Category Archives: Love

Steve

DAMN! THE OCEAN…coming up fast!

Steve grabbed a few belongings from the side tray and stuffed them into the pockets of his flight jacket. He barely had time, but that picture of Lisa…how silly to think of anything but survival now! His jet plummeted toward the ocean. Eight hundred feet, six…

One minute before, the enemy round that took his jet out of the sky had made a round hole in two parts of his cockpit, drove through his helmet and creased him at the hairline. Way too close! Blood immediately began to run down both sides of his head followed by shock and pain!

Bastard scalped me.

No more time! He hit the eject button. The cockpit blew away and his breath whipped out of his body as the bomb they put under the seat kicked his ride up two G’s.

He blacked out but came out of it quick. Thank God the hatch had gone the other way. Steve didn’t like the idea of a broken neck.

The seat dropped away and his chute billowed, caught screaming air. It pulled him up with a jerk just in time. He crashed into the salty water and bellowed.

“GODDAMN THAT HURT!”

Wrong choice. His mouth filled with water. He gagged and coughed. He opened his eyes now. It couldn’t get any worse, right? Salt water stung but the blood leached away and he began to get a hazy picture. Island off to the left as he came down.

“Where?” Somehow the sound of his voice gave strange comfort, made things real.

He looked around as the shroud settled over him into the water. Kicking told him he was a hurtin’ unit, but luckily nothing major broke. Then another sharp pain!

“Damn!” Finger or wrist on left.

He pulled on the shroud cables with his right hand and got out from under. Treading water, he yanked the cord on his life jacket, which obligingly filled with air. Better. Now he turned in a circle until he could occasionally see a green top appear and disappear in the chop. Then he looked at the sky. Clear. He’d been low on gas.

Probably the same for his airborne enemy, he thought.

Situation serious but not urgent. The islands nearby were uninhabited according to his earlier briefing. Hope the Commander kept track on radar. They’d know when they lost him. Would they send a search party? Probably not right away. Navy Lieutenant Commander Steve Greco guessed Admiral Maynard had orders to beat feet, get his carrier the hell out of there. Still, they’d check back as soon as they found relative safety. They’d send low level recon when they could.

“Meanwhile, Stevie baby, it’s you and the elements.”

He judged he had about a half mile to swim. He’d have to be real careful of the coral breakers. All these islands had them. Coral had to live, too. And sharks. And octopi. His survival manual said warm waters were well occupied. He’d have company, all right.

His head cleared rapidly. Blood would draw the varmints and he didn’t fancy becoming a meal. That would spoil his whole day, not like it wasn’t screwed up enough already. How many guys drop forty million in the ocean?

“Okay, Steve, you made them pay. You got two of them suckers before they ganged up on you. Two for one.”

The “why me” thing didn’t work. Stretch and Charlie coulda taken it same as him. Hope they got away. He’d had no time to look for them.

“Swim, you moron. You like being in a puddle of blood?”

He ducked under, now that he could see. The salt ocean didn’t hurt like it did before. Either numb or body compensating. Looking around carefully he didn’t see anything near, but the experts said sharks can smell blood two miles away. They’d be coming.

He disconnected the harness and buoyed by his life jacket, swam tentatively toward the white foam he could see at the top of an occasional swell.

A strong swimmer, Steve paced himself, gradually moving toward the surf. He found it tough to swim with flight boots, but he gave no thought to dropping them. He’d need them over the reef, and walking barefoot in the sand sounded nice, but not inland. Fine way to pick up something like snakebite or a disease. Instructional vids at the ship showed jungle rot’s not nice, either.

The sun dropped low over the horizon. He squinted. Still two hours before it would get antsy. Plenty of time! He ducked under again and peered around. Did he see a shadow to the right? He looked and looked while treading water. He couldn’t be sure.

Another half hour. He hadn’t been attacked. A wary shark? Nah, no such thing.

