For Jeremy

 

 

 

This story is based on a real event and real people.  The real Jeremy was a sweet young man I had in one of my library classes.  He would never have been able to do what I had my character doing because his disability was much more severe.  Jeremy takes characteristics from several other students I have had.  The ending is much the same, however, except in reality, of course, there was no Lee Crane. 

 

 

            

 

 

 

 

Captain Lee Crane studied his reflected image in the motel mirror and then put on his cover.  The dress blues fit his lean frame perfectly, the service bars shining golden against the dark material on his sleeve, rank insignia on his collar.  The only thing he had left off were the medals he had acquired over the years.  That would have been too pretentious.  He pulled out a small box from his pocket and opened it up.  A set of captain’s eagles, bright and shiny, never worn.  Those were appropriate.  He looked at his watch and saw that it was time to go.  His destination was only a block and a half down the road of this small town.  The fall colors were particularly spectacular, so he decided to walk.  The young motel clerk acknowledged him with a nod and an awed look of approval.   They had chatted yesterday; she knew why he was here.   And as he walked, he thought about what had brought him here………

 

 

Lee was appalled at just how quickly the storm had arisen and how violent it was.   No matter that the guidance system had chosen this time and place to go haywire on them.  And no matter that lightning had screwed up the radio, they were here and they would have to set down somehow in a semi-remote mountainous area.  “You get any bearings yet, Pat?”

“No, sir,” a very nervous voice returned. 

Lee had to smile softly.  Patterson had been nervous about going up in the aircraft from the very beginning.   It was a quick smile, though; he had to put all his concentration in maintaining control long enough to land.  The wind was horrendous.  If there weren’t microbursts in this storm, he’d eat his flight jacket.   But where could he land?  They had passed a very large river/reservoir.   If he could make the turn and head back.  But then they would be heading back into the teeth of the storm, probably caught sideways before they could complete the turn. 

“Skipper?”

“Yeah?” he responded tersely, his eyes trying to penetrate the cloud enshrouded skies.  “And what’s the altitude?”

“Uh, depending on which mountain we’re crossing, two hundred feet.”  There was a pause.  “Did I ever tell you why I joined the Navy?”

Lee fought the bucking controls.  This beautiful little extension of the most efficient submarine in the world wasn’t build for flying in these kinds of extreme conditions.  Perhaps a more experienced pilot could have done better, but there wasn’t a more experienced pilot.   There was just the two of them.  Two scared-spitless submariners getting tossed around two hundred feet above the Appalachian mountains.  What a helluva way to die.   Enough!  What’s the old saying?  Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing?  Just gotta land!   Then he remembered Patterson’s question.  “Why?”

“Uh, so I wouldn’t have to fly.”

Lee couldn’t help it.  Even as he stared intently ahead, trying to make a hole in the swirling mass of black clouds, rain, lightning and wind, he laughed.  “That’s a good one, Pat.  I’ll remember that next time I need a cross country co-pilot.”  Then he saw it—a break in the clouds.  A tiny one that showed the narrow ribbon of a river below them.  Not what he had in mind and certainly not as large as the one they had passed over when they met this storm, but something.  Anything. “Hang on.”  He dived and heard the seaman’s gasp. 

“Uh, been doing that for the past fifteen minutes, Skipper.”

The hole gaped and then closed, but Lee had seen the river and had marked the bearings.  It curved ahead, but he should be able to see it again another hundred feet down.  If he didn’t see a mountaintop first.  Hmm, what was that song?   Rocky Top?  Yeah, last Patterson had told him, they had been flying in a northwest to southeast pattern and were crossing Tennessee.  East Tennessee to boot.   The clouds seemed to boil like the sea against the clear hull plates of the Seaview and then parted enough for him to see the river not more than eighty feet below him.  “Damn!” he shouted.  It was shallow, the kind of river that kayakers and rafters loved.  Nothing that he could submerge in.   Desperately, he searched for something he could plane in on.   There, slightly left of center.  The wind caught him and drove the Flying Sub to the right.  He compensated.  Fifty feet.  He cut the engines.  They were gliding.  The controls were more sluggish and it took all his strength to bring it to port, but it responded.  Thirty feet. 

