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The chemist

“Where is that moral imbecile?!”

Did you hear that? The first mate is looking for me. Any minute now he’ll find me and start shouting:

“Why the hell did you poke your nose in there again with that amputated brain of yours?”

And now let me introduce myself: submariner of the navy of Her Majesty Russia, commander of the chemical service on the nuclear submarines, or, put more simply – the chemist.

For eleven years, the Northern Fleet has cradled me in its arms and I’ve crawled along and made it as far as a captain third rank.

“Look at him grown into third rank!!!” the first mate would periodically howl and shriek when he managed to switch on his second signalling system and produce a stream of something resembling speech. And if the first mate was raging and fuming – then I knew I had done something right. I’d certainly grown into my rank.

Clever people get as high as first rank captains, wise people as high as third rank captains, and only legendary people ever make it to senior lieutenant.

One must choose between being a captain of the first rank, wise or legendary.

“Whoever you are, let the sun fill you with joy!” the ancient Greeks taught me, and I have let the sun fill me with joy. Only the sun, as there were no other joys.

The chemical division in the navy is always located near the bogs and the storage boxes with emergency gas masks. “You’ve alchemised the whole place out here!” my boss used to say, and I always expected him to hold his nose in disgust.

A chemist in the navy is not a professional trade, not an ethnic label, and not even a final diagnosis.

A chemist in the navy is really a nickname. “He responds to the nickname ‘chemist’.”

“KEM-MIST!” they shouted at me, and I would run over as fast as I could, flapping my skinny legs like a hen on a conveyor belt running towards food; and they didn’t need to give me further commands “Come here” or “Get out of here”.

I accepted my nickname “chemist” for what it was: the lowest possible starting point.

“Bastard!” they said.

“I’m sorry!” I replied.

“Punish him,” they said, and they punished me.

“With your chicken brain you know your officer’s duties just as much as a chicken does!” they shouted at the very edge of my aural cavities. I clapped my sides with my wings and shouted:

“Cock-a-doodle-doo!!!” and was immediately cut down to size.

This is a “cluster method” in mathematics; you pick up a “cluster” – then, wham, right in the mug! Straight in the mug! In the navy, they tested me for my “guts” and “backbone”, for “what it takes” and “what it doesn’t take”, for “hatchability” and “pluck”, and I passed all the tests with good marks.

“Lean your bucket over here!!!”

(My head, probably.)

“I’ll give you an injection good and proper! I’m going to flog you!”

Yes Sir, I’ve bent over.

“Stop manifesting your absence.”

Yes Sir, I’ve stopped.

“And hold back from your questions!!!”

I’d already been holding back.

And what can you do, comrade captain third rank, submariner of the navy of Her Majesty Russia? I can do everything:

From toast-master to street-cleaner,

From digging to flying,

From a gutter into the navy!

I can: carry, drive, shovel, pour, serve!

I can wipe things with damp rags!

I can do it all again!

But defend the motherland?

That’s what “defending the motherland” consists of.

The motherland starts with a floor cloth… for the submariner of the navy of Her Majesty Russia… including the chemist, excuse my foul language…

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