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nonFICTION: Barnacles and Bedlam, Part 15

I hesitated in view of his dirty hands and face and his filthy bed clothes, but since no one else volunteered, I motioned to him. "Okay you report to Bennie in the galley right away and I'll make arrangements with the chief for your immediate transfer."

Watson called out as I headed for the door. "By the way, Steward, Peters say's he worked in a hotel once for a few months and could run the galley better'n you."

Here was my chance to correct our problem! If ever I had seen a win, win, win solution, this was it!

"Where is Peters?" I asked.

Employed as an electrician. Peters was working on one of the diesel motors in the machine shop. He was an intelligent twenty five-year-old, who kept to himself. His build was wiry, his height medium - his face nondescript, but his manner was engaging.

What you've missed: During World War II, I, Paul, whose limited business experience is strictly land-based, sign on as third officer of a salvage vessel, manned by a similarly motley crew, sent to North Africa, on a priority mission, to clear a port of vessels sunk by the retreating Italian navy.

... the boys from Skid Row snarled and said, "Yeah. so what, we're doity and we like it. Besides, we never could sleep good when beds is made."

"Say, Les," I shouted at him above the whining of the lathes. "I hear you've had hotel experience and have been bragging about being able to run the galley and mess hall better than I."

"WeIl, to tell the truth, you heard right." he boasted.

"I'll talk to the skipper and try to arrange for you to take over the steward's job. You're welcome to it as far as I'm concerned."

Following up on my job as warehouseman. I surveyed piles of cartons in the machine shop containing tools, equipment, and salvage gear for which I was responsible. The cartons had been stacked between the machinery to prevent them from being smashed as the Chamberlain rolled from side to side while parked in mid-ocean undergoing repairs to its condensers.

Upon paging through the pile of invoices, I did not recognize any item, and I knew the responsibility and the tedious work of a warehouseman was also not for me.

In the engine room, I accosted Culpepper.

"Say Chief, our baker is in sick bay. Watson said he could take over until the baker is well again. He was a baker in the navy. Is that okay with. you?"

"Maybe he's a better baker than a fireman," the chief said resignedly.

Encouraged by the prospect of relinquishing the steward's position, I pressed him further." I think you should assign someone from your department to take charge of the tools and salvage gear piled up in the machine shop." I felt certain he preferred to have the tools under his control without having to requisition them from me.

"Purser, that's a good idea," the chief responded with enthusiasm. "Let's talk to the Old Man about it."

In the skipper's cabin, I confessed: "Captain. I know nothing about the tools and salvage gear in the machine shop. The chief is willing to assign one of his men to take over my job as warehouseman."

"That's okay with me Paul. Now as to your job as steward. I'm getting more complaints about the food."

"Captain, we may have an answer. I've talked to Les Peters. and he said he had hotel experience with food and was willing to take over."

"Well, send Peters to me." The skipper's face lit up. "Your work as purser will take a lot of your time, and each of the other jobs requires someone's full attention."

I dashed down to the machine shop to locate Peters, relieved that I had extricated myself from my two headache positions.

Chapter 5

Panama Interlude

Fo'c'sle subdivides: The fo'c'sle, because it is a growing little community, finally took to naming its streets. Hereafter the port side will be known as Beverly HilIs, the starboard side will be known as Wilshire Boulevard, while just forward of the toilets wilI be known as Skid Row, or the other side of the tracks. When questioned, the boys from Skid Row snarled and said, "Yeah. so what, we're doity and we like it. Besides, we never could sleep good when beds is made. From the Hawse Pipe Herald, unofficial journal of the S.S.W.R. Chamberlain, Jr.

Meandering from my cabin to the engine room to consult with Culpepper about his repair list, I paused at the railing to watch porpoises leap out of the water in graceful curves alongside the vibrating ship and then dive back under to repeat the rhythmic gymnastics.

The ship's funnel puffed away enthusiastically, its black cloud of smoke spiraling into the atmosphere, inviting any and all marauding enemy craft to use our ship for target practice.

by Paul B. Behm
Part 15

Chapter 5
Panama Interlude
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