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The person in reserve

If your eyes are tired, turn them towards captain first grade Platonov. Your eyes can rest on him. He’s a chummy little old man in glasses; he has a childish, mischievous expression on his face with a sly smile, especially if he’s sitting in the garden reading the national papers. Not in a million years would you guess that he’s a legendary submariner, an internationally known commander for his cunning manoeuvres, his daring decisions and his stunning escapades on land.

Once, at a health resort, he was at a loss for what to do, so he got well and truly drunk and decided to bathe in his birthday suit having undressed right there on the town beach. So they grabbed him, tied him up, arms behind his back, knocked him around the head and carried him off to the commandant’s office from where he ran away, breaking a board in the toilet. But, of course, he rarely got drunk like that.

One day, on a training mission, his boat surfaced to cruise level while a helicopter of unknown nationality hovered in the air, right above his sub’s rocket deck. Helicopters don’t hover above submarines often enough for Platonov to figure out their identification.

“Americans, probably”, Platonov decided, “but maybe they’re English. It must be their Sea King.”

So he sent everyone down below while he himself climbed into the deck house, took off his trousers and, bending over, showed his bluish bottom to world imperialism. Grabbing his buttocks, he also bent over several times, energetically, for an explosion, to acquaint his overseas colleagues with his inner uniqueness.

While he was straining away like this, the annoyed voice of the Commander of the Northern Fleet bellowed out: “Hey! Pla-to-nov! Pla-to-nov! Put on your trousers!

And for ignorance of the Russian-made military equip ment you’ll get a bad mark. Hand in your test report on tactics to me personally.”

One day this legendary personage asked on a briefing before the patrol: “Comrade commander, how should we react on receiving a distress signal from a foreign vessel?”

“Tell them to get lost, got it?” said the commander.

“Got it, Sir!” said Platonov. It turned out to be a prophetic question. At the end of the patrol, on their way back to the base, there was an SOS signal coming up; a Norwegian bulk carrier was drowning – there was a fire onboard and water leaking in.

The submarine came to the surface and went over to the bulk carrier. The sub’s emergency crew jumped off the boat. They put out the fire, started up the engine, filled in the holes, re-stocked their fuel and … bye-bye.

Arriving back at the base, Platonov reported the incident. “Ahhhhh!” yelled the chiefs. “It’s a military mission!

Secrecy of position! “D minus!” They prepared documents to discharge him into the reserves.

But the Norwegian sailors, knowing how things work in our navy, got busy at their end and requested an award for the commander of submarine “K-420”, captain first grade Platonov, for his rescue operation.

“We’ve already rewarded him,” replied our officials.

“He’s been rewarded already,” they assured the Norwegian naval attaché.

“Well, then send us written confirmation that you’ve rewarded him and we’ll interview him later, too,” said the Norwegians, not giving in.

The affair had taken an international turn. Finally, they had to keep him in the ranks: they gave him an official reprimand and at the same time honoured him with some sort of a medal.

And yet the Norwegians didn’t calm down until their government had also dug up a Norwegian decoration for him.

Taking a vacation after all this at a health resort in the Crimea, Platonov had some sort of medicinal bath treatment for the first time in his life. Suddenly he became aware with a pleasant sense of surprise that his health was an object of interest: a bloke in a white gown came over, took his pulse and asked how he was feeling.

After the medical personnel had left, Platonov got out of the bath, put a white gown on himself – it was hanging there on a hook – and dressed the same way (the gown reaching to the floor), and with a serious mug, went around all the cabins and checked all the women’s pulses and asked how they were feeling. The ladies were delighted with such frequent visitation by medical personnel.

The wife of the captain came to her senses first: she’d already seen this gnome somewhere; and when they met at the canteen, then at last nothing could stop Platonov from being sent into the reserves.

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