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Chris Booyse

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52 Novie Scribe 2nd Class

About Chris Booyse

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    Ballito, South Africa
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    Reading, writing, reading, writing......

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  1. Some pics to illustrate the story.....
  2. Well it's still the 19th in my slice of the planet--so HAPPY BIRTHDAY. I hope you had a good time!

  3. Happy Birthday Chris, it's a privilege to send you Birthday wishes for an AWESOME day my friend. I hope it is a beautiful day for you, followed by a GREAT year.

  4. AND THE LION AND THE LAMB LIE DOWN TOGETHER Chapter 13: "Silence in court! Bring in the prisoners!" The prisoners shuffled in, their leg irons jangling. Grinning guards arranged them in alphabetical order behind three trestle tables. Loud conversation in the packed public gallery died down. The Judge glared balefully at the unfortunate prisoners. "You are charged with aggravated assault. In addition, you are also charged with damage to state property. Prisoner Lubbe will also be charged with attempted murder at a separate trial. What do you have to say for yourselves?" That Judge's eyes bored into those of Johan. Johan’s throat constricted and his knees buckled. He tried to make himself as inconspicuous as possible. "Do not try to hide behind your friends, Lubbe. We all know that you are the real culprit here. If you did not seduce innocent boys and corrupt their values, they would not be standing in front of this court." Johan trembled violently. The Judge stared at him. "Do you really think your actions would not catch up with you?" asked the Judge in a deathly quiet voice. Johan quaked in his shoes. "You are responsible for the predicament these young men find themselves in. If you had not seduced them with your sinful ways, they would not be sharing your fate today. Do you have anything to say for yourself?" Johan opened his mouth, but his throat was so constricted, that he could not utter a word. "It is not our fault," Vaatjie shouted. "It is all Johan's doing! He is supposed to know right from wrong. He made us believe that there is no sin in loving each other. We only followed his example. Why should we be punished with him? It is all your fault Johan! IT IS ALL YOUR FAULT!" “We thought we raised a God-fearing son,” shouted his mother from the public gallery. “This perverted monster deserves the punishment that will be meted out to him today! You are no longer our son! We want nothing to do with you!” Johan twisted in agony. Why does Riaan not say anything? Where is Riaan? He twisted his head violently, trying to find Riaan amongst the prisoners. Has Riaan abandoned him too? The Judge rose from his throne-like seat. He glided over to Johan. His white robes billowed around him. Blood trickled from His forehead. Johan could see where the crown of thorns cut into the flesh. "Mercy," Johan managed to croak. "Lord, have mercy!" "There is no mercy for you. The wages of sin is death", intoned the Judge. A deep trench opened in front of Johan's feet. Huge flames leapt from it, scorching his face. He staggered back. The heat was unbearable. "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." With a despairing scream, Johan tumbled into the pit. " Johan! Johan, wake up! Johan!" Strong arms embraced Johan. Riaan’s unique scent filled his nostrils. His thundering heartbeat slowed down. "Shhh, it's okay. Don't worry, it was just a nightmare." Riaan slowly massaged Johan's back with his free hand. "It was just a bad dream. You're safe now. Nothing will hurt you. I'm here." Johan gratefully slid back into a fitful doze. Dawn finally broke. André bustled into the ward just after six o'clock. "Good morning, lovebirds," he chirped. "Did you sleep well? Rise and shine, Babies. You have a busy day ahead." Johan smiled wanly at André. He decided not to mention the nightmare. Riaan also just smiled. "Alll-righty folks, into the shower with you. And don't take too long - NO playing! While you are showering I'll quickly get your breakfast. Doctor Swart will be here just now. You know how upset he gets when we are not ready for him." At least Riaan was allowed to take off the back brace for showers. Otherwise it would have been a fairly impossible task to clean him up properly. They spent ten minutes under the shower before André bellowed from the ward. "I TOLD you, no playing in the shower!" "Uh-uh, Mummy is upset! Tell me André, are you normally so grumpy, or did your lack of a social life force you to stay up all night with Mrs. Palmer and her five daughters?" asked Riaan. "I'll have you know that I have the whole of the NCO mess at my beck and call, Mr. Hot Lips - even the sergeant major. I can get a screw whenever I feel like it", replied André loftily. "The NCO mess? Yeah, right, dream on Baby! You seriously suffer from a disease called Delusions of Grandeur. Did you notice Johan, he callouses on all ten of your fingers now. You know, swapping hands to spice up his love life a bit." The bickering washed over Johan’s soul like a balm. Life was finally returning to a semblance of normality. The dark cloud in his mind lifted slightly. Doctor Swart made his appearance just before eight. "And how are our brave musketeers feeling this morning?" he asked with a smile. “We’re fine, thank you, Doctor,” replied Riaan. “When can I take this bloody thing off?” He patted the back brace. “Not so fast, not so fast, young man. Your ribs are not even close to being healed yet. The brace will stay your best friend for at least the next three weeks.” Riaan sighed. “The bloody thing is so uncomfortable, Doctor,” he complained. “Yes, I know,” replied Dr. Swart, “it is uncomfortable, especially in this heat, but we need your ribs to heal properly. You just have to grin and bear it.” He moved over to Johan’s bed. “How are you feeling this morning,” asked the doctor. “Much better, thank you, Doctor. The headaches are nearly gone and I’m not so nauseous any more,” replied Johan. “Hmm, you’re a fast healer, it seems. Let me just check a couple of things.” After much prodding and shoving, the doctor finally declared Johan fit for discharge. Johan and Riaan each received a note, exempting them from drilling and physical exercise for a week, putting them on the so-called “light duty” list. “I do have good news for you two”, said Doctor Swart. “It seems that Radio Jordaan is not as efficient as what it would like to make out”. André’s face turned crimson. “The powers that be have decided against prosecuting you lot. According to the Colonel there are mitigating circumstances and they are dropping the mutiny case against all of you. They will also not prosecute the RSM and his cronies.” Doctor Swart’s distaste of the RSM was clearly evident. “Anyhow, the whole incident has never happened. You can of course take the matter further and sue the Defence Force for the injuries you sustained – I will gladly testify on your behalf. I have to warn you, however, that the Defence Force will not take kindly to that kind of action. I can assure you that your lives will be a living hell for the remainder of your National Service – our lords and masters do not take kindly to being exposed for the murdering and conniving bastards they are. I suggest you speak to your parents about the situation and then go see a really good lawyer before you do anything.” Doctor Swart realised that his mouth had run away with him. “OK, I never said that. If the bosses discover I am sowing sedition, I will definitely be without employment, or worse.” He grinned ruefully. “Now, if Radio Jordaan could see its way clear not to ruin the surprise, you guys can give your friends the good news in person,” smiled Doctor Swart. “I don’t gossip. I really don’t know where you got that idea from, Doctor!” André bristled with righteous indignation. Johan could not believe his ears. He had expected to be thrown out of the army at the very least. He had resigned himself to being locked up for the rest of his National Service. He had imagined his parents’ shame at their only son’s disgrace. They could make a fresh start now. The dark cloud lifted from his mind. Two hours later, Johan and Riaan were dressed in new overalls and boots (their feet encased in two sets of new socks) – courtesy of the Sick Bay. They each had a sick note, confirming their light duty status, in the only pocket of the overalls and a smile on their faces. “One would think that you are eager to return to Basics, the way you two are swaggering about,” complained André. “A bit of gratitude for our hard work in patching you up would be appreciated.” “But you know we love you,” giggled Riaan. “Besides, it is your job to patch up the Heroes of the Republic who defend you from the evil Communists.” André snorted indelicately. “Heroes of the Republic? Yeah right! More like rebels without a clue that got their just rewards – and then we are saddled with the consequences. What absolute bliss! We just love the extra work you lot caused us.” “But you still love us, don’t you Mummy?” retorted Riaan. André snorted once more. Finally, André stuck a bag of pain medication into each of their hands. “Remember - light duty or not – you are to march to your bungalow. You are still supposed to be soldiers in training, not gentlemen of leisure. I’ll try to come visit after my shift tonight.” Johan and Riaan set off for their bungalow.
