By Harriman Nelson
1. Home Sweet Home
Even though Lee had
on our flight home from Boston just a week ago to take my name legally, I can’t
help wondering if he might want to renege now that Sheamus O’ Hara Nelson’s
dirty little secret is in all the press. Lee, as the newly minted Nelson-Crane,
hasn’t been immune from the outrage regarding Captain Nelson and I’ve been
worried that he might be finding all of the name bashing as difficult to bear
as I have.
Right now, the Boston
Nelsons are regarded as the scum of the earth. And all due to a single
forbearer who can’t be forgiven by anyone with a heart for his career as a
It was with some misgiving
that I agreed to a press conference. I’m just not quite sure what I can say and
hope I won’t be the recipient of rotten tomatoes. (Tomato stains are so
difficult to get out of khaki.)
Is it any wonder that
think Lee will be better off as just plain Lee Crane again? Shouldn’t I want
what’s best for him? To be free of the shame, the name that has the mark of
evil on it?
As I reached Lee’s
office to show him the paperwork I’d asked legal for in order to rescind our recently
formed familial relationship, (yes, there is such a thing as an adult
adoption), I took a breath and entered.
Part of me was relieved
when I saw he wasn’t there. Part of me wanted to get the damn confrontation to
come over with.
And so, while waiting,
the chaos inherent in any move. The suite had originally been intended for a
Deputy CEO or Vice President of NIMR, neither of which I’d ever gotten around
to appointing. It was larger than my office actually, but had a terrible view
of the machine shop and parking lot, so it hadn’t really mattered to me previously
that it had become a glorified
But with Lee’s
responsibilities as my equal business partner, I’d decided to give him the
executive office that he deserved, minus the bad view, of course. He was going
to be stuck with that until I created a new wing. This office also had a
private and well-appointed bathroom, complete with shower, and an outer office
for his new secretary. Lee had already moved once before, so he was at least
familiar with what was essential to move with him in his new ‘space’, even if
he wasn’t all that thrilled about the move.
Despite my best efforts,
hadn’t been able to talk him out of scrapping his bent and banged up four tier
file cabinet. Nicknamed by staff as ‘Old Rusty’, it was already here,
incongruous with the highly polished desk and bookcase. No doubt, however, that
the outer office for his secretary would house more advanced filing systems and
cabinetry. At least I hoped so.
you, sir,” a maintenance
specialist (I can’t possibly be expected to know the names of all of my
employees) brushed past me carrying a worn cardboard box, its contents on the
verge of spilling out.
“No, no, no!”
secretary, Mr. Drew Ames scolded the man on the verge to set the box down near
the wall. “Put them over there,” he ordered pointing toward the stack of boxes just
in front of the desk, which was cluttered with folders and an overflowing ‘in
here, Admiral,” Ames added when he noticed me. “Good thing too; he’d only be in
Just then Angie entered,
carrying a stack of framed pictures which she leaned against a wall. “Hello
Admiral, if you want Lee, er Captain Nelson-Crane, he's in a bad mood, and went
down to the boat. He nearly bit my head off when he couldn’t remember where
he’d put the latest batch of expedition proposals. How should I know where he
put them. That’s your job Ames,” she added.
a mind reader,
Miss Smarty Pants and I doubt if even Nancy would have known.”
Nancy was on vacation,
had been both Lee and Chip’s secretary until I’d decided Lee needed his own
‘Girl Friday’. (Okay, so the phrase is outdated and chauvinistic - glad I
didn’t say it out loud.)
I had been a bit surprised
when Lee selected the only male applicant for the job.
I put this,
Mr. Ames?” Kowalski asked as he entered, holding a large, elaborate name plate.
Glass, it was engraved with various insignias, from submarine ‘dolphins’, seals
of the Navy, SEALS, and ONI. Lee’s silver eagles were inlaid in the glass,
along with a ‘Command at Sea’ pip. Frankly I thought the nameplate
looked rather gaudy.
Ames spoke to
Ski, “On the desk, if you can find a spot that is. For a man in uniform, the
captain can be rather disorganized. Though I’ll grant that changing one’s
office can exacerbate things.”
intensify …” Ames explained.
“He knows what
didn’t,” Ski said awkwardly, and distracted, tripped over one of the boxes, the
nameplate falling from his hands, shattering as it hit the carpet.
and bent down to pick up what pieces he could.
“It was an accident,
Ski said, looking at me aghast.“It was an accident, honest Admiral.”
“Lola told me
like it anyway,” Angie said, “apparently his friend Commander Jackson bullied
him into it.”
“It was Swarovski
“I wonder how
take to pay for it,” Ski groaned.
“Enough!” I finally intervened, picking up the
separate Nelson and Crane shards. Perhaps the fates had had a hand in my
decision to approach Lee about returning to our previous relationship.
