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Patrol

A patrol is like a woman: if she’s your first, you’re going to remember her for a long, long time.

Any vacation that happens to fall right before a patrol will invariably be spoiled - as overshadowed as a condemned inmate’s final meal.

Loading, inspection, rockets, torpedos...

“Even if it kills us, men, we’ve got to do it! Even if it kills us...”

And it does kill.

Sometimes before an extended patrol they’ll do a special test run to check the level of readiness. The boat is sent to sea, and for ten days it goes back and forth. And inside this boat are people living in a constant state of alert. Alarms sound every two hours, and all too often one alarm rubs noses with the next...

That’s where I learned to sleep standing up. You just stand there and sleep standing up. And you don’t wake up until your chest slumps against the control panel; big black bags form under your eyes. After a few days of this, all you want is to be at sea. You want it more than anything....

But as soon as you get back, the process begins again, this time in reverse: unloading, unpacking, undoing...

“Looks like we’ve got a fine collection of gear on the pier here. An entire skyscraper.”

“Listen up, men! Nobody will be dismissed until there’s not a single box left on this pier!!!”

Of course everyone will be dismissed. There’s no doubt about that. And twenty-four hours before setting out for patrol, everybody will be quartered on the boat, and at the foot of the pier they’ll put an armed guard to make sure nobody runs off, I mean, hey, you never know with these philistines....

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