"A bolt from 12"

(To Gregorio Vella)

The sun is setting and a slight breeze has risen to mitigate the heat, which the next day was expected to have been more intense. I do not want to go back home right now and pedal slowly on my trusted bike, which I feel like a normal extension of myself; the air that caresses my face is pleasing to me, well-being. I'm a bit annoyed, because I went to retire the license, renewed in agency and I still had the words of the irrational girl in my ears: "We grew up dear admiral Perassi !, here's his license, he knows that next time the renewal is no more than ten, but in five years. Forty-six euros and thirty, please".

Is already! We grew up, but as caspita I happened to be sixty-seven years old. As a young man, I did not think that age was moving so fast and silent. Time is like an implacable thing that drags you with uniformly accelerated speeds and you can not appreciate it, not with certain references; and you feel frustrated when you find yourself retired cool, with the feeling that it does not concern you and you feel ridiculous, when you have to convince yourself that you have become old and you can not get rid of the mind and take off the attitude you had towards old people and retirement, when more than forty years ago you started working.

The pedal slowly, with the sensation that my bicycle proceeds by own will and propulsion and I'm not pushing on the pedals or bending the handlebar, just doing the bicycle.

I'm heading for a direction that is not the one to go home and I'm setting the wall of the old yard. It's not an unusual path for me; sometimes I put a capatina inside; within its spaces, I seem to be outspoken, as its glory, past and now almost forgotten, the glory of having, in times gone by, set, constructed and launched hundreds of ships, generated by fecund ingenuous, chorious choreography and from the disciplined passion of thousands of people who had been working for over a century of father to son.

I am amazed to think so rhetorically and I enter the entrance, greeted by Gino, an old guard and guardian son and grandson, of what is now just a messy shipyard of every type and size, waiting to be demolished . Ship demolitions, here as elsewhere, follow the price trend of iron. As the salt gets intensified, when it comes down they slow down or stop and the tens of thousands of workers, almost all irregular Asians or the East, are sent away to look for income elsewhere to survive.

I walk abbrive on the dock, avoiding with harsh abilities the piles of ropes, scrap of all sorts, old plants and furnishings and all the varied naval junk left there.

I know where the bike is taking me, to the end of the last jetty, over the stairs, to find an old friend, ill in the arsenal and who for more than ten years floats, badly moored and slashed over five degrees to starboard. There are two "c", "s" and "o" left on the stern side, but they have left their trace below, and the name reads anyway.

There is Scirocco.

It was my Car Manager Ship for almost two years, a long time ago. He kept me in his vibrating belly for twenty-two months, where I grew up in experience, wisdom and degree, experiencing the most beautiful friendships of my life and taking me around the sea to see the world and learn about life. I shared storms and bonuses with her, the carelessness of the twenty years and the serene concerns of the first real responsibilities.

I come to see her from time to time, I do not know if she is alive or she is dead, but I still talk about her things. I never want to get over it again: too many memories. In addition to regular mice, there are gulls; I see them coming in and out of the broken glass of the dashboard, which they will surely have used to nursery.

Unexpectedly I see a walkway aft; it's strange, because it looks like shiny wood, like mahogany; but what is it going to do? since in the ten years of abandonment, the ship has now taken away everything it could value. If they have not yet demolished it, it is because, before disarming it, it was thought to sell it to the Uruguayan Navy, then to make it a museum ship in Naples, then to give it free to someone else. In the end, nothing was done, but there were so many administrative wizards to wrap it up to the point that it probably will stay there until it decides to go down alone.

"Mr. Perassi! ", The voice that calls me comes from the bottom of the bowl, under the bridge of flight; I distinguish one person, "Mr Perassi, come on, quickly, that they are waiting for him! " I approach: "But who is it, and who is waiting for me?"The man approaches the draglia and suddenly recognize him, is Simonini, the maid; a few years ago I was told he was dead; but as I did recognize it at once, it looks like a fallen old man, it's tearful and dirty. How does it work with the name and grade? "Simonini !, how are you? what a pleasure to see you, but what do you do about it?". "You know very well what I do; Signor Perassi come up! hurry up, they are in official squares, there is also the admiral who came from the Inspectorate. "

