Student or Learner
This is the second part of my short story, The Lieutenant
I had almost forgotten the existence of the Lieutenant and his bad reputation, about which I heard numerous rumours, when one day I noticed an officer in his late fifties standing with his legs apart on the parade ground. He was squat and his nose was flattened as if he had been a boxer in his younger years. He had a long and deep scar on his left cheek, which gave him a hard look. If I had met him in the street in civilian clothes, I would probably have believed that he was a gangster nearing the end of his criminal career.
The solder who walked with me nudged me and whispered, “The Lieutenant.” My heart pounded and I my eyes swept over my boots and my uniform. I was relieved to see that my boots were properly polished and my uniform did not have any loose buttons. Still I felt uneasiness creeping inside me.
When we came close to him, we both raised our fingertips to our caps as a sign of a salute. He surveyed us from head to toe without uttering a word. We passed by him and I breathed freely again. Suddenly I heard the Lieutenant shouting, “Soldier!” I turned around, my blood running cold. Behind us there was a young soldier with a letter in his hand. He froze for a second and then turned towards the Lieutenant, the hand holding the letter shaking.
The Lieutenant put his thumbs into his belt, threw out his chest and said staring at the soldier, “Soldier! Why don’t you salute your superior?”
“Comrade Lieutenant, I’ve just reading the letter I’ve got from my parents. I’ve not seen you. I’m so sorry.” His voice was strangulated.
“Have you forgotten your breakfast this morning?”
“No comrade Lieutenant.”
“Have you brushed your teeth?”
“Yes, comrade Lieutenant.”
“But you’ve forgotten that he have to salute your superior.”
The Lieutenant’s eyes were darkening and piercing the soldier like bullets. I felt as if he was talking to me, and my skin was turning into goose pimples. We all expected to see what kind of punishment the Lieutenant would administer to the soldier, who in this moment, must have been paralysed with fear. But he only dismissed him with a wave of his hand saying, “Never forget to salute.” The young soldier scuttled away hardly believing his luck.
One afternoon the rumour spread that the Lieutenant was the Duty officer. The more experienced soldiers told me that the Lieutenant would not give us sleep that night. During the dinner in the dining hall it was unusually quiet. People who usually shouted at each other and telling cracking jokes were now silently eating their meals or whispering.
The Lieutenant stood close to the counter watching the meals being distributed. I have seen before soldiers quarrelling with the kitchen personal, jumping the queue or demanding more bread or bigger portions, but this time none dared to say one single word.
The presence of the Lieutenant affected everyone in the barracks. There was something mischievous around him. People felt that one should always be on one’s guard. Although he had a low rank, his squat, bad-boy persona made the most self-confident soldier feel insecure. When he was on duty the air was thick with tension and people expecting something bad to happen, although the Lieutenant never hit anyone.
TO BE CONTINUED
Last edited by Bassim; 10-Jul-2011 at 13:49.