Mornings Alongside

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong
 
 

The day officially began with the arrival of the Krispy Kreme donut truck. When the donuts were aboard and signed for, the topside watch would holler down the conn hatch to the below decks watch…

"Wake up the little darlings and tell the sonuvabitches that daddy has the donuts…"

Five minutes later, some half awake idiot non-rated non-qual would wander up, wiping the sleep out of his eyes, yawning and mumbling something about the only people being up at this time of morning were burglars and bad women…

"Where are the donuts?"

The donuts were inside the sail door… They were ALWAYS inside the sail door. Going back to the days of Ahab and the White Whale, the sonuvabitches were put just inside the sail… The fastest new guy giveaway was 'Where are the donuts?'

The next comment was…

"Hey horsefly, where's my coffee? Didn't anyone tell you that when you come up to get the donuts, you always bring the topside watch a cup of that 'last of the all-night pot' coffee? That stuff well on its way to making the metamorphic transition to asphalt?"

"How do you take your coffee?"

"Black… Straight black… I like that high test, full throttle, caffeine-loaded stuff that will pop rivet your eyelids to your skull… 'Nother thing hoss… After you dump first chow garbage on the pier, you collect all the coffee cups in the watch shack and haul them below. Oh, and by the way, did the Chief issue you a qual card?"

"Yes SIR!"

"I'm not a gahdam 'sir' you idiot! Anything that has a butt that fits the head in the forward room is a 'sir.' I'm 'hey Dex' or 'Alley rat', got it?"

"Yes si…. I mean… Right, Dex…"

Next, the duty officer came up… Watched for the prep flag on the Orion. He signaled the topside watch to break the colors when they dropped the prep flag. Then, the officer crossed over to the pier to pick up his morning newspaper.

No officer in the boat could visit the head without reading material. Digestive elimination and printed material get cross-connected at Annapolis. The eye lens-fanny valve commissioned interconnect… What we just lumped under the general heading of officer stuff.

Then there was morning quarters... Never fully understood morning quarters. A group of grown men standing aft of the sail listening to a description of what fun stuff the Chief had in mind to fill your day… It was always the same junk you did every other day… Chip, paint and shine inanimate objects.

Morning quarters afforded one the opportunity to survey your fellow inmates of your submersible asylum. Unless you were on the verge of complete sight loss, it became apparent that you were just another ugly face in a collection of ugly folks (granted, some WAY more ugly than others)… Like roll call in the monkey house at the zoo.

"Answer up when your name is called… Vanderheiden… ...... ...... VAN - DER - HEI - DEN…Fer crissakes Dutch, I saw you here… SPEAK UP!! Or do I have to send you an engraved invitation?"

"Yo…"

"Stuke!"

"Yo…"

"Stuke… Understand you idiots can't find the T-wrench to the after capstan… Take the forward capstan wrench up to the tender and get the boys in the metal shop to fabricate two more… Got it?"

"Aye, Chief."

"You know how the folks that run Texaco stations attach ball bats to the men's room key so no one will drive off with it? Well, have 'em chain a head seat to it that you guys can wear around your neck to stop you from losing the damn things…"

"Um, Chief…"

"Yeah, Stuke?"

"You keep looking all over for your pipe all the time. You want us to have a doubler plate chained to it for you?"

"Wiseass."

"Armstrong!"

"Yo…"

"Armstrong, go pick up the guard mail. Try not to steal any white hats in the radio shack. Some day, even idiots wake up… Those guys are going to eat your lunch and I'm gonna love it…"

"Thanks Chief… Is this a marriage proposal?"

"You two bastards… How in the hell did you qualify in submarines? How did I wind up on the same boat with you two idiots? God must hate me…"

"We love you, Chief…"

And so it went. Early morning with the 'Fleet Elite.'


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