The Lucy Light

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong
 
 

During some dust-up with Mr. Castro's folks to the south, we were somewhere off South Carolina giving unworthy surface craft ping time. We got a change in op orders instructing us to put into some place nobody ever heard of... Port Everglades, Florida. We had no charts for Florida, but being highly resourceful bluejackets, we called for an electrician who came from Pompano Beach. Mr. 'I've got your problem solved' comes to the bridge and explains to our assemblage of complete idiots that he was God's unrecognized gift to harbor pilots. He knows these waters like the route to grandmother's house. He tells the skipper not to worry, that he and his ol' man have done so much fishing off Lauderdale, that he (Mr. God's gift to navigation) could lay us alongside wearing a galvenized bucket over his head. The skipper said,

"Damn glad to hear that... We're going in at night. Just need you to tell us which channel to take and we'll go in by lights and channel markers."

I was starboard lookout... No one asked my opinion because no one cared about my opinion... Because to have an opinion on the subject, I would have to have rented one or invented one and last, E-3s didn't have a dog in the fight. I did notice that when the Old Man said we were going in at night, our 'all-knowing' second class electrician's butt nearly chewed a hole in the material between his hip pockets. It is not every day that a non-rated guy gets to witness the Old Man in consultation with the ship's master bullshit artist... And swallowing large chunks of Alice in Wonderland pony dookey.

What was the worst thing that could happen? Run aground on some sandbar and spend a couple of weeks at the beach? What the hell!

After sundown, we began our approach... Right off the bat, Mr. 'know everything' popped a dent in his credentials...

"Ah, sir, I think the Flamingo Beach and Tennis Club should be right about there."

He pointed. We studied the area through 7x50s and unless the beach and tennis club had disguised itself as a tank farm next to some kind of surplus crap storage yard, the 'pathfinder of the sea' was a little off.

For the better part of the next 45 minutes, our second class Florida geography mate pointed out a whole lot of stuff nobody could verify.

Then he said it...

"Capt'n, somewhere out here is this great big concrete thing... We used to tie our boat to it and fish off it."

"BIG CONCRETE THING!?! ALL STOP... ALL BACK ONE THIRD! WHAT KIND OF BIG CONCRETE THING?"

Somewhere up ahead in this nocturnal crapshoot was this reinforced concrete structure... The highly practiced E-3 evesdropping ear immediately picked up the essentials... It was big... Somewhere between the size of a Greyhound bus and South Dakota... It wasn't painted. To six men standing in pitch black darkness, this clue didn't do a hell of a lot to solve the mystery. It was big... We already knew that.

It was out there... It was big... It was concrete and you could fish off it. That is, you could fish off it if it didn't have the hull of a fleet snorkle diesel boat wrapped around it.

"Bring up the Lucy light."

The Lucy light was one of the most valuable pieces of equipment on Requin. Lucy was a second class dental tech with a world class bosom. A smiling blond who belonged totally... Exclusively... Entirely... One hundred percent to all the guys 25 and younger on Requin who were not in permanent relationships. I've never quite figured out if Lucy was a super patriot who recognized the emotional sacrifice of our elite volunteer service or was just a high-capacity nymphomaniac. Whatever she was, she could distribute favors to three quarters of the duty section during a battery charge.

Naval regulations require that all personnel in the duty section remain on board to be immediately available if all the pier rats gang up with the intention of highjacking a worn out American submarine to trade to the Dutch for cheese. Alongside duty is the most boring thing on the planet, short of watching nightcrawlers mate.

To liven things up, darling Lucy, the patron saint of Hogan's Alley, would set up her playhouse in the back seat of somebody's car in the pierhead parking lot. At the same time, someone not then on watch would haul our xeon (sounds like 'zeee-on') searchlight to the bridge and pedestal mount it trained on Lucy's nest of non-rated pleasure and wonderous delight. Then we would run an industrial electrical cord from the focused light mounted on the bridge to a power source in the conn, with a 'make and break' toggle conveniently placed by the sail door where the guy standing topside watch could reach it.

Here's how it worked. When Lucy opened for business, lover #1 would latch onto a sharpshooter bucket and cross the brow, appearing to be heading for a trash dump. Upon reaching Lucy's luxurious love machine, Mr. numero uno would park the sharpshooter bucket next to the car to allow observation via attack scope to determine questions relating to 'vacancy' or 'no vacancy'.

Members of Lucy's love club knew the rule... No one visits Lucy without being passed the bucket... Thus, avoiding the embarrassment of mid-performance interruption.

Should the O.D. require the presence of the engaged crew member... The topside watch could flip the key on the Lucy light, creating a Zeus thunderbolt that would damn near blister a bare butt and set the upholstery on fire. Read by one understanding the linguistics of the after battery, this visual signal indicated that the presence of the duty wandering trash dumper was required. Please return with theatrical prop bucket.

There was a time when revelation of the foregoing could have resulted in its untimely demise... But with the end of the Cold War, Lucy's generous and willing contribution should not go unrecognized... And there are still middle-age coots who rode SS-481 in their previous incarnation who... On a quiet summer night can still smell that wonderful dime store perfume... Taste that red lipstick... And visualize rhinestone barets and stockings draped over a rear view mirror and life was good.

So there we were... Five men and petty officer Pinnochio standing on the bridge scanning the darkness for some large hardend cement object residing somewhere forward of bow bouyancy... Range and bearing not quite clear.

The Lucy light arrives... ILLUMINATION!!

There, two football fields away was this concrete formation the size of a couple of Texaco stations. Hit bows on at ten to fifteen knots, it would have been well capable of compressing the entire contents of the forward torpedo room along with most of the wardroom, up against the control room bulkhead.

I knew instantly that if God did not require bullshit artists to tell the truth every now and then... We would have french-kissed one hell of a load of reinforced concrete.

Lucy, this old bluejacket still loves you... Give anything to hear you shout,

"Yes... Yes... Oh, YES!!..."

Into a Chevy ceiling light, one more time. .

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