So the four of us sat at the kitchen table and had “Roberts Spaghetti” for dinner again. Even David ate it now, though mom cut his up into really small pieces. I don’t think mom liked it very much, but I liked it because it wasn’t too tasty.
“So Cloob, are you going over to Molly’s to watch that movie?”, mom asked me.
“Yeah”, I said, nodding.
“Twenty-thousand Leagues Under the Sea”, dad said, “Jack says the kids will enjoy it. French lit is not my expertise, but it’s one of Verne’s best known works, and Jack says the movie’s well done from a science and engineering point of view.”
“Okay”, mom said, nodding, “And make sure you come back right after the movie. We’ll leave the side door unlocked, and when you come in, let your dad know you’re home, I will probably already be asleep.”
I nodded. Now that I could tie my shoes I liked doing everything by myself, and if I did it the way mom said, I figured she would let me do even more by myself.
Mom then looked at dad and asked, “And everything’s falling into place for Cloob’s birthday next week?”
“Uh yes”, he said, “Everything on the list so far is checked off, and everything else is under control assuming the weather’s good, though Walter said he’s got a conflict and won’t be able to make it, though he’s onboard with a contribution.”
“That’s sweet of him”, mom said, “He’s really a good friend.”
“Onboard?”, I asked, since I didn’t know what that word was. Mom looked at dad and shook her head like he shouldn’t have said that word. Dad did a smile, but it was his worried smile.
Mom looked at me and smiled too. “Cloob, Walter is making a contribution to your big birthday present. I’ll be sending him a thank you card and I’ll want you to put your name at the bottom.” I nodded.
I was going to ask what a “contribution” was, but mom had told me that my “big present” was going to be a bicycle, but I think she wanted me to pretend that I didn’t know that, so she could pretend it was a surprise, because she liked presents to be a surprise. I really really liked that my big present was a bicycle, so I didn’t ask. When I was done with dinner, mom said I should wear my light jacket over to Molly’s.
Outside it was just a little bit cold. The sun was gone and the sky behind Molly’s house was dark, but the sky behind our house was still light, though the ground was not. I looked over in the park but couldn’t see anyone. I did see the lights of a car on that street on the other side of the park behind the trees and I could hear the car noise far away. I pushed the button by Molly’s door. I knew she was the one that would open it, and she did.
“I wanted to wear pajamas”, she said, “But mom said I should wear regular clothes because we had company, even though it’s just you and she’s not going to watch the movie, only dad.” She looked down at the ground and seemed kind of sad. I still remembered her crying at her birthday up in the bathroom because she said her mom didn’t like her dad anymore. I wondered if her mom still didn’t like him, but I didn’t ask.
“Dad made popcorn and said we could have Seven-Up too”, she said, not sounding sad.
“Neat”, I said nodding.
Then Molly’s dad came up the stairs from that “dining room” part up into the living room.
“There he is”, her dad said, “The man of the hour.” I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about. He was talking like I was some sort of grownup, or like I was on some different team than he was.
“Daddy!”, Molly said. She sounded just a little bit mad.
“Okay, okay, you two”, he said, waving his hands in front of his face, “We’ve got maybe five minutes til the movie starts. Let’s find our seats in the theater!”
“We’ve got a blanket”, Molly said, “So we can be cozy.”
Her dad led the way down the stairs and through the kitchen, then down the other stairs into the basement. A big blanket with pictures of flowers on it was in a pile in the middle of that “couch” thing across from the TV. Her dad turned the TV on and then picked up the blanket and sat on the left side of the couch, looked at Molly and banged on the middle part.
“Come on young lady”, he said, “Sit next to your daddy.” Molly nodded her head and jumped onto the couch and turned so she landed on her bottom next to him. She looked at him and smiled, then patted the last part of the couch on the other side next to her, in the same way he had, for me to sit. I sat there, but not the jumping way she had. Her dad threw the blanket over the three of us and grabbed the big metal bowl full of popcorn and put it on the blanket on top of Molly’s legs, so we all could reach it and eat some whenever we wanted to.
