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    #1

    The Lieutenant, part three

    Please would you take a look at the third part of my short story, "Lieutenant" and correct my mistakes.

    One day I was playing chess with Anto. He was six years older than I was and had just a few weeks until he was going to exchange his uniform for civilian clothes. He was an intelligent man, who worked as an engineer in a shipyard and did not believe in the lies the state media was feeding us with every day. He told me that our country was in such debt that it would not take many years until the whole economy was bankrupt. I felt he was the only person I could talk openly about my feelings and told him how I was getting depressed and frustrated because I did not know how I was going to manage to live though the coming months. Anto chuckled, waved his hand and said, “Mate, do you think I’m enjoying being here? Is it fun to be told off by a bumpkin who only yesterday tended sheep and goats and now because of his corporal rank believes he is more important than a general? But I’ll tell you, if you believe you have it difficult, wait until you see the Lieutenant. He is probably on holiday or sick leave, but he’ll return. My advice to you is to give him a wide berth whenever you can.”
    I wished to ask him more about the Lieutenant, but two soldiers came up and sat beside us, and I turned my attention to the game, trying to figure out how to save my queen from Anton’s attack.

    I had forgotten about the Lieutenant until one morning I saw a strange figure standing with his hands behind his back and his feet apart on the parade ground. He was scowling under his officer’s cap askew; his paunch hanging over his belt, He was squat, and his broad shoulders, thick neck, flattened nose and the scars on his face gave the impression he was a boxer or troublemaker in his youth. If I had met him in civilian clothes somewhere in the street, I would have thought he was a gangster nearing the end of his career. I saw two stars on each of his epaulettes and my inner voice told me to be on my guard. I would rather turn around and run away, but I was hungry and this was the only way to the mess hall. I glanced at my boots and clothes to see if there was anything wrong with them, and was relieved that my boots were properly polished and my uniform did not have any loose buttons. Nevertheless, the closer I came to the Lieutenant the faster my heart was beating. When I was close to him, I raised my hand and with my fingertips touched my cap, as a salute. I felt his grey eyes sweeping over me, but he did not utter a word. I breathed a sigh of relief and was looking forward to a warm bowl of beans when, suddenly, I heard a roar, “Soldier!” My body stiffened and I turned my head at once. I saw Zoran, a lanky man from my unit at level with the Lieutenant. He was holding a letter in his hands, had immersed himself in reading it, and did not notice the officer. Now his hands started shaking.

    “Why don’t you salute your superior?” The Lieutenant hooked his thumbs behind the belt and puffed up his chest.
    “Comrade Lieutenant,” Zoran said in a quivering voice, “I’ve just got a letter from my parents. I got lost in it and I didn’t see you. I’m sorry.
    The Lieutenant made two steps towards Zoran, slowly and deliberately, like a predator knowing his victim cannot escape.
    “Forgotten your breakfast this morning?” He growled close to Zoran’s face.
    “No, comrade Lieutenant.
    “ Forgotten to brushed your teeth?”
    “No, comrade Lieutenant.”
    “But you have forgotten to salute your superior. This is a grave offence, soldier.”

    He tilted his head to one side and scrutinised him so close that Zoran must have felt his breath on his face. He blushed and looked at the ground, expecting a punch on his chin. But the Lieutenant stepped back and dismissed him with a wave of his hand saying, “Never forget to salute.”
    Next time I saw the Lieutenant he was the duty officer. The mess hall was usually a noisy place where hundreds of soldiers talked aloud, cracked jokes, laughed, threw pieces of bread at each other and jumped the queue. Not this time. The Lieutenant stood close to the counter with the same posture I saw him the first time. His cap was again askew; his thumbs were hooked behind the belt just as I had seen him then. His eyes were like strong searchlights, trying to find something wrong, looking for trouble. I noticed that the personal behind the counter, which, by the way, were soldiers like ourselves, were unusually reserved.

    They were no loud greetings, banter or refilling. People talked but their voices were subdued, although nobody could tell what could happen if we started to shout or behave stupidly. When the Lieutenant did not look in my direction, I watched him swaggering around, asking myself what would happen if suddenly a war broke out and we found ourselves under his command. Would we obey him blindly and kill anyone who stood in our way? Would we torture our prisoners and commit other terrible crimes? I was inexperienced and did not know anything about psychology, but I was fascinated with the fact that such squat man had so much influence on all of us. His presence completely changed the atmosphere in the barracks. You could not see it, but you could feel the unease that penetrated every single body, every wall. I was angry with myself that I could not remove him from my thoughts. He was not even my commander, just an insignificant lieutenant, who would in a year, or two become a pensioner, play chess or domino, and complain about the inflation and high costs of living.
    To be continued.

