"Mr. Parolini" (second part)

(To Gregorio Vella)

A few days later I arranged for a job that was already scheduled and to be done in the explosive launches. It was called "quick essay"; consisted of checking the stability of the explosive (called dust but dust did not look like a cylindrical shape with seven longitudinal holes of dark or black green, graphite and more or less large depending on the gauge for which it was used ) which was stored bulk inside metal and hermetic containers.

It was done once a year at the beginning of the summer, exposing for about an hour within them a map of a reactor, which in the presence of nitrous vapors and hence the chemical alteration of the explosive, more or less intensely blue.

I asked the doctor, my boss, if he could authorize Parolini from his workshop chief to accompany me to the warehouses and make me an assistant; he did not have a moment of perplexity and gave me a nod of assent, as if to tell me that I was a connoisseur, calling herself to Mr. Bogi who, of course, had nothing to do with it.

At the end of the brief phone call, the doctor told me in a somewhat silly manner that Parolini was like a library of unique books, only that it was armored and the combination knew only him and did not give it to anyone: "Try it."

By doing so, asking for an "external" collaboration in the office, I was in contravention of one of the many tribal rules of the Plant, not written but stubborn, and I was in danger of alienating the sympathies of my three elderly colleagues in the chemical lab, authentic volpons under whose stifling wing protector I was inevitably finished and that they felt invested in the mission to instruct me on everything, they had also found a potential good party in the country, if I ever had a dislike of it. It was from them that I learned the real laboratory practice, made of skilled virtuosity of high manuality and incredible table tricks; but also how they made the most cramped things, coming from autocratic reminiscences, a good hand cream, shoe polish, and brillantine for hair (which no longer used anybody).

So we found ourselves with Parolini two days later, in front of the third zone gate, which was the site of the Facility for ammunition and explosive deposits.

The military destination of that area, vast over ten acres, had allowed the natural growth of a lush and pristine woodland by human presence, curated only with the minimal interventions to make the trails that led to deposits possible. Access was only allowed to the armed guard and civilian personnel involved in handling or controlling the material. On the sides of the entrance gate they showed a beautiful display of how unbelievable glories, two huge 381 projectors, armored gauge, almost two feet high, and the portrait of the inevitable Santa Barbara on the pillar in a votive branch. in that picture he looked like a witch, but since he was painted by the daughter of the powerful and feared vice director (known as "Richelieu"), almost everyone found it to be beautiful; In less than a year, when he retired, the picture would surely have had fewer admirers if it had not been removed directly.

A brief assault by Capece, the guardian of turn, Neapolitan and whose Neapolitanity had not been minimally scratched by the thirty years of his stay in Lunigiana; to make sure we did not have matches or lighters with us.

  • "He said," to death, as I have been in retirement, we have a feast that seems to be piedigrotta, mannaggi'a death. O vulite nu surs'e cafè? "

  • "No Capece thank you, maybe afterwards when we leave and be quiet for the retirement pension, for the fireworks then there is no problem, here there are as many as you want."

  • "Hi Paruli, you love her! dead manners, and hello to you, and salutam 'in Sicily and Augusta, go to the north and to the south, and the bridegroom will be my core. "

