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How you lose your mind

We were in the middle of this transfer-reception business. You don’t understand? Well, our crew was receiving this submarine from the Dolgushin crew. The job was urgent: a week later we were to go on a patrol on this sub.

And so that we should get the job done quickly, without any meanderings, they put us all onboard – both crews – and towed us away from the shore. We put down the anchor and began the transfer-reception.

In as much as everyone wanted to go home, and as per instructions, that is, without any meanderings, we completed the process in just four hours.

Our commander was very keen to get back to the base to have enough time for his “nightcap”. A “nightcap” is a one- litre swill before bedtime: our commander only drank at the base.

We set off for the base but they wouldn’t let us land – the base didn’t give the “okay”.

At 18 hundred hours they didn’t give the okay, and at 20 hundred hours they didn’t give it, and at 21 hundred hours they didn’t give it – they didn’t have a tugboat.

At 22 hundred hours the commander lost his patience and decided to go back to the base independently – without a tugboat.

We had no sooner set off than the observation and communication posts – those enemies of the human race – reported on us to the command.

They panicked up above and began yelling:

“Vessel eight hundred and fifty five! Where are you going?”

“Where, where… on a summer holiday, that’s where. We’re going back to base, dammit!”

The commander hissed to the radio operators:

“Silence! Don’t answer them, we’ll deal with them later!”

Well, fine. We move independently and finally arrive in the base.

The operations officer, holding his breath, is observing us, wondering how these idiots are going to moor without a tugboat.

“Not to worry,” the commander said on the bridge, “we’ll moor somehow…”

And we began to moor “somehow”… with the help of appropriate interjections, alone, in other words with just our diesel engine: our boat’s sailing effect is considerable, the engine was thrashing, it couldn’t cope; the boat was being carried off; the commander kept on smoking and observing as we were carried towards the diesel boats: there were three of them there, moored on the left side of the wharf; the right side of the wharf was empty but on the left three diesel boats protruded and we were being dragged by the wind right towards them, and we were slamming our feet on the brakes – all to no avail.

The guys on the diesel boats noticed all of this: they climbed up to the upper deck and stood there wondering when we’d ram into them. These diesels were also due to go on patrol the following week. The horror! We were going to bust them up, any minute now! A hundred metres was left… fifty… twenty five… and we kept being carried along…

The commander’s pouring with sweat like a woman in labour, he’s wringing his hands and lamenting:

“That’s it… that’s it… they’ll throw me out of the navy… the academy won’t take me… they’ll take me to court… send me to camp… tree-felling… in stripy overalls…”

But then suddenly the boat stalled on the spot… floating… twelve metres to the diesels…

“Go back,” stutters the commander in his crazed state, “back, come on now, my dear… come on… quietly… come on, dear… well… my dear, well… come on…”

And the boat stopped for some reason, and – like a miracle – turned around one centimetre after the next, dragging along, at first forward, then it stopped and it carried on and pushed up against the wharf. That’s it! It’s landed!

“Well!” said the commander, wiping away his sweat.

“Well, really… that’s really, bloody… my throat’s all knotted up… knock me over sideways… Really… That’s how you can lose your mind… We made it… Well I never… Can’t get my breath back… Well, I, you know… almost pissed in my pants… all over myself... y-e-sssss…. I’ll go and take something for my chest. My heart’s pounding away like mad…”

Our commander went and took something for his chest.

A one-litre swill.

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