There was a “commercial” on the TV for one of those “lawn mower” things you used to cut the grass in your yard. Then there was that Roy O’brien commercial I had seen so many times. Then there were words on the TV with blue light behind them while there was that music you heard all the time without any singing. Then there was a picture of a book and the front part of the book was opened up to show writing in the book.
Molly’s dad read the words in the book as the music without singing continued. “In the year 1868 the shipping world was alarmed by rumors of an avenging monster on the loose. A series of strange events befell certain vessels cruising the great South Seas and travel along this nightmare sea lane dwindled to a few brave ships.” Then the picture changed to one of those old kind of ships with the parts sticking way up in the air. But then the picture changed again and the music changed to that kind of music that made you more worried. There was something going through the water that looked like it had two big eyes all lit up.
“What’s that?”, Molly asked her dad.
Her dad looked at her and said, “Just watch.”
Even though it had what looked like big round eyes, I figured out that it wasn’t some kind of monster. “It’s a submarine”, I said. Molly looked at me then looked up at her dad and he nodded.
The submarine headed right toward the ship and went under the middle part and there was a giant explosion on the ship and it started sinking. Then the picture changed to one of those “Western” places where this grownup man was trying to get people to go on his ship to get the “monster”. They didn’t know it was really a submarine. People started getting mad at each other then started fighting. It seemed in those “Western” places on TV grownup men were getting mad and fighting a lot.
Then there was this professor guy and his friend “Conseil” who went on this ship to go find the monster. Also this other guy named “Ned” who was a sailor, that Molly’s dad said was “hired to harpoon the monster”. I guess they spent a long time looking for the “monster” but couldn’t find it, so Ned sang a song to the other sailors about kissing women and getting in trouble, and they all seemed to like it a lot…
Got a whale of a tale to tell ya, lads
A whale of a tale or two
‘Bout the flappin’ fish and the girls I’ve loved
On nights like this with the moon above
A whale of a tale and it’s all true
I swear by my tattoo
Then they finally saw another ship that blew up and sank, and when they went to check it out they saw the submarine, which they thought was the “monster”. They shot at it with their big cannons and then the sub turned around and headed towards them. When the sub got close Ned threw his harpoon at it but it bounced off and the sub went under the ship and wrecked the bottom of it and it started to sink. Ned and the Professor fell into the water and Conseil jumped in to help him. Then the picture changed and the Professor and Conseil were floating in the water hanging on to a wrecked part of the ship and found the submarine, floating on top of the water. Ned found it too. They all went inside but there was no one in there, and they looked around. There were all these neat controls everywhere, clock things, wheels and levers, like in the pictures in the Tom Swift books.
Professor: There is great genius behind all this.
Conseil: And great evil. Don’t forget this is an engine of destruction.
Then there were more commercials instead of the movie. In one of them they said they brought the movie to us. Molly’s dad went up to the kitchen and brought down two green Seven-Ups bottles for us and a brown bottle for him. He had that opener thing and showed us how to open our bottles, though I already knew, but didn’t say anything.
When all the bottles were open he held his up and said, “Cheers.” Molly held hers up too, so I did as well.
After taking a “swig” of her Seven-Up Molly asked, “What’s ‘genius’ dad?”
“A ‘genius’ is someone who is really really smart”, he said, “Smarter than anybody else.”
I figured I would ask questions too, because it was Molly’s dad and not some strange grownup.
“What’s ‘evil’?” I asked.
“Something that is really really bad, bad like the devil”, he said. I’d heard some grownups and even some kids talk about that “devil” guy, but not my mom and dad. The grownups that talked about him liked that “religion” stuff in that special book. The kids that talked about him just kind of liked talking about him because he was the worst badguy ever. Kids liked stuff that was the best or the worst.
Then the Professor, Conseil and Ned found this big room with maps and books and this really big circle window looking underwater. They saw these guys in those underwater suits, but those guys in the suits saw them in the window and went back to the sub to try to get them. So the Professor, Conseil and Ned tried to get away in the little row boat that Ned had and they fought with the submarine guys, but they all got captured and taken to the captain of the submarine, “Captain Nemo”.