“Skipper!  There’s rocks down there!”  Patterson sounded as though he was trying hard not to sound hysterical, but only partially succeeding.

No kidding!  But he didn’t respond right away.  Keep heading port.  Keep the nose up.  The flying sub was trying to dive without the power to keep her aloft.  She didn’t have the lift that a normal aircraft had.  Nose up.  “Planing, Patterson,” he said tersely, trying to inform and reassure.  There was nothing reassuring about their situation.  Nose up!  Fifteen feet.  There was still a narrow section that was deep enough for their approach.  Ten.  Five.  The Flying Sub hit with a bone-rattling thump and bounced along the river like a skipping stone.  Slam, lift, slam, lift.  Lee felt the waves catch the bow and try to capsize the little ship, but somehow he was able to keep the aircraft even keeled.  Their speed dropped drastically and he steered toward the tree-lined shore.  It was getting darker and harder to see.   A quick glance at the chronometer showed it was almost sunset.  The storm made it seem almost like midnight.

Darker clouds closed in above and around, almost hiding the shoreline, making the trees into thin-clawed fingers stretching toward an equally inhospitable sky.  They were within ten feet of the shore when the Flying Sub grounded with a soft crunch. 

Almost as one, the two men heaved sighs of relief.  Lee turned to the young seaman and grinned.  “Well, ye of little faith,” he said lightly, trying to calm the shaking he felt in his voice.  “We made it.”  He noticed the sweat trickling down his back and he pulled off the flight jacket. 

“Skipper, does this qualify as a good landing?”

Lee laughed.  “We’re alive, aren’t we?”

“Yes, sir,” Patterson said, and he laughed, too.   “I guess we’d better tie her off, though.  Or we may be floating downstream by morning if this rain keeps up.  The mountain rivers can fill fast.”

“Good thinking,” Lee replied.  “Dig into the supply locker and pull out some line.  When you’re finished, pull out a couple of blankets, too.”

“Aye, sir.”   Patterson pulled out a nylon line and then opened the hatch.  Rain hit them in the face, seeming to try out the seaman’s theory. 

“And see if you can do something about the radio, Pat, while I secure the Flying Sub.”

By the time Lee had made the aircraft fast to a sturdy tree, and had clambered back aboard, he was soaked to the skin.  Patterson handed him an extra blanket as the captain peeled off his shirt and pants.  While he was drying off, the seaman dug out emergency rations and handed him one.  After a meal of something more than nothing and much less than Cookie’s worst, they lay stretched out on the deck between the seats, trying to get comfortable.  The radio was still inoperative, so the only thing left was sleep.  Occasionally they woke to the movement of the river trying to push the Flying Sub downstream, but the line stayed fast.  Sometime during the night, the storm calmed to a more sedate soaking rain and Lee fell into a deeper sleep. 

A knocking woke him.  Who was trying to find him now, he thought groggily?  He sat up and, looking through the bow window, saw that it was sometime shortly past dawn, although it was a bit hard to tell because of the continuing overcast conditions.  The knocking resumed.   Someone was on top of the Flying Sub.  The nose was toward the shore and dimly, through the mist, Lee saw the outlines of a house, two story, partially brick with a riverfront deck, but he saw no activity, except for a large coon-type hound dog barking at the end of a chain.   Figures, he thought, his mind conjuring all the stereotypes of this region of the country. 

Patterson grunted and rolled over in his sleep.  Lee pulled on his almost dry pants and shirt and slipped on his shoes.  He opened the hatch and climbed out only to find himself staring almost nose-to-nose with a young, inquisitive face. 

