Hang Ten

by Sue K.




“Are you nuts?” Seaman Patterson asked his friend. He and Stu Riley were sitting together in the wardroom drinking coffee.

Riley had been leaning toward him conspiratorially, telling his friend his latest idea. His eyes had glowed with anticipation. Now he pulled back, slightly disgusted. But he wasn’t done yet. “You’re a wet blanket! What could go wrong?”

“Plenty!” Patterson replied tersely, but then as he pictured the surfer on a skateboard, he felt the ghost of a smile quirking his lips. Still, it sounded dangerous. “How about you could break your neck.”

“What? Me?” Riley protested. “The greatest curl rider, best hot-dogger on the west coast?”

“But Stu….”

“No buts about it, Pat, you know it would be great. The guys use trash bags right now. If I used a skateboard, can you imagine the ride? Wow! That would be totally far out!” Stu’s eyes got a very far-away look. “When are we scheduled for the drill?”

“The Arctic run,” Patterson said with a resigned sigh.

“Hey, what’s up?” another voice asked. It was Krieg, the new sonar man. “You two look like you’re cooking up something.”

Patterson hitched a thumb in Riley’s direction. “He’s doing the cooking and I think he’s going to regret it.”

“What are you going to do?” Krieg asked Riley, who still had the faraway look in his eyes.

Riley focused on the newcomer and considered him for a moment. Finally, “Can you keep a secret? Especially from the khakis?”

“Sure!” Krieg insisted. “What have you got in mind?” Riley told him. The sonar man’s eyes got large with disbelief. “You’ve got to be kidding!”

Stu snorted in irritation. “I can’t believe you guys! None of you are with it!”

“You mean you’d really do that? You could really do it?” Krieg asked.

“Of course. I’ve done waves that would curl your granny’s toes and turn your mother’s hair white.”

“He has,” Patterson agreed.

“Okay, Stu. Count me in. I want to see this,” Krieg said with a wicked grin.

Four days later, all of the rates who were not on duty were gathered in the enlisted men’s wardroom, or as close to it as they could get. Krieg had a small black book and a pile of money in front of him, which he kept stuffing into a small briefcase. He was still taking wagers and adding them up. Outside the door, Riley was poised with his skateboard. He was dressed in a garishly bright Hawaiian shirt and cut-off shorts. Sunglasses perched on his head and a shell bead necklace was around his neck. He ceremoniously pulled off his flip-flops and handed them to Patterson, who stood to the side, still looking dubiously at his friend.

Riley looked at the faces crowded behind and at the wardroom door. “Now when they call it, you hound dogs better grab onto something,” he said seriously. “I don’t want any obstructions or it’s all off.”

“We know, Stu,” Kowalski said with a laugh. He had only heard about it the day before and he wouldn’t have missed this for the world.

The intercom crackled to life. “Prepare for Emergency Blow! Everyone not on duty, hold fast,” the skipper’s voice came loud and clear. Only a few heartbeats later came the order. “Emergency blow!”

The Seaview, which had been at a slight angle, now tilted sharply upward. Riley let go and immediately shot downward, picking up speed with eye-watering speed. He reached the corridor’s first doorway, and hanging on to his skateboard with one hand, leaped through, and landing back on the floor, shot down the next stretch of corridor. He did the same twice more before disaster struck. Presumably hearing a strange rumbling, the executive officer came out of the lab, hanging on to the edge of the doorframe as the sub rose higher before it began to drop onto the surface of the ocean. The admiral’s face peered from behind him. Morton met the horrified gaze of a rating on a skateboard. Nelson grabbed his exec’s belt and jerked him back in, letting go of his hold on the doorframe as he did. Both officers slid to the other side of the room where a loud shattering of glass and shifting equipment accompanied their abrupt halt. As the sub crashed down on the surface of the ocean, Riley, who had lost control in the effort of trying to miss his commanding officers, collided against the wall with a horrible thud. The skateboard careened on down the corridor to stop at the next watertight door, then slowly rolled back past him as the sub righted itself. Stu was out cold.

“Sickbay, report to the lab,” was heard immediately thereafter from a frantic Seaman Patterson.

Doc was on the scene almost instantly as the sick bay wasn’t too far away. Kowalski was already on the floor attending to the unconscious Riley, while several other crewmen were helping to extricate a very angry admiral and executive officer from broken glassware and displaced equipment. Doc knelt down to examine the unconscious man, his eyes quickly taking in the skateboard sitting sedately at the far end of the corridor. With a sigh, he began checking the unorthodox seaman’s vitals. Pulse was only slightly lower than normal, blood pressure normal. Riley moaned and opened his eyes.

From inside the laboratory, more glass broke and the admiral let slip several harsh invectives that surprised not a few of those in the vicinity. Stu tried to sit up, his eyes filled with uncharacteristic fear.

“Uh, uh, Riley,” Doc admonished him with a shake of the head. “You stay put. I think you have a mild concussion.”

“Be careful, Patterson! We’re covered in glass!” the admiral snapped from inside the room.

At that moment, the captain rushed into the corridor and almost slipped on the skateboard. He stared at it for a quick moment and took in the rest of the scene.

Morton muttered as he stepped from the lab and eyed Riley. His gaze boded no good for the younger man. “Did you come up with this asinine idea?” he growled. There were several spots of blood on the usually crisp and clean uniform and his hands were cut and bleeding.

“Uh, yes sir, Mr. Morton,” the usually brash seaman said meekly. “But it seemed like a really cool idea at the time.”


Author’s note: I got the idea for this story from an article on a Voyage site (Mike’s, I believe) where an ex-submariner said that seamen used to use trash bags and slide down the corridors during an emergency blow. I just took it one step beyond. Krieg, btw, is a name that I was graciously loaned by an ex-Naval seaman named Christopher Krieg. He was also the person who told me the seaman’s slang for the officers, too. A friend of mine, who served on a submarine, corroborated the practice of sliding on trash bags.

This story was originally located on Teela's Uncharted Waters site. As the links seem to have issues I chose to also put it up on my site as well.




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