  5. AND THE LION AND THE LAMB LIE DOWN TOGETHER Chapter 12: “Come in, Guys, come in. They are in Ward Two”, came André Jordaan’s voice from outside. Peleton forty-four had finally come to visit their sick friends. “At long last”, exclaimed Vaatjie. “We thought you had forgotten all about us. Some friends you lot turned out to be.” “Nahh,” Wouter smiled. “Who wants to visit you bunch of pansies in any case?” The recruits crowded around Johan’s bed. He was propped up against the wall with Riaan sitting on the foot of his bed. “Good grief, guys! Did the MPs do this to you?” exclaimed Wouter. “You look as if a train hit you.” “You should have seen the other guy”, said Riaan. “Johan choked the shit out of him.” “Yeah, I hear the fucking bastard is still in 1 Mil”, replied Wouter. “They really fucked you two up badly. Can you breathe with that thing on you, Riaan? You really look like shit on toast. Riaan chuckled. “It’s not as bad as it seems. It itches a bit, but the doctor says it can come off soon.” The others oohed and aahed at Johan and Riaan’s injuries. Vaatjie felt a bit let down, as he had no visible scars to exhibit. Visitors may not sit on hospital beds. This rule has been cast in stone since time immemorial. Peleton 44 cheerfully ignored it and spread out amongst the eight beds in the ward. André, like a good host, disappeared to the sick bay kitchen to organise tea and dog biscuits for the visitors. “So, what’s cooking?” Riaan asked. “Are we in trouble or what?” “I really don’t know”, said Jannie, from where he sat on the foot of Vaatjie’s bed. “We’re not confined to barracks anymore and we got a new corporal.” “He’s English!” interjected Pieter Jooste with wonder on his face. “He can’t even speak Afrikaans properly!” “And you bunch of retards can’t put two English words together in a row. How do you communicate? By drawing pictures?” “He knows only a bit of Afrikaans and he sounds funny when he speaks”, Pieter chortled. “And by the way, my English is not bad at all. I got a B on my Matric certificate. We understand each other just fine.” “Is he as bad as old Pizza Face?” asked Riaan, from where he sat on Johan’s bed. “No, he seems sort of decent”, said Jannie. “He hasn’t made us run once and we only did 50 pushups this afternoon.” “And what is this Superman’s name?” inquired Vaatjie. “Corporal Campbell”, answered Wouter. “He even organised us new kaste. Old Pizza Face had destroyed almost all of them”. “Kind of the man”, replied Vaatjie with majestic irony. “We’ll see how he turns out”. “The rumour is that you’ll find out tomorrow morning”, said Wouter heartlessly. “Apparently your stay in Sickbay Hotel has been terminated.” “It is so typical of the fucking army”, sighed Vaatjie. “Just as things take a turn for the better, they have to fuck it all up for you.” “What is going to happen to us?” Johan interrupted Vaatjie’s musing. “I don’t really know”, replied Wouter seriously. “Everything is still very confusing. After the fight at the gate, the MPs chased us to the bungalow. They actually put guards around it, would you believe. I suppose it was to prevent us from running away. Where we would run to, God only knows. Not one of us knows our way around Pretoria in any case.” “They even brought our meals to the bungalow”, interrupted Jannie. “It was creepy. We kept on asking about you guys and nobody would tell us anything.” Wouter resumed his story. “The colonel turned up yesterday morning and told us that we were not allowed to leave the bungalow for any reason. He said we started a mutiny and that they were investigating it.” Jannie interrupted once more. “The cunt wouldn’t even listen to our explanation. He told us we could explain ourselves at our court marshal. We shat ourselves!” “Hey, do you want to tell the story, or what?” Wouter did not appreciate relinquishing the limelight to Jannie. Jannie retorted with a rude finger in the air. “Anyway, normal training resumes tomorrow morning, Corporal Campbell told us”, resumed Wouter, “Just in time for the baby elephant to join us.” Vaatjie snorted disgustedly at Wouter’s heartless comment. André appeared with a trolley laden with an urn of boiling water, several packets of dog biscuits, tea bags, milk powder, sugar and a pile of polystyrene cups and plastic spoons. “You will have to make your own tea”, he announced. “The sick bay only provides room service to patients”. The recruits fell on the trolley in a ravenous horde. Soon everyone had a cup of tea in one hand and a dog biscuit in the other. All talk ceased while the recruits dunked the dog biscuits in the tea and appreciatively wolfed down the soggy mess. When they had finished, Johan finally asked the question uppermost on everyone’s mind. “So, what are we going to do now?” “Dunno”, replied Wouter. “We are in major shit. How we are going to get out of it is anybody’s guess”. This comment effectively broke up the tea party. Worried faces contemplated their fate in silence. “Oh, well”, said Wouter. “We’ll find out soon enough.” A very subdued Peleton 44 left the ward a few minutes later. They did not even rag Vaatjie too much about his imminent return to basic training. As soon as the coast was clear, Riaan boldly lay down on Johan’s bed, cradling Johan in his arm. The back brace and bandages, as well as the narrow hospital bed, did not make for a very comfortable position, but Riaan gladly suffered the inconvenience, just to be next to Johan. Johan’s headache had mercifully subsided to a dull throb. Johan’s mind started working. “What’s this with you and Jannie playing with each other?” he asked Vaatjie. Vaatjie’s face turned a bit more rosy than normal. “We, uh, helped each other out. Ag, you know, man, when you need relief. It’s nicer having someone else do it for you.” “No shit – and you never told me about it. How long has it been going on?” “Hey, first of all, it’s none of your business. Secondly, we knew you would react like a prick, so we just kept it quiet.” “What do you mean, act like a prick? We’re supposed to be friends. I would never split on you or anything.” “No you wouldn’t. However, you would be carrying on and on about what a big sin we are committing, and all that other religious shit. I know you, Johan. You have never had a good word for someone that strays from the straight and narrow. Now you are in the same boat as us. How does your precious Christianity deal with this? How do you plan to escape the fires of hell this time? How can you possibly justify your little indiscretion? You with your holier-than-thou attitude make me want to puke.” Johan felt as if Vaatjie had kicked him in the stomach. The guilt he had been suppressing squeezed the air from his lungs. He twisted violently, nearly dislodging Riaan from the narrow hospital bed. He buried his face in his pillow. Riaan glared balefully at Vaatjie. “Are you satisfied now?” he rasped at Vaatjie. “Do you get a kick out of devastating your friends?” “As if our best friend never got his jollies out of pointing our shortcomings out to us,” Vaatjie replied venomously. “The high and mighty Mr Lubbe could never do anything wrong. We, pitiful sinners, on the other hand, had to put up with his constant bitching about our inadequacies. What makes you better than us, Johan? Who gave you the right to judge us pitiful mortals?” Guilt constricted Johan’s throat. Vaatjie was right. He always tried to do the right thing and was never ashamed to speak his mind on his friends’ failings. Now he was exposed for what he really was – judgemental, petty and hypocritical. He was as big a sinner as Vaatjie and Jannie, but worse, he saw the splinter in their eye, but never realised there was a beam in his own. “I am sorry,” he choked. “It is a bit