“Hey,” said the boy, who appeared to be about ten-years-old, tall and thin, his light brown hair still sleep-mussed.  He was barefoot, dressed in damp jeans and his pajama tops.  Dolphins sported across his chest.  His blue eyes held only intense curiosity; no fear, and he studied Lee unabashedly. 

“Hello,” Lee answered, pulling himself further up onto the hull, his legs dangling comfortably inside the Flying Sub’s hatch. 

“I’m Jeremy,” the boy announced, pointing to himself. 

Thankfully, there was no rain at the moment, because Jeremy seemed to have made the other side of the hatch his permanent seat.  The eyes, while inquisitive, seemed to hold something different, or lack something that most ten-year-olds had in their depths.  Or perhaps, Lee thought upon further study, there was an innocence there, like that of a much younger child.  “I’m Lee.”

“Funny kind of boat,” Jeremy said simply.  It wasn’t criticism, just a statement of fact.

Lee smiled.  “Yeah, it is.”

“That’s my house.  And that’s my dad’s boat,” he said, pointing from the large structure to a shed where the prow of a small motorboat stuck out.

This child reminded him of someone, but he couldn’t figure that one either.  Lee nodded.  “Where are we?”

“At my house,” came the simple answer.  

Lee couldn’t help it, he laughed softly.  This backwoods child had given a very correct answer, even if it wasn’t what he was looking for. “What state?”

“State?” came the query.  Jeremy pondered and then said, “Volunteer state.”

Lee carefully studied the boy across from him and then finally figured it out.  This child was indeed possessed of a form of innocence.  He had Down’s syndrome.   Jeremy had reminded him of his cousin, his aunt Linda’s grandson, Taylor, only the features weren’t so pronounced on Jeremy.

“Thanks,” Lee said, still getting the answer he was looking for.  “Your folks up yet?”

Jeremy shrugged.  “Weren’t when I got up.  Should be by now.”  He kept trying to look down through the Flying Sub’s hatch.  “What’s it called?”

“Flying Sub.  She doesn’t have a fancy name,” he replied.   “Can you take me to your parents?”

Jeremy nodded, but it was an abstract nod.  “Sub?  A submarine?”  His eyes widened in amazement. 

Lee nodded.  “I will be happy to show her to you after I talk to your folks.  And after my companion wakes up.”

“Really?”  Jeremy’s eyes shone with excitement.  He looked through the hatch without moving. 

“You’ll need to move so I can close the hatch.  I wouldn’t want water to get in if it rains again,” Lee said with a smile. 

Jeremy got to his feet, staggering a bit as the Flying Sub rocked in the raised water level of the river.  Lee reached out to steady the boy as he also got to his feet.  He bent to close the hatch and Jeremy eagerly helped him. 

“Watch your fingers,” Lee said, closing the hatch, but not dogging it. 

Just as Jeremy was getting ready to jump into the shallow water near the shore, an anxious voice called out.   Again, he staggered and once more Lee steadied him.   The woman called out another name, her husband, the captain figured, and rushed to the shore.  “Climb down carefully, Jeremy.  Use the hand and footholds you used to climb up.”

“Aye, aye, sir,” Jeremy called out with a grin. 

Lee couldn’t help it, he grinned back, then when the boy was safely wading toward the shore, he turned his attention to the woman.   She had grabbed Jeremy and hauled him close to her.   “Sorry, ma’am.  This was where we came down last night in the storm and we just tied our, uh, plane off until the night passed.”

“Who are you and what in the world is that thing?” she asked, alternately pointing at Lee and then at the Flying Sub.  Jeremy started to talk, but she motioned to him and the boy was silent.

Lee climbed down but stood in the knee-deep water until invited to come on shore.  She still looked anxious.  “Captain Lee Crane, ma’am.  And this is the Flying Sub.  As I told Jeremy, it doesn’t have a fancy name, just it’s designation.”  With a bit of trepidation, Lee saw a man about his size rushing out of the house with a gun in one hand and fear in his eyes.  Not a good combination, the captain thought.   As he ran to the woman’s side, the man, presumably Jeremy’s father, pointed the gun at Lee’s middle, but didn’t release the safety as yet.   

