ON THE USS CONSTITUTION – QUARTERDECK
LT. UPSHUR, a naval officer of 20 years, turns his eagle gaze from the work party to the approaching midshipman.
Acting Midshipman Turner, reporting, sir.
At ease, Mr. Turner. The Commandant has asked to see you.
(notices his sudden discomfort)
This is not about demerits.
An older naval officer, the COMMANDANT OF MIDSHIPMEN arrives on deck with ROMEO BROWN in tow, a handsome black man about Lon’s age, and CONGRESSMAN CLAY, a florid faced gentleman. A flicker of anticipation rises in Lon’s eyes.
(in answer to Lon’s salute)
Good afternoon, Mr. Turner. Getting right to the point you have a letter from home.
(with a grin, hands him the letter)
For you, Massa’ Lon.
Lon grins too and hurriedly breaks the seal and opens the letter. His grin fades and his face grows grimmer with each passing second.
I have a letter from your father also. He’s instructed me to receive your resignation, if you so desire.
If you please, sir, would you accept my resignation?
(with a sigh)
Have it on my desk in the morning. Mr. Clay here, has requested the honor of asking you to dinner.
(hands him a pass)
So you are excused until the evening gun.
Mr. Clay steps forward and in a bit of a daze Lon shakes his hand. For his part, Mr. Clay pumps his quite approvingly.
ON THE USS CONSTITUTION – NEAR THE ENTRY PORT – LATER
The work crew of plebes struggles to bring up a howitzer barrel in their sling from the dock below. Lon and his new companions wait nearby for them to complete their task and for the way to clear.
Louis and Jimmy arrive to pepper Lon with questions.
So, what did he want?
Did he see us in the tops?
We’ve all got demerits, right?
No. I got a letter from home.
You’re resigning, aren’t you?
My father put it simple enough, “Resign or be disowned.”
Shouts of alarm erupt from the plebes behind them. Before Lon can look around, Louis rushes by and launches a flying tackle, sweeping two plebes from the path of the falling howitzer.
Romeo catches the tipping end and by raw strength arrests its fall. Lon recovers the loose end of the sling and slips it back in place. And Jimmy helps the plebes stabilize the spar, bringing the heavy iron cannon safely down to the deck.
Well done, gentlemen, well done!