late for that, don’t you think,” replied Vaatjie. “We could never aspire to your bloody moral values. But, now, when the boot is on the other foot, you snivel that you are sorry. How the mighty have fallen.” Vaatjie turned over onto his side, facing away from Johan and Riaan. Johan stifled his sobs in his pillow. Riaan hugged him closer. “No matter what he says,” Riaan whispered in Johan’s ear. “You are a good person and our love is not wrong!” Despair and a throbbing headache kept Johan from sleeping that night. He had made his choice between his Christian values and his heart. He was losing his friends with his so-called superior attitude. The army was on the brink of court marshalling him. The only glimmer of hope in this deep dark hole was his love for Riaan. The next morning the atmosphere could be cut with a knife. Vaatjie ignored Johan and Riaan completely. They ate breakfast in silence. Riaan’s attempts at starting up a conversation met with failure. Doctor Swart appeared just after nine that morning. He prodded at Riaan’s chest and shone his little flashlight in Johan’s eyes. “You two should be discharged by tomorrow. Both of you should be on light duty for a couple of days at least. Just to make sure there’s no lasting damage,” he said. Vaatjie did not even try to weasel his way out of his discharge. He seemed to be relieved to return to the bungalow. This, of course, made Johan feel even more guilty. After Vaatjie left, the orderly remade his bed. He readily swopped Riaan’s bed with Vaatjie’s when Riaan asked him to. Apparently, André’s next shift was only the following day. Because they did not know the orderly well, Riaan did not attempt to get into bed with Johan. They were afraid of the repercussions should Riaan be discovered in Johan’s bed. They however, did sneak a couple of kisses, feeling like naughty schoolchildren. Johan’s mood lifted considerably. _______________________________________________________________________ COPYRIGHT © 2010-2012 CHRISTIAAN BOOYSE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. CHRISTIAAN BOOYSE'S WORK IS FULLY PROTECTED UNDER THE UNITED STATES COPYRIGHT LAWS © 17 USC § § 101, 102(a), 302(a). ALL RIGHTS RESERVERED. PLACING OR POSTING THIS STORY ON ANY WEBSITE, OR DISTRIBUTION OF THIS WORK IN ANY WAY (PARTS OR WHOLE) WITHOUT THE EXPLICIT CONSENT OF THE AUTHOR IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED. ANY AND ALL COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENTS WILL BE PROSECUTED TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW. ANY AND ALL COMMERCIAL USE EXCEPTING EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS REQUIRES THE AUTHOR'S WRITTEN CONSENT. THIS AUTHOR MAY BE CONTACTED AT: christiaan.booyse@telkomsa.net
  6. Happy Birthday my Friend, I hope you have a FANTASTIC day and a GREAT year :)

  7. RSM Struwig stood rigidly to attention. Sweat beaded on his forehead. He clenched his jaw. He felt like a delinquent schoolboy, summoned to the headmaster’s office. Colonel Viljoen had been ranting for an hour already. The high-pitched nasal voice bored into RSM Struwig’s skull like a dentist’s drill. What really annoyed him was that despite his years of exemplary service to the army and his position as a senior warrant officer, the Colonel treated him as a troop caught sleeping on watch duty. The RSM controlled his anger with difficulty. “I really don’t know why I trouble with you, Struwig. You disgraced this unit; you disgraced the army, for God’s sake. You should be court-marshalled for what you did last night. Why we even attempt to save your sorry backside is beyond me.” “Because some of the shit will stick to your lily white hands,” thought RSM Struwig maliciously. He clenched his jaw even harder. Colonel Viljoen’s phone interrupted him in mid-tirade. He picked it up with a scowl. “I said that I am not to be disturbed,” he shouted at his secretary. His belligerent mood vanished miraculously. “Yes, put him through” he said. “Good morning General.” RSM Struwig could clearly hear someone shouting at Colonel Viljoen, from where he stood two metres away. Colonel Viljoen blanched. He occasionally replied, “Ja Generaal” (Yes, General) or “Nee Generaal” (No, General) in a strangled voice. The shouting finally stopped. The click! when the phone was slammed down on the other side, was clearly audible to RSM Struwig. Colonel Viljoen drew an unsteady breath. He glared at RSM Struwig and picked up the phone once more. “Alida, please send the Adjutant to my office” he asked his secretary. The now-quiet Colonel stared icily at the RSM, while they waited. Two minutes later, the Adjutant, Major Celliers, poked his head round the door. “You’re looking for me Colonel?” he asked. “Take this idiot to his office. Post a guard on his door. He does not leave and he sees nobody,” hissed Colonel Viljoen. See to it that his telephone line is blocked. He does not make calls and he does not receive calls. Are we clear on this, Major?” “Absolutely, Colonel. I’ll see to it personally.” “I have been summoned to VHK (Verdedigingshoofkwartier – Defence Headquarters). Be ready to start arranging a few courts marshal on very short notice. Your orders will come directly from the Chief of the Defence Force’s office. I should return in a couple of hours.” Major Celliers came to attention and saluted Colonel Viljoen. “Come, RSM,” he said as he left the office. RSM Struwig also saluted Colonel Viljoen. The colonel ignored the salute disgustedly. Major Celliers entered RSM Struwig’s office and sat down behind his desk. “Close the door and sit down” he ordered the RSM. “I am ordered around in my own office,” thought RSM Struwig bitterly, as he sat down on one of the two chairs in front of the desk. “The manure really hit the fan this time, didn’t it, RSM?” Major Celliers enjoyed the RSM’s discomfiture. He had always resented the man’s crudeness and lack of common courtesy. “What on earth happened? I still don’t get the long and the short of this whole unholy mess.” “I tried to impose some discipline on the new recruits, Sir.” RSM Struwig’s dislike of the Adjutant was mutual. He regarded Major Celliers as a pompous ass that did not know his arse from his elbow when it came to training troops. “By kicking them in the ribs and earning yourself the wrath of the President in the process? Forgive me if my insignificant little brain cannot grasp your logic, RSM. Please explain why you felt you had to assault a troop in front of the whole camp to improve his discipline.” “When I came aware of the situation, the whole peleton were in open defiance of their corporal. I had to put a stop to their little mutiny there and then.” “I agree, RSM, we can never allow the troops to rebel against authority. It is a recipe for disaster, but don’t you agree that you went a bit too far?” “Major, you know that one has to fight fire with fire. These troops had to be disciplined right away. That rebellious spirit had to be immediately crushed with maximum force. There can never be any doubt about who is in control. Without that, the whole indoctrination process would fall flat on its face. What would happen if these troops questioned orders under fire?” “I do not question your reasons, RSM, only your method. One does not go around disciplining troops by kicking them half to death. You should keep a leash on that temper of yours.” RSM Struwig nearly snorted derisively, but bit his tongue just in time. “Granted, our little VIP should not have been here in the first place. He should have been posted to another Corps. Infantry training is not for the likes of him. Without him in the equation, we would have been able to salvage your career. Now that this whole mess has been escalated to