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Steel Beach Picnic

by Joseph Couillard

I can smell the salty, sea air from the bottom of the trunk.
I let it fill my lungs, breathing life back into my oxygen-deprived muscles.
I look up.
The ladder-well is like a telescope, magnifying the holy blue sky above.
I begin my climb.
With each rung I shed a layer.
Watch.
Drills.
Briefs.
Training.
Boards.
Inspections.
Manuals.
Qualifications.
Exams.
I reach the top nearly weightless.
I rub my eyes, coaxing them awake.
The waves fall gently against the side of the boat.
The sun has already baked the deck dry.
I stagger before I find the horizon to steady myself.
I sit down on the tough, textured deck.
It digs deep into my skin, but I don’t mind.
Someone is playing classic rock over an amplifier.
The cooks are flipping burgers on a charcoal grill.
Almost everyone is smoking.
The captain looks down from the bridge like a proud father.
I look to the east, knowing that is where home is, but for the first time in a while it doesn’t seem to matter.
I look around.
They are singing, laughing, dancing; all the things that just minutes before had been surrendered to the shadows of the boat.
Sitting there, with the sun setting all around us, we talk of love and of family and of how at that moment we would pay just about anything for a six-pack.
I take a deep breath and let it all wash over me.
I smile.
For a second it almost makes it all worth it.

LTJG Joseph Couillard is a Submarine Officer stationed in Bangor, Washington. He earned his commission through the NROTC program at Iowa State University in 2013. In his free time he enjoys writing, reading, playing basketball, and spending time with his girlfriend.

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