This story came to me as
I lay awake one warm night
in August and tried to think
of the plot for another story
I had already started, a plot
I still haven’t worked out yet.

"Many a wassail-bout
Wore the long Winter out;
Often our midnight shout
Set the cocks crowing,
As we the Berserk's tale
Measured in cups of ale,
Draining the oaken pail,
Filled to o'erflowing.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow



by Denise A. Horner


"Skipper! Skipper! This is Cookie," shouted the distraught man into the kitchen mike. "It’s the admiral! He’s gone berserk, sir. He’s tearing up the place looking for the missing cartons. You’ve got to come down here quick, sir, or else there won’t be anything left of the Mess."

Cookie broke off communication with the control room before Lee Crane had had a chance to do much more than stare blankly at the mike, thinking to himself that Cookie needed a long vacation, or a shorter watch. The admiral, berserk? He’d been a bit more than usually exasperated lately, but that was understandable, considering what he was going through, a state of being that only Lee could imagine. Lee Crane, skipper of the Seaview, had never experienced the pure agony of mind, the utter takeover of body, the wrenching need that the admiral was undergoing.

Leaving Chip in charge, Lee sped down to the mess-room and slowed just when he neared the door, hearing the groaning of Cookie and the shouting of the admiral.

"Where are they! Where have you hidden them?" yelled the senior officer aboard submarine Seaview, the man who, in calmer times, had designed and built her.

"I don’t have them anymore, sir. They were here, but Chief Sharkey said they’d be safer locked up in stores again, where they were in the first place – you need to go there, sir!" Cookie’s voice was a-quaver, and the man himself was trembling from head to foot. Telling the admiral he couldn’t have what he wanted took a braver man than even the chief cook and bottle washer aboard the Seaview. It took a man of muscle, perhaps the skipper himself if he’d ever show up.

"Ah, Skipper," said Cookie, much relieved to see the dark-haired and very tall Lee enter the doorway of the Mess. "I told you, he’s berserk. Beggin’ your pardon, admiral."

"Admiral, what is it? Can I help?"

"No, you can’t, Lee. This is something between me and Sharkey. I’ll be in the missile room if you need me, and if not there, in stores. I’ll find him and get those cartons back!"

Several crew members had gathered outside the Mess door, including Kowalski, a senior rating, and his friend Patterson, also a seaman first class. When the admiral grunted his way by them, they looked at each other and then at Lee, who gave them a tired, helpless smile and continuing pursuing the admiral.

"If things get much worse around here," said Patterson, "I’m going to bang my head against a wall."

"I already have," said Kowalski. "Why did the admiral have to go on this no-smoking kick of his, anyway? We’re not busy enough with the dolphin study? He has to go and try to kick the habit while we’re underway?"

"Yeah, why not try to find a nice sanitarium? Where he could be monitored 24/7?"

Both men shook their heads ruefully and turned to go back to their jobs, forgetting the reason they were at the Mess door in the first place was to go inside and get a cup of coffee.

The End %


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