Swimming stronger now, Steve began to feel cross currents. The reef, very close. He had to find a sluice way. He cut to the left. After five minutes he thought he saw it. Narrow and fast. Not much depth. Beggars can’t be choosy. He inched up on it, tested limbs and endurance. He wished he’d cut away part of the parachute to wrap around his flight gloves for extra protection.

“Dumb, Stevie!” His brain worked okay now but he still railed at his earlier stupidity.

There! The waves beat back and forth over it like a saw blade. Steve put his body in the middle of the sluice and when he got that extra push from what he knew to be the proverbial “seventh wave” he pushed with all his might. He kept an eye on the coral below. Over! Get over! Watch out! He tried to grasp the coral on any nub he could see and watched for spines. The sea urchins in this island chain were poisonous.

Razor sharp coral ripped at the flight jacket. Buffeted by changing currents, his gloved fingers tore away from the targets his hands sought more than once. He couldn’t ignore the pain in that finger, either and he couldn’t look too closely just yet. He’d rather hope that no bone stuck through the skin and find out later.

Ahh! Deeper water. He swam through, ignoring the pain. Multi-colored fish scattered when they perceived the invader. He made directly for the shore, three hundred feet away. Ten minutes later he arrived, dragged his body onto the sand and gratefully collapsed. At the moment he couldn’t care less if natives surrounded him.

Ragged breath, raw throat. Salt water didn’t help. Not exactly a triumphant entrance, but he’d landed.

Minutes later, after his pulse slowed and he’d caught up to his breathing, he got onto his knees and looked around. Small island, maybe twenty-five acres from what he could see. Rounded green top. At least it had a little elevation. Not bad. Might be longer, he couldn’t remember from the maps. He’d find out. The greenery looked promising. Might be banana trees, mangoes or papayas. Plenty of tropical palms.

Steve inspected the beach. No footprints. Did he think there would be? Just as well. The commander who’d done the pre-flight briefing said that weather in the area had been stable pretty near forever and that it would continue that way. What, exactly, would he think?

They called it Doldrums. Funny how the word seemed to fit the place. Doldrums…dulldrums…ho-hum… There’d be weather either side of ten degrees north and south, but it couldn’t decide what to do here.

He smiled. Astronomy had been his childhood predilection. With that came knowledge of the Earth and how it fit into the cosmos. He remembered it all, Coriolis force, weather patterns, they way things spun in the north being opposite from those in the south and the equator being the dividing line. Had to be a line somewhere.

Storms would be rare or nonexistent where he’d crashed. Gravity did it all and speaking of gravity, he’d better get started finding some food or he’d starve to death.

Steve didn’t want that. He’d just spent half a day surviving. He didn’t want to ruin his record.

Moving initially caused him to reassess his condition. Knocked down and dragged out fit best. Unfortunately, for life to go on until the U. S. Navy found and returned him to the pleasures of non-combat required that he discover a way to stay alive.

“Succinct. Guess my brain’s okay.”

He removed his helmet. He felt his head for the first time since he’d arrived.

“Ow!”

How could something so numb as his head felt suddenly become all nerve endings? Okay, major loss of skin. A nice crease started above his left ear and dug in. A new part? Not sure he liked that. Salt water had helped stop the blood, that and his natural hemoglobin, but he needed his first aid kit.

He felt his side. Blood, oozing, slowing. He unzipped his pants and pulled them down. Open wound, thankfully superficial. He left it uncovered.

Reason having returned along with some strength, he unzipped a left lower pocket and removed his first aid kit. He peeled away the plastic seal and dove into the contents. Holding the kit with thumb and first finger he went about bandaging his broken left third finger.

Everything had survived. He decided, how lucky. Steve patched his injured parts over the next twenty minutes, being particularly careful with the antibiotic ointment. He finished with gauze and bandage strips, checked his inventory and put everything carefully away.

His waterproof watch said twenty-one hundred hours. The huge red sun sat on the horizon. It would disappear soon. With what light he had left he made his way to the tree line. The nearby palms had no coconuts. Maybe in the interior?