Captain Nemo liked the professor and said he could stay on the sub, but he didn’t like Conseil or Ned and said they had to go, which meant I guess that they would die. But the professor said he wouldn’t stay if they had to go, so he went with them out on the top part too and the submarine started going under the water. Then Captain Nemo figured something out and said they could all stay. He said the submarine was called the “Nautilus”. They all sat at this big table and ate food together, but Ned didn’t like it when he found out it was made from the “ocean kitchen”. The Captain and Professor smoked “seaweed cigars”. I remembered dad smoking one of those “cigar” things once, but it smelled bad.
Captain Nemo let them put on underwater suits and go underwater with him and his men to get underwater plants and animals for food. There were lots of fish swimming and an octopus too.
Professor: (Voiceover) A strange twilight world opened up before me and I felt as the first man to set foot on another planet, an intruder in this mystic garden of the deep. Captain Nemo and I were not alone. There were hunters and farmers from the submarine, gathering a harvest at the bottom of the sea. I could only marvel at his ingenuity and envy his rule over this forgotten reach of nature. He had an abundance of various substances necessary to sustain life. An underwater larder filled to overflowing. And all Captain Nemmo’s for the taking.
I figured those words were supposed to be what the professor was thinking, because he was in one of those underwater suits and no one could hear him talk.
Ned and Conseil found a sunken ship with a treasure chest and tried to bring it back to the submarine, but Captain Nemo got mad and didn’t let them.
Ned: Captain, we left a treasure out there!
Nemo: (Angry) You place an absurd value on the cheapest of human commodities. Aboard the Nautilus we use such baubles for ballast. (He opens a door to a room full of treasure)
Ned: Ballast? Well I could sure lighten this… (Nemo stops him)
Nemo: The greatest treasures of all lie in a sound mind and a full belly. When you’re sent for food, don’t stoop to pick up pennies.
Captain Nemo thought that treasure wasn’t important, only food. And when it was just the Professor, Ned and Conseil in their rooms, the Professor and Ned had one of those “arguments” like mom and dad had sometimes.
Professor: (Angry) Don’t think for a minute that was an empty threat he made. You are going to get us all killed if you keep antagonizing him. Look at the trouble you got into wandering off that way. Why did you do it? We mustn’t quarrel among ourselves. We must stay together. It’s our only chance.
Ned: (Angry) This crazy iron skillet’s turned your head. You want to play a waiting game hoping to learn Nemo’s secrets.
Professor: Well I believe we owe the world that much, Ned. Have you a better plan?
Ned: Yeah. I want to get off. Of course I don’t mind going with my pockets full.
Professor: I can’t believe you would be so foolish.
Ned: Why not? He’s got a king’s ransom aboard here. And don’t call it stealing because that’s the way he got it. If we could take this thing over we’d be rich. I’d have a ship of me own. You wouldn’t have to be starving along on a professor’s pay.
Professor: At least try my way first. I know I can win the Captain’s confidence but I need time, and I need your help. Can I count on you?
Ned: All right. I’ll go this far. I won’t try any one-man mutiny. Yet! (He leaves)
Professor: (After Ned leaves the cabin) Fool! He simply can’t grasp the significance of all this. Here we are in reach of the most fabulous discoveries of all time and he patters of gold, escape. Trivialities. Nonsense.
Conseil: I just think that Ned values his life above scientific achievement. That’s all.
Professor: His life means nothing. Neither does yours or mine compared with what’s behind this. We can’t have him crossing Nemo.
“What’s a king’s ransom?” Molly asked her dad.
“It’s a lot of money, enough to make you rich”, he said, rubbing her hair. I didn’t think she’d like anyone rubbing her hair like that, but she didn’t do anything to stop him.
The Professor thought that Captain Nemo knew really important special stuff about the ocean that no one else knew, and the Professor really wanted to find out all that stuff so he could tell everyone else. It was interesting that he just wanted to figure stuff out more than anything else. More than being “rich”. More than being alive even. I wondered if that was what all professors did, because mom said that dad wanted to be a professor when he was done going to school and writing that “dissertation”.
