Category Archives: Fiction

Underway, Shift Colors

Underway. Shift colors. 

The crew topside watched as the steady unseen force of the tug’s propellers made it seem as though the pier was pulling away from them. Their families and whatever comforts they might be leaving behind were moving away and would soon, for a time and of necessity, be forgotten. There was sadness in that forgetting, and also relief. For along with the love of family and nearness and community, there was the burden of it.

For new sailors, this leaving was ripe with opportunity. Opportunity to prove one’s worth, to DO THE THING, to be the star and get the promotion and come home a hero. For the older sailors it meant relief from the endless workups and preparation and shows of capability that were required of a ship that was only “getting ready” for deployment. If all went well, to be actually on deployment meant the ease of routine, regularity, habit and the occasional swim call and exotic port visits. If all went well. 

Everybody actively avoided thinking about the ways it might not go well, but they were ever present. For each crew member, there was a dozen or more ways that he or she might die in the course of a day. And that was just the ways the ship itself could kill you. There were also the shipmates to consider. One just had to hope that if a shipmate lost it out at sea, they’d go the route of self-harm and not fratricide. Then there was the ever-present reality of being agents of war which, unsurprisingly, is not popular with everyone. 

So things might not go well. 

But just as those thoughts surfaced for many of the crew, the tug was cast off. The ship was picking up speed under it’s own power. Music blasted over the 1MC and the ship and it’s crew rocketed toward a wide open horizon.

Secure from Special Sea and Anchor Detail. Set the normal underway watch. 

Above is an excerpt of Deployed, a novel.http://marcidaniels.com/deployed-a-novel/

Deployed — a novel by Marci Daniels

War is hell, but it is also hilarious.

People don’t tell you that, but Petty Officer Molly Barrone knows. Nearly two decades into what many consider a state of perpetual war since the terror attacks of 9/11/2001, Barrone is embarking on her second and last six-month deployment to the Gulf aboard the USS Mulligan.

Barrone has been in the navy for just shy of six years and knows from experience that the only way out is through, so her plan is to just do her job and work hard to keep her friends and her big fucking mouth from getting her into any more trouble before her enlistment is over. If she does that, she can get out of the Navy and go back home to do…whatever the hell she’s going to do with the rest of her life.

Easy enough.

If she can keep them from killing her in the process.

All Hands to Quarters For Muster, Instruction, and Inspection

an excerpt of Deployed

Petty Officer Molly Barrone liked her hat low. While she was stationed at her training command in San Diego, she’d discovered that you could get away with saluting fewer officers if you pulled your hat really low and just pretended not to see them. Officers were everywhere and it was so annoying how, no matter what else you had going on, no matter what kind of hurry you were in, you had to just drop everything and stop and salute them. She suspected most of them resented being stopped and forced to return her salute as much as she hated giving it because most of the time they let her get away with it. Most of the time.

She was still conducting her mental deployment inventory when Barrone noticed her division stiffen and fall into line and she looked to her right in the direction she knew Chief would be coming from. Her vision collided with the new ASWO’s glance before she quickly turned away and looked straight ahead—past the Gunner’s division assembled across from them on the other side of the flight deck, past the chain-link fence that lined the entire perimeter of the basin’s piers, to beyond the treetops she could see–she felt penned in.

“Shit!” she cried out. “My fucking pillow!” Everyone within earshot was staring at her and beginning with MacFayden and Thompson, then Sessions and on down the two lines started laughing at her outburst. Chief Spreckler and ASWO had stopped a few feet from her and were staring at her in a way that made her face warm up.

“Problem, Petty Officer Barrone?” Chief asked.

“No, Chief. Just realized I forgot to do something.” She said, looking straight at the chief and avoiding the face of the tall officer on her periphery. She had forgotten to buy a new pillow for the deployment.

Because the brim of her hat was so low, if she hadn’t turned her head to look up at them he’d likely never have noticed, but the summer sun was already powerful that morning and was highlighting the left side of Barrone’s face in a way that made the bluish and purpling patch along her temple particularly startling.

“What the hell did you do to your face?” Ensign Denver asked her, sounding more accusatory than he intended to and surprising everyone, no one more than himself.

“What?” She didn’t know what he was talking about at first, but quickly remembered. She unconsciously raised a hand to the side of her face before explaining. “Sessions forgot all of his underwear.”

Chief Spreckler looked horrified and MacFayden laughed so loud he drew the attention of all the other divisions mustering on the flight deck. All decorum was lost as the rest of the division fell out laughing, except for Sessions, who not for the first time resented being one of the few black men he knew who actually blushed when he was embarrassed. He stood there, rigid, while Barrone turned the knife.

“He shoulder checked me last night on our way back from the gate because he left all his skivvies in the dryer at home,” she said, smiling. MacFayden laughed even louder, causing the chief to realize they might be drawing too much attention to their little corner of the flight deck.

“Shut up, MacFayden.” He turned away from Barrone and walked the rest of the way to Petty Officer Bradford, Ensign Denver following not far behind him.

Petty Officer Bradford immediately stood at attention and called out, “CA Division! A-ten-TION!” Which caused the jiggling and giggling bodies to stiffen in rigid fist-clenched back-straightedness while the lead petty officer saluted and formally presented the division to the chief and division officer for muster and inspection. The chief and ASWO returned his salute and turned to face their division. Chief surveyed his division.