Steve kept his eyes open and stayed wary. He penetrated about one hundred yards, saw no wildlife, discovered a stand of date palms and decided that now he needed rest and he’d better get it on the beach.

Before leaving the tiny jungle he picked up a few short sticks and dumped them where he planned to settle for the night. Arranging them like a tripod, he undressed to his skivvies and tee shirt. His clothes were still wet, but he wouldn’t strip down before he felt relatively safe, like now. He laid them over the sticks to dry.

In a right pocket he found a soggy energy bar. He spent inordinate time devouring it.

Supper over, Steve settled down at his spot ten feet from the tree line and twenty feet from the ocean. Finally, he laid his side arm next to his body within hands reach and allowed exhaustion to overcome him. Tomorrow would take care of itself.

His last thought was of Lisa.

The Overlook

WE WANTED TO go north for our honeymoon. Ski, snowboard, lounge in the lodge at a small, intimate table near the big fireplace and sip pińa coladas, sex – lots of it – the whole magilla.

I-91 north, a straight shot most of the way to Vermont’s Mt. Snow, the road silky smooth and not congested now that we’d passed through the sprawl of Springfield. Multiple lanes spread out in front of us while the black ribbon of highway made soft the hum of our tires.

I tried a few bars of “I’ll be Loving You” in my off-key way, except I sang, “I AM Loving You,” and then turned from the wheel and leered at Sherry.

“Rich! Stop! Stop!” she laughed, “I could still have this annulled, you know.”

I stuck out my tongue. “What the priest don’t know can’t hurt me,” I said.

She giggled. “Rich, you’re not like this. You gonna get normal soon?”

“You like last night?”

“Umm…” She got a dreamy look.

That’s normal,” I said.

“Yeaaaaaah…” she strung the word out and for a moment Sherry’s face kind of glowed.

Had to be pleasure. We’d known each other in the Biblical sense for quite a time. I mean, who doesn’t check out the merchandise these days, I mean, both ways. It’s practically required these days, except maybe in enclaves of religious fervor. I judge not which is best for humanity, only that that’s my sense of it.

Only young once, Dad used to say.

I glanced at the dash clock; near noon. We’d left New London and all the people we cared about mid-morning Saturday with waves and good wishes and my stomach had just announced that I wanted food. We had drinks and sandwiches in the cooler in back and munchy chips up front.

“Lunch?”

“Hungry bear?”

I nodded. “Couple, three miles I can pull off at the overlook.”

Sherry looked at me and waited.

“Great view.”

“I don’t know it.”

“Never stopped there before?”

“Nope.”

“You’ll like it.”

We had met in a local bar at the end of 2016. New Year’s Party, one of those you pay a lot for to meet mostly strangers. Yeah, I know; a bar. I saw her in the crowd. Foxy, short cut auburn hair, sequined vest, black body hugging skirt, brilliant, white-toothed smile, gregarious.

Everything about her said playtime. Had to have her. Now a year later we’re married. We knew about our bodies. That’s easy, but how deeply did we really know each other?  We were about to find out.

I disconnected from the present and dipped again to December 31st, last year. We’d each given the other a story, superficial, mostly true. It always starts that way. Give a little, get a little, but both knew why we’d hooked up.

She worked for an ad agency in our town and I had a growing Internet business. A lot of .com’s had hit the tubes, but I’d set mine up for the long haul. For two years I’d watched the money roll in. I could afford our time away.

A sign appeared, rest stop, two miles. I liked in particular that the highway department had left a line of trees and brush between us and the parking area. We couldn’t see and barely heard the muffled sounds of speeding vehicles only thirty yards west of us. Here we could forget the frenetic pace for a few minutes and regroup.

Most of all I loved to gander at the Connecticut Valley watershed that stretched east of us to the hazy horizon. It held a river, flatland farming dotted with homes, and communities that didn’t sully the pristine scene as far as the eye could see. We weren’t very high up, but the vastness of the scene always awed me.

