Helmsman, p.1

  Helmsman, p.1

Helmsman
 


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Helmsman
Helmsman

  Written By Dustin De Felice

  Cover Design By Elizabeth De Felice

  Copyright 2014 Dustin De Felice

  Also by Dustin De Felice:

  The Heartfelt Saga

  The Fifty Questions

  The Weekly Opposites

  Los Opuestos Semanales

  Books Edited by Dustin De Felice

  Teaching with Technology 2013: Educators Talking Tech

  ***~~~***

  “Helmsman, Left standard rudder. Steer course one-one-seven.”

  “Left standard rudder. Steer course one-one-seven, aye-aye.”

  Chief Pollart, at a little over six feet tall, lowered his head as he stepped off the bridge wing and onto the bridge of the 210-foot Sea Guard cutter. He took off his cutter hat and ran his fingers through his blondish-red high and tight crew cut. “How’s the track line holding?”

  Petty Officer Meers looked up from the chart table as he tossed his pencil across the table. The wiry petty officer clicked his red light off and punched a few buttons on the GPS console. “I have us manually off course 2.5 degrees, but GPS is holding us at 3.5 degrees. Recommend staying course one-one-eight for this track.”

  The ship steadied as the helmsman brought the wheel back to zero degrees. “Steering course one-one-seven.”

  “Aye.” Chief Pollart looked over at the GPS console. The display read 15 knots. “The wind is still holding steady.” He turned and faced forward. The breeze was now blowing in from the port side windows. The cool air hit the Chief’s face and cooled off his neck. He had been to sea for the last fifteen years and the skin on his hands and face was weathered from the sun and the salt spray. “Helmsman, steer course one-one-eight.”

  “Steer course one-one-eight, aye-aye.”

  “How much longer do we have on this track?”

  “Chief, we need to make up at least two hours if we want to get to the claw of Haiti before sunrise.” Meers looked down at the chart and then back at the GPS console. “We will be on this track for another forty-five minutes. After we reach the waypoint for track two, we are done shifting tracks for this watch. The four-to-eights can worry about getting us into the claw.” Meers reached for his spit cup and settled into the corner of the chart table and the starboard side bulkhead.

  “Steering course one-one-eight.”

  “Aye.” Chief Pollart leaned his heavy frame against the railing, which ran around the hatch of the aft ladder. He took off his hat again and then tore off a few pieces of toilet paper from the roll on the chart table. He wiped the sweat from his brow with the paper and, using his other hand, he tugged on his shirt. “It’s nice being able to wear these underway t-shirts, but it doesn’t help much during these Caribe Ops.”

  “You’re right, Chief. It doesn’t help much, but it’s a lot cheaper to buy five or six t-shirts than it is to have to buy five or six working blues.” Meers clicked back on the chart light and picked up his pencil.

  Chief looked around the bridge, letting his eyes settle on the bow. Visibility was at its limit of 12 miles and the clear night sky was full of stars. He could feel the vibrations of the ship’s engines and the occasional lurch as the ship cut through the Caribbean waves. The daylights on the bridge were off and with the exception of the red-lighted consoles for the radar and the chart table the bridge was dark. He had been on watch for almost forty-five minutes and his night vision was at its peak. He could see Helmsman Sharp as he adjusted the rudder to bring the ship back on course. He looked back and watched Meers record the weather. “Did you ever talk to your wife before we left?”

  Meers put his pencil down and leaned back against the stack door. “No, I didn’t. She wouldn’t answer the phone on the morning we pulled out. You know I still can’t believe it came up! It’s not like this is the first time I have gone away to sea. Hell, I’ve been doing this for almost five years.”

  “You did tell me that you have an ex-girlfriend in Jamaica, didn’t you?” Chief Pollart picked up the logbook and started writing in it.

  “Yea, I did, but that was over almost seven years ago.”

  “But she did call you, right?”

  “Sure.”

  “How did she know your number? You’ve changed houses at least four times since you joined.”

  “Good question.” Meers looked sheepishly down at the chart table. “Now you sound like my wife.” He turned back and grabbed the next chart from the rack as he said. “I wondered the same thing, but she told me she had been visiting home when she bumped into my mother in the supermarket. They got to talking and the next thing I knew I was on the phone with her.”

  “How did your wife find out you were talking to her?”

  “Come on, Chief, I don’t keep secrets from her. Right after the phone call I told her. My wife used to be friends with her younger sister, so I thought she would’ve found the phone call interesting. You know, catch up on old high school gossip.”

