still think you’re crazy, Lee!” I pounded my fist on his desk. The sunlight was streaming in through the small
window in his office, (if you must know, actually a former broom closet), and illuminated a few stray cobwebs that the cleaning
staff had missed. Of course, his office had been locked for the past three months while we’d been out charting methane
vents, far far away and far far below.
I’d tried to get Seaview’s
Captain to take Captain Phillip’s office as his own (when he’d first joined us), but for some reason he’d
refused, even at Nelson’s request, and seemed to be quite content, even these years later, in his crowded cubbyhole.
always felt a bit guilty when I met him there. Or maybe that was the reason he'd opted for it. It put him in a distinct advantage
with his dealings from crewman to the Admiral himself. At least I’d thought
so, that is, until I saw the view from his window. Ah, that was it. He had a
uninterrupted view of the boat. At least when she wasn’t parked in her special (and bomb proof) underground cavern.
In fact, we hardly ever used it now, reserving it for those special alerts from Washington, or in the case of one Commander
Lee Crane, when the mood struck. Which it didn’t very often. He preferred to see her at the dock, glittering in the
sunshine or dripping with water droplets during a thunderstorm...he just liked to look at her.
Lee and his boat...I’d never
known anyone who’s relationship with his command bordered on the absurd. Or perhaps the paranormal. In any case, you’d
have thought I’d have been glad when he told me that he’d be taking leave in Daytona Beach. (We have a mutual
friend there, who just about always offers us a free place to stay and home cooked meals.) I suddenly asked if I could join
"Sure, if you like hogs," he smirked.
Now, there is really nothing finer
to eat than pork and I licked my lips in anticipation.
“Hogs as in motorcycles...”Lee
don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against motorcycles. It’s just that the only ones I’d seen Lee ride were
a rusted model of questionable vintage, the red paint flaking off it, and an ancient model with a sidecar that reminded me
of old war movies. Add to that any inclement weather...well, not a good idea to ride one cross country! Not by a long shot.
And I was about to tell him so when he interrupted my thoughts.
“I’m already a couple of
days late for Bike Week, too late to actually drive there. And the average airline cargo charge is more than four months pay,
so, I, well...er...I kind of volunteered for a little Reserve time, in exchange for a small favor. No problem with Joe and
I taking my bikes along in a C-130.”
“C-130’s do not as a rule
use the Daytona International Airport!”
“No, but they do when the local
aeronautical university has requested it’s ROTC students get a bit up close and personal with one. Embry Riddle, I believe.”
“Okay, so you hitch a ride on
a Hercules. What about the Reserve time?” I sputtered. He’d done that not too long ago and was badly hurt. I leaned
over the desk and stabbed my finger into his chest. “You do enough of official time aboard
Seaview and with ONI. What the devil do they want you for now?”
“Well,” he grinned, “I’ll
uh, be kind of helping out the Coast Guard. Flotilla #44.”
“Coast Guard? The Captain of the Seaview is taking on a stint with the Coast Guard?” I had to scoff, incredulous.
“Chip, this isn’t like
you. And what the blazes is wrong with the Coast Guard? They do a good job. On an average day they do over a hundred search
and rescues, save numerous lives, intercept drug runners, and...”
“Drug runners. Oh swell, it’s
going to be one of ‘those’ assignments. You’ll come back all beaten and battered and...shot or something!”
“Enough! I’ll do what I’m
ordered to do! And it’s only for a few days. In the meantime I’ll be able to join in Bike Week’s fun and
games when I’m off duty. There are also a few new models I want to check out."
"I hope you're talking about the fashion
model kind of models."
"Probably not, but then there may be a few
wearing leathers with the new cycles."
I found it very hard not to groan and
run my hand through my hair.
“Chip," Admiral Nelson suddenly
stood in the doorway, " do you realize we can hear you all the way down to the water cooler? Besides, I’ve
already tried to dissuade him from his little trip. To no avail,” he handed Lee his official orders. “As of two
minutes ago, you’re on Reserve time, son.”
“I’ll just finish up some
of these reports...”
“You’ll do no such thing.
Shut down and lock up. Heavens, doesn’t the cleaning crew ever get in here?” he pulled a cobweb thread from the
overhead light, and brushed it off his pants.
“Admiral,” I came to
a sudden decision. “I request permission to take leave. Now.”
“I don’t need a babysitter,
Chip,” Lee warned.
“Of course not,” I said,
“I just have a sudden urge to learn how to ride a bike,” I pulled off an old picture on the wall of Lee in a green
striped shirt leaning in front of his red ‘hog’. “But of course, should the Coast Guard need an additional helping
hand...” I added sagely, realizing that it might be the only way to insure I could keep an eye on Lee the whole time.
And so I found myself assigned, as
Lee, to Flotilla #44, puking my guts out aboard the small cutter in what our dispatcher told us were only light to moderate
seas. It didn’t help that I’d already been slightly nauseous from my short ride from the airport in the sidecar
to the beachside hotel Agent Catfish had arranged for us. For some reason, she'd felt a resort and spa would be nicer for
us nice boys putting in a little extra patriotic duty, as she'd put it.
As yet another wave splashed over the
bow, I looked aft at the shoreline from our bouncing toy boat as we headed further out to sea. As the shoreline bobbed up
and down, up and down, it was difficult to stay focused on the scantily clad girls sunning themselves or parasailing just
“Nice perk, being in the Coast
Guard, ” the Chief joined me, “you submariners sure don’t
get to have that kind of scenery, do you.”
I would have answered in full agreement,
really I would, if I hadn’t puked again.
“Don’t worry about it Commander.
It’s a bubblehead thing, the other weekend wonder said. Warned us that you might get a bit green around the gills.
It’ll pass. Trust me.”
Then why wasn’t Lee here, I thought
angrily. He should have been suffering alongside me than shuffling papers and
manning the phones at the station, no doubt calling in a take out order for some BBQ ribs he planned on enjoying before going
to one of the bike races tonight. He was off duty in a couple of hours, as Joe would be at nearby Embry Riddle as an ROTC liason,
while I was stuck for the ‘duration’ on this heaving excuse of a boat until we found the call for help.
“I’ll get you for this
Lee Crane,” I managed in between bouts of sickness, “I’ll get you for this or my name isn’t Chip Morton.”