Professor: (Voiceover) As the voyage continued, the Nautilus and its mode of power excited my utmost curiosity. At my host’s invitation, I inspected the ship. He seemed determined to show me everything. We went to the very heart of the vessel, the propulsion unit. (Nemo puts a shield on the Professor’s head so he can look at the bright white light of the fire of the engine.) It was apparent that Captain Nemo had discovered what mankind always sought, the veritable dynamic power of the universe. This secret alone gave him mastery of the sea.
“My buddies at work think that Jules Verne, the guy that wrote this story, had an inkling about nuclear power”, Molly’s dad said, “You know, we now have nuclear powered submarines for real.”
“But those are bombs”, Molly said, wrinkling her nose.
“Well”, said her dad, “The same stuff you use to blow something up you can generally use to power an engine.”
“But if they pushed the wrong button could the sub blow up?” Molly asked. She always liked pretending that things got blown up, or even she got blown up, but she was always worried about those “nuclear bombs”.
“Good question”, her dad said, laughing, “We try to design engines so that can’t happen.” Molly seemed kind of worried still, but we went back to watching the movie.
Professor: (To Nemo): I can hardly believe it, how one could conceive and build such a craft. And in a single stroke harness power beyond the wildest dreams of science. Why, such a secret could revolutionize the world.
Nemo: Or destroy it! (Nemo opens the round window in his cabin and looks out at the underwater world.) See how peaceful it is here. The sea is everything. An immense reservoir of nature where I roam at will.
Professor: (Voiceover) With seeming indifference, Captain Nemo held the key to the future of the world. As I studied him, I became aware that powerful forces were at work within this strange man.
Nemo: Think of it. On the surface there is hunger. Men still exercise unjust laws. They fight and tear one another to pieces. A mere few feet beneath the waves, their reign ceases, their evil drowns. Here on the ocean floor is the only independence. Here I am free. Imagine what would happen if they could control machines such as this submarine boat. Far better that they think there’s a monster and hunt me with harpoons.
I thought of Tom Swift, he had a submarine too, but all he did with it was science stuff. Captain Nemo wanted to use his submarine to make the world different. That was really interesting. And though he was kind of a badguy, he was not a total badguy. He was like the Long John Silver guy in Treasure Island, he was a badguy but you kind of liked him. And it was neat that he had his whole secret world under the ocean where no one could get him and he was in charge. I thought about us kids having a world where we were in charge instead of the grownups.
There were more commercials, and Molly’s dad said, “Good time to hit the head.” I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about, but Molly said that that was the word he used for a bathroom. They had a little one down in the basement, but it only had a toilet and a sink, but not a bathtub, so it really wasn’t a “bath room”.
When the commercials were over, Captain Nemo showed the professor this prison island where they mined the stuff to make “ammunition”, that was what they called all the bullets, bombs and cannon shells that soldiers used to shoot and blow up things. He said he had been a prisoner there, but he escaped with other prisoners and found a secret island where he and all his other guys had made a base and built their submarine. I was already thinking how I would make a story like this down in our basement.
So a ship was leaving the island full of all that stuff from the mine to make “ammunition”, but Captain Nemo decided his submarine would sink it, which it did. The Professor, Ned and Conseil saw the ship burning and sinking from the big round window in the submarine. They were mad at Captain Nemo and the Professor told him.
Professor: (To Nemo) You also asked me ashore, to show me man’s inhumanity to man. Why? To justify this? You are not only a murderer you are a hypocrite. The proof lies out there. (Pointing out the window)
Nemo: (Angry) You call that murder? I see murder, too! Not written on those drowned faces out there but on the faces of dead thousands. There are the assassins, the dealers in death. I am the avenger. Is murder a right reserved for that hated nation that has taken everything else from me except the secret of my submarine boat and the energy that propels it? They cast me into prison, and when they failed, they tortured my wife and young son to death.
“Ah, vengeance”, Molly’s dad said.
“Vengeance?”, I asked, having heard that word before but not remembering what it meant.
“Getting revenge”, he said, “Doing something bad to someone who did something bad to you.” That made sense. Even kids did that to other kids sometimes, though they didn’t blow them up.
So this other ship came and started shooting at the submarine and was able to hit it and water started spraying inside and it was sinking. A big metal beam fell down on the “shaft” and the submarine couldn’t go anymore until Captain Nemo and his crew were able to fix it. Then this giant “squid” thing grabbed the submarine, it had those long “tentacles” like an octopus. They had to go to the top part of the water so they could fight with it.