God knows where, I think that you are headed for some disciplinary action yourself. It is a shame that you are dragging all of us down with you, but I suppose that we have to cope as best as we can.” Major Celliers got up from behind the desk. “I can’t sit chatting with you all day, RSM. Some of us still have work to do. See to it that all your paperwork is up to date. It will make matters a bit easier for your successor. Remember, the Colonel ordered your phone cut off and you are not to leave this office. So; no calls to the Old Boys Network and no interfering with the investigation. Do you understand, RSM?” Without waiting for an answer, the Adjutant left the office. The door slammed loudly behind his back. RSM Struwig was finally alone. He was still dazed by his sudden fall from grace. Barely twelve hours ago, he was one of the most respected disciplinarians in Training Command and at the pinnacle of a career that spanned nearly thirty years. Now, he was a failure – worse than a failure – a perceived criminal. What he could not comprehend, was that he served the army to the best of his ability. If it were not for that snot-nosed relative of the President, none of this would have happened. RSM Struwig abhorred favouritism in any form. He had worked so hard to get to where he was now, and it all came crashing down on him in a couple of hours. He remembered his childhood. His early years were filled with love and happiness. His father was the most important person in his life. He had always modeled his life on what he believed his father would have wanted. Piet Struwig’s father was an underground electrician at Wes-Driefontein mine, outside Carletonville. Wes-Driefontein is one of the deepest gold mines in the world. The family stayed in a mine house, about three kilometres from Number Three Shaft, where Piet’s father worked. He was eight years old when an underground rock fall killed his father and six other miners. Piet's happy childhood was brought to an abrupt end on that day. Luckily, Piet’s mother found employment in the mine’s admin offices and the family could stay on in the mine house. Her salary was considerably smaller than what her husband had earned. Mrs. Struwig battled to provide for Piet and his two younger sisters. There was no money for luxuries, but they never went hungry. Anna Struwig taught her children the value of hard work and doing a job to the best of their ability. Piet Struwig left school at the age of sixteen. He would have liked to complete his high school career, but felt honour-bound to help his mother support their family. He joined the army two days after his sixteenth birthday. He rose through the ranks slowly, but steadily. He kept his nose clean and took his mother's advice to heart to always do anything he did to the best of his ability. At the age of fifty-two he was at the pinnacle of his career. He could look forward to a care-free retirement in eight years' time, and now this! RSM Struwig's temper flared up once more. He hated all forms of nepotism. If he had to come up through the ranks, why should the politicians' friends and families be treated differently? Why should Private Nel's life be handed to him on a silver platter? Just because he is related to the Bothas? And this nonsense of not allowed to discipline a troop properly? Where did that come from? The fat piece of shit was malingering, it was as clear as daylight. No, the brass were out to get him. They were never comfortable with honest, hard working people in their midst. But he would be buggered if he would let them fuck up his career. He had been screwed over too many times in the past to let them get away with it once more. With his anger boiling over, RSM Struwig nearly drove his balled fist through the prefabricated wall of his office.
  8. “Line up at the counter! Start at the left. Work your way through to the right. When you're finished, fall in outside the store” shouted Corporal du Plooy. Several storeman stood behind the long counter, about two metres apart from each other. They were National Servicemen, like the recruits, but had already finished their basic training. They wore the blue berets of the Quartermaster's Corps, in contrast with the green berets of the Infantry Corps, which our heroes would wear. The first storeman, dressed in the brown SADF combat uniform, called “Browns” in the vernacular, completed a long inventory of every item that was to be issued to each new troop. “Name” he asked Vaatjie. “Vaatjie” came the reply. “Not your size, retard. Your name.” The Afrikaans word Vaatjie means “barrel” in English. Vaatjie was very proud of the nickname that he had earned in primary school, when he had started ballooning to his present impressive size. Vaatjie also prided himself on his intelligence. He condescendingly stared down his nose at the cretin that had just attempted to insult him. The storeman did not have the time or energy to argue with every new recruit. He had already processed over two hundred recruits that morning and there were another hundred or so still to come. “Corporal” he shouted. “This oversized dog turd is giving me grief!” Corporal du Plooy had had enough aggravation from Vaatjie for one day. “You cannot run, but you can start fights” he hissed in Vaatjie's ear. “You can barely march, but you can waste my time. I will make a soldier out of you, even if it kills you.” “On the floor!” With a mighty kick to his ample backside, Vaatjie landed on his hands and knees. “Fifty proper pushups” ordered Corporal du Plooy. “Your chest will touch the floor every time, and your arms will be straight when you come up!” “One!” Vaatjie wheezed piteously. “Two!” Vaatjie wheezed a bit louder and his face turned a light shade of purple. “Three!” Vaatjie barely managed straighten his arms. “Four!” Vaatjie's wheeze resembled the bellow of a rutting bull-elephant. “Five!” Vaatjie's face turned dark purple with angry red spots on his cheeks. “Six!” Vaatjie collapsed into a pathetic heap on the floor. Instead of sympathy, he got a kick in the ribs. “Up! Up!” shouted Corporal du Plooy. Wearily, Vaatjie straightened his arms. His ample stomach barely broke contact with the floor. “You don't do it properly – you start over.” shouted Corporal du Plooy maliciously. “One!” Vaatjie prayed for death, but it did not come. He prayed for deliverance from evil, but that also did not happen. Corporal du Plooy restarted the count twice more, both times when Vaatjie collapsed after the second pushup. He finally relented when he saw the shocked awe on the faces of the other recruits. Vaatjie's introduction to army discipline was also seriously holding up the line of recruits waiting to be kitted out. Vaatjie was considerably meeker when the storeman confronted him again. “Name?” “Van Rooyen” Vaatjie wheezed. “Force Number?” Vaatjie frantically searched his pockets. They were told to have the number with them at all times and he had written it down on a piece of paper. The storeman irritably tapped his pen on the counter. Vaatjie finally produced his force number. Once more disaster struck. Vaatjie was required to sign for the varkpan and eating utensils he had been issued with at lunchtime. “I lost my knife” he informed the storeman. The storeman immediately shouted for Corporal du Plooy. This time he overplayed his hand. “Corporal,” he screamed. “This fucking retarded troop of yours lost his knife. You people have been holding up the queue for ten minutes already! We have work to do here!” Corporal du Plooy stormed over. “What did you say?” he bellowed. “We have been holding up the queue? Who do you think you are talking to, Troop?” With that, he grabbed the storeman by the throat and pulled him halfway