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Sunk by John Lemon
published in Volume 6, Issue 1 on March 1st, 1999

A few years ago, I was working in Santa Barbara scrubbing boat bottoms for this guy Tom Casey. He had a tugboat, and it sunk with him in it. Wait. I need to go back. I better start over.

This guy, his name's Mike Lazzaro, he's out on the ocean one day with his wife and these broads from his topless club in Oxnard. He's got one of them big cigarette boats—fifty, sixty foot long. Big.

Anyway, this Mike's wife gets totally wasted, and she opens up the seacock. So this Mike looks, and whoa—there's all this sea water gushing in.

Then, like I heard it, this wife of his, she's down below paddling around in the water, and she goes, "All good captains go down with the ship."

What a ding-dong.

Anyway, this Mike don't know where the water's coming from, but he realizes he's in major trouble, and his only hope is to get the boat beached. So, he revs up the engines, and takes off full speed for the shore; but half way there the boat's swamped, and down she goes.

Did I say these dancers was totally naked? You should hear the guy tell it who rescued them.

Anyway, it's later that day, and me and Tom Casey are on his tug when this Mike guy shows up.

"I hear you do salvage," says this Mike, and him and Tom shake hands.

"Some," says Tom.

"I got a special problem," says this Mike. "See, I got a wife that's a major ditz." (Me and Tom kind of laugh.)

So then this Mike says how this wife of his sunk his boat and everything, and he goes, "I'm not sure about the Coast Guard. There could be a problem because there was other people on the boat."

I don't know how you figure a guy like him. I mean, this wife of his, she sinks his boat, and he wants to protect her from the Coast Guard. If it was me, she'd be dead meat before the coasties ever got to her.

Anyway, "Ten grand," he tells Tom. "You keep it quiet and just get the boat raised."

So Tom, he's all, "Let's do it." And right away we zip out in the tug to where the boat sunk, and Tom dives down to check it out. Then he comes back up, and says it looks like the boat's just docked there on the bottom. So he plugs the hole, and he rigs up a cable.

But right away he can see it's too heavy, and he can't get it up with the rig he has on the tug.

I should go back and explain. See, Tom lived at home with his parents. He had a brother, Phil, but the old man disowned Phil because of his Jap girlfriend.

I should go back some more. The story is that the old man's father—that's Tom and Phil's grandpa—was killed at Pearl, trapped in an air pocket in a sunken ship, and he's calling for help by tapping on the hull, but nobody can get to him. Finally after—I don't know—days, weeks, the tapping stops. I mean, what a way to go.

So the old man hates Japs. I mean, he hates them. But Phil sees things his own way, not to mention he's big into dope.

I remember Phil when he's in high school, he rides around in an old hearse with one of them Halloween masks of Ronald Reagan mounted on the hood, and letters on the doors that say, "Mobile Western White House."

Anyway, Phil gets this tremendous barge that was used to lay underwater cable, and he's got it anchored offshore, and he's living on it with this Jap broad—her name's Michiko—and the old man finds out about it, and he goes totally ballistic. I mean, Phil can't set foot in the house no more, and if his ma wants to see him, she's gotta go to a restaurant or something to meet him.

But Phil's still OK with his brother, Tom. Tom thinks the old man's wrong, but what can he do?

So Tom goes to Phil for help getting the boat raised. Thing is, the winch on Phil's barge don't work. But Michiko's brother has this big tow truck, so her and Phil borrow it and get it on the barge, and Phil uses chain binders to hold the thing.

Meantime, the old man hears about all this, and he comes down to Tom's tug to help.

So we're all out there raising the boat: me, Tom, and the old man on the tug; Michiko and Phil on the barge.

Anyway, Tom fixes it so the tug is raising one end, and this truck's getting the other; and they get this boat about half raised—but I gotta go back and explain something else.

Michiko was knocked up; and one time when the old man was picking up Tom and Phil's ma from one of them restaurant meetings, he seen Michiko and said some shit to her, and Phil slugged him. Give him a concussion.

So there they are out there—the old man and Phil—just giving each other the eye; and the cables are creaking and groaning like they do; and what I think happened was a wake come by from a big ship. Something made them waves; because the tug and the barge start rocking, and the weight is shifting from one to the other. So what happens is when the weight is on the tow truck, it squeezes the truck's suspension, and that makes the chains go slack, and they pop off of where Phil's got them hooked, and sploosh, the truck gets yanked right over the side.

So then all the weight goes on the tug, and the tug's stern goes in the water, and the tug swamps, and wham—just like that—she goes straight down.

Me and the old man jump off, but Tom's in the cabin, and he goes down with the tug.

So the old man's in the water, and right away he starts yelling at Phil something like, "Look what you done—killed your brother."

Phil, he don't answer, but he grabs a tank and a weight belt—no wetsuit or nothing—and jumps in.

Meantime, this truck lands on top of the cigarette boat; and the tug, which is upside down, lands on them both.

As it turns out, Tom's trapped in an air pocket.

So me and the old man, we're in the drink, and Michiko's reaching out her hand, and when the old man don't take it, she goes, "Goddamn you. Are you gonna let both your boys die down there just so's you can feel sorry for yourself? You get your goddamn ass up here right now."

Well, I guess that shocks the old man good; so he takes her hand, and she pulls him out; then they both pull me out.

Meantime, there's a bunch of shit blocking the door on the tug; and Phil's having a hard time with it because of the cold.

Up on the barge, Michiko's putting on her wetsuit, and it don't fit good because she's bulging, you know how they do; I mean the baby. But she sort of gets it on, and she dives in.

So now her and Phil are down there, and Phil's starting to get in trouble hisself; so he goes back up.

Meantime, Michiko grabs something and bangs on the tug; and Tom answers back with a few taps. So she busts out one of the windows, and she swims up to the air pocket, and she says to him, honest to God, she goes, "Your dad's waiting for you." And she brings him back to the surface.

When we pulled her and Tom out, you should've seen the old man. He starts crying, and going on and on. You wouldn't believe it. I guess he was happy.

Anyway, this Mike guy was none too happy. Neither was that guy, I forget his name, Michiko's brother that owned the truck.

When they brought the tug and the truck back up, the truck was pretty much wrecked, and the tug had a lot of damage.

But the cigarette boat was trashed—I mean smashed to pieces—not many big pieces, neither.

I went down to Long Beach after that, and went to work doing Fiberglas. Man, I hate that shit. I like it a lot better when I'm working in the water.

I don't know what ever happened to Tom and them people. Sometimes I wonder. I mean, the old man and Michiko, you know?

It's a funny thing, though. I just seen that Mike guy the other day. He opened up a topless club in Long Beach; and I'll be goddamned, there he was with that same wife of his. I couldn't hardly believe it.

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