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Arachne. No. 3

I Want to Torpedo you

page 19

I Want to Torpedo you

Note: Before the invasion of Normandy, it was said that the Germans were calling for volunteers for a special type of man-directed torpedo for use in the Channel.

—These are two good ones, Heinrich. What about them?

—Hello girls, ever been in a submarine?

The two girls turned around, one blonde, tall with a lightly browned skin; regular features.

The other white-yellowish, with large black eyes, there was a hidden tension in her flesh, not pretty but hidden and fierce, mysterious.

The one was Jeannette and the other was Jeanne.

—What happens if a torpedo hits you? asked Jeanne.

Heinrich told her: you just explode. He decided to have Jeanne although he did not like her. He said:

—I'd like to torpedo you.

—What do you mean? said Jeannette.

—You know, it is dark and wet and slides underneath the water.

—I've never seen a submarine.

—Well, come along; we'll show you over.

—Where is the submarine? asked Jeannette.

—You will see.

—What type of submarine could that be, eh? said Jeanne.

—A very queer type of submarine.

—I'll bet.

—But first let's go to the Republique and have a chat.

—Heinrich took Jeannette and Friedrich took Jeanne. Heinrich's admiration for girls like Jeannette was a habit.

They entered the Brasserie de la République, ordered a bottle of Moselle and sat back.

—Let's not talk about the submarine any more, said Heinrich.

—Where are you going to take us?

—To heaven, said Friedrich.

—The usual way?

—No. We are going to heaven in the big wheel.

. . . . .

There is nothing frightful about it, said the captain. You live—now. An enemy cruiser costs £1,000,000 and carries about 500 men. If you can achieve the. destruction of one cruiser your life has not lacked usefulness. You will not feel anything. You will explode and die. At the moment—you live, and make of it what you can. You can't expect more of life, than joy without limits and a death your one great deed.

. . . . .

O God—Still alive—In the air—where are my legs—and my waist—and my arms. God, O my God, I am still alive—the story was untrue. O pain.

Down into the water he dived.

Poor man; he tried to swim with one head and one arm showing.

. . . . .

That night Friedrich made love to Jeanne.

—Jeanne, let us go down into the darkness, let us go down into the submarine. Darker, still darker. Deeper still—is it possible—deeper still into the darkness.

—Jeanne, I love you. Jeanne. I don't love you, you are just a portal to, Jeanne I don't know what you're a portal to, your're a portal to darkness, to sub, sub, to death.

. . . . .

Heinrich made love to Jeanne that same night, later. At that very late hour when the night itself had developed its sophistication to the full, Jeanne and he delivered themselves to an unbounded desire for destruction.

—Jeanne, don't you feel we are both in the water wet and cold and deep. I am going to explode you, my victim, my nimble cruiser, my page 20 cunning destroyer, my burning torpedo-boat.

—No there is nothing wrong with me, Jeanne.

—I don't understand what you are saying.

Oh thank God. He suddenly feared his talk had given away the secret. It was impossible to know whether she had guessed it. Was she pretending? Was she a spy ?

'Do not trust French women?'

What is wrong? Why can't I stay with Jeannette, why do I have to go to Jeanne. Why can't I caress and kiss and love and admire as a golden Greek goddess Jeanette who is light, life, play with one movement of her arms. But I can't go on. If I loved her, it would be like playing football while waiting to be executed. I've got to leave her and go and 'live', my God, 'live'. I must look for the darkness and ferocity to fight it.

. . . . .

Look at the streets being neat and tidy.

Look at the shopkeepers and their polite talk.

—Is there any other way in which I could oblige you, monsieur.

—Now Heinrich, what are you casting your eyes about for, sizing up each of the girls at the tables as if you had to give them marks. Close your eyes, dash off in any direction and sit down at the table you get to.

—And then? said Heinrich. Then there will be a shrivelled man of fifty at the table with a wife like a balloon. Or a young woman with a low décolletté which looks very nice and a repulsive face.

—Come along, never mind where.

Melbourne, 1944