“That’s a . . . what?” she asked, before the man could say anything.   

“Flying sub.  Acts as a submarine under water and a jet above it,” Lee explained.  “But apparently, it wasn’t made for this kind of weather.”  He felt the cold water lapping more gently than it had last night, but still it was cold.  “I hate to inconvenience you, but could I come ashore.  It’s a bit cold out here.”

The man gazed cautiously at him and then nodded.   “Where’d you come from?” the man asked as Lee waded to the bank and climbed up. 

“California,” Lee responded simply.   Now the breeze from up the river was making him feel even colder.  It was becoming hard to keep his teeth from chattering.   He really wished that these people would invite him in, but he understood their reticence.   If something this different had dropped from the sky during the night, he’d be wielding a shotgun at the strangers, too.   “The Nelson Institute of Marine Research, to be more specific.  Santa Barbara.”  He folded his arms to try for more warmth, wishing that he had put on his flight jacket before leaving the Flying Sub.  “I hate to bother you again, but the storm also took out our radio.  I need to borrow your phone.  My superior will be worried about us.”

“Us?” the man asked. 

“Yes, my companion is still sleeping inside,” he said, pointing over his shoulder.   Jeremy’s parents were silent, as though pondering their options.

Jeremy was the first to break the stalemate.  “Come and see my submarine!” he said exuberantly.  

Lee didn’t move, waiting for a more substantial invitation. 

“Sure, come on in.  You look cold.  Guess it’s a bit chillier here than in California,” the man finally said.  He smiled and held out his hand. 

Lee shook it, returning the smile.   “Just a bit, sir.” 

“My name’s Michael, this is my wife, Leean.”   Lee nodded and followed them up the path toward the house.   “Are y’all hungry?” Michael asked.  “We have plenty of breakfast.”

“We are indeed, if you have enough to spare.  And I don’t mind paying,” Lee offered.

“Paying?  Of course you ain’t paying.    Don’t need to pay for friendliness, especially to those in need,” Michael protested.  “Just nowadays you have to be kind of careful, you know.” 

Lee understood and pulled out his wallet, showing his military ID.   They walked into the house where Lee was perused by a nonchalant cat, perched on a chair by the sliding door.    He was offered a different chair, but Jeremy was insistent on showing Lee his ‘submarine’.  

“Jeremy, let the man rest a bit.  He can see your collection after breakfast,” Leean said with slight exasperation.  She looked apologetically at Lee.  “He gets so excited sometimes.”

“No problem,” Lee said with a smile.  He looked at his watch.  “If you don’t mind, I’ll see what Jeremy wants to show me and then I can at least help you set the table.  The phone can wait a while.  It’s about four in the morning in Santa Barbara.”

Jeremy grabbed Lee’s arm and pulled him down a hall and into a bedroom.  A smaller boy and girl, about seven and five, respectively, watched him from another bedroom.   Lee didn’t quite know what to expect in Jeremy’s bedroom, but what he saw was a beautiful large-sized poster of the Seaview hanging on the wall over Jeremy’s bed.  It was a reproduction of a painting like one that hung above the admiral’s desk at NIMR, underwater view, full shot of the boat.   Lee hadn’t even been aware that such paintings had been reproduced and sold.   But he could see why it might be popular.    It exuded power, grace and beauty.

“Isn’t she beautiful?  Sure wish I could see her for real,” Jeremy said wistfully.   “Someday I’m going to join the Navy and work on a real submarine,” he added, his voice filled with determination.

“She is a beaut; I’ll have to admit,” Michael said from the doorway.   “Ironic, a kid from the mountains of Tennessee having an obsession with submarines.  When they have free writing time at his school, he always writes about submarines, that one in particular.” 