Just then the man in
question entered, limping, and soaking wet. Angie gawked at him, first like
anyone’s mother might do a wayward boy, then her gaze morphed into what I can
only call controlled lust. Ames reacted to her gaze with disgust. Suddenly he wrinkled
his nose. So did Angie. And I did too.
have you been, Captain?” Ames scolded, “the bilge tanks? Go get cleaned up
before we have to call the fumigators and carpet cleaners. You’re making a
puddle and you smell like rotten fish.”
Yes, Lee stank, and
uniform was smeared with a greenish brown goo. Some was even in his hair, which
was a tangled mass of curls.
“go get some clothes from Seaview or stores or wherever there’s something clean
and dry he can wear. There’s soap in the shower but bring some disinfectant
wash from Sick Bay anyway. The stronger the better.”
see that he was confused. Was he supposed to take orders from this man or not.
“Go ahead, Ski,”
“Get a jumpsuit or something from stores. I haven’t had a chance to stow
anything on the boat yet. What’s this?” he noticed the remnants of the broken
name plate, the two names separated in my hand.
Ski said, contrite, “it just slipped right out of my hands.”
“He was paying
attention to Angie than to his job, and tripped. I’ll have payroll adjust
Kowalski's paychecks in order to cover the cost if he doesn’t have enough cash."
Lee said, then sheepishly, “actually, I didn’t like this design anyway, Ski.
Way too glitzy for my taste. I’ll order a plastic one with just my name on it.”
not sore at all,
Skipper?” Ski asked. “But it’s worth a lot of money isn’t it?”
“Not that much.
being sore, with you, no. With my ankle, yes. Lost my balance in the bilge tank
inspection hatch, fell headlong into the drink, and twisted my ankle. ”
Ames said, “what
are you waiting for, Kowalski? Move it!”
Lee said. “I
just remembered that Tolliver has more pressing matters to attend to than to fetch
me something dry to wear. So you can go instead Ames.”
Ames hesitated, clearly
that Lee had used Ski’s given name but not at all chastened by the change of
go’fer. “Right away Lee, er…Captain.”
after Ames had left, “I’ll have a little talk with him about the chain of
command and his inappropriate tone with you.”
“Thank you, Skipper,”
said earnestly as he and Angie left.
said as he squished his way toward the bathroom. “I can hardly wait to get
“Me too. Lee,”
I said as Lee
took off his soaked shoes and put them upside down on the bathroom’s tile
“There were a lot of applicants for the job of
your secretary,” I continued. “Rumor is that several had better credentials
a former operative.
Not really his fault when his last mission went bust, but he just couldn’t
bring himself to continue as a field agent any longer.”
recommendation for a secretary. You might as well have kept Nancy between you
“Who was it who
told me I
needed my own secretary when I suggested the same thing? If he can’t do the
job, you can hire the next one. At least I don’t have to worry about Drew
trying to feed or baby me. We’re birds of a feather. You can take the operative
out of ONI but you can’t take the ONI out of the operative. It’ll work out
fine, Harry, trust me. And he has plenty of office experience, if that's what
you're worried about.”
Before I could respond,
Ames returned, a white jumpsuit, shoes, socks and underwear in hand and
accompanied by Doc. “Before you fuss,
Lee,” Ames said, “I’ve asked Doc to check out that ankle."
“Good man, Ames,”
“Now, let’s get out of here before we need earplugs.”
It was about thirty
later when Lee, showered, shaved, and his
still damp hair properly combed, arrived at my office. Barefoot.
“The shoes didn’t
the socks itched,” he explained, sitting down on the edge of my desk. “Don’t
worry though, my feet are nice and clean,” he added as he wiggled his toes.
“I should hope
so,” I began
“What is it,
I said, stopping as
I ran a hand through my hair. “I um...I’ve been thinking...you don’t have to
keep the new name if you’d rather not. In fact, it’s for the best if you don’t,”
I added as I handed him the form that would break the adoption.
want me to be your
“I wanted you
to be my son
so bad it hurt and I still want you to be that son, but,” I paused, and began
to pace around the office, “you don’t deserve to suffer all the badmouthing
that’s been going on about the Nelson family. I know you’ve been getting almost
as much hate mail as I have. About Sheamus, about taking the Nelson name
interjected, giving me his sunshine smile, “and I know the best place for
this,” he said as he put the form into the shredder next to his desk. “There’s no
way in hell I’m getting rid of the name.”
I noticed that he’d
rubbing the Nelson family ring on his finger when he’d spoken. A silent signal
to all that knew him that despite the calm exterior, he was agitated. About my
offer to dissolve the adoption or about having to put up with all of the bad
press, I couldn’t tell.
Angie said as
she entered, but before she could say anything, Jiggs Starke barged in. Retired
now or not, he knew how to take liberties and get away with them.
