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A present

The First Vice-Admiral of the Navy went down to the central post of the nuclear missile-carrier.

The commander came to meet him, walking slowly with shaking, jelly legs.

The Vice-Admiral heard his report and said:

“I won’t go further than the third section. Guard, is there water in the hold?”

“No, Sir!”

“First mate, is there water in the hold?”

“No, Sir!”

“Deputy commander of the political department?”

The deputy commander swallowed hard and shook his head:

“No, Sir!”

“Commander! Also, ‘No Sir’?”

“Yes Sir, ‘No Sir’!”

“Well, let’s go and have a look.” There was plenty of water in the hold.

“Lantern!” barked the Vice-Admiral.

The lantern wouldn’t light. The first mate grabbed the emergency light but its handle fell off.

“Well, well, well…” said the Vice-Admiral… While he was walking along the jetty, they were looking for the key – the key to the life-saving safe. That’s where the “tradi tional present” was kept – a little boat made of ebony. In a panic, the key had been stuffed somewhere out of the way.

“Where’s the key!!!” the commander dashed back and forth in the central post.

“The key!!!” he bellowed so loudly that it echoed all around.

“Break it open… break it… break it…” muttered the deputy commander of the political department, through deathly-pale lips, as if in delirium.

In the end, they found the key. The commander himself got down on all fours to open the safe. The key wouldn’t fit in the keyhole for a long time. The com mander raced to catch up with the Vice-Admiral.

“Comrade… admiral… of the navy… here’s… this is for you… from us… a present… tradi… tional…” he breathed heavily, almost suffocating.

“I’m going to rip you to shreds, and you’re sticking presents under my nose? Fi-ne! I’ll check you on your return from sea…”

For two weeks the boat stayed at sea. It moved up and down the same square – this way then that way - until the Vice-Admiral of the Navy had left.

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