Fast Attack

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksiesilk Classic Group

Featured Review on this writing by Amy F. Turner


Fast Attack

"Claude and I turned north on CT 9, tunneling under giant blooms of forest canopy, then rolling into the sunlight where outcrops of granite stood against the sky. He held the wheel steady on a long curve, steering us down a declivity into a stretch of gloom. We passed pond cypress and carpets of moss. The air, fragrant with decay, became corky as we pulled up an incline into a crisper kind of verdancy. He knew the landmarks and pointed them out to me with a relaxed smile. It wasn't his usual look, and I felt a sudden tinge of hostility for the unaccountable silliness I saw in his expression. He kept smiling, pointing, and doing his best to deceive me."

***

The police officer motioned me to a chair.

"Are you a tough guy, Alex?"

"No, sir, not tough,"

"Then fill me in. Start with last night."

"Last night? There was action on the sidewalk. Three floors down. A couple of sailors squared up. Some punches got thrown. I pulled down the window and set my alarm for 5:00 a.m."

The officer offered me a cigarette. "I'm listening."

"I woke up with time to spare, so I hung out at a window. There was a submarine steaming up the Thames, a steel gray chop. She was a  Columbia class, blue light cylinders bouncing off her hull."

***

"Claude called around 8:00 a.m. I left for his building a few minutes later. His windows were lighting up with flashes from his MIG welder. Seeing it gave me the shivers. It was the same setup that killed his girlfriend, Monk.

He'd been working out of the second-story loft of a shared cottage, running a three-phase MIG unit and an acetylene torch. There was a 50-amp breaker, but it wasn't functioning. It heated up while Claude was out hoisting a few. The containment box failed. That was it, all over by the time he got back. The entire structure collapsed. They hosed it down and dug Monk out of the rubble. She'd been asleep. I said a lot of prayers for her. She was the only woman that'd ever treated me kindly, and I loved her for it.

Claude said if you'd seen one pig roast, you'd seen them all.

Anyway, he was back at it, running the welding rig. I passed his neighbors on the way up the stairs, many flophouse types who'd had the stuffing knocked out of them. I've seen winter apples with less rot.

I was up the two flights quickly. The hall smelled like a discharged firearm on account of the welder. I let myself in with the key Claude gave me.

I told him about the submarine I'd seen. He thought that was funny.

"Can you imagine staying submerged for that long? Ho! Not me, brother. It's dark down there. I wouldn't care how good the chow was. You know that the diving part is optional; it's surfacing that's mandatory. Ha-ha-ha!"

"Sometimes they don't come up at all," I said. "Sometimes something goes wrong, and you can't blow to the surface. Down you go. Those are the boats that stay commissioned forever. There marked as being on eternal patrol."

'What the fuck are you talking about?' he asked.

I told him never mind. We drove out of New London. He didn't know shit. 

Claude was riding high because his art was finally taking hold. He'd sculpted in obscurity for years. But now he'd finally put a gamechanger together.

He'd weaved a lot of coat hangers into a kind of fabric, then spot welded the weave into a mermaid. He unveiled it at the Mystic Arts Fair. 

A collector from Rhode Island bought it, then featured it in an expose' focusing on an affluent seaside village called Watch Hill. 

Claude received all the credit for the mermaid's success. They fawned over everything he served up after that. Nobody said a damn thing about all the work I'd put in. It might not be much, but I sourced the coat hangers.

***

We'd driven to his mother's house the day before I killed him. I'd sat shotgun, sensing trouble while watching him go inside. A moment later, a phone came crashing through the old lady's front window. Claude repaired the shards the next moment, which seemed a diabolical trick. When he returned to the truck, he warned me off, saying, "That's what happens when a mother calls her son every freaking day! Christ, that pisses me off! Don't worry, she's gonna live a long life, and it serves her right to suffer!"

 "Maybe she's worried about you," I said.

He told me to mind my own fucking business and not get reckless.

'A threat? Let's just see who ends up getting whom, I decided.'

"Several antique stores whizzed by at a speed that made me giddy. I smiled to myself as I watched them disappear in the passenger mirror. 

Naturally, Claude took no notice. I wondered how he'd ever been a top-fuel mechanic, let alone an artist. 

All the cranking, bending, and hammering gave him the rusty hands of a blacksmith. He kept kitchen matches in his shirt pocket and struck them off his palm as ladies needed their cigarettes lit. He had admirers, assholes to applaud his ingenuity on that cheap amusement alone. 

 I wanted to shout in their faces, sycophants that they were! They didn't see the artifice. For all the gale he blew, Claude could never match me unless he, too, became the commander of a nuclear submarine!

We pulled into a convenience gas station, and Claude went inside to buy a pack of cigarettes. 

I pumped a bit of gas, wondering if Claude would be useful to me after I'd reassembled my team of submariners. 

I'd been at a similar crossroads when my special forces unit cornered that bearded fellow in a Pakistani suburb—not the Hebrew but the Saudi. 

In the case of the Saudi, I made some calculations that ended in his burial at sea. The Jew was a different story. I decided discretion was the better part of valor. Besides, there was something messianic about the man, so I sent him on his way with a warning.