Nemo: You’ll be fighting at close quarters one of the most tenacious of all sea beasts. Take care of the tentacles, they’ll seize anything in reach and hang on to the death. The only vital spot is directly between the eyes.
Captain Nemo and the crew went out on the top part of the sub. He took one of those “harpoon” things and got close enough to the squid’s eyes to throw the harpoon and stab him between those eyes. I guess he got the squid, but as it sank back into the water it grabbed him with one of its tentacles and took him down underwater. Ned jumped in the water and swam down to where Captain Nemo was underwater and stabbed the tentacle with a knife to help him get away. That was really neat, and I thought about what I could use to make my own giant squid for playing, maybe Tinker Toys.
There were more commercials and Molly’s dad got us each another Seven-Up. He got another one of those brown bottles for him.
When the story started again, the submarine headed to Captain Nemo’s secret island, but it was surrounded by ships trying to get them.
Nemo: There’s your answer professor. We’ve been ambushed by the very forces you wish to trade with. The boarding parties have already landed. This is a dark hour for history.
Captain Nemo looked through his telescope and saw soldiers climbing the mountain on the side of the island. He made the submarine go underwater through a tunnel and came up in a little lake in the middle of the island next to his base. The Professor found out that it was Ned who threw those bottles off the submarine with notes inside telling where the secret island was.
Professor: (to Ned) So that was you that deployed all these warships here.
Ned: Aye it was. Somebody had to strike a blow for freedom.
Conseil: We did what we thought was right, professor.
Professor: (mad) Why? You fools! This is going to cost the world some of the greatest discoveries of all times! He’s gone on shore to destroy everything.
It was interesting that the goodguys didn’t all have the same idea of what they should do. It wasn’t just one team against the other. The professor was kind of like a third team in the middle.
So Captain Nemo went off his submarine to his base and did the stuff so it would get blown up. But when he went back to the submarine he got shot. He wasn’t dead but wounded really bad, and he decided he would sink his submarine so no one else could get it.
Nemo: We are taking the Nautilus down for the last time.
Firstmate: We understand sir, and we are with you.
Ned: Wait a minute. I don’t understand. What’s that got to do with us?
Nemo: I’m dying, and the Nautilus is dying with me. In a matter of moments, an explosion such as the world has never known will destroy my island and all its works forever. That is why I have brought the Nautilus here to its last deep resting place. Here at least, we will die in peace. Every man go to his quarters and remain there.
Professor: Captain, you cannot do this. There is more at stake here than just our lives. Yours was a dream of the future come true. I beg you to reconsider.
Nemo: A power greater than mine makes that impossible. But there is hope for the future. When the world is ready for a new and better life, all this will someday come to pass. In God’s good time.
Ned had a fight with and knocked out the crew guys that were holding him, and he made the submarine go up to the surface. He, the Professor and Conseil escaped on the submarine’s small metal boat. The Professor wanted to go back for his “journal” but Ned hit him and knocked him out so he couldn’t. Back in the submarine, Captain Nemo opened the big circle window to look out under the ocean and then died I guess. From the little metal boat, the Professor, Ned and Conceil watched the island blow up.
Ned: There she blows. (More giant explosions on the island creating a mushroom cloud) Sorry I had to wallop you professor. Wasn’t time to stop for souvenirs.
Professor: Perhaps you did mankind a service, Ned.
(The submarine starts to sink in the water)
Nemo: (voiceover) There is hope for the future. And when the world is ready for a new and better life, all this will someday come to pass, in God’s good time.
The TV showed “THE END” words on screen, with a picture of the book.
“Well”, Molly’s dad said, “That is quite the movie. I certainly enjoyed seeing it again. What did you two think?”
“Why did Captain Nemo want to sink his submarine?”, Molly asked.
“Because he was dying and didn’t want the guys he was fighting to get it”, he said.
Molly nodded, thinking, putting the tip of her thumb in her mouth and biting on it. “What about all his other guys”, she said, “They weren’t dying. Couldn’t they run it?”
