Beer & Sunshine

7 MAY 24, 18:30
Lucky Bones Backwater Grille, Cape May, NJ

Friday night was usually spent watching a kids’ movie and then falling asleep mid-wife’s-choice-of-movie on the couch after a few beers, if he’d been lucky and not been on shift. 

Tonight was their first night out in Cape May, and Buzz had hit up a more seasoned Coastie for a good place to head. Lucky Bones, like most places in the Cape, was within earshot of the clanking sounds of ropes hitting masts from the Marina and caught up in the seasalt air. He could smell the chargrilled meat from the parking lot. Just how he liked it. 

Standing at the bar, Buzz checked out the beers on tap and chatted with the bar staff while they briefly confirmed the reservation and then led the party to their table. 

“Thank you ma’am,” he said, politely as they all took seats. “First round’s on me,” he told the team. “What’s everyone want?”

“Fine but I’ve got the second,” Kevin said, walking up alongside of Buzz. He was dressed casually shorts and a Piermont Fire Department t-shirt. From what he consider his hometown back in New York. “I’ll have the Kinetics.”

Angelica was still on the phone as she moved through the crowd. She had dressed casually, this time shorts, sandals and an old shirt from the Albuquerque Police Department’s Auto theft unit, with the phrase under the city logo of “Dude where’s my car…..” She was simply responding to her mother’s impassioned arugment, because her brother had expressed a desire to join the Navy after High School, instead of going to college. She arrived at the table and cut the conversation with, “Sorrrymomgoingtroughatunnelbyelovetodad” In the longest run on string of words she said in a while. She did however catch the drink and responded, “I’ll take a Sam Adams. And I’ll get the next round that’s open.”

By this point, Buzz had scanned the list a couple of times and come up his own first choice. “Blueberry Blonde for me,” he decided out loud, and brushed some imaginary dust off his Toy Story t-shirt, the one featuring a certain spaceman with the words ‘No Intelligent Life Anywhere’ in friendly letters. “Lieutenant Clark was right, this place is awesome,” Buzz noted, happily and stood up to take his wallet from his cargo shorts pocket. 

Hannah arrived a few minutes later also on the phone video chatting with her kids and husband. It was a lively conversation punctuated by the squeals and giggles of the babies. Coming up to the group she said her goodbyes and slipped the phone into the back pocket of her jean shorts, glancing at the list of beers she ordered a Schofferhofer Weizen “Last call is on me.” She said turning to the others and realizing how hungry she was.  

Erin turned to others hearing Hannah coming in. She heard Buzz earlier announcing he is buying the first round but she wanted to finish the message before giving her full attention to the new colleagues. Erin was dressed in a simple white elegant skirt, a black tight-fitting long-sleeve top and black strappy heels. “I’ll have Miller.” She called with a gentle wave of her hand on the bartender. “So I guess I am before you…” Erin smiled to Hannah before turning to Angelica. “So who was that?” Erin made a hand gesture imitating the phone. “The jealous boyfriend already?” She asked playfully.

Hannah nodded and looked at the menu on the table and was trying to make a decision on food as a waiter came by she stopped him “Can I get a Grilled Cuban Spiced Pork Chop.” She asked as she turned her attention to the others.  

“Hold up,” Buzz said, with a raised hand and a polite smile. “We’ll order it all together,” he suggested.

“Mom.” Angelica smiled, “Apparantly my brother has annoucned he’s going to join the Navy and become a SEAL, rather then go to college and she is not taking it well. He’s 16 and a sophmore, so he’ll probably change his mind at least 4 times before he actually turns 18.”

“Could be worse,” Roe shrugged. “If it weren’t for the military I’d probably never have gone to college. Honestly, I’m not sure what I would be doing with myself at all. And yeah, I’ve made sure to stop in here at least once each time I’ve been in Cape May. Came here after I graduated boot camp the first time.”

“He probably will. I know I changed my mind eight or nine times before I finally made a decision, with a little bit of tough love from my dad.” She laughed “Getting my husband through the Fire Academy was worse than getting me through high school.”  

“It’s her baby boy though and talking about SEAL teams, she’s being pretty typical for Italian mother. I think she’s blaming dad, though her brother did join the Coast Guard.”