It was then that Lee saw other, smaller pictures of various submarines as well as more of the Seaview.  There was a crude clay model of the Seaview on the nightstand, what appeared to be clippings on the wall.  Somehow, Lee had just thought of his boat as an extraordinary vessel with extraordinary men, not something that strangers would admire, hang posters of, dream of seeing.  But wasn’t that what he had wished for when Seaview had been commissioned?  Wasn’t that what he had done when he was about Jeremy’s age?

“I bet she’s something inside, too,” Jeremy continued as though his father hadn’t said a word. 

“She is,” Lee murmured soft enough that Jeremy didn’t hear him.   Michael looked at him in surprise, but Lee didn’t elaborate.  “Could I use your phone now?  Even though it’s quite early in California, someone will be awake and I’m sure they want to know that Patterson and I are all right.  I’ll make sure the charge is reversed.”   Nodding, Michael led him back to the kitchen and handed him a phone.  Lee dialed a direct land number to the submarine.  Someone would be on watch and answer.  He was right; Sparks was on communications watch.  “Sparks, this is the captain,” he said.  He had to wait until Sparks calmed down.  “Yes, I know you’ve all been worried, I’m sure there’s been a search and rescue ordered, but this is the first chance I’ve had to call.  The storm that grounded us also knocked out our communications.  Tell the admiral that we’re all right and that the Flying Sub appears to be sound.”  Sparks was asking another question.  Lee turned to Michael.  “Where exactly are we?” 

“On the Hiwassee River, Polk County, east of Reliance.  Amazes me how you landed that thing.”

“Amazes me, too,” he replied with a wry smile.  He gave Sparks the information and the family’s phone number.  “Hope you don’t mind me doing that,” Lee said.  “I know the admiral will be calling when he’s up.”  He put the plates and utensils on a large table near the glass door overlooking the river.  With the mist rising from the river, it was an almost enchanting view. 

Jeremy had finally followed them into the kitchen.  He showed Lee a drawing he had made of the submarine.   Studying it with an admiring eye, Lee saw that the boy had a real skill.  It was the Seaview during his first year on board, before she had been fitted to carry the Flying Sub.   Again, it was an underwater rendition, similar to the one on Jeremy’s wall.  “I guess you know that the submarine has had some modifications since you did this drawing.”  Jeremy nodded.  “The Flying Sub berths under the bow,” he said to Jeremy pointing to the place under the clear bow windows.  Jeremy gaped at him.  The only sound in the room was the popping and sizzling of frying bacon. 

The thought that had planted in his head when he had first walked into the boy’s room coalesced.   “Jeremy, you said you wanted to see the Seaview up close?”

The boy nodded his head, an eager gleam in his eyes. 

“Uh, Captain, we haven’t even been to Myrtle Beach, much less all the way to California,” Michael said, in a slightly warning tone.  There was a knock at the sliding glass door.  Patterson stood outside.  Michael beckoned him in.  After introductions, the seaman sat down next to Lee and watched the proceedings.

“Jeremy, you have done a splendid job with this picture.  Would I be able to get a copy of this to hang on the wall of my cabin?  You have real talent.”

“Sure,” Jeremy said excited at the praise. 

“Take it back to your room for now, before it gets something on it,” Lee suggested.  The boy ran out of the room.   Lee looked at the Jeremy’s parents.  “The Seaview is in the middle of some extensive refittings and isn’t going anywhere for several more weeks.  I don’t think Admiral Nelson would mind a visit from an admirer.”

“Are you saying you have been on the ship?” Leean said.  “You know Harriman Nelson?”

Lee smiled, feeling particularly happy at the moment.  “You might say that.  I’m the Seaview’s captain.  Seaman Patterson is a member of the crew.”