across the counter. “Issue him with a new set of utensils and dock his pay. NOW! Or do you want to continue this discussion on the parade ground?” Punishment drill was a very real and frequently-used tool against minor offences. Legends of troops being drilled to death abounded in the training facilities. No-one had actually witnessed such an event, but nobody was prepared to take the risk of being the next troop drilled to death. The paperwork for the replacement utensil set miraculously appeared on the counter. The terrified storeman made Vaatjie sign a declaration that he authorised the Defence Force to deduct one rand, eighty-four cents from his wages. Vaatjie meekly pointed out that he had only lost the knife, not the complete utensil set. He nearly did more pushups. Prudently, Vaatjie decided it was a much wiser decision to accept the replacement utensil set. The next storeman in the row behind the counter issued each recruit with a canvas carry-all, shaped like a sausage. It was nearly a meter long and about seventy centimetres in diameter. On top it had a zipper, running the full length of the sausage, two leather handles and a canvas shoulder carry strap. The soldier’s name for this contraption is a “balsak” (scrotum - ball sac). The balsak already contained a brown mattress cover made of cotton, two brown sheets, a brown pillow case, two grey army blankets and two brown towels. The army is awfully particular to the colour brown. Even the vehicles are painted in the same muddy colour. The next storeman made every recruit unpack his balsak, check that every item was present and accounted for and then sign for these items. The recruit then had to repack the bedding into the balsak. The new recruits hastily bundled their bedding into their balsakke. The storeman regarded the wrinkled sheets with a nasty grin on his face. At the next station, the recruits were issued with their “uniforms” for Basics. Each recruit was issued with two brown overalls, one pair of army boots, two pairs of brown socks, one brown vest (tank top), two pairs of black PT shorts and finally with two pairs of grey underpants. The storeman explained that the underpants were grey, so that the corporal could more easily check the personal hygiene of the troops at Inspection. This statement added a whole new dimension of terror to their already overactive imaginations. The next storeman made them show every item to him, sign for it and stuff it into the already bulging balsakke. He shared his companion’s nasty grin when he saw how the new recruits wrinkled the overalls when they were stuffed into the balsakke, just like they had stuffed the sheets in. At the second last stop the recruits were issued their headgear for Basics. Each recruit received the brown plastic inner lining of a steel helmet. The helmet was called a “staaldak” (steel roof) in Army parlance. This would, however, only be issued to the recruit when he started rifle training. He now had to make do with a “doiby” as the inner lining was called. All South African schoolboys knew and loved the Harvey Comics character “Spooky, the tuff little ghost”. Spooky referred to his black derby hat as a “doiby” and this became the name for the staaldak’s plastic inner lining. The last storeman made the recruits sign for their doibies. Here Vaatjie once more risked life and limb. He asked for the extra utensil set he had signed for. The storeman made it abundantly clear that it was not his job to issue Vaatjie with anything. A growl from Corporal du Plooy immediately changed his mind for him. Vaatjie was finally kitted out and joined the growing group of recruits outside the store. The recruits waited in the sun’s merciless glare. Sweat ran down their faces. An intrepid soul decided that a bulging balsak might actually provide a decent seat. The corporal of the next peleton waiting to enter the store quickly disabused him of that notion. “Get your fucking arse off that balsak!” he shouted. “You’re in the army, not in your mother’s fucking front parlour!” The offender quickly jumped to the “at ease” position. Vaatjie’s punishment was still very fresh in his mind. Peleton forty-four was finally kitted out and ready for any further horrors to be inflicted on it. The recruits were not disappointed. Corporal du Plooy ordered them to sling their balsakke over their left shoulders and to put their doibies on their heads. “Peleton forty-four, a-ten-tion!” shouted Corporal du Plooy. “Open Order-r-r-r, MARCH!” The peleton had been formed up into three rows of ten recruits. At the order, the front row took two paces forward and the back row two paces backward. The middle row stood still. “Ri-ight DRESS!” The right arms of only the front row shot out to the right, behind the backs of their companions. Everyone in the peleton also wrenched their heads to the right, except for the three recruits at the extreme right of the peleton. They looked straight ahead and Riaan, who stood in the front row, did not extend his right arm. It stayed down in the “attention” position. The others shuffled to the left in quick, short steps, until their balled fists just touched the left shoulder of the man to their right. Then they shuffled forward and back until they formed a straight line. The two back rows followed suit until every man stood exactly behind the recruit in front of him and all three rows were completely straight. This was the theory of the exercise. The reality was quite something else. Corporal du Plooy was less than pleased with the recruits’ performance. He waxed lyrical. He discussed the recruits’ parentage in detail. He considered their possible progeny. He speculated on each recruit’s every unsanitary habit. He finally returned to the topic of their parentage. He slapped heads. He kicked backsides. He had an absolutely marvellous time at the recruits’ expense. Corporal du Plooy finally came up for air. “Close order-r-r-r, MARCH!” The two outside rows marched back to the centre row. Corporal du Plooy invoked the name of the Lord. Why had the Good Lord seen fit to burden him with these dregs of humanity? These specimens were lower than snake shit on the bottom of the ocean! But he would persevere. They would piss blood, but they would become soldiers! “To the ri-i-i-ight, TURN! By the left, double time, MARCH!” And off they went at a wobbly run. The balsakke pulled them off balance, but Corporal du Plooy had no sympathy for the recruits. They circled the parade ground twice. Stragglers received sharp blows to the head accompanied with acid commentary regarding their parentage and their own unsavoury habits. Vaatjie’s face turned its usual purple hue and he wheezed like a steam locomotive. Corporal du Plooy had made it his mission in life to torment Vaatjie. He gleefully looked forward to the moment Vaatjie would have a heart attack and rid the world of one more oxygen thief. They finally came to a halt in front of their bungalow. “You will enter the bungalow one by one. You will place your balsak on your trommel (the metal chest at the foot of each recruit’s bed). You will then stand to attention in front of your trommel, facing the centre of the room. Do you understand?” The recruits replied with a ragged volley of “Yes, Corporal.” Corporal du Plooy cupped his hand behind his ear. “I did not hear you. LOUDER!” “YES, CORPORAL!” “It seems that the cat got you girls’ tongues. LOUDER!” “YES! CORPORAL!” The volume was still not loud enough to Corporal du Plooy’s liking. “If you ladies don’t feel like talking to me, we will have to make a plan. Put down your balsakke! On the Ground! You will do pushups until you can speak up!” “ONE! TWO! THREE! PROPER PUSHUPS ARSEHOLE! Do you think I cannot see you