A Flip of The Coin

Submitted into Contest #151 in response to: Write about a character who keeps ending up in the same place.... view prompt


Fiction Friendship Fantasy

Dr. Jordan Hart and Ensign Asher Cartwright shake their heads as they look down at an unconscious Montgomery “Moose” Albertson.

           Short, with black-rimmed glasses, affable Ensign Cartwright hopes to have his own command someday. A twenty-five-year Navy veteran, Dr. Hart’s ever-present frown and grumpy countenance fail to hide his concern for others.

           “He’s the most knocked out man I’ve ever seen,” Ensign Cartwright says.

           “It’ll be a while before Albertson will be making nooses and waving them at the mess boys again,” Dr. Hart replies. “Probably didn’t win any friends entering the ring with that Confederate flag draped over his shoulders either. I’ve never understood why you look after this cretin.”

           “In the hope that a stubborn redneck can change.”

           Moose groans.

           “Looks like the great white hopeless is finally waking up,” Dr. Hart observes.

           A gunnery sailor with a combative nature, Moose is two hundred ten pounds of farm boy brawn from Biloxi, Mississippi. Albertson’s shipmates call him Moose because he looks and acts one.

           Moose’s blurry vision begins to focus.

           “You boys here to pay your respects to the battleship West Virginia’s heavyweight champion?”

           Ensign Cartwright and Dr. Hart snicker.

           “What’s so funny?”

           “You don’t remember?” Ensign Cartwright asks. “Dorie kicked the cornpone out of you, Moose. The referee could have counted to a hundred and you wouldn’t have gotten up.”

           “Ain’t no way some mess boy could beat me. His kind ain’t smart enough.”

           “Leading with your chin made him look like a genius,” Dr. Hart says.

           “Where’s my silver dollar? Where’s my good luck charm?”

           Ensign Cartwright reaches in his pants pocket, handing Moose his rare 1883 Morgan Silver Dollar.

           “I’d’a beat him if I had this with me.”

           “You could have dropped a silver mine on him, and you still would have lost,” Dr. Hart retorts.

           “You always did stick up for his kind, Doc,” Moose snarls.

           Moose flips the silver dollar.

           He gasps for air as his eyes roll back in his head and his body shakes violently.

           “He’s having a seizure, Doc. Do something!”

           Moose catches the silver dollar.

           He surveys his surroundings. A massive ship sits on a nearby slip. Bunting hangs from the ship’s bow in preparation for its launch.

           A crowd of dignitaries gather for the ceremony. An expressionless, formal officer strides to the podium.

           “Good afternoon. I am Admiral Griffin Clarke, Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet. It is my honor to introduce the most decorated officer in our navy’s history, retired Fleet Admiral Madison Montgomery Albertson.”

           “THAT’S MY SON!” Moose shouts, but none of the crowd can see or hear him.

           A slightly bent octogenarian with thick glasses shuffles to the podium.

           Admiral Albertson clears his throat. “It is a privilege to participate in today’s launching ceremony. My father, Montgomery “Moose” Albertson, served with Doris in 1941. He credited Doris with changing his life. My father was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. When he met Doris, our family began contributing to the NAACP. In his letters home he praised Doris for his humility, strength of character, and dignity. Doris was the first Black American sailor to receive the Navy Cross. He would later give his life for his country. Doris was a true American hero, Today, August 28, 2028, we name the Navy’s most powerful and advanced aircraft carrier in honor. In the name of the United States Navy, I christen thee the U.S.S. Doris Miller.”

           Admiral Albertson smashes the ceremonial bottle of champagne against the gleaming bow of the new ship, and it slides into the water.

           Moose flips his silver dollar.

           It comes to rest in the palm of his hand. He’s back in bed in sickbay aboard the West Virginia in 1941.

           “The Navy is gonna name a ship after Doris Miller.”

           Ensign Cartwright and Dr. Hart stare wide-eyed at Moose.