Michael said nothing.  Leean looked misty eyed.  “I have always dreamed of giving Jeremy just a glimpse of the submarine, or any submarine.  He also has a heart defect.  Not a bad one, but enough to make it difficult for him as he matures.  I tried to get him signed up with one of those wish organizations, but we didn’t quite qualify.”  She stopped suddenly, as though feeling silly for babbling.  “And we have never had enough to just go and show him one on our own.”

“Then I have your permission to offer Jeremy the opportunity?” Lee asked.  “The Institute does have provisions for youth studies.  I think this might fall under that category.”

Both parents looked at each other and then nodded.  Patterson looked a bit puzzled, not having been privy to the entire conversation, but said nothing.  Jeremy walked back into the room, his two siblings in tow.  “When do you want me to make you a picture of the Seaview, Lee?”

“When you can,” Lee answered.  “Jeremy, you said you wanted to be able to see the Seaview.”  Jeremy nodded.   “Then would you like to come on board as my guest?”  Jeremy’s mouth hung open in shock.  “As the captain of Seaview, I would like to give you a personal tour.  Your parents, too, if they would like to come.”

Jeremy looked from one person to another, then he threw himself at Lee, hugging him tightly enough to strangle him.   All during breakfast, Jeremy plied him with questions.  At first they had been an almost furious babbling, but once the boy had calmed down and taken time to think, he had asked extremely technical questions.  Lee answered as best he could while trying to eat some of the best biscuits and gravy he’d ever had, but was finally forced to tell the boy that all such inquiries could be answered on the sub. 

The phone rang about the time that breakfast was over and as Lee suspected, it was the admiral.  He repeated what he had told Sparks, answered some questions and then he laid his bombshell in the admiral’s lap.  There was a short silence on the other end. 

“Lee, whatever possessed you to invite civilians to tour Seaview?” came Nelson’s flustered question.

“Don’t know, can’t really explain it, Admiral.  It just felt right,” Lee answered. 

Nelson huffed on the other end and then sighed.  “All right, as long as they can come within the next few weeks.  And just make sure you understand that the Institute is not a make-a-wish foundation.”

Lee laughed.  “I understand perfectly, sir.”   He also understood, having come to know Jeremy in this short while, that Nelson would be as pleased with this boy and his knowledge of the Seaview as he had been.  While the admiral waited, Lee turned to Jeremy’s parents.  “Would you be able to come out to California….”  He paused.   “In a week?”

“But we have no tickets, uh, we’d have to contact Jeremy’s school.  And we have to arrange for Melinda and Ben to stay with relatives,” both parents started thinking aloud of things they had to do.

“The reason I ask, is that we were on our way to Jacksonville, Florida on Institute business and we’ll be heading back in about six days.  I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t come back with us.”

“On that?” Michael asked, pointing out the deck door to the Flying Sub swaying slightly in the river’s current. 

“We usually don’t carry five, but there’s room.  Of course, we’d have to meet at a local airport,” Lee said with a smile.  “I really don’t want to repeat what I had to do last night.”  It was all Jeremy could do to keep on his seat.  Eggs, biscuits and bacon were totally forgotten.   Michael finally nodded. 

So it was quickly arranged.  Lee and Patterson would return, landing at the closest airport, which happened to be in Chattanooga.  Michael laughed and said if the rainy weather continued, they’d be able to do a water landing there.  Lee assumed it was a local joke.  

After examining the Flying Sub as closely as the current of the river would allow, both men boarded.  Luckily, the rain during the night had lifted the craft off the rocky river bottom, making it much easier to push off.  The engines did most of the work.  The wind had slackened and Lee was confident of an uneventful take off, despite the fact that they would be bouncing more than for a usual take off.  The last he saw of the family was Jeremy bouncing up and down, waving exuberantly. 