slacking?” “ONE! TWO! Van Rooyen! GET THOSE FUCKING ARMS STRAIGHT! You are a disgrace to the Defence Force!” Vaatjie’s purple face turned an even deeper purple. “ONE! TWO! YOU THERE WITH THE RED HAIR! GET YOUR CHEST ON THE GOUND EVERY TIME! Don’t think I can’t see you slacking!” Riaan snorted and whispered “cunt” under his breath. Johan heard the expletive, but was too tired to even smile. “ONE! TWO! THREE!” The count started over yet again. After innumerable pushups, Corporal du Plooy finally shouted “ARE YOU LADIES IN A MORE TALKATIVE MOOD NOW?” “YES! CORPORAL!” “LOUDER!” “YES! CORPORAL!” They were finally allowed to enter the bungalow. Each recruit put his balsak down on his trommel and stood rigidly at attention in front of it. They were a ridiculous sight in their civvies (civilian clothing) with the brown doibies perched on their heads. Corporal du Plooy punched Wouter, who was at the first bed to his left, in the chest. “What is your name Troop?” “Wouter Akkerman, Corporal.” “Are you longing for your mama’s tit, Wouter Akkerman?” Wouter’s face turned blood red. “No Corporal.” He received another sharp blow to his chest. “We have no place for mama’s boys here. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” Another punch punctuated Corporal du Plooy’s shouted question. “YES! CORPORAL!” “When your betters request your name, you reply PRIVATE AKKERMAN, SIR! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” Wouter received another punch. “YES! CORPORAL!” “WHAT IS YOUR NAME?” “PRIVATE AKKERMAN, SIR!” “LOUDER!” “PRIVATE AKKERMAN, SIR!” Corporal du Plooy was finally satisfied with the volume of Wouter’s replies. “Listen up! Private Akkerman is now your Peleton Bull. When an officer or an NCO enters the bungalow, he will shout Kaserne, Aandag! (Barracks, Attention!). You will then leap from whatever you were doing to the spot where you are standing now. Private Akkerman will also relay any orders or instructions from higher authority to you. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” “YES! CORPORAL!” Corporal du Plooy now made Wouter unpack his balsak. He grabbed the mattress cover. “This is a pisvel (piss skin)” he shouted. “You cover your mattress with it.” Vaatjie rolled his eyes at this revelation from On High. His luck held – Corporal du Plooy did not see this act of insubordination. “There will be no wrinkles on the pisvel once it is on your bed. You will then place your sheets and BOTH blankets on the bed.” “This in January, the hottest month of the year, where temperatures reach up to forty degrees centigrade. Yeah, right. Only in the army” whispered Vaatjie and rolled his eyes rolled once more. “You will fold the top sheet over the blankets, so that fifty centimetres of the sheet shows. Fifty centimetres, no more, no less. I will measure every bed. You will then cover the pillow with the pillow case and place it squarely at the top of the bed. There will be NO creases on any item on the bed and all the corners will be COMPLETELY SQUARE! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” “YES! CORPORAL!” “You will now change into your uniforms”. Corporal du Plooy disdainfully pointed at Werner’s one pair of overalls. “Every item of clothing will be ironed to perfection. If I find one crease in any item, you will wish that you were never born. THE LOT OF YOU! Civilian clothing will be folded neatly and packed into your civilian suitcases. The suitcases will be put away in your trommels and returned to whatever hole you crawled from, later this week. You will also place your electric iron in your trommel. Spare items of uniforms, as well as your ironing board, will be placed in your kas (the metal cabinet next to every bed. Underwear and socks will be neatly folded on the shelf and your spare overalls will be neatly hung beneath that. Your toiletries will de displayed on the shelf next to your underwear and socks. You may have civilian underwear mixed with the underwear issued to you. For inspection purposes, your doiby will be displayed on your trommel. Your varkpan, mug and eating utensils will be displayed on the foot of your bed. You will keep your kas and trommel locked with the locks you brought with AT ALL TIMES. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” “YES! CORPORAL!” “Supper will be at eighteen hundred hours SHARP! By that time this pigsty will be clean, every bed will be made and you will stand at attention at the foot of your bed! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” “YES! CORPORAL!” Corporal du Plooy turned on his heel, and slammed the door closed behind him. Every recruit sighed with relief. “We should buy the cunt some ear buds (Q-Tips in the USA)” commented Riaan. “He has a serious wax problem. The pizza faced little bastard gives me the shits.” Johan giggled. Had Corporal du Plooy heard these comments, they would have been doing more than running and pushups. It was time to start getting the bungalow in order. Because of the heat, the recruits stripped to their underpants and packed the sweat-stained civvies they had worn that morning, into their suitcases. “Imagine the stench when this suitcase gets opened next week” said Pieter Jooste, a tall recruit with dark blonde hair and baby blue eyes. “I don’t have that problem,” commented Vaatjie. “I sweat pure English Leather aftershave.” “Yeah, right. You stink like a privy after a thunderstorm” came the coarse reply. Johan stared at Riaan. Riaan had an athletic build with well-defined muscles on his arms and chest. The freckles on his face extended onto his shoulders. Johan’s eyes dropped to Riaan’s underpants. They contained a very interesting bulge. He suddenly realised that Riaan was also sizing him up. They both blushed beet-red and looked away. A few recruits, whose older brothers had already been to the army, knew how to “gyppo” a bed. This knowledge was quickly shared with all the other recruits. If one bed was not up to Corporal du Plooy’s standards, the whole bungalow would suffer the consequences. There were only two electrical outlets in the bungalow, one on each side of the room, but a few enterprising mothers packed extension cords into their sons’ luggage. The extension cords were connected together, so that every bed could be reached. They connected an electric iron to each extension cord. When a mattress was ensconced in its pisvel, the pisvel was ironed to wrinkleless perfection. The corners were soaked with spray starch and then ironed with both irons until the corner was as hard as rock. It was compressed to a sharp edge that would be able to cut like a razor. This same procedure was followed with the sheets and even the blankets. The pillowcase was first ironed and then put on the pillow. Try as they might, the soft synthetic pillow would just not keep its shape. When all the beds were made, it was time to tackle the floor and bathrooms. The storeroom contained a wash trough in which clothing could be washed and a cupboard with cleaning rags and floor polish. Two industrial sized brooms leant against the cupboard. They also found a galvanized bucket hidden beneath the wash trough. It was decided that the floors should first be swept. Then they should be washed and dried. When the concrete was completely dry, which should not take long in the January heat, the floors should be polished and buffed. This should not take too long. They should be finished by suppertime. Johan and Riaan manned one of the two brooms. Riaan swept part of the floor and was then relieved by Johan. They swapped again after another section of the floor had been swept. It just felt natural that they should do things together. Vaatjie and Jannie manned the other broom. They worked the two brooms in