We took off from the station. I leaned very close to Claude's face and shouted at the top of my lungs There's rocks on the sun. Are you blind as well as deaf!? 

I waved a hand in front of his face. Nothing more than a kind of peristaltic response. I used the opportunity to debrief myself about the sinking of my first command.

***

With her initial deployment, we'd taken my submarine on sea trials. She was the best in her class, a fast attack dreadnought, fitted with destruction. 

Following her sea trials, we tracked the Soviets. They imagined us in every trench, and I grinned wolfishly at the prospect of an encounter with their so-called warships. 

After a six-month patrol in the vicinity of the Barents Sea, we put into port in Groton, CT. While in port, an incident with a tug put her in drydock with a bit of hull damage.

We launched from drydock six months later, outbound for extra trials following the repairs. Twelve hours of steaming brought us off Cape Cod. There, we rendezvoused with the USS Sea Shark SSN 377 and a small armada of surface vessels. 

We brought her down twice to half our maximum hull depth. On our third dive, we went deep and held her steady. I gave the order to take her up slowly. 

Disaster struck. A pipe joint burst, and the engine room took water. The lights flickered, and then the reactor shut down. We went straight to the battery banks. I gave orders.

"Blow the main ballast. Full rise on the bow planes!"

We'd sail out of it by God! 

But she couldn't blow. Her bow dipped, and she started down. I didn't know, but much moisture in the flasks had turned to ice in the valve strainers. 

So down she went league after league with my men at their posts, awaiting my next order. 

The pressure isn't something you feel in an ear-popping sense. You feel it through vibration so hard that touching a bulkhead burns your fingertips. 

And you hear the hull groaning and buckling, the sound of your teeth rattling. You know you're done for when it all takes to feeling still. 

Every man has thoughts, and there's no time to say goodbye. There's no reason to try because it's enough that you're all sharing your last moment like you're sitting at a banquet table and passing a basket of biscuits around. Everybody's guaranteed an equal share of it, and just for that frozen moment, all the other worries are in the hands of Providence. 

When the depth meter showed 4,000 feet, I gave my final order, "Dog the hatches!' And then she imploded.

Well, so much for windows, phones, histories, and comraderies. I'd cleverly debriefed myself, so much so that I felt a sudden surge of power! 

You see, I turned the tables. I was in command; Claude was so-so, a nothing that'd fallen into my trap. I reckoned him ensnared. What was he with all his smiles, his phony gestures, the measly forty dollars an hour he paid for the privilege of calling me his buffoon? With each passing moment, I was bolder, more delighted. And, for all his idiotic talent, he could not discern the ruse. He was clueless about his fate.

Claude continued to drive, though, I must say, he did so doltishly, nearly passing out from the pungency of my twice-dead farts. He glanced over at me. His eyes watering with sympathy over some physical malady he imagined I must be suffering. He powered open the windows. Self-preservation finally gave me pause. I'd gained the upper hand, but I resolved not to underestimate his tactical abilities. 

His diligence was far too great to ignore. He'd disguised his command center to appear as the simple gauges of an automobile's instrument clusters. 

The entire ship's bridge looked weirdly like the inside of a truck. Claude had hidden his encryption software cleverly, concealed within a cd player. What else might he be capable of? We were bearing 090, and he'd been dialing out ciphers for some little time by then. I looked about the bridge for his nautical charts, but he'd hidden them. I'll admit that these were strange latitudes, and some of what I witnessed made little sense: all my perished shipmates lazing about on the aft deck. Very odd, as I had not yet signaled them! 

No cause for concern. I need only call upon the strength of my character, and my enemies' deceptions would fall by the wayside. It was the mission that mattered! We were very close now, on the cusp of accessing the extra-low-frequency transmitter. Yes, the portal awaited. I need only signal my submariners; send them the coordinates of the portal, and they would rise from their watery graves as well would my dreadnought.

***

There are certainly dissimulating individuals who would describe the following coordinates, 41.3416° N, 72.3416°W 41, as the location of a state park. The Devils Hopyard. These self-directed, prevaricating louts are on my list and will be dealt with in short order.

***

I continued to scheme, turning to Claude and speaking to him in my most practiced, matter-of-fact tones. I suggested we stop for a basket of scraps and then take lunch at the Hopyard.

We walked along a path under a covered bridge and followed wooden arrows that pointed to the falls, which had a pool where the transmitter was hidden. 

And I looked at Claude as he walked ahead of me in the sunlight, looking like an artist. And I sensed that my shipmates had never gone to the bottom but were on leave in Polynesia. And I thought that I might have treated Claude better.

 I picked up a stone, and I beat his skull in."

'That's it?' asked the police officer.

"Yeah, that's it," I said with a shrug. "Am I free to go now?"

The police officer took a moment, then laughed to himself.

'Not by a long shot, buddy.'


Submitted: September 30, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Laird. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Amy F. Turner

Quite the winding weave of events, but I cannot say I feel sorry for Claude. Seems by the telling he had it coming. This is not to say that the narrator is reliable but that is the beauty of this piece. Well done! Very well written.

Sun, October 2nd, 2022 3:14am

Laird

Thanks, Amy! I don't suppose a person would be at ease with either of these types around.

L Reis

Sun, October 2nd, 2022 5:04am

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