Lee having had and who was still casting a few passing glances elsewhere, at NIMR and during
his Seaview adventures.
“I didn’t tell them anything!”
she stressed, “But I don’t know what the problem is, it’s just
“They want pictures!”
“He’s even contacted ONI!’
“Do they know what and where it is?”
Before I could discover the answer, Lee
saw me in the corridor.
“Ah, Chip, how much longer for those
reports?” Yes, he was still po’d.
“Should be done by lunchtime. Speaking
of which, I hear the cafeteria has a great Cream of Broccoli Soup and Fresh salad with Strawberries today.”
“Does Nelson have to be so health conscious?” Crane ran a hand through
his hair. “Whatever happened to jelly doughnuts and peanut butter and jelly
“I have peanut butter and jelly in
the employee’s lounge, Lee,” Lola’s voice said sweetly. “No bread but I do have some multi grain crackers.
They’re almost as good as doughnuts.”
“It’s a date…thanks Lola.
For keeping quiet,” he added softly.
“Part of my job description,”
she ended the call.
“You know, Captain,” I said,
(I was still calling him by his title for the most part, we still hadn’t
become very close at that point in time),” the Admiral’s gone to a lot of trouble to insure the Institute follows
the new Navy nutritional guidelines. Doughnuts and peanut butter sandwiches aren’t exactly on their list of healthy
“Screw the new guidelines!”
he ran a hand through his hair, “er, sorry Chip. I’m a bit on edge…you were there…you know the Admiral
and I had words…”
“I didn’t want to intrude…”
“No. You might as well know. He wants
me to give the Personnel Dept. some rather personal information and I have no intention of giving it to them. “
“Very. The problem is it’s a legal thing. In case I’m maimed,
incapacitated or dead or something so they can identify me.”
“Has a point.”
“I know he does…I just don’t
want to do this. It’s embarrassing. It’s more of a ‘where’
than a ‘what’ that’s the real problem. I can’t even bring myself to tell you either.”
“But if Miss Hale knows, why not personnel?”
“I’m not sleeping with personnel.”
you are with her? I thought you were pretty much playing the field, after all, you dated Melina Gounaris, Carol Denning….”
“It just kind of ‘happened.’
“Lee, what’s sleeping with Lola
have to do with your tattoo?”
He got up and began to pace around the room,
then looked at me sorrowfully. “You remember that comedy* about a diesel sub in a modern day war game? And her Skipper?”
“Yeah, it was a good movie.”
“I know the writer. So guess where
he got one of his ideas from.”
It was taking me awhile to fathom what he
was talking about .
“Do I have to spell it out?”
“Uh, yeah, I guess so.” Never
have I felt so helpless.
“Just rent the movie and watch it
again okay? You’ll get the idea…in any case, I need to talk to the Legal Dept., see if I can really refuse to give Personnel a description and photo of it without getting fired. I think Nelson’s close
to the breaking point. Lola risked her own job to keep it to herself, and the Corpsmen
adhered to client/patient privilege. I’ve never known such loyalty….well enough tattoo talk. I’m
going to lunch.”
Being in effect, dismissed, I drove to my
favorite bakery, purchased a half dozen doughnuts and returned to the Institute and Seaview, along with my rented movie that
Lee had told me about. (We had a new VCR/DVD player aboard the boat, for the convenience of our guests, so I had an excuse
to test it out. )
Yes, that must be it, I told myself as I munched what was left of the doughnuts after I’d shared them with the security
watch, and watched the movie’s
Naval Promotion Board berate the sub’s skipper for his tattoo. My God, it suddenly dawned on me, had Lee, in a moment of drunkenness or diminished capacity actually gone and done something similar? A million
questions were going through my mind by the time the film ended, such as how to keep Lee’s tattoo quiet. If Angie knew about the tattoo, not what or where it was, (the same as Nelson), word had probably already spread
that he had one.
But tattoos were no big deal to sailors
as a general rule and as time went on the topic was conveniently forgotten, at
least officially by NIMR. Perhaps ONI had its claws so deeply into Lee that they decided to keep Lee’s little secret
to themselves and prohibited certain facts from NIMR and even Nelson.
Lee certainly never spoke about it to me
again. And when I checked Lee’s personnel file just to satisfy myself that the matter was closed, nothing was listed under ‘Identifying Marks’ except the mole on his cheek.
So why go on and on about Lee’s Tattoo? Why don’t I just come out and say what and where it is? Because this is a semi-public blog and some things, well, should
just never come out in the open.
Of course, you can always ask Agent Catfish.