Her dad nodded, also thinking, and said, “I guess they were a good loyal crew willing to die with their captain.”
To be willing to die for your captain, I thought, that was really interesting. I would have to remember and play that happening with my soldiers.
“What do you think, Cooper?” Molly’s dad asked me.
I shook my head. “I don’t know”, I said, “Captain Nemo was the badguy, but not a regular badguy that was all bad. But his submarine was really neat.”
“Yeah”, said Molly’s dad, nodding his head and opening his eyes really big, “It was, wasn’t it.”
He looked at that “watch” thing on his wrist and said, “We better get you home young man.”
We went up to their front door and I put on my jacket. Molly opened the door and you could see the light on in the kitchen part of our house across the street.
“So someone’s waiting up for you at home?”, Molly’s dad asked. I nodded.
“Will you wave from the kitchen window to let us know you got in okay?”, he asked. I nodded again, and turned to open the screen door to leave.
He looked at Molly. “Don’t you two ever say goodnight or goodbye to each other?”, he asked. We both looked at each other, then at him, and shook our heads.
He laughed through his nose and said, “Okay. Well I at least will say goodnight. Goodnight Coop. It’s always a pleasure to have you over.” Molly nodded just a little bit.
I opened the screen door, and walked down to the “curb” part of our street. The air was a little bit cold and everything was quiet except a little bit of a whooshing noise far away to the left where that big Stadium street was. There was one of those “street lights” at the end of our street right on the edge of the park that lit up everything so it wasn’t too dark. I could tell there were no cars moving on the streets around us, but I still moved my head both ways before I crossed, because Molly’s dad was watching and dad might be watching too, though I didn’t see anyone through our kitchen window. I heard the snapping sound of my sneakers hitting the hard street, and then a squeakier sound when I walked on the grass on the other side, and then a crunchier sound as I walked on the stones in our driveway to our side door. The screen door creaked as I opened it, then I turned the knob with a clinking sound and pushed open the side door and stepped into that “landing” part between the kitchen and the stairs down into the basement. I heard the clicking noises of dad’s typewriter. It sounded like someone talking using very different click words.
As the clicking continued I heard dad’s voice, “Is that you Cloob?”
“Yep”, I said.
“Okay”, he said, as the clicking continued, “There’s some graham crackers if you want a snack, and you don’t need to take a bath if you don’t want. And if it’s okay with you we’ll maybe skip the reading tonight, though I’ll come up for a quick song or two.”
“Okay”, I said.
I walked into the kitchen and looked out the window and saw Molly and her dad still standing inside the screen door of their house looking out at our house. I went to the window and waved to them. Molly’s dad waved back and he closed the regular door so I couldn’t see them anymore. The light in their living room window turned off. The box of graham crackers was on the counter by the fridge and I opened it, took a few crackers out and ate them. I got a glass and poured myself some milk and drank it. I really liked being able to do all these things by myself now, and tie my shoes too. Soon I would have my own bicycle. My birthday was at the beginning of the next month, and I could barely wait.
I went through the living room into the hallway between the bedrooms. The doors to both rooms were open and the rooms were dark and I could hear mom making that “snoring” noise. David was asleep too in his bed. I walked into our room and “changed” into my pajamas and got in my bed under the covers. I imagined our room being a room in a submarine. Our door would have one of those big wheels instead of a little knob. Our windows would look out underwater. The laundry room in the basement would be where the engine was. Dad’s office would be that big room with the giant round window.
When I heard or saw a story I really liked, there was usually someone in the story that I wanted to pretend to be. If the main person was a kid and the others were grownups then I wanted to be that kid, like Tom in Tom Sawyer or Tom Swift. In The Wizard of Oz, I wanted to be Dorothy, even though Danny and Kenny said I shouldn’t be her because she was a girl.
In Treasure Island I wanted to be Jim most of the time, but sometimes I wanted to be Long John Silver, maybe when Molly was pretending with me and she wanted to be Jim. Long John Silver was older, but he didn’t seem like a real grownup either because he had more fun even though he was a badguy.
Poindexter was the kid in Felix the Cat, but I usually wanted to be Felix. He was like an older kid, like Margie, and he really wasn’t a cat either, he just looked like one. I WOULD be Poindexter if Molly wanted to be Felix. I might even be Master Cylinder if I was pretending I was in charge of Mars.