           “My boy, Madison, Admiral Albertson, he’ll be there,” Moose insists. “He gonna launch the ship. I saw it. I was there.”

           “You’re still delirious. You’ve been in and out of consciousness for the last two days,” Dr. Hart replies. “You haven’t left this bed.”

           Four days later, Moose is back at his station, talking with Ensign Cartwright.

           “I’ve never seen you like this before, Moose. You were more devoted to craps, girls, and booze before the fight. Getting knocked out…”

           “Opened my eyes.”

           Keeping his head down, Doris Miller quickly passes by, hoping he won’t be seen.

           “Doris! C’mon over here, son!”

           Known as a gentle giant, Doris is 6’ 3” and 230 pounds of solid muscle. Although he was christened Doris by a midwife who was convinced he’d be a girl, few people make fun of his name.

           Doris slowly approaches Moose, expecting a fight.

           “I hear you knocked me around pretty good.”

           “Nothing personal.”

           “I had it coming. You knocked the hate right out of me. I was taught to think of you as an animal, but I been acting like one myself. I been treatin’ you pretty bad. Well, that’s gonna stop.”

           “I think he’s apologizing for his behavior, Doris,” Ensign Cartwright says.

           “You don’t have to do that.”

           “Yes, I do. We’re shipmates. We’re southerners. My daddy was a sharecropper and so was yours. We’re more alike than not. We’re supposed to work together. And from now on we will.”

           Doris reluctantly shakes hands with Moose.

           “I hear you’re a pretty good shot,” Moose says.

           “Fair to middling.”

           “Well, I’m pretty good myself. I know there’s rules against mess attendants firing the anti-aircraft guns, but you might want to come watch me shoot sometime. Maybe you’ll pick up a few pointers.”

           Nodding, Doris hurries away, taking a last disbelieving look over his shoulder.

           “Are you feeling okay, Moose?” Ensign Cartwright asks.

           “For the first time in my life, sir.”

           Ensign Cartwright nods with approval, walking away.

           Moose pulls his lucky silver dollar from his pocket, flipping it in the air.

           When Ensign Cartwright turns back to look at Moose, he’s gone.

           The silver dollar lands in Moose’s hand. Two men are seated at a console looking out of a large window.

           Moose looks out of the window. The room below is filled with musicians. A crowd of people in bizarre, brightly colored clothes are trying to position themselves as close as they can to four musicians facing cameras.

           Moose turns to face the two men in the room with him. He waves his arms, makes faces, and yells at the top of his lungs, but the men can’t hear or see him.

           A thin man with a thick mustache and mutton chops smiles at a smaller man with frizzy, hair wearing a silk shirt with ruffles.

           “Are you excited, Jackson?” the smaller man asks.

           “Of course. We’re gonna make history tonight, Tommy,” Jackson replies. “This broadcast is gonna be seen by four hundred million people in twenty-five countries, and we’re part of it. Only the Beatles could pull this off.”

           “Jackson!” Moose exclaims, realizing he’s looking at his eldest son.

           A tall, elegant man with silver hair turns around, looking up at the men in the booth.

           “Are you ready, Jackson?”

           “Yes, Mr. Martin,” Jackson replies.

           The orchestra begins to play. Moose recognizes the song as the French national anthem and salutes.

           A man with shoulder-length light hair wearing tiny round glasses bops his head to the beat, then begins to sing. Soon, the multitude of musicians, friends, and guests join in singing, “All you need is love…love…Love is all you need.”

           Tommy turns to Jackson. “This is groovy, man!”

           “Yeah. This sure ain’t Glen Miller,” Jackson replies.

           Smiling, Moose pulls his lucky silver dollar out of his pocket, flipping it in the air.

           The coin lands in Moose’s hand. Looking up, he sees the massive cage masts of the West Virginia. Moose whistles “All you need is love” to himself, strolling to his post.

           Ensign Cartwright and Dr. Hart watch the men raise the awnings for Sunday church services as they walk along the ship’s main deck.

           The two men stop short.