I do not think about it, I'm off the bike and find myself climbing on the well-laid mahogany walkway. And then why use the appellation of "Sir"1? Simonini was very respectful and she knows very well that I am admiral "two barrels" and that until last month I was in service. I relocate to the corridor, there is a fiery light that you do not understand where you came from. I suddenly recognize her smell. Each ship has its own, neither pleasing nor unpleasant, but unique and unique, which overlaps with the incipient bottom smell of diesel fuel. On the floor there is an incredible amount of abandoned material, Simonini precedes me safely, almost ethereal, as if he had been doing that path forever and knew perfectly, even in the dark, where to put his feet at every step. I'm struggling to keep it behind even because the Ship is bent, but I can cuddle it. We climb for the inner ladder leading to the deck to the official square; I start to be cold. Simonini disappeared in front of me. Finding myself up to the "square"2, grab what's left of the handle and push down, trying to push the door. It does not give up, I push stronger, crunchy hinges crunchy and the bottom of the door, opening up fatigue, sting against the rust of the corroded floor and now devoid of blue coat lining, I plug it into the passage and feel the cold rise, suddenly.

I'm four, sitting at the table, they look puddled, and with their uniforms gone, their faces look like they are unprepared and I can see the stern look out of their hollow eyes. On the left, I recognize Drogi, the commander, with his side there is the second one3Bastiani, in the middle sits an admiral of genius with, on his left, with his head bowed and that, to judge what remains of the cordon, is the flag-helper of the admiral; both remind me of someone or something. They have in front of some papers, uniformly dusty and scattered on the table. They too are dusty, especially on the shoulders and on the sleeves of worn out uniforms; the lighting is poor but I can see spiderwebs connecting them to the bulkhead and the ceiling.

"Perassi, come forward! Finally he had the willingness to introduce himself! We've been waiting for it for a long time."

It's the second to talk. Suddenly I remember perfectly how it was an asshole, his servile and not authoritative severity, unconvincing and predominantly to please the superiors.

"But who are you? That clown is this! All right, I understand, where are the hidden cameras? I'm in a reality, candid room or anything else ?!"

"Perassi! "Bastiani continues - look at the clown only about her. We will also pay attention to this unspeakable attitude, in addition to what we have to contend with. Be careful to be careful! that her career is hanging on a thread. "

"But what a thread and thread! Let's stop it! And remember that for you and whoever you are, I am still Admiral Perassi and that my state of service is and has always been inconceivable; and now I greet you! "

"Enough! - this time the admiral to talk, as in a shrill rantolo and at the same time giving a great deal on the table, which with a dry noise raises a cloud of dust - Perassi, stop it immediately and be careful! His creeps make me totally unprepared, I confess that by reading her great notes I was expecting to find a person ... different, from whom I see now trying to make myself crazy to try to pass it smooth. Anyway, we are here to investigate what he or she is about, for what he or she is charged with and what we have to do to determine the responsibilities. Let's remind you that on 23 last April, the gearbox of this ship was seriously damaged; the extent of the damage has not yet been fully determined; the immediate consequence was the annulment of an important international mission to which all the crew had been preparing for months. I do not know if they realize the magnitude of the image damage as well as the economic and the shake-up of the planning beyond the smack for being replaced by the Turks. At the Major Staff have already prepared the scaffold and there I am not sure the blinds are missing".

Now I perfectly remember the episode that took place during my first weeks of embarkation on the Scirocco; it was the first big grain of my career and I took it for a nap.

I feel numb for the cold and the memories come to waves.

It did not involve me directly as it coincides I do not remember if the beginning or the end of a license. I still remember very well today, the sense of guilt that accompanied me for a long time because, I was, in my opinion, responsible to anyone and I did nothing to show it. I paid my subordinate, the poor Falorni, who was not able to help properly and that he was discharged and sent to Augusta, Arsenal. I later found that, completely disconcerted and disillusioned, he had gone away, making the happiness of his father, billionaire, widow and owner of a large livestock company in Modena, so that his only son, who had enrolled in Marina to follow his passion for the sea and far away horizons and thus escape from a limited, predetermined destiny, made of cows and pigs. I never knew anything about him and tried to think him rich and contented with a lot of fat kids, with his fat wife, ruby ​​and always pregnant, between the mud manholes, the misty fog and the father who had not that the embarrassment of choice, to scrape all the fat calves he wanted to celebrate forever the return of his prodigal son.

