Student or Learner
Please would you take a look at the ninth part of my short story, "The lieutenant," and correct my mistakes.
The behaviour of the lieutenant was so unpredictable when he was the duty officer that soldiers started to bet if or when he was going to sound alarm. The bet was small and the winner could buy just a couple of beers in our canteen, but the excitement was great. In the afternoon, some soldiers would observe the lieutenant and his body language, trying to ascertain the grade of his drunkenness, to reduce the odds. He had become the butt of jokes that circulated in all the units, on all four floors of our barracks. There were discussions about a mutiny against him, but nobody was courageous enough to become a leader and face the lieutenant’s wrath. All this was done not because of malice, but rather because of boredom. We were young and bursting with energy while military life and our officers were stiff and one-dimensional. They were correct, treated us with respect, and did their job as they had been taught at the military academy, but beyond that, they were as bland as our food. It was the lieutenant and his behaviour bordering on insanity that brought variation and excitement in our lives.
One evening he sounded alarm just after taps, which was unusual. We had not even taken off our uniforms when the blaring of a siren forced us to grab our weapons and run into the pitch-dark night. We returned about two hours later, pleased that at least we had a few hours of sleep in front of us. I lay me down to sleep, but I had hardly closed my eyes when the door opened with a bang and the voice of a corporal ordered us to come out into the corridor, immediately. People protested, cursed, swore and grumbled, but they heaved themselves one after another out of their beds and dutifully shuffled into the corridor. So did I also, drowsy and not understanding what all the fuss was about. Then I saw his famous cap and his cigarette in the corner of his mouth and I believed I was having a nightmare. He was stony-faced and paced the corridor up and down, ordering the soldiers to line up along the walls. We were a remarkable sight to behold. Our blue pyjamas were either too long or too short, and on our feet, we wore a pair of cheap plastic sandals. Our hair was dishevelled; our faces were swollen with dark rings under our eyes. The only sound was the squeaking of the lieutenant’s gum soles, which sounded ominous in this long corridor. He stopped and made an awkward pirouette, his bloodshot eyes sweeping over the faces. He pulled on the cigarette and then held it between his two fingers down to his hips.
“You think I’m a sadist and a torturer,” the drunken voice boomed, “but I didn’t wake you from your sweet dreams for no reason. Your quarters look like a pigsty, dirty floor, boots outside the racks, clothes on the floor, puddles of water in the shower room and toilets, unemptied wastebaskets... You’re not a ragtag gang but a people’s army, and our people want soldiers and not sissies. I want you to clean this place properly even if it takes the whole night. Do you understand me, soldiers?” The last sentence he shouted with authority, and we answered in unison, “Yes, comrade lieutenant!”
He turned and left, and soon we heard stamping and commotion above us, and we thought pity of our comrades who were undergoing the similar treatment we had. I sat on my knees, rubbing off the mud that clung to the floor, cursing him and wishing him terminal illness, when the entrance door suddenly opened and our commander, Colonel Jovic stepped inside. I could hardly recognise him in a dark evening suit, white shirt and blue tie. A delicate scent emanated from him and floated down the corridor. He was a man in his fifties, ginger-haired, tall like a basketball player, and very strong. If you had seen his large hands, you would have thought he could kill even a bear with them.
“What is going on here? Why are the lights burning everywhere?” He yelled and everyone looked up. A corporal told him about the lieutenant and Colonel Jovic turned crimson. He ran his fingers through his backcombed, glossy hair and ordered that we return to our rooms and get some sleep. He rushed outside, and we went to our rooms, but instead of going to sleep, we opened the windows and waited to see the confrontation. The colonel strode into the commandant’s office, and the light went on in the window, which was half-closed. “You idiot!” he bellowed. “You promised me never to touch the bottle again. Look yourself in the mirror. You stink like a sewage plant. You’ve become a clown. Why did you abuse my confidence?” These sentences were seasoned with expletives that you could only find on the Balkans and which were too vulgar to put on the paper. The only sound coming from the lieutenant was a kind of grumbling, which made me disappointed. I expected a fierce fight between the bear and the wolf, but the wolf had cringed away with his tail between his legs. Someone had slammed the window shut, and no sound came out from the commandant’s office, although I could see Colonel Jovic gesticulating and pacing in a circle in one direction, then in another, like a caged predator.
To be continued
Yes Tarheel, there were discussions,but the consequences of a rebellion would be grave. Rare were those people who would have dared to rebel in the communist countries. But this is only a short story which I have made by combining a few characters into one I called the lieutenant.
I am wondering why is my version, "You think I'm a sadist and a torture, the drunken voice boomed." is not good?
You have chosen instead, "he said very loudly."
Because the voice didn't say it. The lieutenant said it. You could rephrase that though. That is, I like the use of "boomed" there. (It's creative.) Perhaps: "The lieutenant boomed: "You think I'm a sadist and a torturer, do you?"
(He should probably stop drinking so much. )
Now I understand.
Regarding the lieutenant's drinking I can only say the slivovitz is highly addictive. If you visit a home in Bosnia or Serbia, the first what your host will do is to put a bottle of slivovitz in front of you and ask you to toast with him to your and his health.