But in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, who would I be? The Professor just kind of watched things happen and wanted to find out more stuff, you couldn’t really play that. Ned did stuff, but he only did stuff for himself, so that wasn’t very interesting. And Conseil just helped the Professor or helped Ned. The interesting guy to be was Captain Nemo. He was sort of a badguy, but he was also the main guy too, and the one with the neat submarine and the secret base and he did all sorts of stuff.
When dad came up and we sang songs, he said he didn’t know any submarine songs, or that song that Ned sang in the movie. What he knew was a Navy song called “Anchors Away”. He sang it a few times so I could try to sing it too…
Anchors Aweigh, my boys, Anchors Aweigh
Farewell to college joys, we sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay
Through our last night on shore, drink to the foam
Until we meet once more, here’s wishing you a happy voyage home
Stand, Navy, out to sea, ‘Fight’ our battle cry
We’ll never change our course, So vicious foe steer shy-y-y-y
Roll out the TNT, Anchors Aweigh
Sail on to victory, and sink their bones to Davy Jones, hooray
I asked him what “TNT” was, and he said it was something they used in bombs and “shells” to blow things up. I asked him who “Davy Jones” was, and he said it was a pretend place, “Davy Jones’ Locker”, where people said sailors went when their ships got sunk and they “went down with the ship”.
The next day it was sunny and warmer, and mom said I could go play in the park. She sat on a blanket in the middle of the park and said I could go wherever I could still see her, because then she could see me too. Because David wanted to play in the park too, but would try to follow me wherever I went, she said I should go first to the other side of the park so he wouldn’t see me. Then he would play around mom and she could watch him better while she drew pictures in her “sketch book”.
I walked to the part of the park with the trees where the swings and the other playing on stuff was, I saw Paul playing on the monkey bars with three older boys. I walked up to them and Paul saw me.
“Did you see that submarine show on TV last night?”, he asked. I nodded, and then he asked, “Who would you want to be?”
“Captain Nemo”, I said.
“Me too”, he said. Two of the other boys nodded.
The other older boy wearing a baseball cap said, “But he was the badguy.”
The boy in the group that seemed like he was the oldest and acted like he was in charge said, “Doesn’t matter. He had all the best stuff. He had the submarine. He and his crew had those suits to walk underwater. He had that secret base.”
The boy with the baseball cap said, “What about Ned? He figured out how to beat Captain Nemo.”
“Naw”, said the oldest boy, wrinkling his nose, “He just ratted on Nemo, that’s all.”
While the older boys were there we all tried to figure out if Captain Nemo was most like a pirate, like Long John Silver, an outlaw, like Billy the Kid, or maybe like this guy “Batman”, who I’d heard kids talk about.
Later that day Paul came over to my house and he brought this shiny gray plastic submarine with him that he said we could pretend was Captain Nemo’s, even though it didn’t look like it. I got all my boats from the basement and the bathroom, along with my soldiers, and we decided to play Captain Nemo in the backyard. Molly came over too, and when she saw what we were doing in the backyard, she ran back home and got all her boats too and brought them over.
The three of us stood in the middle of the backyard and figured out how everything was going to work. The big grass part of the backyard, which went from the dirt pile by my bedroom window and the maple tree all the way between the spruce trees back to mom’s garden at the very back, was the sea where the ships went and the submarine went too. Mom’s garden in the back part would be where the city was and the place where they made the war bombs.
“That’s a factory”, Paul said, “That’s a place where they make things like that.”
I remembered about that “TNT” stuff from that song that dad sang last night. So the “driveway”, by the side of the house next to the dirt pile, would be the “TNT mine”, which had the stuff the “factory” needed to build the war bombs. The little stones in the driveway would be the TNT which the prisoners had to get.
“What are prisoners?” Paul asked.
“They’re the guys that have to do work even though they don’t want to”, I said.
“They’re captured”, Molly said. Paul nodded when he heard that.
And we decided Captain Nemo’s secret base would be in the dirt pile, but the side of the dirt pile farthest from the driveway and the TNT mine, because it didn’t work very well if it was right next to it, because it was supposed to be secret.