  1. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: The Lieutenant, part three

    Quote Originally Posted by Bassim View Post

    One day I was playing chess with Anto. He was six years older than I was and had just a few weeks until he was going to exchange his uniform for civilian clothes. He was an intelligent man who worked as an engineer in a shipyard, and did he not believe in the lies the state media was feeding us with every day. He told me that our country was in such debt that it would not take many years until the whole economy was bankrupt. I felt he was the only person I could talk to openly about my feelings and told him how I was getting depressed and frustrated because I did not know how I was going to manage to live though the coming months. Anto chuckled, waved his hand and said, “Mate, do you think I’m enjoying being here? Is it fun to be told off by a bumpkin who only yesterday tended sheep and goats and now because of his corporal rank believes he is more important than a general? But I’ll tell you, if you believe you have it difficult, wait until you see the Lieutenant. He is probably on holiday or sick leave, but he’ll return. My advice to you is to give him a wide berth whenever you can.”
    I wished to ask him more about the Lieutenant, but two soldiers came up and sat beside us, and I turned my attention to the game, trying to figure out how to save my queen from Anto’s attack.
    Hm.

  2. Tarheel's Avatar
    • Member Info
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      • American English
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    #3

    Re: The Lieutenant, part three

    Quote Originally Posted by Bassim View Post

    I had forgotten about the Lieutenant until one morning I saw a strange figure standing with his hands behind his back and his feet apart on the parade ground. He was scowling under his officer’s cap askew; his paunch hanging over his belt, He was squat, and his broad shoulders, thick neck, flattened nose and the scars on his face gave the impression he had been a boxer or troublemaker in his youth. If I had met him in civilian clothes somewhere in the street, I would have thought he was a gangster nearing the end of his career. I saw two stars on each of his epaulettes and my inner voice told me to be on my guard. I would rather turn around and run away, but I was hungry and this was the only way to the mess hall. I glanced at my boots and clothes to see if there was anything wrong with them, and was relieved that my boots were properly polished and my uniform did not have any loose buttons. Nevertheless, the closer I came to the Lieutenant the faster my heart was beating. When I was close to him, I raised my hand and with my fingertips touched my cap, as a salute. I felt his grey eyes sweeping over me, but he did not utter a word. I breathed a sigh of relief and was looking forward to a warm bowl of beans when, suddenly, I heard a roar, “Soldier!” My body stiffened and I turned my head at once. I saw Zoran, a lanky man from my unit at level with the Lieutenant. He was holding a letter in his hands, had immersed himself in reading it, and did not notice the officer. Now his hands were shaking.

    “Why don’t you salute your superior?” The Lieutenant hooked his thumbs behind the belt and puffed up his chest.
    “Comrade Lieutenant,” Zoran said in a quivering voice, “I’ve just got a letter from my parents. I got lost in it and I didn’t see you. I’m sorry.
    The Lieutenant made two steps towards Zoran, slowly and deliberately, like a predator knowing his victim cannot escape.
    “Forgotten your breakfast this morning?” He growled close to Zoran’s face.
    “No, comrade Lieutenant.
    “ Forgotten to brush your teeth?”
    “No, comrade Lieutenant.”
    “But you have forgotten to salute your superior. That is a grave offence, soldier.”

    He tilted his head to one side and scrutinised him so close that Zoran must have felt his breath on his face. He blushed and looked at the ground, expecting a punch on his chin. But the Lieutenant stepped back and dismissed him with a wave of his hand saying, “Never forget to salute.”
    Next time I saw the Lieutenant he was the duty officer. The mess hall was usually a noisy place where hundreds of soldiers talked loudly, cracked jokes, laughed, threw pieces of bread at each other and jumped the queue. Not this time. The Lieutenant stood close to the counter with the same posture I saw him the first time. His cap was again askew; his thumbs were hooked behind the belt just as I had seen him then. His eyes were like strong searchlights, trying to find something wrong, looking for trouble. I noticed that the people behind the counter, which, by the way, were soldiers like ourselves, were unusually reserved.

    They were no loud greetings, banter or refilling. People talked, but their voices were subdued, although nobody could tell what would happen if we shouted or behaved stupidly. When the lieutenant did not look in my direction, I watched him swaggering around, asking myself what would happen if suddenly a war broke out and we found ourselves under his command. Would we obey him blindly and kill anyone who stood in our way? Would we torture our prisoners and commit other terrible crimes? I was inexperienced and did not know anything about psychology, but I was fascinated with the fact that such a squat man had so much influence on all of us. His presence completely changed the atmosphere in the barracks. You could not see it, but you could feel the unease that penetrated every single body, every wall. I was angry with myself that I could not remove him from my thoughts. He was not even my commander, just an insignificant lieutenant, who would, in a year or two, become a pensioner, play chess or dominos, and complain about the inflation and the high cost of living.
    To be continued.
    Apparently, domino can be pluralized either with the addition of an s or an es.


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