The Problem
by George Miller

Chief Sharkey knew he had never been in so much trouble during all his time on the Seaview. He had never struck another of his shipmates in anger, at least before today. It was just a matter of time till that call came to him for the impending meeting with his Captain.

He simply did not know what he would tell Captain Crane when that time came. He only hoped that Admiral Nelson would not be in that meeting. Sharkey thought to himself ‘You can’t hide anything from the Admiral... He’ll know something is wrong.’

The Chief had no desire to lie to Nelson or Crane, but he felt that his problem was just that... his problem. He would find a way to deal with it on his own. The Admiral and the Captain had problems of their own aboard Seaview. He would not add to them.

He was in the missile room, trying to work on the supply inventory reports. He must have counted the same item four or five times. His mind just was not on his work. ‘Why,’ he asked himself, ‘Why did Kowalski and Patterson have to come down that corridor when they did... Why couldn’t I have been somewhere else?’

Sharkey rubbed his knuckles that were bruised from decking both Kowalski and Patterson. He was trying to remember just what they said that set him off like that. He tried hard, but it would not come to him. He thought ‘Sharkey, you old fool, get a grip on yourself. You need help.’

The silence of Sharkey’s thoughts was shattered by the Seaview’s intercom, “Chief Sharkey, this is the Captain. Report immediately to my cabin.”

Sharkey just stood looking at the mic hanging on the wall. He wasn’t ready for this...

“Chief,” Crane repeated, “Report to my cabin. Acknowledge!”

Sharkey reached for and keyed the mic, “Sharkey here, Sir. I’m on the way.”

He hung the mic back on the hook and walked towards the hatch. He was shaking his head in despair as he headed towards the meeting. He checked his watch. He realized that it did not take long for Kowalski and Patterson to file their complaint. He chuckled to himself, ‘after all... this is a submarine... doesn’t take long for news to travel here.’

The fact that news did, in fact, travel quickly through a submarine was the main reason he did not want to discuss his problems with anyone on board... not even Nelson or Crane.

He was going to pass sick bay on his way to the Captain’s cabin. He thought for a moment as he approached the door to sick bay, that he should stop in and check on his two unintended victims. He saw Kowalski gingerly touching a large bruise over his left eye. He also saw the Doc placing an ice bag on Patterson’s swollen jaw. ‘No,’ he thought, ‘This is not the time.’ He did not want to see anyone right now and those two really did not look like they wanted visitors.

He stood in front of the door to his Captain’s cabin. He gave it one solid knock.

“Who is it?” The Captain’s voice came through the door.

“Chief Sharkey, Sir.”

“Come in.”

He was still hoping that when he went into the cabin, that Nelson would not be there. He scanned the room as he entered... indeed, the Admiral was there with Lee.

Captain Crane stood at his desk, “Come in Chief, take a seat. We need to talk.”

“Yes, Sir” Sharkey said. He was looking from Crane to Nelson. This was not going to be easy.

“Well, Chief. I’m sure you’re aware why you’ve been called here. I’ve received a complaint from Kowalski and Patterson about your actions. What do you have to say for yourself?”

Sharky, sitting there deep in thought, responded, “I don’t know, Sir.”

“You don’t know? You deck two of my best sailors and... you don’t know? Surly you can do better than that.”

“I’m sorry, Sir. My mind was on other things. I know there is no excuse for my actions, but I just want to apologize.”

“Your mind was on ‘other’ thing? What would you be thinking about to cause that kind of an outburst?”

“I’m sorry, Sir. But I can’t say right now. Please understand... it’s a personal matter.”

Nelson could see that Lee was becoming very agitated at the direction of this conversation. “Chief,” Crane added, “Unless you can tell me what is going on, you are going to be put on report!”

“I know, Sir,” Sharkey said. “I just can’t discuss it with you, not here, not now.” He looked to the Admiral, hoping that he would get some support from him. The Admiral knew Sharkey better than most anyone else. He would know that this was not usual for the chief.

Nelson stood and stopped Crane as he was going to make the report official. “Captain, wait a moment.” He motioned Lee to come over, so they could talk privately.

Crane turned to the Admiral, “Do you know what’s going on here?”

“No, Captain,” he said while trying to calm Lee down a bit. “But, we’ve both known the Chief for many years. This is not something he would do under normal situations.”

“But, Sir...”

“Captain, It’s obvious that there is something on the Chief’s mind right now. I don’t condone his actions at all. We can’t have this kind of thing going on aboard Seaview. Look, Lee... we are about a week out of port. We’ve all had a rough mission this time out. I don’t know if the mission has anything to do with what’s bothering the Chief or not, but I think we need to give him a chance to work out whatever it is.

“Sir... what about Kowalski and Patterson and their complaint?”

“Lee, you know that even they requested that this be kept off the record. I suggest that for now, we do the same. Sharkey’s a good man. Let’s try to help him...”

Nelson saw the expression on Lee’s face relax. The Captain returned to Sharkey, “Well, Chief... I’m going to hold off my decision to place you on report. But, please Chief, whatever it is that’s bothering you... we’re here to help.”

“Thank you, Sir. I know you want to help, but I think there is only one person who can help.”

“Who would that be?” Crane asked.

“Sorry, Sir. I can’t say...”

Shaking his head, Lee pointed to the door. “OK Chief, report back to duty. But... do what ever you need to do to get your problem solved. It may not be a bad idea to offer your apology to Kowalski and Patterson.”

“Yes, Sir, Captain... and thank you, Admiral,” Sharkey added, “I assure you I’ll get this straightened out.”

Sharkey left the cabin and started down the corridor. He knew he was given another chance. He would make the most of it. He knew what he needed to do. He knew who he needed to talk to about this...

He checked his watch again. It would soon be time. He was getting his courage up to follow up on his plan of action. He knew he would be able to work this out with Kowalski and Patterson. He had to take care of his own problems first. He didn’t know where else to turn.

Once again checking his watch, he knew the time was now. He approached the Control Room and turned into the radio shack. Sparks was there, recording incoming signals. He hesitated a moment but then went over to Sparks.


He turned to see the Chief standing right behind him. Having already heard about the previous altercation, Sparks pulled back, “Oh, Chief... You need something?”

“Relax, Sparks,” Sharkey said with a forced smile. “I know what you heard... It’s all a misunderstanding. It’s the Admiral... he needs to see you in the lab.”

“The lab, Sir... me?”

“I’ve been sent to get you. Are you questioning the Admiral’s orders?”

“No, Sir, Chief.” Sparks started to leave the radio shack.

“Oh, one more thing...”


The Admiral was with the Captain in the missile room. He may be a few minutes late getting to the lab. So, let yourself in and wait for him.”

“Yes, Chief,” Sparks said as he was turning to leave.

Sharkey thought about the lie he’d just told Sparks, but after all... the Captain did tell him to do whatever he needed to do to get his so called problems worked out. Sharkey knew this was pushing the intended meaning of the Captain’s words... but... oh well...

He checked his watch again, turned to and closed the door to the corridor and slid closed the privacy curtain to the Control Room. He sat down in Spark’s chair and started pushing buttons and flipping switches. He was more determined than ever that this was what he needed to do. There was no other person who could help him. This he was sure of...

He made one last look in to the Control Room, satisfied that no one even knew he was in there. He sat back down, put on Spark’s headphones, grabbed the microphone and made the necessary connection...

He was sure that in a few moments, all his questions would be answered... Yes, Yes... the connection was made!

He listened to the calming and soothing voice coming through the headphones... "Hello, you’re on the air with Dr. Frasier Crane... I’m listening....."

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