tandem. Both the bathroom floor and the main floor were quickly swept. The scrubbing of the floors also did not take very long. As there was only one bucket, it was moved from recruit to recruit and every recruit scrubbed only the bit in his immediate vicinity. They worked from the back of the bungalow to the front. To avoid footprints on the floor, the recruits that had finished their scrubbing, waited outside for the floors to dry. Other bungalows had the exact same idea and pretty soon the space between the various bungalows filled up with chatting recruits, dressed in underpants only. Johan, Riaan, Vaatjie, Jannie and Wouter stood chatting in a little circle. Vaatjie’s shoulder and arm muscles were very painful. His mother had thoughtfully packed some “Deep Heat” (a liniment for torn muscles) and Jannie promised to rub it into his painful muscles when it was safe to enter the bungalow again. Jannie voiced the age-old mantra: “If I catch that little shit on Civvie Street, I’ll cut out his balls.” “You that shit your underpants, when the barber slapped you,” reposted Vaatjie. “We can still smell you twenty meters upwind.” Jannie, ever ready for a brawl, cuffed the side of Vaatjie’s head. He relented when Vaatjie wailed about his torn muscles. “We live on a farm outside Oudtshoorn” Johan told Riaan. “My dad breeds ostriches and we have a few Angora goats.” Oudtshoorn is the world ostrich capital and Angora goats are worth their weight in gold, as mohair is weaved out of their hair. This means that the Lubbe family was quite affluent. “My mother is a primary school teacher in Riversdale. My father died when we were little, so it is just my mum, my younger brother and me”, Riaan told Johan. “I always wanted a brother or a sister” said Johan. It is no fun being an only child. Even the workers’ children were a lot older than me.” “It seems that you are good friends with Vaatjie and Jannie?” “Yes. We have been friends since we started school. Vaatjie is very clever, but he gets himself into a shitload of trouble if you don’t look out for him. Jannie’s temper always gets the better of him. I try to look out for both of them. They’re walking disasters by themselves. Have you and Wouter also been friends for long?” “He came to our school in Standard Six (eighth grade – when South African schoolchildren enter high school), His dad is the high school’s headmaster and he was transferred to Riversdale from somewhere near Cape Town. Wouter is a nice guy. The children of school teachers grow up in a hell all of its own. We sort of stick together.” Johan felt an irrational pang of jealousy at the idea of Riaan and Wouter sticking together. Just then, the others started entering the bungalow. The floors were dry enough to be polished. At least he managed not to stare at Riaan’s crotch. With this small consolation, Johan followed the others into the bungalow. Army floor polish is a whitish goo that smells of lilacs. It also stains everything it comes into contact with. Johan and Riaan spread the polish on the floor. The buffing team followed them. The floor had to be buffed three times, with no noticeable results. “At least it stinks like a cemetery. Pizza face will smell that we did our best” said the ever-optimistic Vaatjie. With the hard work over, the recruits hit the showers. Thirty bodies under eight shower heads make for cramped quarters. Vaatjie alone counted for three ordinary recruits. Johan manoeuvred himself next to Riaan. He could not help himself. Riaan’s equipment drew his eyes like a magnet. He suddenly realised that Riaan was also checking out his equipment. Guilt hit him like a sledgehammer. For the first time in his life Johan realised that he was different. Men do not check out other men’s penises. Men do not dream about kissing other men. Men do not fantasise about doing naughty things with other men. His cheeks flamed. Guilt was written in large letters on his forehead. Every other recruit could see that he was a detestable pervert. They would kill him – he deserved to be killed. There was no place in society for perverts. Johan panicked. He had to get out of the showers. Riaan touched his hand, as if by accident. “Hey, what’s wrong?” he asked. Johan mumbled something incoherent. “Don’t worry, everything will work out all right” replied Riaan, barely audible above the chattering of the other recruits. This was too much. A wave of guilt constricted Johan’s throat. He rushed to the drying-off area and grabbed the first towel that came to hand. He barely patted himself dry. He wrapped the towel around his waist and ran to his bed. At the last moment Johan realised that he could not lie down on the bed. It would be creased and the whole bungalow would be in trouble. He sank down on his trommel in a miserable little bundle. The other recruits started exiting the shower. Laughter and admonitions of “Don’t touch the beds” filled the bungalow. Johan was crying inside. He tried his best not to show his emotions. Riaan appeared with a concerned face. He sat down next to Johan on the trommel. “Are you OK?” Riaan asked quietly. So far, mercifully, the other recruits have not noticed Johan’s obvious distress. To his utter mortification, Johan started sobbing. He grabbed hold of his other towel, which was still lying on his bed and hid his face in it. He would never live this down. Every recruit would laugh his arse off at the cry-baby pervert. “Hey, it’s OK”, whispered Riaan. He unobtrusively squeezed Johan’s hand. “No, it will never be OK. I’m a sick pervert” sobbed Johan.
  9. Wolves and sheep will live together in peace, And leopards will lie down with young goats. Calves and lion cubs will feed together, And little children will take care of them. - Isaiah 11:6 This is a story of war. If you expect the usual, "Gung-Ho - we defeated the enemy and covered ourselves with glory," you will be sadly disappointed. This story is about suffering, but it is also about hope. Hope that these atrocities will never again be perpetrated against the helpless. Hope that one day our sexual orientation will be as irrelevant as last week's Sunday newspaper. The story is set against the background of the Angolan war. South Africa invaded Angola in 1975. The last South African troops withdrew from Angolan soil in 1989, when UN Resolution 435 was adopted by South Africa. This also paved the way to Nanibia's independence from South Africa on 21 March, 1990 and the first South African democratic elections on 27 April, 1994. The South African army was essentialy a citizen force. The Apartheid state conscripted white eighteen-year old boys for an initial period of two years. Few exceptions were made to this rule. Under Apartheid, homosexuality was a criminal offence. Homosexuals in the army were seen as traitors and/or saboteurs. They were actively persecuted and punished to the full extent of the law. No leniency was shown to these people, who undermined the very foundations of the State and Church. Since 1989, the situation has changed dramatically. Homophylic people have complete civil rights and recourse under the law, like everybody else. The historic Civil Union Bill, which allows same-sex marriages, was approved by the National Assembly on Tuesday, 14 November 2006. South Africa was only the fifth country that passed a bill on same-sex marriage. Our story is one of pain and guilt. Yet we endured. We persevered. We succeeded. Many of our brothers died in the process. Others were scarred for life, both physically and mentally. This story is a memorial to all the gay troopies that served an evil, corrupt system, which despised them, but still took their life-blood and persecuted them in return. This is our soul. Please tread lightly on it.