I pulled off the highway and slowed on the long ramp. The parking area opened up. Empty. I’d never pulled in before to find no one at all.

A first for everything, I thought.

I angled into a nearby space, stopped, got out, went to the back deck and opened it up. Clothes, snowboards and short, downhill skis suited to hard-pack took up the lengthy space between the storage area and the front seat backs, but stopped short of encroaching on the space over the front seat armrest, that is, they fit perfectly.

I grabbed the small ice chest and set it on the ground, made a space on the tailgate for our rumps and Sherry brought the bag of munchies out with her. Before sitting, she walked into my knees and I spread them to accommodate her. She planted a delicious kiss on my lips while shoving her considerable womanhood into my chest. Her brown eyes looked deep into mine.

“Love you, Rich.”

“You’d better save that for later.” I felt substantial stirrings below mid-line. “You know how weak I am.”

Sherry smiled knowingly, disengaged and sat beside me. We ate tuna sandwiches with chips and sucked down a couple of Cokes.

Rejuvenated, I said, “A week of skiing…and debauchery, of course, awaits.”

Her excited trill hit the mark. With my mind in a state of emotional disorder, I quickly packed things away, closed the rear gate and got behind the wheel. Sherry leaned over for another smooch, with energy.

I backed a few feet and swung to head for the ramp back to the highway. Toward the end of the parking area I caught something out of place and glanced at it. Piece of broken fence. Most of the area was precipitous, but not, in my opinion, dangerous…except right there. Where the highway department had put up a barrier, the ground dropped away maybe seventy feet, not huge, but plenty deadly.

I stopped. Sherry looked at me and I gestured.

“That doesn’t look good,” I said.

She glanced and looked away quickly. Very odd.

“Not your problem, Rich,” Sherry said, looking straight ahead. “Let’s hit the highway.”

“No, no. I’m going to take a look.” I stopped quickly and put my Forester in Park.

“Rich…?” I heard an edge to her voice I hadn’t heard before. Honeymoon…not the time for it. I looked at her. So far she’d played it right, in my view, deferring to me in most matters or talking out our few differences, but this?

“What if somebody just went through there and is hurt?”

“C’mon Rich, not your problem. I wanna go now!”

What’s with her? Fear? Lack of compassion?

“Sherry, I’m going to look.”

Anger flashed in her eyes, a totally new thing. Not just disturbed, her face flushed and twisted and in that instant I saw her in a less appealing light, the kind that does not bode well for a honeymoon or for any minute thereafter. We’d had disagreements before, but they ended in loving, or an arm tap or some off color remark that made each of us laugh. I loved that about her.

This I didn’t like at all. In this she tried to wrest control, to overpower not with persuasion, but brutishly. Unbidden thoughts ran swiftly though my mind. Marriage, a control gate? Get the guy, and after it’s solid, take over? How much did I know about my wife, after all?

I’m the kind of guy who always paid attention to balance in a relationship. Fifty-fifty. I believed in compromise, even giving in occasionally, so long as you did it without surrender. It empowered another’s personality and assisted self-worth. Action, with the right person, sent the same message.

I raised my voice in warning and said “Sherry, I’m checking this out,” opened the door and got out. Instead of subsiding, she made inarticulate sounds…furious…blazing.

Something in the back of my mind said, “Protect yourself.” I reached back in, turned the engine off and grabbed the key. I hoped she would see it as a firm denial of her attitude and bring her back to center. As a gamble I knew it could have the opposite effect.

I approached the break, some five feet ahead of me. As I reached the drop-off, I smelled gas and oil. Thin smoke rose toward me, oil on a hot engine maybe. I couldn’t see it where we’d parked earlier. Something went over not long before, maybe minutes. I squinted a little to focus my slightly myopic eyes. Yeah, something, a black SUV wedged in the trees fifty feet down. No sounds and too steep for me.

