November 25, 2010 |
The moon shone overhead as the sea mist drifted to shore to lull the town into a peaceful slumber. The sea salt filled the young sailor’s nose. The ship was to be docked for a week. The man stared out to sea reminiscing on how he came to be on this ship.
A year had passed since he first laid eyes on this ship. A year ago he had tried to convince his father to let him go to work. It had been an age old argument. He was young. He didn’t need to go on any ship. He could be seriously injured. A man doesn’t need to prove he is a man by sailing. What would his mother think, him coming back a drunken sinful sailor? No, no, it was out of the question.
Like most young men however, his heart yearned for something it could not have, and it had not the wisdom yet to know how to achieve. Promises were still fresh. Life had a certain romance about it as well as danger. Adventure kept boys alive and the teenagers who had come into town from the seas had such independence about the town. They strutted like peacocks, grabbed onto women, and could earn respect. Chip was small, call it Napoleon syndrome, he was small and had to show the world he could conquer it. As a child, he played sailor with other boys in the schoolyard and cussed his way into a so called delinquent. Dads were unreasonable; they couldn’t see how the world was changing. There were more opportunities out there in the world you know? Chip had run off, a year ago, and joined the navy.
His black hair was greased down and a sailor cap decorated his head with particular vivacious vibrancy. His uniform had room to fill into but he stood erect gazing out at the sea. His eyes began to mist. That was the sea salt in his eyes, of course. Any man would tell you that, the salt could get to a man’s eyes if he wasn’t careful.
Women did not adore him. He however found plenty of women. They gave their respect to the good old red, white, and blue. He had charm and a bouncy charisma like the other guys. He even had a gentleman’s manners to woo a young girl’s heart. These romances though were not meant to last, the ship had to sail, the girl’s were looking for a fling to help them know they still had it, and men moved on. The men he had respected so much were the worst on the crew. Promises were not kept. Men were the greatest liars when it came to women, or just about anything deserving of praise from the boys. He did not go to the bars and drink like the other men because he wanted to show his mother he could come back respectable, although it was excruciatingly tempting on particular occasions. Cussing flamboyantly however, was undeniably a part of life.
“Chip, you better go, you only have a day or two.”
“Thank you admiral.”
Chip did a little hop walking off deck, after reaching the board his feet drooped and his head dropped like a defeated man. Admiral Johnson shook his head and went on with his duties.
He had to find a date; the fellas would laugh if he just went home for Thanksgiving. He had to have some kind of story to cheer the spirits on deck. He couldn’t leave the town though without even giving word to his folks he was here. How would his mom feel if he left without stopping in? Would his dad even let him in the front door? His eyes looked up to the sky and the sailor said a prayer. He hadn’t said one in awhile, but he was hoping for safety of some sort.
“Hey buddy, my they really do shape you up in the navy don’t they?”
“Yes, they do Jack.” Chip said with a grin.
“You’re old man know you’re here?”
“Nope, just came in tonight. The sea is sure sparklin’ tonight ain’t it?”
“Sure is, enough to make a man dream on a night like this.”
“Aw, don’t be gettin’ soft in the head.” Chip warned.
“See ya around, I don’t know about your man, but your mother has been dyin’ to see you.”
“That right?” Chip turned around making direct eye contact in an urgent manner.
“Well, thanks, Jack.”
Eugene, or “Chip”, scowled as Jack walked away. Nobody said his real name, he never liked Jack anyway. Undecided about what a wise move would be Chip walked alongside a fence that outlined the schoolyard. The moon was a nightlight for a nice stroll. The playground had two swings outside of it. Chip carefully eased his way onto a swing, afraid of how much he had grown since he last sat on it. Girls played on the swings during recess but boys gathered there after school. As if to fulfill his memory, a boy of about five years of age came darting around the corner screaming profanities. Chip tip toed over to the side of the school. The boy ran right into Chip’s arms. “Put me down!” the boy screamed shrilly.
“Not until you stop screamin’ so damn hard.”
The boy stopped screaming and turned over as much as he could without falling out of Chip’s arms. The boy has brown hair and blue eyes that sparkle. “Hey, hey mister, are you a sailor?”
“Yes I am.”
“A real one?”
“I’m gonna be a sailor too, but first, I’m gonna be a hermit, Joe said that hermits live in caves, I want to live in a cave. Then I’ll be a real sailor after that.”
“You are, huh?” Chip asked amused.
“I was practicing my swearin’, sailors cuss a lot, mom says, but daddy died and mom says that I can’t run off. But I will, I’m going to be a sailor.”
“I can’t let you do that.” Chip said.
“Why not? You’re a sailor, oh the boys won’t believe it, I met a real sailor. I gotta go tell them.” The boy cried squirming for his freedom.
“You ain’t goin’ to tell the boys nothin’”
“And why not?” The boy asked crossing his hands in dissatisfaction.
Chip smiled and bent down to the boy’s level, “Can you keep a secret?”
The boy’s eyes lit up, “Yeah.” He whispered enthusiastically.
“I’m on a secret mission.”
“For what?” The boy asked with curiosity and imagination running wild.
“I need you though. Can you be my partner? It’s going to be quite an adventure, I don’t know if such a young man can handle it, perhaps another boy.” Chip said shaking his head.
“No, no! I can do it!” The boy yelled fiercely.
“You got a fighting spirit in you yet. Alright, but first young man, I must know your name, if we are going to have to work together we must become good friends.”
“Like Donald Duck?”
“Why do you think I want to be in the navy?”
Chip sighed, he had his work cut out for him. “Okay, so you have to show me where your home is.”
“Why? So you can take me home? No sir, I’m joining the navy.”
“No, because the people in your home could be in grave danger.”
“Nope, don’t have a home.”
“What do you mean you don’t have one?”