“I joined because of my adopted Grandpa,” Roe explained. “I read his journals from his years of service. He retired as a Master Chief, I wanted to be one, of course I ruined that when I went and became a Warrant. I did make Chief though… all and all this career went nothing like planned but I love it.”

“Do you think he has what it takes to be a SEAL?” Erin asked and nodded to the bartender brought her beer. She took a sip and changed her position for a more comfortable, leaning with her hip against the counter. “Many want to be a SEAL but as far as I know, it’s not the easiest thing to do.” She flashed her teeth in a cheeky smile.

“Like a fighter pilot, simple,” Roe said, with a smirk taking his beer and having a pull of it.

“Yeah, simple until you try it.” Erin said with a boastful grin and took another sip of the beer she was holding.

“That’s what Flight Simulator is for.” Angelica chuckled, “As for Ant’ny he’s 16 he thinks it’ll be like football two a days, someone’s going to have to break it to that boy that this will not be football. But if he’s got the drive, go for it.”

“Smashed burger with extra bacon, for me, please,” Buzz told their server, then looked to the others about the table. “Everyone else decided?” He asked. “Heck, choosing career was way easier than picking one thing off’a this menu. Anyone want a sharing plate while we’re waiting?” He didn’t weigh in an opinion on the ‘little brother big life decisions’ just yet, but looked to Roe with a small smile. “Same for me,” Buzz noted. “Grandad showed me the way – not through his journals though, I was lucky enough to get the stories straight from the man himself. Army right outta school here. Never doubted that for a second.”

Angelica was simple, in her food tastes, “Shrimp Scampi, go extra with the garlic.” She paused, “I’ll talk to Anthony in the morning probably, if he’s serious my cousin’s husband was Army, he was going to go Special Forces but ended up hauling a SAW, So he can prepare for the negative. Mom, that’s his to deal with.”

“Thanks.” Erin shakes her head for now refusing to order something to eat. She was enjoying the beer and that was good enough for her. “Seems like everyone here is military or ex-military.” She comments. “Or do I have it wrong?”

“Kind of the nature of the beast in a military organization, isn’t it? Roe offered as he turned the page of the menu. “I’ve not decided yet, I’ll go last.”

“I’m not only former Army, but I used to be a cop in my home town, a few years on autotheft.” Angelica had placed her order, “Though I will say this, Nothing snapped the attitude out of me like an angry man in a smokey bear.”

Without interrupting the flow of conversation, Buzz held up a casually offered flat palm for a high five from his partner. They’d both followed a popular path, from Army to policing, each with their own nuances. 

Hannah smiled “I was born on a US Military base in Germany.” She said “So while not happy, my Mom kind of expected one of us to join the military.” She said taking a long drink from the glass. She pulled out her phone as it buzzed with a text message “Thank goodness for Grammy.” She said setting the phone down and chuckling at her husband trying to juggle twins, a 5 year old and a dog.  

“So you managed to dodge the… voluntary draft back then?” Erin grinned at Hannah. She had her phone in her purse considering rude to check it during the conversation but it seemed that she was old-fashioned in that regard.

Hannah smiled “Nah. My dad left the decision up to me..with a strongly worded hint that I should do what he said.” She added as she picked up her phone and sent a quick text that she would call later “Sorry, mom duty never takes a break.” She said “The hubby is struggling with teething twins.”

“I am sure he can handle it.” Erin laughed. “Mom duty ends when you decide it ends and even best generals needs the rest.” She pointed out.

His own phone upside down and on silent on the table, Buzz sipped his newly arrived beer and closed his eyes briefly in simple contentment. Blueberry indeed, and not bad at all, flavour cut nicely with the warmth of what was left of the day. “Yeah, have a lil faith,” he told Hannah with a grin. “Us dads generally do better if you don’t check in on us too often. Though my secret weapons are super soakers and ice cream,” he admitted. “Just not at the same time.”

Hannah laughed “I try not to check in too often when I’m away…but when my phone buzzes and the phone message sounds like World War III is happening in the background…. How old are your kids?” She asked. 

Erin looked at Buzz curiously. He didn’t look like a family man, at least not at first glance. Now however as she heard he had children, she also had to admit it did suit him.

