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The speech

The speech was a long time in the making. It was decided that each person would have to give a speech because our ships were going to pay a friendly visit to the French city of Marseille.

Everyone was ordered to write a speech in advance, and that’s what they did. Then everyone was called up you know where and they read to them their speeches and explained what they had written and that these were not speeches but the raving nonsense of a legless mare and dog crap.

Everyone was ordered to re-write their drivel and so they all immersed themselves in magazines and newspapers; and they duly re-wrote their speeches. Again, their efforts were con sidered and they were told: “Comrades! This is just no good at all!” At which point, they were made to sit down at one big table and someone dictated what they were supposed to say. Next, they were instructed how and when they should give their speeches. They were told to keep quiet unless they were asked to speak. Then, to each speech an element of individuality was added in case they were asked to give them at the same time. Finally, they checked them all again, they streamlined them a bit more, sharpened them in a few places and screwed them tight. Everybody was told to learn his speech by heart. “You’ll be tested”, they warned. A deadline was set. And every body was tested. They were told to be more accurate. A new deadline was set. Again, they were tested and it was certified that everything was as it should be. Finally, the speeches were stuffed in everybody’s mouths, into their pockets I mean, and we set off for Marseille.

In Marseille, it turned out that our lot were the dear guests of the mayor of the city of Marseille, and so everyone was taken to the town hall. The table was laid, there, full of all the right things: bottles, bottles, bottles and finger-foods. The mayor of the city of Marseille took the floor. He said that he was immeasurably pleased to welcome these envoys of a great people on French soil. A drink was offered after that. Everybody drank.

Two hours went by. Drinks flowed non-stop because one Frenchman after the other stood up to explain that he was unbelievably pleased. Then, all the Frenchmen, as if following orders, collapsed onto the table and fell asleep. The mayor of Marseille was asleep at the head of the table. Only our guys were left. They carried right on: they gathered in groups, raised their glasses, chatted and argued…

At the end of the table sat one greying captain second rank, a mechanic. Red and sweaty, he was drinking alone, not arguing with anyone. He looked straight ahead and only lifted his glass to his lips. Somehow, without noticing it himself, he reached into his inside pocket and fished out a bit of paper. It was his speech. The mechanic was surprised. He looked at it thoughtfully for some time, without compre hending.

“… The time…” he began reading in a preacher’s voice, at which everyone around the table fell silent, “when our two na-ations…”

The mechanic’s eyes bulged wide; he didn’t understand a thing he was saying but he kept reading:

“Our two… well anyway… they’re coming… they’re coming… hic!”

He began to hiccup, although he managed to bravely suppress the hiccups:

“They’re coming… lads… hic!... to a historic time…. hh – ii – cc!...”

His hiccups became longer and deeper, and our guys were smiling more broadly:

“At this time… hic… we all want… hic… you see, we want, you know…” The hiccups came in quick succession now, and the smiles around the table turned into laughter, then from laughter into raucous belly-laughs.

The mechanic stopped, smiled, washed down his hiccups with wine from a tall glass and, looking at the paper, said dreamily: “Fuck it, eh?”

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