“But which color soldiers should be Captain Nemo’s guys?” I asked. Paul thought it should be the gray ones, because they were the same color as the submarine. Molly thought so too, so that’s what we did. They were usually the badguy soldiers, so that seemed right. So the green soldiers would be in charge of the TNT mine on the driveway, and the city and factory back in mom’s garden. But the guys that had to work in the TNT mine would be gray soldiers. Since the dirt pile was right next to the driveway with the stones, we could use one side of it for the TNT mine and the other for Nemo’s secret base.
Molly and I had some boats that had an open part in the middle where the gray soldiers who had to work in the prison would put the TNT stones. But when those boats tried to go across the backyard grass “sea” back to the factory that made the war bombs, Captain Nemo’s submarine would find them and then wreck and sink them. Then the green soldiers at the city and the factory would get worried and decide to send out the other boats, “warships”, to protect the boats full of the TNT stones.
When Captain Nemo’s submarine came to sink the boats with the stones, the other “warship” boats would shoot at the submarine. Sometimes they would miss, and the submarine would sink the boats with the stones, but other times they would hit the submarine, and it would have to go back to its secret base for “repairs”, and some of the gray soldiers would be dead. That would make Captain Nemo mad, and once the submarine was fixed, he would go back out to get those boats with the stones and get “revenge”.
We played for the whole afternoon, all the different things that could happen. One time we even had all the warships find the secret base and try to capture it, so Captain Nemo had to blow it up. But we didn’t have him sink his submarine. It kept going, and his guys built a new base. Molly said it should be under the edge of the spruce tree that we liked to hide and climb in. Finally Paul’s mom came to take him home. Molly went home too, because it was time for her to eat dinner. Mom and I watched her go across the street with her boats and back into her house.
The next day I went back to Playschool. None of the other kids there had seen Captain Nemo on TV, but one of the grownups had. So I told the other kids my age about it, and we decided to build a submarine out of the giant wood blocks. The grownups let us build it under two really big tables, put next to each other, so the top part of the tables could be the top part of the submarine.
We used the giant blocks to make the walls around the submarine. The grownup who had seen the show on TV said that the walls of a submarine or a regular ship were called the “hull”. We also used the blocks to divide the inside of the submarine into three rooms. The “engine room” was in the back and the “control room” in the middle. That other room with the big round window that we called the “looking out room” was in the front.
In the “engine room” we used a toy oven as the engine. It had knobs on it that you could use to make the submarine go faster or slower. You could open the oven door to look inside and see the pretend fire.
In the “control room” we needed a space to see out. I remembered how dad had helped Molly and me make a submarine at home by putting the regular basement table and that “card table” close, but not next to each other, and then put the “laundry basket” on top of the part between where you could stick your head up and look out through all the square holes in the basket. I told the kids about it and we asked the grownups if the playschool had one of those, and they did and they let us use it. It was really neat because we put two big blocks under it that you could sit on and make it just high enough for two kids to sit on the block and look out through the laundry basket. Then we also had one of those pretend car driving things with the wheel for turning and other car controls. We put in on top of three giant blocks in front of the block where you sat to look out.
In the “looking out room”, one of the kids went out to the outside play area and got one of those big round plastic “hula hoop” things to be our big round window, and we put the giant blocks around it to hold it in place. There was a toy piano we used to be that “organ” thing that Captain Nemo played. And for the “map”, there was one of those puzzles with pieces that you put together to make all the different places in the “world”. We put it together and set it on a giant block, and then used a piece from a game to show where the submarine was on the map. We even brought some books in from the bookshelf, and that grownup that had seen the show said that would be our “library”.
They all let me be Captain Nemo, and they were all the “crew”. Sometimes they let me tell them what to do like the real Captain Nemo did, but most of the time they just did what they wanted. We played in our pretend submarine all morning, and when mom came to pick me up at lunchtime, they kept it set up and other kids were still playing in it when I left, and there was even a different Captain Nemo.
The next few days I went to Playschool we set it up again, and I think the grownups there thought it was really neat too, because they helped us with it whenever we asked for help.