Wednesday, November 16, 2005


The Officer of the Deck, Jack's roommate, Lieutenant (junior grade) Gary Constantine, flipped an equally half-assed salute back at him. Gary had the short, bald, flabby ass look of a classic surface warfare officer. "Permission granted. Good of you to join us, Jackie. Better late than never, huh? You mind going over to the starboard side and getting that boss of yours off my back before he has an embolism?"

Jack looked to his right and caught the eye of the navigator, a squat, salt-and-pepper haired commander with a set of pilot wings on his chest and sourpuss on his puss. The gator, sitting in his elevated, barbershop style chair just aft of the navigation table, said, loudly enough for everyone on the bridge to hear, "Jack, glad you could make it. You know, they have these new things called alarm clocks. You should invest in one. They don't cost much."

Jack made his way starboard, twisting his shoulders through the swarm of watch standers, safety observers, and lookie-loos that always overpopulated the bridge when Connie got underway.

"I'll put one on my shopping list, Gator. What do they look like?"

That got a guffaw from all the enlisted men. Funny guy, that Mister Hogan. Frosted the gator's ass with that one, didn't he?

Jack took station at the navigation table next to wiry, mustachioed Chief Petty Officer Kirk, the senior enlisted quartermaster in the navigation department, who reeked of cheap pipe tobacco he'd no doubt just consumed in the small office behind the bridge that he and Jack shared.

"You ready to do this, Mister H?"

"I was born ready, Chief. The compass kids all set?"

The compass kids were junior enlisted men assigned to shoot visual navigation bearings as the ship transited the channel on its way out to sea.

Chief Kirk nodded. "Everybody's on station, sir, all compass repeaters check four-oh." In Jack's ear, he whispered, "About that alarm clock crack, sir. I don't recommend pitching the gator too much shit this morning. He ain't the happiest camper in the trailer park right now. The captain's been whipping him like a step child all morning."

Jack took the sunglasses from the map pocket of his flight jacket and slid them over his face. "At least the morning fog has burned off, Chief. The kids should see all their landmarks." He pointed out the bridge windscreen. "Look, up in the sky..."

Across the channel, a Boeing 707 with UNITED AIRLINES smeared all over it skimmed the skyscrapers as it made its final approach to San Diego International.

"Couldn't ask for a prettier day to go to sea," Chief Kirk said.

"No," Jack said, and making sure the gator wasn't listening, he whispered, "Don't worry about the elephants, Chief. We'll hose their shit over the side once we're out to sea."

"Roger that," Chief Kirk said. "Hey, speaking of which..." He looked at his watch, and tapped it, and held it to his ear, and looked at it again. "It's about that time, and I don't see nobody moving in that direction." He tapped the watch again, like that would do a shit bit of good if the watch had anything wrong with it. It was a digital plastic Jap job, like everybody else's watch was.

Jack looked across the bridge at Gary, who stood next to the captain's chair. "Officer of the Deck, are we ready to get underway?"

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