Buzz grinned goodnaturedly. “My wife handles World War 3 just fine without me,” he noted. “But yeah, I get it. Six and three,” he answered Hannah’s question. “Lil girl knows everything and my boy’s always going everywhere at a million miles an hour.” He shifted his attention to Erin and raised an eyebrow. “You also got a question?” Buzz asked, his tone light. 

Erin raised her hands in a defensive gesture. “No, not really. At least not about the kids.” She replied amused. “I guess you both live in the area for long, right? Do you like the city?” She asked to no one in particular, her eyes switching between Buzz and Hannah.

“Fair enough.” Buzz chuckled, then. “Which city?” He asked, genuinely interested. 

Erin raised her hand in front of her eyes, so it would be in Buzz’s field of view, and pointed with the index finger down at the floor. “This city. Here. I know it’s not LA or the Big Apple.” She rolled her eyes.

“Cape May, it’s nice.” Angelica interjected, but normally we’re down in Chesapeake which I’m still moving in to, but so far community is nice.”

Erin’s eye roll only broadened Buzz’s grin, but he sipped his beer quietly while his partner spoke, then chimed in good-naturedly in Angelica’s conversational wake. 

“Sorry, ma’am,” he said, overdoing the politeness on purpose for Erin’s benefit. “So many cities in my week it’s not always easy to keep track. Home’s Charleston, offices are Chesapeake, the Cape feels small, but I’m liking it so far. Close to ocean,” he raised his pint glass. “Good beer, decent company.” His mouth quirked back into a wry smile. “How bout you?” 

“I am new here, so that’s why I am asking. It’s been a while for me since I was on the east coast.” Erin shrugged. “I know we get housing but eventually, it would be nice to have my own house. If I stay here longer.” She leaned forward slightly. “Are you still housed by CG? Or you managed to buy your own houses?”

Buzz raised pointed his right index finger down at the floor. “I’m new here too,” he said, with a wry smile. Then he shifted tack to mildly serious. “We own a house, but in Charleston. Family has a home base and I can move around as much as the job needs me to. So,” he guessed from the info Erin had shared up to this point. “You owned a house in LA?”

“Yeah, I did.” Erin nodded. “I know we are sort of here but not going to stay here.” She waved with her hand dismissively. “But I thought you guys might be here longer and know your ways around.” She gave Buzz amused grin and pointed index finger at him. “So if I would want to buy a house in Charleston, I know who to ask for help.”

“If you end up deciding to buy, I can give you a couple of real estate agents in the area that work well with the Coast Guard.” Hannah offered “We had talked about renting and that just seemed to be too much.” She said 

“Sure thing,” agreed Buzz with an easy grace. “That LA money’ll go a bit further around Chesapeake I reckon. For us, wifey’s job’s in Charleston, so I travel as needed.”

Hannah listened for a moment “We have a house in Portsmouth.” She said “Close enough for both of us to travel to work and yet rural enough to not have a lot of the big city issues.” She said as she thought about the house they had gotten, it was large enough for their growing family, yet cozy enough to feel like home.  

Hannah took another drink of her beer and wondered where the food was. She was smelling the food from the other patron and her stomach growled rather loudly.  

“I wouldn’t be much help in house hunting, I’m still in boxes in a rental duplex, I had just started unpacking when we got the call to come up here.”

Like Hannah, he was thinking about dinner. Just as Buzz was about to grab someone’s attention and ask about their food, he caught sight of the kitchen door opening and a server headed their way with a large tray. His stomach growled in anticipation. “Looks like ours,” he noted, with a big dumb grin.

“I could use another one of these,” Kevin said, lifting the near empty glass of beer as he looked down Buzz’s path of vision to find the tray of food coming toward.

When the server arrived with their food, Hannah also requested another drink, this time Dr. Pepper. It was one of her guilty pleasures. She didn’t drink it very often, but this was one of her exceptions. As the food neared, she inhaled deeply, it smelled wonderful and just made her stomach growl more.  

“Looks fantastic,” Roe said, as their food was distributed. With another round of drinks on their way the team got into their meals making small talk about their lives and the rest of their assignment and what they might come across while assigned to TRACEN Cape May.

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