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BTW: The photo art and prose included in any given post are separate creations having nothing to do with each other. Duality and such …
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Crack In The Grey
The cold, North Atlantic spray off the bow of U-642 stung its Captain on his cheeks above his beard as he leaned forward in the conning tower, peering at the sky through binoculars. He was joined by three officers, each scanning a quadrant of the grey sky for British aircraft which, if it spotted them before they could dive, would destroy them with one well-placed bomb, or steer destroyers that could drive them underwater with depth charges until they suffocated.
The U-boat chopped awkwardly through the water at roughly half its usual surface speed. It had been a costly cruise. Two of the officers with the Captain were replacements for men killed and wounded. Three times they had been driven down and depth charged. Once they had nearly suffocated, going so deep bolts had sprung like bullets all over the boat. Each time they’d just managed to crawl away, if not to safety, at least away from immanent death. Twice they’d been strafed by aircraft before they could submerge. They’d buried two men at sea and were nursing three more who could yet die, leaked like a sieve and one of the propellers was shot, along with their nerves.
Nonetheless, they had killed. They had sunk at least two merchant vessels, and there were suspicions of a third. The first time they’d been driven down it’d been just a single destroyer chasing them, and they’d managed to get to periscope depth and get him with a stern tube torpedo. They’d finished off their second merchant ship, burning and abandoned by the fleet, believing its crew had been evacuated, only to see them leaping into the icy water after the final torpedo hit, swimming towards them, pleading, begging for rescue as the U-boat coldly backed away.
But mostly, a dozen times as they approached targets, they were chased away. The British had stopped making mistakes. That was the bad news; the good news was that the cruise was almost over. They would make La Rochelle in less than a day.
The Captain braced his arms against the conning tower in an attempt to steady his shaking hands; shaking almost too badly to see through the binoculars. He’d hoped to become an artist as a young man; his Kaiserliche, later Kriegsmarine, father wouldn’t hear of it. He’d wanted to learn oil painting and listen to Mozart. His father made him learn drafting and forced him to listen to Wagner. He was drawn to beauty, gardens, and horses. His father taught him to kill and field dress game and enrolled him in officer training school. He made him forget how to hold a brush but proficient in firing a gun. Any gun. Lots of guns. Head shots, always. Don Giovanni overwritten by operatic cries of men he killed. Those cries in his ears, those artistic visions of bodies blown into the air by exploding torpedoes, then something on the horizon caught his attention. He focused the binoculars, steadied his gaze…
Dolphins. What was that; three? Four? No, six! They seemed to reveal themselves just as the grey sky cracked, allowing rays of golden sun to stream through. So graceful they were! So beautiful and peaceful; he couldn’t help but to stare. They seemed ethereal, existing on some separate plane. Were they remotely aware of Humans? Had they seen them blowing themselves to bits? Even if they had, did they care? The presence of the Captain’s U-Boat a quarter mile off, plowing through the water like an alien monster, didn’t seem to faze them, didn’t seem to bother them, didn’t alter their course. He found his imagination flying along with them, away from the affairs of men, away from the war.
And because he was away, he didn’t see the warplanes, three of them, drop in neat formation from the grey, their bombs ready, and their machine guns already opening up.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.