“Well mom lives near the theater, she lives in the little shop right around the corner from there, you know, the one with the lights.”
“I didn’t think anybody slept there.”
“She often says ‘Donald, those lights keepin’ you up, they are keepin’ me up, we should move Donald’”
“Okay, so it’s that store?”
“Yeah? Why?” Donald asked suspiciously.
“How old is your mother?”
“Oh, I don’t know, she’s pretty old.”
“Okay. Well how about you take me there, because that store has some very good supplies needed for the mission.”
Chip wanted to have a talk with his mother. No respectable mother would just let her kid run around wild at night cussing down the street. He was a respectable sailor, he would bring honor to the navy, if that was possible. Donald held Chip’s hand and led him to the store, “here it is,” He clapped his hands in delight, “What do we need?”
“Hey, is that your mother?”
“Yeah. That’s her.”
“She is pretty, she doesn’t look pretty old.”
“She looks as old as you.”
“Go on, you can meet her if you want to but don’t tell her I’m here.”
“But you know I can’t let you go without your mother’s permission, the navy can’t just sweep you away, we’ll enlist you for the future, how does that sound, in the future, you can be on a special team.”
“Oh, boy, thanks mister, hey, mister, what’s your name?”
“Chip? My mom wants me to stay for Thanksgiving, do you think I should?”
“Yeah, sailor, every sailor knows any time you have the chance to get good home cookin’ you go for it.”
“Chip, isn’t the navy food good?”
“Not as good as your mom’s.”
“How do you know? You haven’t had my mom’s”
“Would you let me?” Chip asked eyeing the figure in bright red lipstick that seemed to come down from the window to haunt him.
The two of them scrambled up some side steps and knocked on the rickety door above the shop. “Hey mom, guess what? This is Chip, he is a sailor, he is going to let me go on a sailor’s mission if I get your permission. He wants food.”
Chip blushed, “Actually I saw him, runnin’ around cussin and sayin’ he was gonna run off, and I just figured you wanted him home. I’m awfully sorry about your husband miss, he has been givin’ me his life story, I was just tryin’ to get some information out of the little man so I could take him home. I’m awfully sorry, and who may I have the pleasure of greeting this evening, he didn’t tell me your name.”
“Oh I’m Jane.””
“Nice to meet you Jane. Do you have any plans for Thanksgiving?”
“No,” Jane blushed, “I haven’t been able to scrape up enough money to cook with, and we have no family here.”
“Oh, that’s fine, may I call you Jane?”
Jane nodded opening the door to show she had on a stunning black dress, “And you young man,” she turned cold looking down at Donald, “are going to your room for now, you aren’t supposed to be out, especially out cussing, my name could be spoiled you know, I’m trying to make my way in this town. I’m at least trying to make some friends.”
Donald went to a couch with his head hung low.
“I’m very sorry, mister, I’m sorry I didn’t catch your name.”
“Eugene? Aren’t you the Frantz’s kid? They didn’t say you were so old. They spoke of you as a child.”
“And Donald told me you were old, but I’m glad you’re not.”
“And I’m glad you’re not as young as Donald.” Jane flashed a pearly white smile.
“Well, uh, you’re invited to our house if you want.”
Eugene started to sweat, what had just gone on was beyond his capabilities to determine right now. Mom was a young widow named Jane about Chip’s age. She had just moved in so she could not know how much of a delinquent he was in the town, unless his family had gossiped his whole life away since he had left, which he could believe that. He did not even know if his dad would let him in and he had invited a girl? Maybe that would give him more of a chance. This relationship might work, this girl lived in his old hometown and he could come back.
They walked together hand in hand, Donald in the middle, skipping along down to Eugene’s house. Having no girl, no family, no real food, and friends that were only sea scoundrels showed how little he had that year. This Thanksgiving, fate had offered a new gift from Providence. When he knocked on his old front door, his mother answered. His father heartily invited him in and told him he had been a bit too rough on him. The smell of pumpkin pie and turkey lingered in the air. Fresh rolls had just been baked. Hope filled his life as well as Jane and Donald. Donald already looked up to this newly discovered sailor and Jane gave heartfelt thanks for allowing them to spend Thanksgiving with his family. Being alone with no money and in a new town trying to take on her husband’s role was hard on her and she gazed at Eugene, who was like a gift from God. He had the same charms her husband had, but was a completely different man.
“Eugene?” Jane inquired.
“Thanks, for everything, and I hope I’m not just another girl to you.”
“No, no, you’re quite refreshing. You’re a real girl, with substance, and character. You’re not throwing yourself at me, you have responsibilities, you aren’t being stupid.”
“Are a lot of the girl’s you meet stupid?”
Chip winced, “Yeah. That sounds about right.”
“Eugene? Can I call you Gene?”
“Please do, what is it?”
“When you come back, will there be a place here for me? I would love to stay with your family Would you mind, I don’t even know how to ask, we just met.”
“Dating you? Supporting you?” Chip jumped in, “ Either one sounds pretty good. I know we just met, but you just taught me the most valuable lesson in the world. I was a selfish man before I left, but when I am able to come back I will. I will come back and we can sort it out then. I’ll write you and save all my leaves for you. My family thanks God that I just came home, and I think you will thank them, because I think they just decided you were family.” Chip said pointing to his mother who was heading toward Jane with an excited expression.
“You make the perfect girlfriend. I knew once you said you were single last year, you’d be perfect for my Gene. Oh, I’m just so thankful he is here. You, you Jane, have to stay. We will take care of you. He likes you I can tell. Oh, all those dames out there have taught him to hold onto a real woman when he sees one. Oh, from hardship comes new blessings. It’s a true Thanksgiving. God’s hand upon us.”
Eugene smiled and silently thanked God for answering his silent prayers.
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