I heard the passenger’s door slam. I glanced back to see Sherry come running at me. In her wild eyes I saw hatred. It threw me off. What did I do?

She raised her fists to me and pummeled my chest. I let her for a few seconds – she didn’t hurt me and maybe she’d run down quicker that way – and then I grabbed her wrists firmly but not painfully to make her stop.

“Sherry, are you mad? Sherry!” I shook her.

That had some effect. The fire went out and she wilted against me.

“Honey, what’s going on?” I said. She started to sob. I let her get it out of her system. Finally she pushed away and I released her.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, her breath catching. “I never told you about my real mother and father. I owe you this.”

“What?”

“Promise you’ll listen and say nothing until I finish.”

I searched her face. “Okay.”

It came out, her deep, dark secret. She’d hidden it well. The parents I’d met she called hers, and from what I’d seen, they were. They were adoptive parents, I learned, and subsequent to Sherry’s confinement in a sanatorium for a year while strange, bearded doctors got her head on straight after her meltdown, they had taken her in and made her their own daughter.

“The truth, Rich, and the only thing I have kept from you, is that my parents were in an accident and were killed. Ten years ago. Just like this, Rich. Through a fence, over and down.” She shuddered.

“It freaked me. I couldn’t handle it. I buried it. I couldn’t tell you. What would you think? I thought I could live with it, but I can’t. I’m so sorry. I love you, Rich. What are you going to do?”

I held up a flat hand and walked back to the car. Reaching inside, I retrieved my cell and dialed 911.

“I want to report an accident.” I gave the details and finished with, “Hurry!”

Sherry stood stricken, not daring to move, as if the fragile moment might break and sweep away the dream she had finally attained. I wandered for a time, thinking, waiting for the police, readjusting my brain to take in what I’d heard.

Soon I heard sirens and then the parking area filled with emergency vehicles. After the police interviewed me, I walked back to Sherry. I’d done my thinking and made my decision. Life had to go on. With best wishes toward the accident victims I turned to Sherry.

“No other secrets, right?”

“No.”

“Let’s go skiing.”

Pigeon Cove

TODAY’S MY BIRTHDAY and I’m twelve. Mama promised me I could climb the hill early if I wanted and I wanted so I did, like in my dream. The most amazing thing just happened.

I’ve got a secret. I want to shout it to the world, but inside I know I shouldn’t tell, not even Mom, ‘specially not Mom. I don’t know why, well, maybe I do. But I got to tell somebody, so I’ll tell you ‘cause you’re my best friend, but you got to keep it a secret, cross your heart, okay? C’mon, cross your heart.

Okay.

Look, from the high place on the hill, I’m running down toward the harbor. It’s May, but it’s a real warm day and not much is going on in the village. The boats went out early and they’re specks near the horizon and most of the village is still sleeping, I think.

I can see Dora’s Pancake House and there’s cars in front. I see a couple of cars at Lou’s tackle shop and a couple of cars out on the street from last night. Mr. Granger’s car is in his driveway next to his house and it has a flat tire going on six days now. My friend Mark is his grandson and he told me his Gramps doesn’t have any money until his check comes.

“It’s money from the government, that’s what Gramps said,” Mark told me, but he shrugged his shoulders.

Everybody hereabouts knows this place, but not many come up here. It’s pretty high and fishermen don’t go high, they go to water. Dad drove me up here in the ‘33 Ford two years back. He said the view goes on forever and it does, so I made this my secret place if I got mad or sad or anything because up here I’m on top of the world.

When we drove back down, Dad said, “Don’t ever go up there by yourself. It’s dangerous!” and he said it sort of loud and rough and he made me promise, but I didn’t want to. I really hate when grownups try to make like they’re so big and can order a kid around. All they have to do is ask nice. Sure we get cranky now and then. Don’t they?

Okay, so Sonny down the street hit me with a snowball last winter, so what? I got him back. No big deal.