           Moose and Dorie are dancing across the deck, arm in arm, singing “All you need is love…love…Love is all you need.”

           “Heatstroke?” Ensign Cartwright asks.

           “Might still be the effects of the concussion, but it’s nice to see.”

           “That’s cute you two,” Ensign Cartwright says. “But it’s Sunday, show some respect. Catchy tune, though. What is it?”

           “Well, it sure ain’t Glenn Miller,” Moose replies.

           “Right. Dorie, I imagine they’re waiting for you in the mess hall.”

           “Yes, sir.”

           Moose pats Dorie on the back. “See ya later, Champ.”

           “I swear, Doc, I don’t know who this guy is anymore,”  Ensign Cartwright jokes as the two men pass by Moose.

           Moose smiles as he flips his lucky silver dollar in the air.

           Ensign Cartwright turns to look back at Moose.

           “Where did he go?”

           Ensign Cartwright and Dr. Hart walk up to Moose, looking at him quizzically.

           “How’d you do that?” Ensign Cartwright asks.


           “A few seconds ago, you were standing behind us. How did you get in front of us?”

           “I used my time machine.”

           “Right. Can you give me a straight answer to a question, Moose? What’s really behind this personality change of  yours?”

           “My sons,” Moose replies. “I’ve seen things. I know Jackson and Madison are gonna be famous. But if I teach my boys hate, maybe they’ll end up being on the wrong side of history. I figure the world already has enough bad people, includin’ me.”

           A plane passes closely overhead.

           “What’s that knot head doing flying so low?” Dr. Hart wonders.

           Ensign Cartwright notices the emblem of the rising sun on the side of the plane.

           “That’s a Japanese fighter!”

           Machine gun fire crackles. Bullets rip into the West Virginia’s deck.

           Dr. Hart and Ensign Cartwright are cut down by the next volley of bullets.

           Dr. Hart lies face down, dead. Moose rushes to Ensign Cartwright’s side, covering the wounded officer.

           “What’s happening?” Ensign Cartwright whispers.

           “The Japanese are bombing our ships, Ford Island, everything in sight.”

           Planes swam the sky. Torpedoes strike the side of the ship. It begins to heel to port.

           “…Am I hurt bad, Albertson?” Ensign Cartwright gasps.

           Moose sees two bullet holes near Ensign Cartwright’s heart.

           “You’ll be okay, sir.”

           “You never were a good liar, Moose. Guess I won’t get my own command after all.”

           A passing plane strafes the deck, sending the men scrambling for cover.

           Moose checks Ensign Cartwright again. His eyes are unblinking, staring into oblivion.

           An alarm sounds calling the ship’s crew to battle stations. Panicking, the men dart in all directions.

           Moose looks around Pearl Harbor. The battleship Oklahoma, lashed to the battleship Maryland, has capsized. Her crew, soaked in oil, are perched on the ship’s hull blister looking beaten and bewildered.

           What’s left of the battleship Arizona lays low in the water, her superstructure twisted and pushed forward like a jockey striving for the finish line. Burning crude seeps out of her broken hull. Moose realizes that anyone left on board is as dead as the ship itself.

           Moose runs for the aft anti-aircraft machine gun.

           A bomb strikes nearby. Shards of metal and wood shoot at Moose like swords fired by an errant magician.

           Moose falls to the deck. A large piece of shrapnel has cleaved off his left leg. A second piece is lodged in his side.

           He feels himself being lifted and taken out of harm’s way.

           “You’ll be fine here, Montgomery,” Dorie says.

           Moose watches as Dorie mans the anti-aircraft machine gun. Dorie begins firing at the passing planes. He riddles a passing fighter, which bursts into flame and crashes in the harbor.

           Moose can feel himself getting weaker as his blood pools underneath him. He struggles to reach in his pocket for his lucky silver dollar.

           He flips the coin in the air.

           He misses it.

           It hits the deck next to him, slowly spinning to a halt.

June 22, 2022 17:00

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