A week later, he met Jeremy and his parents at the airport and after clearance to take off; they were in the air.  A short time after that, they were safely ensconced at twenty thousand feet over the heartland of the nation.  Jeremy periodically asked questions and while the ship was on autopilot, Lee pointed out the various features of the revolutionary craft.  Sometime over southern Utah, Jeremy fell asleep, only jerking awake when they landed in the ocean two hundred feet from the Seaview.  The boy’s mouth hung open, his eyes fixed on the submarine.  Lee dived just below the surface and then docked in the Flying Sub’s berth.  Hands from above opened the hatch and Lee helped Jeremy’s mother up the ladder.  Jeremy and his father followed and then Lee and Patterson.  “Permission to come aboard,” the captain said formally. 

“Granted,” Nelson said, extending his hand to the boy. 

It was a grand and glorious visit for Jeremy.  It had taken the rest of the day to tour the sub and the men who were part of the skeleton crew had almost made Jeremy a mascot of sorts.  He ate with them and checked out their sleeping quarters, tried on diving gear and sat in the mini sub.  Jeremy looked as though he had died and gone to heaven when Admiral Nelson gave him the option of spending the night in the visitor’s cabin on board.  It was a bit cramped for he and his parents, but no one found that a difficult issue.  On the second day, after seeing a little more of the sub, the admiral gave the family a tour of the institute, allowing the boy to see some of what went on there.  As the captain had figured, Nelson was as entranced with Jeremy as he was.  On the last day of the four-day visit, Jeremy had handed Lee a manila envelope.   In it was the picture that Jeremy had shown him at his house.  “I’ll get a copy of it and get this back to you,” Lee told him. 

“No, I made a copy for me before we left home.  This is yours,” Jeremy said, his eyes shining with the excitement that had never flagged since they had first approached the submarine.  “You said you wanted to hang it in your cabin.”

“I did and I am,” Lee told him, putting his arm around the boy.  “You know, Jeremy, there is a need for artists in marine research.”

“And if you continue to do well at school,” Nelson added, “There could be a place here for you to work when you’re grown.”   Again, Jeremy gaped.  His parents were silent in shock.   Nelson gazed at them.  He was totally serious. “The Institute offers scholarships to promising young students in different fields.  While Jeremy has a disability, that shouldn’t keep him from going to college and building on his talents.”

And that was how the visit had ended, with Jeremy promising to work hard in school and Lee promising to keep in touch.  They had.  For the past two years they had.  Jeremy occasionally sent pictures and examples of his essays from school.  Lee had sent encouraging letters and had called when time permitted. 

Then he had received word last week that while out with his father, Jeremy had been struck and killed by a train.  It wasn’t clear what had happened, as the only person left to give a statement was a badly shaken engineer.  Jeremy, the boy determined to become a submariner, was gone.  And here was Lee representing the compliment of the Seaview in a little railroad town in Tennessee paying his last respects.  He walked through the door and was greeted by the funeral home representative.  Both bodies were still in state in a large chapel filled to capacity.  There were only a few minutes of visitation left before the caskets would be sealed.  Lee walked up to Michael’s casket.  Then he approached Jeremy’s casket, looked at the young face, the ambitious, eager to learn, willing to overcome boy taken way too soon, and simply stood there for a moment.   Finally, Lee took out the small box and pulled the captain’s eagles from it.   He bent over and carefully pinned them to the collar of Jeremy’s Sunday suit.  They gleamed, catching the soft lights overhead.  Lee drew back and saluted, thinking at what he felt the world had lost in a brief moment of tragedy.  

Turning, he saw Leean gazing at him, her cheeks slick with new tears.  “Thank you,” she mouthed.  Then she enveloped him in her arms.  He returned the embrace, unmindful of any one else in the chapel.  Finally, Leean murmured, “Please sit in the family section.  Jeremy always felt you were family.”  Lee nodded and took his seat. 

When he returned to the Seaview, he gazed at the framed drawing of the submarine that Jeremy had given him two years previously.  Whether the boy would have been able to actually join the Navy and become a submariner, Lee didn’t know.  It really didn’t matter.   All he knew was that a boy had dreamed, and Lee Crane had been privileged to become a part of that dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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