Dad went out with the fishing fleet in July last year and a storm blew up and his boat sank and Dad never came back. Mom and me cried and we missed him, but Mom said when you marry a fisherman, you take what comes and you get stronger.

I didn’t want to get stronger. I wanted my Dad. The townsfolk were nice and they did things for us like good neighbors are supposed to, but I stayed sad for a long time.

That’s when I went up the hill to be by myself. Finally Mom found out where I’d been disappearing to, so she sat me down and we had this long talk. She told me that I was the man of the house now and I’d better get it in gear because she couldn’t do it all by herself. I guess that did it because after that I started helping out and doing Man stuff.

Mom tried not to be sad, but every so often I would see her look out the kitchen window and tears came down her face while she stood over the sink with a wet dishrag. By then I could tell her don’t cry and I’d take care of things, but sometimes I think she cried like that ‘cause she wished I didn’t have to grow up so quick.

Oh, the dream I had? Sure. I’m running fast, faster than I ever did before. A girl is chasing me. Ugh, girls! I think I’ll run up to the top of the hill ‘cause if I do she won’t catch me, but I look back and she’s right there. She’s smiling and not even breathing hard. She has blond hair and she’s wearing a blue dress, like for Sunday church or something. I think I used to know her and then I know her name is Elsie.

Yes, Elsie. She’s thirteen. She lives on the other side of the village. I don’t know her, really, but I seen her before, walking on the street. I try to go faster but I can’t go faster because I’m almost flying now.

I get near the top and I finally have to stop ‘cause of the cliff. The narrow road ends and there is a wood fence and a sign that says, “Danger.”

Anyway, this Elsie catches up and stands looking at me for a minute with her real cool blue eyes and that smile and I want to get away but I can’t move, like my feet are stuck in mud. Then she reaches out her hand and touches my face and I get this tingle like ‘lectricity.

“I’m Elsie,” she says.

“I know.”

“I heard about your Dad and I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

She takes my hand and then I can move again, but her hand feels so nice I don’t let it go. I look at her and even though I have no place for long hair and pigtails and girl dresses in my life, I think she is pretty. She has this kind of glow and she makes me feel funny inside, like I never felt before.

My brain gets sort of mushy. That’s what Mom says when I don’t pay attention, but it isn’t like that. It makes me like shy, yeah, shy, and my friends know I’m not shy.

Elsie leads me to the fence and I go with her. Off to the side is a spot of low, new spring grass, a little damp with morning dew. She asks me to sit and I do ‘cause by now I’m twitter-pated, like in Bambi, that new movie Mom took me to see two weeks ago in Gloucester. We face the ocean and I don’t notice my bottom get wet ‘cause I’m in this, like warm place.

Elsie begins to talk to me and her voice sounds so sweet. Then she turns and kisses me lightly on the mouth.

Shooting stars!

 Big parade!

 Ice cream dessert!

Nothing like this in the whole world! I grab her arms and kiss her full on the mouth. It lasts for seconds but it feels like forever. I seen big people do this and I think I understand now. And her mouth craves mine. And she tightens up and I do, too, and it’s like fire.

I feel something growing below my tummy. I know this thing. It’s happened before. We boys talk big in our fort outside of the village, but none of us has ever done “IT.”

One day one of the kids stole a dirty art magazine from where his daddy hid it and we ooed and ahhed at the pictures. We knew we were in trouble if we got caught so we swore to never tell, cross our hearts and hope to die if we did.

Well, in the dream she lays back onto the wet grass and pulls me over on her. I can’t believe it’s happening. She pulls up her skirt and fumbles with my belt. Ohmigod, she wants me! I try to help her but the dream fades and I wake up.

My sheets are soaked from sweat and I have a boner. I can’t believe it.

Now it’s today and I’m running down the hill toward the harbor. This is real. I’m twelve. This is so awesome! Elsie isn’t a dream. She’s just given me the best birthday present anyone could possibly want. I finally got to finish my dream.

But remember, you can’t tell a soul.