Foam on the Large Wave


(Fisi 'o e nauaoam)







Two weeks later, Lee and the Admiral were walking along the beach near the Institute.  The sun sank below the horizon and he was now able to gaze out at the murmuring sea.  His feet were bare and his pants rolled up.  Lee thought it would probably make a ludicrous sight—service uniform, rolled up pants—but it was comforting to him.  He and his father used to do the same thing after one of Dad’s shifts.  Adjusting the glasses, he looked out again at the vast ocean expanse.  He could almost see the tiniest details of each wave.  The golden tinged clouds were in sharp focus.  

Lee turned and gazed at the admiral, walking parallel to him, just beyond the water line.  He joined his boss and they walked together.  A foam covered wavelet rolled close to their feet.  “Fisi 'o e nauaoam,” Lee said softly, watching the foam disappear into the sand. 


“Fisi 'o e nauaoam,” Lee repeated, then translated.  “Foam on the large wave.  It was something that A’ona Matua said.  It was after my escape.  I was horribly sick, feeling so out of control. That’s what she said.  No explanation, just the phrase.  At the time, I could only think about how the foam is simply pushed around and then it disappears.”  They walked along a bit further.   “Sometimes I feel like the foam.  Sometimes, I feel that one of these days, I’ll be on a mission or just doing my duty and I’ll be pushed around so far that I’ll simply disappear.”

“But at other times?”

“I remember a Japanese painting.  I think you have one in your den, don’t you?”

“Yes, Hiroshige.”

“It’s beautiful, the waves with the white foam on top, giving definition and clarity to the movement of the ocean.”

“If we wait awhile, we’ll see the foam lighting up the waves in the dark, too.”

Lee nodded.  “Yes, it does, doesn’t it?” 

“Indeed.  I guess we can say that there is purpose to the foam on the waves, even when it’s simply being pushed with the currents.”

The tide was coming in.  Waves began to lap at Crane’s feet again.  The sky was a dark bronze bowl, with only a few golden-red clouds to break the sameness.  Again, he remembered sunrises similar to this when he was a boy walking on the beach with his dad, shivering when the cooler Atlantic waters washed over his feet.  Even that had more clarity.  All of his memories of his father did.  Perhaps it was due to the fact that the memories weren’t so heavily tainted with that awful guilt that had crept in whenever he thought of his boyhood.  Or when someone under his command lost his life. 

Lee continued to watch the waves roll in and out, some covering his feet and then rushing in retreat.  The last wave had brought with it a small piece of kelp.  He bent down to pick it up and a tiny crab scuttled off and headed back toward the sea.   He remembered chasing similar creatures on the east coast. Dad would laugh heartily.  Fisi 'o e nauaoam.   

“By the way, Lee,” Nelson said with a wry smile.  “I listened to those tapes Doc grabbed from Mendon’s room.”

Crane flushed with embarrassment and consternation, but said nothing. 

“Someday you are going to have to tell me about your family’s connection with the Vanderbilt family,” Harriman said with a chuckle. 

“Huh?”   Lee gazed sharply at the admiral.  He didn’t remember that one.

“And I liked your answer to Mendon about our secret access codes, too.”

Lee tried to think back.  It was hard to remember any of the sessions, but this one came back to him.  He smirked and then asked.  “Damage?”

“Virtually nothing.  Your answers were so technical, so Navy and so non-commital, I almost laughed at Mendon’s attempts to get something really important from you.  I don’t know how Mendez did it, but I think he innured you from telling any really important secret, apparently.”

Lee was incredulous.  “No wonder Mendon was pumping me with so many drugs.”

Nelson grimaced.  “I disagree.  That was pure evil meanness.   He didn’t need an excuse.  I said I almost laughed.  Knowing the circumstances of what you were going through . . . I couldn’t.”

They continued walking on the beach.  Lee enjoyed the feeling of rough warmth enveloping his feet every time he took a step.  His mind returned again to the walks he and his dad took when they visited the Outer Banks.  The breeze was the same, the crying gulls, the slap of the water and the feeling of caring companionship.  Lee saw great similarity between his father and the man beside him.  Perhaps that was why he held Harriman Nelson in such high esteem.  “Admiral, I, uh,” he began awkwardly.  “I wanted to thank you for helping me out the other day.”

Nelson looked puzzled.  “With what?”

Lee wasn’t sure what to say.  “Your cabin . . . for letting me use your cabin.” 

Harriman said nothing.  Lee was silent and in that silence something passed between them.  The admiral knew instinctively that Lee realized what he had done that morning.  He also knew that the younger man was extremely grateful for his doing it.  And Nelson also realized, Lord only knew how, that there had not just been two people there that day, but three.  And Lee knew it, too. 

Only the sea, the wind and the birds spoke during those minutes but silent words of respect, admiration, loyalty and devotion passed between the two men. 


Angie, who had tired of waiting in the admiral’s car, was watching from a nearby stand of rocks.  She had marched irritably toward the beach ready to give both men a piece of her mind.  Then she felt something, saw that something deep and important was happening down there.  She simply stood there a moment, watching.  Then she quietly walked back to the car, humming a happy tune.  She was no longer worried about the captain, as she had been these past weeks.  He would be all right. 

They both would.




Foam on the Large Wave Prologue
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Contents
Main Page