SHORTY


I met Shorty aboard the Research Vessel Trident in the fall of 1973. He was a rather stout, and as his nickname implies, rather short Puerto Rican ordinary seaman. His love of life and fun was infectious. For example he bought a watermelon ashore, infused it with at least a 5th of vodka, and snuck it aboard. I wondered why the whole deck gang got so noisy at their afternoon coffee break, and discovered the watermelon.

But what I remember Shorty for was an incident on the "fantail" of the vessel one evening. Since we were doing research for the University of Rhode Island, we always had a good complement of scientists and graduate students in Oceanography aboard. A number of them were women. One of the most attractive of them was Charlotte. She was a liberated young woman who wore short-shorts and blouses open at the top. Every evening, weather permitting, someone would play the guitar and we'd have a little party on the "fantail", the stern of the ship. Alcohol, although officially not allowed, was often present and tolerated as long as it was discreet and quiet and used only by those off duty.

Shorty was a product of the inner-city, Charlotte was from the suburbs and academic community. Shorty met Charlotte at the evening fantail party. He politely asked if he could sit next to her, and she agreed. He then asked her if she would care for a cigar (long before they had their renaissance) and she agreed. He bit off the end of one, slobbered all over it, and handed it to her, and helped her light it. Then he asked her if she would care for a drink. She agreed, and he poured her an 8 oz. tumbler full of vodka. Poor Charlotte sat there with a cigar in one hand, a glass of straight vodka in the other, wondering what to do, when Shorty asked her if she would like to see his tattoo. A bit warily she agreed, and in front of all hands he dropped his drawers and "mooned" her with his tattoo on both cheeks, which was of two ship's propellers, and the words, "Twin Screws-Keep Clear" over them. It is a warning posted on the stern of all twin screwed vessels.

Poor Charlotte rapidly disappeared, and never again attended a fantail party. However, she did forgive shorty. At the end of the cruise Shorty obliged our scientific staff by allowing them to take photos of his tattoo as he proudly showed his posterior to the departing scientists.