Virtually it had happened that for a series of perverse events and circumstances, the re-ignition of the main engines, after a short break in pre-mission work, had jumped two control rails. The reducer visit doors had been found inexplicably open and they lacked six MA12 bolts, which were finished between the gears, devastating them. Later, noting the poor deformations suffered by the bolts recovered and that they should have been milled by the gears, for a scrupulous I made a pair of chemical analysis, which confirmed my suspicion, as they were made of cemented boron steel, special material and not easy to find but well suited to seriously damage the gears of the gearbox and was completely different from that with which the normal bolt of commercial, low-alloy, commercial doors was made. This aspect was well represented in my relationships, but never came from it, nor was it ever verbalized in any official document relating to the fact.

The thing at first made me very disconcerting, then less and less.

"So, Perassi, what do you mean by that? for which, do I presume, will you have more information about us?"He is the admiral to speak and, at the same time, his boss's bony hand, always with his chin-head, slides sideways forward, slowly, like a chessman, a bolt of twelve, engraved and deformed. By slightly lifting the head, in the helper I recognize Falorni, I had the look. I pull my hand to the bolt, cold prevents me from thinking, grabbing it gently and then holding it in the fist with the very little force I can exercise. At that moment a shiver comes, light but deep, deaf and as if coming from every direction. I know it too well, it's the main engines that start up; but how is it possible? The light is almost gone, I feel the smell of fresh oil and a long and lamentable crunch accompanies the ship's rearrangement, which is getting straightened up by regaining the slump. The four now seem motionless, like wax. Back to the door, I do not know what to do, I do not know where to go. I find myself in the corridor, I see Simonini at the bottom of the corridor making me sign of approaching me, he smiles. When I reach him, I point to a door, downstairs, is half open. Strange, there was never a door and then why is it perfectly round and glossy wood, it looks like mahogany like the catwalk. It makes me enter into it. I do it, with difficulty but without hesitation, pausing for a moment to exchange with him a last look, as of serene and mutual understanding. Now I'm in, with the feeling of being perfectly at ease. Advancing the carpons with safety and rediscovered energy, tackling and overcoming obstacles of all kinds; now I have the exact conscience of being in a big one déjà vu and surplus, more and more secure, as if you have traversed an itinerary that has been done infinitely, scattered about difficult but all-encompassed situations, which deal with security and consummate experience. The walls of what surrounds me seem soft, reassuring, warm and moist, there is a good smell, like tempered pencils, and it's as if I could do all I want, even to fly.

One last little effort and I arrived; the cold has now melted into a soft warmth.

"Mr. Perassi wakes up. There is a maneuver in an hour and we are ahead of almost two. The wind has been favorable and the main ones4 they went like watches, tonight they turned on the TAGs5 for half an hour. It's almost seven o'clock, do I bring you coffee?"This was what the young Simonini had told his manager, the captain of the corvette Mario Perassi, half asleep and beginning to stretch out pleasantly every muscle in his twenty-eight-year-old athletic body. He had slept dressed, leaped from the Ship; sleeping five hours before watching a VHS movie, "The Green Mile", in the sleeper. The film did not remember anything but strangely and very well, only a brief scene in which a condemned to death told the protagonist that Paradise was like going back in the past and experiencing endless times the happiest time of its existence. When she got up from the bed, she sensed a slight dummy at her right side and now, who was awake, she remembers that annoyance that had oppressed him all night; there was something in his pocket that thrust his hip; he put a hand to him and touched a metal object, warm, sharp, rounded and knotted on the other.

He pulled it out slowly; it was a bolt from 12, engraved and deformed.

1 In the military navy, instead of the rank, the lower officers are called "ladies". Likewise, it is addressed to senior officers, with "commander" and admirals, with "admiral".

2 The "Squares" are the on-board venues for recreational activities and at the office of officers and non-officers. The graduates have the "crew canteen.

3 "Second" is the name of the second commander.

4 Main engines.

5 Gas turbines.