Moriarity’s plan worked great all the way until they were ready to sneak back aboard their ship. Then they found one of the watch standers on Spenser leaning on the lifeline at the stern smoking and looking at the bow of Callahan. There was no way they could climb back aboard without the smoker seeing them. Katt’s right leg, the one next to his shipmate, started jigging up and down.
Why did I listen to Moriarity? It was a fine time to start asking such questions. Katt always listened to Moriarity.
He’d gotten in trouble once before because of it. Before he reported to the Callahan, Katt never had a friend. The night he checked aboard, Moriarity was one of the watch standers on the quarterdeck. A burly, six-foot chief petty officer sporting a neat, full, black moustache was OOD, officer of the deck. He glanced over the orders Katt handed him and said, “Seaman Second Class Preston Katt, welcome aboard. You’ll be in First Division.”
First Division was home to forty deck seamen, the sailors who handled the anchors, mooring lines, the boats—basic sailor duties.
“I’ll take him to the berthing compartment,” a skinny sailor, as was Katt, and short, about five seven, also like Katt, cut in. “I’ll get him set up with a bunk.”
The OOD spun and snapped, “No, ****bird. You’ll take him to berthing and turn him over to Petty Officer Sampson. Then”—the OOD jabbed the little guy on his chest—“you, Moriarity, will get your duty-shirking, malingering ass right back up here. You got seven and a half minutes.”
“Uh, Chief,” Katt said. “Tell me how to find it. I don’t want to get anybody in trouble.”
“It’s all right. Moriarity will show you the way. You’re not getting him in trouble. That’s one thing he don’t need no help with. He’s in your division. Steer clear of him, though. He’s led lots of innocents into deep and serious ****.”
First Division berthing was forward, the quarterdeck aft, and Moriarity talked the entire length of the ship. He intrigued Katt. In his experience to that point, life was serious business. Surviving or not surviving serious. Moriarity, however, didn’t take anything seriously. That was clear just in the walk down the side of the ship. In ensuing days, he was always at the center of any group, always talking, and life to him seemed to be fun. Katt had no experience with that concept, either. Moriarity drew Katt to him with a high-tide gravitational pull.
Katt never drank alcohol before the first time on liberty with Moriarity. Then his friend kept buying beers, and he kept drinking them. The next morning, Katt woke in a flophouse hotel room, a puddle of beer-and-peanut puke on the floor beside him. And he got back to the ship three hours late for 0730 muster.
“Why’d you leave me?” Katt asked him.
“A man’s got to learn how to handle booze. That was lesson one.”