Leon in charge. A deceitful date.

ship's profile

We landed on a dock in Naples, Italy, and we’ve got ten thousand tons of food for the Italians, UN supplies from UNRRA [United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration].

The captain had to leave to go to Rome. He had medicine for some very highly-ranked people, penicillin or something, and every time they shipped it, it was stolen. At this point, they gave it to the captain and said — Put this in your safe, and when you get to Naples you will get on a train and deliver it by hand to the individuals whom we nominate to receive this medicine. So the captain left.

—OK, Schneider, you’re in charge.

I was the first officer, but after my eight-to-five shift, I was off duty. I would go ashore.

This Italian gangway watchman spoke English. He said — Leon, what do you do when you go ashore? I said — I look for the nearest whorehouse.

I don’t drink like other guys. I look for a whorehouse to get laid, and then I go and have a good meal.

He says — Look, I know a nice woman, you don’t have to go to the whorehouse. This woman is supporting a child. She’s not a whore, but I’ll fix you up with her. Give her the money that you’d give to the whores.

I said — That sounds good. So I go to visit this woman in her apartment, and she’s living there with her mother. I want to take her out to dinner, she wants to bring her mother, fine, I take them both out to dinner. We walk by a store, they want me to buy them gifts, fine, I buy them gifts. I take them to the theater and we see a show. We go back to the apartment and I’m with this girl all night. She convinces me to stay overnight, which wasn’t hard to do, so I stay until morning.

I get back to work at eight o’ clock. The second mate had been on duty. He said — The ship has been robbed. I say — What do you mean the ship has been robbed?

A boat had pulled alongside and they emptied the galley. They emptied the stores. We started with stores for 90 days’ supply, and we had only been out 10 or 15 days. All the stores were emptied into the boat, leaving us naked.

I said to the second mate — Didn’t you see anyone? How could you look the other way when there’s a boat alongside unloading our cargo?

He was in on it. He got paid to look the other way. Oh, they were trying to bribe me on the ship to sell the cargo. I said — Get out, I don’t do that kinda shit. This stuff gets delivered.

I don’t sell government property to screw around, I’m not that dishonest. Sure, I was selling black market cigarettes, but I’m not cheating anybody, I’m just making a little spending money.

The captain comes back from Rome.

—How’s everything?

—Captain, we have to resupply the ship.

—What do you mean? We left with 90 days’ supply.

—We were robbed.

—You were robbed?

He accused me of being in on it.

—Why weren’t you aboard?

—Look captain, I put in my eight hours, and I leave the ship with a responsible officer in charge, and I go ashore. I don’t put in a day’s work and then sleep on the ship. We’re in dock. I go ashore to a hotel. I want to have a life of my own for part of the day.

He accused me of negligence for not staying aboard. The Army came aboard, investigated, all that shit. We had to restock the ship. It cost probably $100,000 to put food into the ship again.

The captain kept blaming me. —You should have been aboard.

Later I found out that that second mate started a trucking company with the money that he got from looking the other way, and he became a big trucking man. Son of a bitch, I didn’t wish him well but it didn’t do me any good.

Once was enough, I’m through with buying gifts for the nice woman and her mother, so I went to the local whorehouse. I go inside and who do you think the whores are? The nice woman and her mother. The mother is the madam and the nice woman is one of the working girls. —You’re a fucking whore and I’m taking you out to dinner and buying you gifts?

When we were out together, people were looking at me funny. They know who the whores are in town.

The guy at the gangway fixed me up with a fucking whore, who kept me all night so I wouldn’t interfere with the theft. I went back to the gangway man, I said — You son of a bitch, I oughta throw you into the fucking ocean. You fixed me up with a nice girl, and she turns out to be a fucking whore. You really fixed me up good, eh? A nice girl living at home with her mother.

—Ooh, I didn’t know.

That was my trip to Naples. I brought home a lot of Borsalino hats.

Excerpt from LEON: A LIFE (Old Convincer Publishing, 2019).