Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Excerpt: Tuesday's 1-liner

When she was sixteen, a Navy Frigate—on a tour of the Great Lakes—visited Mackinaw City. There was to be an open house, tours, recruiters, and opportunities. Dad let Julian skip school so they could be there first thing in the morning. It was a Friday. Julian intended to write an English paper on the ride up, but fell asleep in the passenger seat. Dad felt it was a perfect morning. He knew what this meant to her. He loved the irony—how he regarded this girl as so very mature, yet here she was slumped and drooling. Even when she’s a mess, she is so endearing!

When the sun was just getting warm, they parked at the end of the pier and walked.

“Oh my God! That thing is huge! Dad, that has to be six stories high!”

“That’s about right. That’s about right.” He knew that a Frigate was among the smallest of the Navy’s warships, but even he was impressed with its sleek shape, sharp lines.

As they approached, they saw that every detail was shipshape for this tour. Colorful international flags were strung from the bow to the top of the mast, then down the backside of the ship, to the fantail and they took turns snapping in the breeze. The vessel’s paint—haze gray with sharp, white trim—was fresh. The hull number on the bow was bold “1170” with a drop shadow. Every inch of railing was shielded with white nylon canvas, stretched tight to protect sailors from the wind; but the real intent was to impress the visitors.

Before they got too close, both Julian and Dad stopped walking. They needed a moment more to take it all in, to avoid an emotional overdose, to take a mental snapshot before they went aboard.

Finally, they climbed the stairs to the brow, which led to the ship’s Quarterdeck. The welcoming committee—the Officer of the Deck, Petty Officer of the Watch (armed with a 45-caliber pistol), and the messenger of the Watch briefed them, assigned badges. They would wait until they had a party of ten or so before they began the tour.

Dad struck up a conversation with a young Lieutenant. “First time in Michigan, Sir?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact. It’s been a nice tour, so far.”

“Carter Monroe.” Dad extended his hand. Julian winced—she didn’t think you were allowed to do that, to talk to and touch military people like that.

“Ah, Carl Peterson. Nice to meet you.”

“And my daughter, Julian.”

“Hello, Julian.” He bent slightly at the waist as he addressed her, shook her hand.