We started to go and said,

  • "Cute Capece, seems to have come out of a comedy by De Philip ",

  • "Already! nice and good; he noted that in the short time of a couple of sentences he said> three times ?, it is not just his interlayer and I believe that for him it has a precise meaning due to its history. I can tell her a little in her place, so it is not a secret and I do not make a mistake, but also because he does not tell her gladly that at some point he starts to cry and so does not end it all. Capece made war; he really did, first on the heavy cruisers and then on the submarines, as a torpedo chief. In the forty-two his boat was at anchor on an island in the Dodecanese, just returned from a mission. People have a rather heroic idea of ​​the life of the submarines. In part it was true but from the practical point of view, it was a hellish life rather than an inconvenient one. I give a trivial example, almost none of our boats had the luxury of owning a "comfortable" latrine. The passages in the hull should be the minimum ones: doors, throttle tubes, periscopes, propeller shaft, rudders and outlet for ballast valves; let alone a slurry of slurry! too luxurious. So the boat had to emerge as well as to recharge the batteries with the thermal engines, even to allow people, understood Commander and alternative to the use of the unpleasant buggy, to do their own needs in the blanket, keeping the draglia and sometimes under any condition of motorbike and of sea; if he had escaped when they were diving, he was exceptionally allowed to do so in the bilge of the machine room, with the slight advantage that the smell of fumes and gasoline covered the "rest." So that time, as Capece was covered with the hammers in his hand, a Greek boatman approached a submarine to try to sell him an octopus he had just caught. It was a magnificent beast, almost five kilos, a flake-dish after days and days of cocktails and cans. Negotiation in Greek and Neapolitan lasted long, but eventually ended and the octopus crossed from the boat to the submarine, wraping to Capece's arm, which, first and for the sake of making it more tender, went to stern to deflate it properly. Engaged in this activity, he noticed late that the air alarm was triggered and had given "quick". He was holding the octopus in his hand on the boat he was asleep while two British planes came close to flying and started dropping the bombs. The octopus was fine because even if half stunned he could spin it, it was also good for Capece that as a good swimmer he got away enough and climbed on the fisherman's boat before he was killed by the stunts, but he went wrong to the boat and those poor boys that they were inside; centered by a bomb no longer riemerse. Capece still feels guilty about this and even though he has no fault, but the memory of this fact and the incomprehensible sense of fate invade his life every day. What she wants, as we are born one day, we will die; in the middle of the two events there is life with the fate that administers and which can also manifest itself under the appearance of an octopus of five kilos. "

I was thinking of the poor Capece as we started getting into the warehouses, according to the order we had already planned for the controls. I brought the little necessary equipment and Parolini carried with him a bunch of huge keys; those long brass, like those of the prisoners, were for door locks, the small ones were for the bars of steel bars transversally placed at the entrance doors.

Before we entered the deposits, we grabbed a copper shackle attached to the ground to discharge the static electricity that we could have on it and that it could generate sparks. We worked fine and coordinated throughout the morning: checking quantities per lot of explosives, choice of containers, excluding those already tested the previous year; opening of the container wheel caps, consisting of 100 liter galvanized sheet metal parallelepipeds. At the opening of the containers, the slight bleeding and the characteristic smell of alcohol-ether, the "industrial" reminder of the gelatinization of nitrocellulose at the time of production, was felt; inserting the map rendered sensitive by a reactive drop and which was to be pulled out and checked after an hour of exposure; compilation of the cards and sticking of self-adhesive label on the container, showing the test year.

Once out, Parolini had pulled a small apple out of his pocket, and after dividing it into two with a cord, he tossed it over a rock, as if it were a suitable place:

  • "It's a family of curls who live there behind, it's been a year since we know each other, they now have little ones and they do not come because they are not alone. "

We were approaching the exit on the south margin of the third zone, crossing the double fencing network: double because the entire area was perimeter by two continuous, concentric fences, one inside and one outside at three meters distance one from ' other; in the corridor created between the two fences, from the sunset of every day until the following morning and with all time conditions were released guard dogs, wonderful specimens of German shepherd, very good genealogy and very well trained. I had known a couple, Miccia and Buran, who, though really fearful and completely trusted in the exercise of their duties, when they were out of service, became affectionate and cuddled.

Who cared for the dogs were two workers with the qualification of "cineer"; Carroni, old worker and a little muson and Freddi, Marisa or better Marisona, a great girl of Sericciolo who for dogs had always had an exaggerated passion; one day he spoke to me honestly that he seemed unlikely that to do what he liked most paid him well, and that he was sorry he was rather atheist and did not have enough sentiment to adequately thank the Lord; I remember that at that point in sharing with her a beautiful and sincere laugh, instinctively hugging her giving her a big kiss on her cheek, smelled a bit of wet dog but found that she was a delicious smell on her. I could not kiss him, he often did not encounter physical happiness, and it is likely that, as Primo Levi wrote and fully agree with him, to earn a living by passionately doing what he really loves, the thing that comes closest to the concept , of happiness, precisely.