“You tried to kill me.” Of course it’s not true, but that what he has claimed for decades. This fellow (we’ll call him “Rob”) is a helo pilot.
It all started on a dark and stormy afternoon, and the Indian Ocean was angry. On the last flight of the day, “Rob” was sitting in the helo, chained to the deck, and I was on the bridge. As we turned to head into the seas, a monster (think “Perfect Storm“) wave hit us, stopping our turn. Then, another monster wave (think “Poseidon“) hit us broadside. We took a 37 degree roll. That’s when all heck broke out.
Luckily we were well trained and disciplined. I can still remember the Helo Control Officer’s calm, soothing voice over the MC as he announced: “THE HELO BROKE LOOSE! (undecipherable) THE HELO BROKE LOOSE! THE HELO BROKE LOOSE! (undecipherable)!”
On the bridge, all we could see was “Rob’s” helo hanging precariously on the edge of the flight deck.
The rest is a blur. Thanks to some unbelievable heroics by the flight deck crew, the helo didn’t go over. Everyone (including “Rob”) scrambled out safely, and in the end the only casualties were a damaged helo and a few dents in the ship.
I thought it was over. But before long, I started getting messages. Strangers would approach me and say, “A friend said you tried to kill him.” Phone messages and emails saying the same thing would appear from people I had never met. Oh, he was a deft one, content to use others to do his dirty work. He always managed to deprive me of the chance to meet him face-to-face, to defend my honor in one final duel of wits.
It took twenty years before my opportunity came. One night I was enjoying a quiet dinner and the waitress handed me a note: “You tried to kill me.” I looked over her shoulder and there he was:
This was it. I thought back through the decades of comebacks I wished I had been able to use, of knock-down, barn-burning put-downs I could launch, and came up with:
“You dented my ship.”
You have got to be kidding me! Just when I needed the perfect comeback, I shot blanks. I slinked out, a defeated man in the battle of repartee.
That was a few years ago. Since then, the messages have quit coming, and with retirement we could finally let bygones be bygones.
Or so I thought. Recently, on a visit to North Island Naval Air Station, it all came flooding back. Because sitting right there inside the gate was Magus 36, the helo from the story, being used as a display aircraft. And I know “Rob” had something to do with it – I know he put it there to taunt me forever.
And that’s when the perfect comeback hit me.
“I should have killed him when I had the chance.”