  “Obviously she didn’t find the call that interesting.”

  “At first she was interested until she starting putting the pieces together. Once I mentioned that she was doing some kind of internship in Jamaica her whole attitude changed. Then it became an all out game of twenty questions. The ship is pulling into Jamaica, isn’t it? You’re going to visit her, aren’t you? You’re going to spend time with her on the beach in the middle of tropical paradise, aren’t you?”

  Chief Pollart laughed. “So, are you going to visit her?”

  Meers rolled his eyes. “Not you too, Chief! I was hoping you would be on my side.”

  “What a minute. I’m not taking sides. I just want to hear the facts. Did you make plans to see her or not?”

  “Well, well-” Meers started pacing behind the chart table. “I, I, listen, I didn’t think it was such a big deal at the time. I mean I felt like was talking to my sister or something. I thought, great something to do on the port call. It never even crossed my mind.”

  “What exactly never crossed your mind?”

  “Did you go to the same school as my wife, Chief? She told me the exact same thing. Oooohh, I was so mad. She kept twisting my words around. Damn it. This isn’t that big of a deal. As if I know what the hell my wife is doing while we are at sea. At least she knows that when we are out in the middle of the Caribbean, nothing can possibly be going on.”

  “Okay. Okay. Slow down. So do you still have plans with your ex in Jamaica?”

  “Come on, Chief.” Meers picked up his pencil and started on the next fix. After writing for less than a second he threw the pencil against the chart table. “Fine. Fine. You win. Yes, I still have plans to see her.”

  “You’re going to be seeing your ex in Jamaica? Way to go, Meers! I didn’t know you had it in you!” Petty Officer Morran said as he stepped in from the bridge wing.

  “Shut up, Morran. You don’t have a clue as to what you are talking about.”

  “Oooo, did I hit a soft spot? What’s the problem?”

  “His wife doesn’t agree with it, that’s the problem.” Said Chief.

  “Ah, hell with her! You have to be your own man. That’s what I always say.”

  “I’m telling you, Morran, shut up.”

  “You know, the other day I was in the Admin building picking up my travel money and as I was walking out of the building I heard my name being called. ‘Morran, Morran. Wait a minute, Morran.’ I turned my head and who did I see running down the hall for me, but Petty Officer Dunning.”

  “Don’t you have a round to make or something, Morran?”

  “Hold on a sec, this story has a moral. So, there she is in her tight little light blue and all I can do is stare at her chest. She starts telling me about the forms I need to bring back to the boat for the new equipment we ordered; yet
all I can do is stare at her chest. Every word she says makes them move like puppets and all I can think about is that I want to be the puppet master.”

  Chief Pollart tossed the logbook on the table and crossed over to the port side. “Morran, this story better have a damn point!”

  “Okay, okay. But don’t rush me.” Morran reached into his pocket for another cigarette. After lipping the cigarette he dug around for his lighter. “Hold on a sec, I have to go find my lighter.” Morran continued checking his pants pockets as he started down the aft ladder.

  Chief Pollart walked to the front the of chart table and slid a lighter across the table to Meers. “Don’t worry. We’ll be waiting for you to continue when you get back.” He winked at Meers and rested against the bulkhead. “What I don’t understand is why you let this bother you so much?”

  “I don’t know, I guess I just don’t want to be like the other guys, especially Morran.”

  “I don’t see that happening.”

  “Well, my wife sure did. The hardest part of this is the fact that I don’t give my wife any reason to be concerned. I mean, what happened to trust and confidence. You know how sensitive I am to the way some of these married guys act.”

  “Yes, but I always felt you were a tad harsh sometimes.”

  “That I don’t agree with.” Meers grabbed his water bottle and took a drink. After wiping his brow he said, “Have you ever had to sit down to dinner with your shipmate and his wife in their home?”

  “Yes. Why?”

  “Well, have you ever had to sit down to dinner with your shipmate who you had watched only a few weeks before pay for sex or, even worse, pick up some woman in a bar?” He leaned onto the table and looked out over the bow. “Have you ever had to look into the eyes of your shipmate’s spouse and tell her about how the trip went while all the time skipping over the transgressions?” He straightened up and looked out the portside porthole. “I have Chief. And every time I have to do it I stop and think about my wife. I stop and wonder about much I love her and how much it would hurt.

  ###

  About the Author

 
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