“Well at least you’re all here…” he said, and went on to pass down the plan of the day to his motley crew: Two bodies from each of the four work centers would be needed for a forty person working party for the final store’s onload before getting underway, that would take place at 0830, one body would be needed for the ten person working party to secure from shore power at 0900, there would be a walkthrough of all the spaces throughout the morning to check everything was stowed properly for sea, berthing inspections would be cancelled for the day, the crew would assemble topside in dress whites for sea and anchor detail at 0945, everyone in the division was required to be there except Petty Officer Barrone and whoever was doing shore power, who would be manning Sonar while the ship exited the channel. Everyone was expected to muster back up in Sonar Control once secured from sea and anchor detail so watch sections could be assigned.

“Any questions?” no one responded. “Petty Officer Sessions.”

“Yes, Chief.”

“The Executive Officer needs someone to pick him up from Officer’s Housing, I’ll give you the address. Take the duty van to go get him. On the way you can hit the Exchange and grab some new skivvies.”

“Yes, Chief.”

“Make sure you get the skivvies first, don’t make the XO wait for you to do your shopping.”

“Yes, Chief.”

“Sessions…”

“Yes, Chief.

“Don’t hit girls.”

“She had it coming, chief.”

There was a brief pause while the chief considered whether there was anything else he needed to tell them, then he remembered the tall man standing to his left.

“Oh yeah, CA Division, this is your new ASWO. Don’t get him fired.” He looked up at the young man, “Anything to add, sir?”

Ensign Denver smiled, still bewildered by his outburst, and shook his head.

Watchstanding

excerpt of a work in progress

Barrone had always been someone people told their secrets to.

Even on the ship.

She was never sure why, when as far as she knew only a handful of people on the ship even knew what her first name was. But maybe that was it. She didn’t talk very much, and it seemed if you just sat there and said nothing, people were naturally inclined to believe you were interested in whatever they had to say. Or maybe it was because she usually was interested in whatever they had to say. Usually. People amazed her.

She remembered one night during her last deployment she was standing watch in Sonar with STG2 John Sanderson, Sandy, a big, black, boy-faced man from St. Louis. It was when they were crossing the the Atlantic on the way to the Straights of Gibraltar. Their ship was standing plane guard for the carrier, and normally there would have been more people in Sonar, but that night they had broken up into smaller sections so they could have shorter watch rotations and get some extra sleep for the expected long day of safety drills the next day. She wasn’t looking forward to the drills, and hoped they wouldn’t pick any of her spaces to put a fake fire in, or a water hazard, or power failure, or anything. She had hoped she could just sit back in Nixie and read.

She and Sandy had been standing watch for two hours of a four hour rotation and it was getting to the point in the watch where normal conversation about the cruise so far, the events of the day, prognosis for the quality of meals the next day, had pretty much been exhausted. She had just been about to pull her book from out of hiding in her coat—they weren’t supposed to read while on watch— when Sandy told her about Tom’s, a sex club in San Diego. He had discovered the club six years earlier when he was stationed in San Diego for “C” school, the specialized technical training the navy gave them so so they could troubleshoot and repair the electronic equipment.

Sandy told her about how the one night he went to Tom’s, this older white woman— “maybe in her late forties but still hot,” he said—who was sitting at the bar and giving a man Sandy later found out was her husband a hand-job—“They was naked,” he told Barrone, “we all was, hadda check your clothes before you went into that second entrance,”—propositioned him. The woman asked Sandy if he’d fuck her while she continued to handle her husband. “She got another dude’s dick in her hand, but I figured what the hell, ’s’what I’m here for, right?”

He went on to describe a few more of the night’s more noteworthy exploits and Barrone wondered what her face looked like as she sat there listening to his story. Did she look interested, she wondered. She was interested, it was like having her own personal screening of some confessional reality television show or something, but she wondered what it was about her expression that made him feel like he should keep going on. Though maybe her expression didn’t matter to him anyway since he wasn’t looking at her. He was looking at the 53-Charlie computer display that showed a picture of what all the underwater acoustic data “looked” like, all flickering smudges of green light and the absence of it.

Prudence told her she should have been revolted by what he was telling her. She wasn’t, but she suspected other people would have been, her co-workers for instance. She didn’t have to work too hard to generate a picture of the expressions Thompson, or Ayers would have on their faces if they heard the story about “Big Sandy” in some freaky sex-club menage a trios. She wondered what Sessions and MacFayden would think about Sandy telling her this story. She wondered if they had already heard it. She couldn’t make herself be offended, all Barrone could think about was when it would have come up that hand-job man was the older woman’s husband. Did they make introductions before, during, or after Sandy fucked the lady? Or had Sandy just assumed it? She didn’t ask him. If she did that, he might realize what he had just revealed and stop. She just stared at her own screen.

Sandy stopped speaking when they heard the latch on the door to Sonar disengage and they both felt the suck of the cold air of Sonar rushing out to mix with the more tepid air of the rest of the ship. It was STGSN O’Connell, who briefly waved at them then went to check his email on the desktop computer by the entry.

“I hope they don’t give me orders back to San Diego,” Barrone heard Sandy say. “Else I’ll probably get divorced.”

Barrone felt like a priest. She stared at the green flickering lights on her own screen and using the trackball under her right hand, drew spirals with the digital cursor on the sonar display. His confession reminded her of scars from cigarette burns she’d see once on a forearm. The forearm had belonged to a girl Barrone met in boot camp who, while they were folding laundry late one night, told a story about how her house had burned down that Christmas before and then about how the her husband had convinced her to join the Navy and go to bootcamp at the same time as him so they could get stationed together, the girl told Barrone they had seen each other once when she was going through the mess line at lunch, he was serving the macaroni and stewed tomatoes and she couldn’t wait till boot camp was over so she could talk to him again. That girl got kicked out in the sixth week of training for wetting the bed, before Barrone ever got up the nerve to ask who had done that to her arms. Barrone often wondered what became of that girl, and when she remembered her, wished a life for her that was better than the one she probably had.