Note: This story first appeared on the Voyage writer's list.
The handsome 18- year old left the note on the kitchen table. Once again, his mother had retreated to her room after dinner, choosing to ignore his comings and goings. He sighed, saddened that she felt the way she did…
It wasn’t his fault that his father had died, and that his mother hated the Navy and everything to do with it. And it certainly wasn’t wrong for him to want to follow in his father’s footsteps into the Navy. When he’d told her that he’d gotten his appointment, passed the physical, and gotten accepted, she'd turned her back on him, and gone to her room. She’d barely spoken to him in the six months since. He was leaving in a week. He wondered if she’d even say goodbye, when the time came.
He closed the screen door behind him and walked the few steps to his car. The old ‘woody’ station wagon, decades old, had cost him $50 from ‘Pops’. He told the boy that he had to have wheels, if he was going to do any delivery for him in the large, old neighborhood. ‘Pops’ ran the corner store, and had hired him to run any, and all errands he needed done.
The young man had come to respect the older storekeeper, and found that during his years in high school, he often found his way there, to talk to the older man, even if he wasn’t working. ‘Pops’ had been a friend of his father's before he’d signed up, in fact, David Crane had been a delivery boy, just like Lee was now. Lee often wondered if his father had driven the same old car in his day. His dad’s family had been comfortable, but his mother had told him that they encouraged their children to work for their own spending money. David Crane had done just that, and forged an enduring friendship at the same time.
Lee stood next to the car, and looked up at the night sky. The stars looked great from here, he had to get to the beach… to see them with out the lights from the city. He slid his lean frame behind the wheel, and eased the ‘woody’ out of the drive, and down the street to the highway.
‘His’ place was about a half hour away, in a small place, called Shore Acres. He drove out of Providence, and to the short bit of highway that would take him to the beach. In his mind, he blessed ‘Pops’. If he hadn’t sold Lee this car, the young man wouldn’t be able to get away…
Half an hour later, Lee pulled the car onto 3rd Street, driving all the way to the end of the block, and then continuing onto the sand. He pulled to a halt just a few feet from a low dune, covered in sea grass, and turned off the motor. He sat, and listened, allowing the sound of the waves washing on the beach to soothe his soul.
He didn’t want to leave his mother feeling the way she did, but he also knew that the sea was the strongest pull in his life, and he had to get to the Academy, to do his best to be the man his father would have wanted him to be.
He opened the door of the car, and swung long legs out, and onto the sand. He peeled off his shoes and socks, and rolled up his pants to mid-calf. He shut the door of the car, shoved his keys and hands into his pocket, and walked to the beach. It was the time of new moon, so all that lit the sky were stars. He walked directly into the water, ankle deep and simply stood there, staring out at the water. The faintly salty smell of the water was immediately reassuring, further calming his troubled soul.
He walked up the beach for a while, hands in pockets, shirttails gently slapping his sides in the soft breeze. So many things… so many things that he had to think about.
His ‘girl’, Lauren, was no longer his girl. She didn’t want to wait for him to finish his training at Annapolis. She wanted to get married. He figured it was just as well, ‘cause he didn’t plan to marry for a long time. His future career was far too important to him…
His future career. He shoved his hands deeper into his pockets, remembering all the books he’d read about the sea and ships. And his mind kept coming back to one thing. Boats…he wanted to command a submarine. He remembered all the tales of the Nautilus in Jules Verne’s 20 Thousand Leagues Beneath the Sea. He stopped, and sat on the beach, staring out. He wondered how it would feel to be on the sail of a boat, and feel the salt spray on your face, feel the wind in your hair, and be able to command all the power and energy of such a mighty craft. He leaned back into the sand, and smiled at the night sky, so clear and sharp. He wished he knew how to shoot the stars. He knew them all, the constellations, Orion, Cassiopeia, Pegasus, Sagittarius. And the individual stars, Antares, Polaris, Vega, Deneb, Arcturus… he could lay there all night, and not have the time to name each one he knew. Yet as fascinating as the sky was, his heart belonged to the ocean.
He sat up again, wrapping his arms around his knees, leaning his chin on them, and staring out. She was a mystery, as changeable as any mistress…a friend, an enemy, a lover. He had to have her in his life, for the rest of his life, and the Academy was the way to do that. He rose, picking up a pebble, and throwing it to the waves. Then he turned, and went back to his car.
He felt better, more at ease, as he got to the car, and got in. he settled into the seat, and turned the key in the ignition. Backing up, he moved the car slowly to the street, and he turned and headed back to Providence, and home.
Lee Crane walked up the stairs to his bedroom. He paused in front of his mother’s room, and tapped lightly. "G’nite, Mom."
His mother didn’t answer, and he shrugged his shoulders in resignation. In a week, well, in a week he would begin a new life, far from Providence, and as he went to his bed, he couldn’t help but wonder what adventures that new life would bring….
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