“Dude!” Andrew said into the phone. He was using the landline extension in the den.
“Didja get it?” Eddie asked from the other end.
“I’m lookin’ at it.”
Andrew heard the front door open and close quietly. He hung up the phone when he saw Eddie coming into the room, his cell held up to his ear.
Eddie pressed the disconnect button and grinned at Andrew, “I got here as quick as I could. Hooked up yet?” He glanced over towards Andrew’s home theatre, “Sweet,” he whistled slightly on the ‘S’ when he said it.
Andrew stood from his place on the settee, “I’ll make some popcorn and get some Red Bulls. We’re probably going to be up all night. The game’s still in the bag, Dude. Get it loaded up, wouldja?”
“I’m on it; can you bring me some water too? My doctor says I need to hydrate more on accounta my prostate.”
“TMI Dude – TMI.”
When Andrew emerged from the kitchen with the drinks and snacks Eddie had taken his spot on the settee so he staked out a position on the floor. His friend was caressing the controller and looking at the Mortal Kombat logo glowing on the big screen TV. He had a faraway look in his eyes.
“You’re goin’ down tonight, Dude. Here, take this water.”
Eddie twisted off the top of the bottle while Andrew popped a Red Bull. He pressed the button on his controller to start the game, “The fuck you say, Andy.”
I’m high enough up that if I let go and fall I will be hurt, probably killed.
This is folly.
I look down and estimate the fall would be about 30m.
I look above and realize that it’s still a long way to the top.
I’m frozen with fear. I’m not going to make it.
Cramps curl my fingers.
Numbness spreads outwards from my toes.
My friend, Peter Parker, talked me into this. Says he does it whenever he comes to Toronto.
“Piece of cake,” he says, “and the views are spectacular. ‘Specially at night.”
I’m not afraid of heights but I am beginning to understand my own limitations.
A ruckus below demands my attention and I watch, from the corner of my eye, as the fire brigade maneuvers a hook and ladder truck close.
Someone is shouting something through a bullhorn but I can’t make it out.
A crowd manifests from the city streets and alleys to gawk. They stare.
My rescuer arrives silently atop a slowly rising ladder,
“You OK, buddy?” he asks.
Unable to answer, I cling tightly; stubbornly refusing to surrender the precious purchase I have achieved as he runs a strap around my chest.
I don’t want to let go but reason tells me I’m safe.
Still he has to pry my fingers loose before he can pull me to his ladder.
I feel like a cat that’s been stuck in a tree.
Curse you Spiderman.
Beaver was a sailor. He had joined the Navy when he was sixteen. When Ginny’s parents had come over and knocked on his mother’s door. Ginny’s dad was red faced and angry. Ginny’s mom was stern, her hands resting heavily on Ginny’s shoulders. Ginny herself looked small, scared, beaten down.
“Evening, Ms. Roberts,” Ginny’s dad said, “Your boy at home? I reckon we need to speak with him. You’d best be in on this too.”
“Jim?” his mother called to the back of the apartment.
When he came out to the living room Jim knew something was up, “hey Ginny,” he greeted his girlfriend, then acknowledged her parents, “Mr. Shelton, Ms. Shelton.” He was a short, skinny kid; good looking if you liked boys with shaggy brown hair.
He turned to his mother, “What’s up Mom?”
That’s how he found out that Ginny was pregnant. The Shelton’s would take care of Ginny. They said that Canada had doctors… or Mexico. But they were adamant – Jim had to go. They didn’t care where he went but he had to get out of town or they would call the sheriff.
There were laws against what he had done.
Ginny was a good girl.
The next morning Jim didn’t go to school. His mother called in to work and told them that she wouldn’t make it in till later in the week, “That flu bug that’s been going around, you know.”
They went to the recruiting office instead. She signed the papers that sent her boy to the Navy and he shipped out the next morning.
He didn’t really even need to shave yet, but he grew up fast.
Jim was the youngest man in Boot Camp. His shipmates took to calling him Beaver, he didn’t mind. One day they listened to a talk given in a classroom by a Torpedoman Chief whose name Beaver never remembered. He talked to them about submarines and how submariners were the elite of the navy. He made it sound good and he sold Jim who volunteered for sub duty that same day.
When he got out of boot camp he had gained fifteen pounds. His shoulders were broader and he was stronger than he had ever been. He had a week’s leave and wore his uniform on the plane ride home passively, silently enduring the harassment of the college kids who shouted “Baby killer!” and “Murderer” at him in the airport. He tried to call Ginny from San Diego but her dad hung up the phone.
Landing in Reno he called his mom but only got the machine. He left a message, “Hey Mom, it’s Jim. I had hoped to come home for a visit but I’m on my way to Connecticut for Sub School. Maybe I can get back to see you after that.” He thought he did a good job of lying and sounding upbeat. He took a bus from the Reno Airport to the Amtrak station, where he bought a train ticket to New London. A cross country train ride seemed like a good way to spend his leave. He could always report early if need be.
He wore his uniform on the train and let the civilians berate him some more. Military personnel were not heroes in those days.
After sub school he got his first boat – a nuclear powered attack boat out of Pearl Harbor. The nickname stuck. He was “Jim Roberts, ‘The Beav’” to all his shipmates. On the day he qualified in submarines the ship’s Yeoman made the entry in his service record. That was when they noticed he was only seventeen years old. Navy regs clearly state that no one under the age of eighteen can be stationed on a nuclear powered vessel. It was two weeks before his eighteenth birthday.
The Yeoman told the Captain. He had to. He had his own career to think of. The Captain misplaced The Beav’s file and didn’t find it for two weeks. Problem solved.
For twenty-five years The Beav rode submarines, boring holes in all the oceans of the world. ETCM (SS) Jim Roberts retired at the age of forty-one. The nickname had dropped away about the same time he made Chief. His last assignment was Chief of the Boat on a Virginia Class fast attack. His wife Ginny threw a retirement party for him at one of the big hotels in Waikiki, not far from their home. His shipmates came. His mom was there, but Ginny’s parents weren’t. They never did forgive him, or Ginny.
He never really cared. Jim was relatively young still, he had a pension, and he planned to finish college. Maybe he should become a teacher.
“It’s all right Mom. You know he meant well.” Donny said. His fingers worrying the hem of his sports jacket.
Trying to work up the resolve to comfort her son, she stared at nothing and longed for a cigarette.
“We can’t get him bailed out tonight. It’s too late. And, it’s Friday so they’re probably going to hold him over the weekend,” she said as she leaned against the cold, neutral toned, cinder block wall.
Zeus was not having a good day and he made sure everyone knew it. He had snuck to the garage to get his clubs and found, instead, a note penned in Hera’s hand.
“I have your golf clubs locked away. They’ll ne’er again see the light of day – ‘til you finish the things you promised. The car still needs washing, and so does the dog. The toilet still has a nasty clog. The weeds are taking over the lawn. The checking account is overdrawn. Oh, and I have the TV remote as well!”
He tossed lightning bolts about, setting the lawn afire, burning the weeds. He conjured up a fierce storm, sending mortals to seek shelter, rinsing the car and dog.
“Damn her,” he muttered under his breath. He worked himself into a proper tizzy and screamed, to no one in particular. “The checking account will have to wait! It’s Sunday morning.”
He checked the note again, then moped off to find a plunger.
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