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"That’s disgusting!"

It was on one of my patrols when I was staying in a four-person cabin with Lenchik Krivosheev, our division commander, and two navigators, Venya and Karasik.

We’d just eaten breakfast after our watch and hit our bunks to try to get some sleep. Outside it was about ninety-five degrees with a dead oppressive air in all the compartments. No circulation. Too hot to sleep. The cooling system wasn’t managing the heat.

In that kind of swelter we always slept naked, just barely covering ourselves with a corner of our sheet, leaving the rest of our body as exposed as possible to what little fresh air it could get.

Suddenly, down the corridor we heard our Zam’s voice. He was a nasty character, spent the whole patrol hunting for people who’d drunk more than their share. He’d walk right up to you and start sniffing your breath for alcohol.

The whole thing was Lenchik’s idea.

“Alright, men!” he said. “I propose that we organize a little show for our beloved Zam. We’ll give him something to sniff! Here’s what we do...”

And he explained to us what we needed to do.

Taking scissors, we cut out a circular hole right in the middle of each of our bedsheets. Then we lay back in our bunks and covered ourselves with the sheets, positioning the holes so that they lined up perfectly with our “little buddies,” which we stuck out through the sheet. After applying a little elbow grease, the stage was set: there we were covered from head to toe by the sheets, with only our little buddies jutting out through the holes in full military salute.

And we began to lure the Zam, singing and shouting and carrying on in loud drunken voices. This scene lasted a good ten minutes. At last the Zam took the bait. We could hear his footsteps coming down the corridor.

The door opened and in stepped the Zam. With the light from outside filtering into the dark room he could just barely make out the four white sheets on the bunks - nothing strange about that - but in the middle of each sheet something unfamiliar sticking out.

The Zam looked. Then looked again. Not understanding what was going on, he leaned over Lenchik - who, I might add, had something to look at - and put his face right up close to get a better view, about an inch away. For a few seconds he just stood there, hunched over, staring and trying to make out the object right in front of his face. When he realized, he almost lost his lunch.

“Yuck!” he said. “That’s disgusting!” And stormed out of our cabin.

When he’d gone we laughed so hard that we almost suffocated on the sheets that we’d stuffed into our mouths to keep from making noise.

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