“Harry, the wolves
the door, and… you’re out of uniform, Captain!”
grinned. “I’d really rather not drive all the way home just to get a clean
uniform, socks and dry shoes for a couple of hours.”
“I see you’re
as usual, Crane.”
awkward calling you that, and a mouthful to boot!”
Ski knocked on
the door frame, “but they need the Skipper aboard Seaview. Something about
or is there an
email problem?” Jiggs asked.
“I don’t think I want to know,” Lee sighed
before Ski could answer, though I could tell from his face that he didn’t know.
Lee jumped off the
“As far as my insubordination goes, Admiral Starke, I’m afraid some things just
can’t change despite my being a Nelson now.” Then he put his hand on my
shoulder, “Good luck at the press conference, Harry. I’ll join you as soon as I
It was a short walk
Visitor’s Center where several chairs and a podium had been set up. I
recognized several members of the press, legitimate and otherwise. The public
had been invited as well and there was standing room only. Even the mayor was
I took my place, and
stood slightly behind me, for moral support. After I gave a brief welcome, I
opened the floor to any questions.
“Just how long,”
asked snidely, “was your family going to cover up the fact that Captain O’Hara
Nelson was a slave trader?”
family knew about it all this time,” another inquisitor added.
“We only recently
discovered the truth about him,” I answered.
“What does it
having all that family money at the expense of those poor slaves?” another
black mark against
the family, certainly,” I said, “but Nelson’s have long contributed most of
their time, effort, and wealth for the betterment of mankind, not the
enslavement of it.”
“Like that really
you scumbags!” a woman spat.
There were hisses vs.
‘bravos’ in response to her outburst, but suddenly there were mutterings of
‘Captain Crane’, ’Captain Crane’, who, still barefoot, had entered the rear of
the room. I couldn’t help wishing that he hadn’t come. No doubt he was going to
have to bear some of the brunt from this entire business.
you pay him enough
to buy shoes, Admiral?” one of the reporters joked.
he dressed like
that for? Did he get demoted or something?”
Lee said as he
joined me at the podium, “a little accident with the bilge tanks. Shoes are
still drying out.”
what do you
feel about the Nelson’s ill- gotten gain?”
Nelson-Crane if you please,” Lee said rather more calmly than I felt. My legs
felt like rubber and I was grateful for the support of the podium to hang on
sucked up to the
old man hasn’t he,” someone muttered.
“Why on earth
take the name of white supremacists?” the irate woman asked.
“Wait a minute,
put his hand on my arm briefly with a warning look, then turned to the woman,
“Lady, I think you’d better do your homework. The Nelsons are members of the
This was news to me
actually. I was surprised Lee could lie so well.
telling us that
Irish redheads are black?” she snorted.
look at the
organization’s bylaws, color is not a condition of membership. The Nelsons and
I have always believed in ethnic equality. You can’t blame the admiral, Edith
Nelson, or even me, an adopted Nelson, for the actions Sheamus O’Hara Nelson
took decades ago. Ashamed of him? Absolutely, we are. But are we guilty by
association or bloodline? If you use that kind of reasoning, I’d like to know
just how many skeletons you have in your own family trees.
“You might not
forget,” he went on, “that Admiral Nelson and Seaview have always served and
will continue to serve the nation and the free world, no matter what your
ethnicity. Now, if you’ll excuse us...”
“His mother doesn’t
his new name,” a little girl was saying to her mother, “we saw it on TV,
remember, Mommy? I bet it makes him sad.”
The girl’s mother
shush her but Lee had heard, came out from behind the podium, and approached
them, kneeling before the child, taking her hands in his.
he said gently. “It
does make me sad. I’ll always treasure
the name she and my father gave me when they adopted me as a child. But
by the same token, I will always cherish the new name I have now. I can only
hope she’ll accept both names someday.”
“You have weird
little girl giggled, touching his eyelids.
Lee laughed, “and
they change color too! I guess I’m part chameleon! Tell you what, how would you
and your mother like a quick tour of Seaview? She’s not quite as presentable as
I’d like, but...”
Crane,” the mother said.
the girl corrected.
Rising, Lee turned
crowd, “Now, if there are no more questions? Very well,” he added before anyone
could object. As the girl skipped between her mother and Lee toward the exit,
Jiggs and I also managed to escape as security began to escort everyone out of
the Visitor’s Center and off the grounds.
Jiggs asked as
we returned to my office, and poured himself a Scotch.
Despite Lee’s handling of the press, I knew the slurs would continue. I still
felt guilty for being a Nelson. And for asking Lee to become a Nelson legally,
which he’d accepted. And I really needed
to speak to him about the so called contributions to the NAACP.
And I still felt
guilty as hell for all those poor souls dragged from their homes and put into
chains by Sheamus O’Hara Nelson.