  10. “Hey, it’s OK” whispered Riaan. He unobtrusively squeezed Johan’s hand. “No, it will never be OK. I’m a sick pervert” sobbed Johan. Riaan worriedly regarded Johan. “What pervert? What are you talking about? There is nothing wrong with you.” Johan’s shoulders heaved convulsively. He curled up into an even tighter ball. Riaan worried that the other recruits might notice Johan’s distress and ask inconvenient questions. He squeezed Johan’s leg. “Dry your face. Try to look as if you have stomach cramps. I’m taking you back to the bathroom.” Most of the other recruits have finished their showers and were milling about the bungalow. Both Vaatjie and Jannie had noticed that something was wrong with Johan. “What’s up with Johan?” asked Vaatjie. “It seems to be the bloody bad food and all the running. He has stomach cramps” Riaan explained quickly. “Fucking little Pizza Face should be shot at dawn” replied Vaatjie. He hugged Johan and winced in pain as the abused muscles in his arm screamed for attention. “Don’t worry, Johantjie (diminutive form of Johan). We will still show these baboons. We are indestructible.” Johan’s shoulders heaved. “Let me see” Vaatjie opened his trommel and rummaged through his suitcase inside. “My mum packed some Valoids for upset tummies. And you still have to rub me Jannie. I haven’t forgotten.” “Aha!” After a bit of rummaging and lots of grunting Vaatjie found dug out a packet of pills and a tube of Deep Heat liniment. Johan had gotten his sobbing under control in the mean time. Luckily it seemed that nobody else had noticed Johan’s distress. “Drink two of these now. When the cramps return, I’ll give you some more. But be careful. If you have too many of them, they’ll brick you up for a month, if you know what I mean” ordered Doctor Vaatjie. He then plopped down on his immaculately ironed bed. “Rub me, Jannie. I’m in pain. We can always iron the fucking bed later.” “Uh-huh. Guess who will have to iron the fucking bed once His Highness has been curried and combed” Jannie replied sourly. “Quit complaining. You don’t want your best friend crippled so early on in life” His Highness retorted and painfully turned onto his ample stomach, destroying the immaculate ironing of his bed in the process. Jannie shrugged his shoulders and resignedly started massaging the foul-smelling liniment into Vaatjie’s sore arms and shoulders. The other recruits were attracted by the horrible smell and Vaatjie’s grunts of appreciation. “What the fuck are you doing?” shouted Wouter, “You do realise that if Pizza Face sees the state of that bed, we’ll all be in shit.” “It’s an emergency” grunted Vaatjie contentedly. “The cunt tore all the ligaments in my shoulders. If you don’t want my abused body to slow you down, you’ll all have to help me to get better again. You do realise who will also suffer the consequences if I’m not at my peak.” Nobody could argue with Vaatjie’s brilliant logic. Hearing Vaatjie’s contented grunts, the other recruits soon clamoured for Jannie to massage their aches and pains away as well. Vaatjie, always the shrewd businessman, agreed that Jannie could massage some of the others, but with a few conditions attached to the deal. He had to be reimbursed for his Deep Heat and Jannie had to be suitably recompensed for his massaging skills – in hard cash – at fifty cents a massage. The other recruits complained at the steep price, but Vaatjie was adamant. Fifty cents a massage or they could do it themselves. Patients that made use of Vaatjie’s bed also had to re-iron the bed when they had finished with it. Jannie was suitably impressed with Vaatjie’s negotiation skills. While Vaatjie was negotiating with his prospective customers, Riaan unobtrusively led Johan to the bathroom. He pulled Johan into the store room and closed the door. “What upset you so terribly?” Riaan asked softly. “If it is anything I did wrong, please tell me.” Johan hid his face in his hands. “It’s me” he blurted. “I’m a sick pervert!” Riaan sighed and carefully removed Johan’s hands from his tear-streaked face. “Perverts are dirty old men cruising the Location (Black Ghetto), looking for prostitutes. You’re no pervert.” “I’m much worse” groaned Johan. He swallowed and stared down at the floor. He finally whispered “I’m a moffie.” (Queer – a derogatory term used by both Afrikaans and English speakers to denote a gay person). “You were so nice to me and this is the way I repay your kindness. I'm sorry, I just cannot help myself. I’ll stay out of your way.” “Johan,” Riaan whispered. Johan curled up into a ball on the floor. “I know what you are going through.” “Nobody knows. Nobody cares. I'm a fucking pervert! I'm going to hell.” Riaan sat down next to Johan. He put his arm round Johan's shoulder. Johan dislodged the arm with a sob. “Listen to me, Johan! I went through the same thing last year.” Johan sobbed harder. “We had a new history teacher in Matric.” (The final year in South African high schools is called Matric). “He cared about me. I never really liked history, but he showed me how much fun it can be – just like reading a story. He gave me extra classes. I knew I mattered to him; I was not just another stupid schoolboy. I fell for him, hook line and sinker. The only problem was that he was happily married and did not have a queer bone in his body.” Johan uncurled slightly. “And? What did he do?” “Thank God, I did not embarrass either of us by making stupid confessions.” “And here I make a stupid confession. I'm such a fucking washout. I deserve what's coming to me!” “No! No! No!” You are no washout! You deserve to be happy. You have done nothing wrong!” “The Bible says I'm going to Hell! My parents will disown me. They will throw me out of the house, for God's sake! And you say I'm not doing anything wrong!” “You will be so surprised. I felt exactly like you. I could not handle the guilt. I finally plucked up the courage to speak to my mum.” “Your mum? She didn't throw you out?” “No. She told me that I was still the son she had always loved. She promised me that she would never abandon me. She also said that love is love. Can you change the colour of your eyes? Can you decide how tall you will be? Can you choose your parents? You cannot choose who you fall in love with. It just happens” “This just sounds far too easy. What about what the Bible says? If you’re a pervert, you go to Hell.” “Since when is love wrong? The Bible is all about love. Jesus even loved the whores.” “And see where that got Him,” Johan muttered ungraciously under his breath. Riaan wormed his arm around Johan's shoulders once more. This time Johan did not shrug it off. “I know how you feel, Johan. I went through it myself.” Riaan hugged Johan. There was just something about the stocky young man with the blond curls and piercing blue eyes that spoke directly to Riaan's soul. This beautiful young man was so lost. He was so vulnerable. He had bruised himself on the sharp edges of life. An unbidden thought came to Riaan’s mind. Johan needed protection from the harshness of life. Riaan decided that it was his duty to shield Johan from life’s cuts and bruises. He would be Johan’s backstop against the world. Johan needed him. Riaan longed to enfold Johan in his arms and to never let go. Instead, he hugged Johan once more. The dark, dark green eyes bored into Johan’s soul. “Are you sure we'll be OK?” whispered Johan. “I'm sure. Things always work out for the best. Now let's get off our arses and get into our overalls. I'm sure the others will be very interested to know what we are doing in here. The showers are next door, not in the store room.” They briefly stopped in the bathroom for Johan to wash his face and get rid of the two white pills Vaatjie had pressed on him. “Remember to act as if you still have a stomach cramp” Riaan warned. The rejoined the other recruits in the bungalow. Chaos reigned inside. To their horror, the recruits realised that their overalls were hopelessly creased, after being carelessly stuffed into the balsakke. There were only two electrical points available and everybody was frantically trying to iron his overalls. Corporal du Plooy had threatened the recruits with grave consequences if the bungalow – and their uniforms – were not up to scratch. Johan and Riaan rushed over to their beds. A few of the other recruits were already dressed in their, now ironed, overalls. Most of them were still in their underpants only. Johan and Riaan hastily dropped their towels and dug for their new grey army underpants in their kaste. They folded the wet towels and hid them under their toiletries, as all the other recruits did. There was no time to hang the towels onto the washing line outside the bungalow. The ironing of the overalls went fairly quickly. By 17h30 (5:30 PM), the recruits were dressed in their overalls, everybody's belongings were properly packed away, Vaatjie's bed was re-ironed to perfection and the floors were clean and still smelled of lilac floor polish. Corporal du Plooy suddenly appeared in the door. Wouter kept his wits about him and squeaked “Kaserne, Aandag!” (Barracks, Attention), as was expected of him. Every recruit jumped up and stood to rigid attention at the foot of his bed, facing the centre of the room. Old Pizza Face, as the recruits called him with less affection that he would imagine, slowly strolled down the room. He opened a kas at random. “What the fuck is a wet towel doing in here?” he shouted. The owner of the kas, Martin Rheeder, one of Johan's school chums from Oudtshoorn, quaked in his new brown boots. “If I EVER find any wet or dirty clothing in a kas, you lot will shit what you haven't eaten! Wet and dirty clothing includes TOWELS!” He yanked Martin's possessions from the kas and shot them across the floor. With a mighty kick, he overturned Martin's bed. He stormed back to the door, yanking neatly ironed bedding from the beds as he went. The recruits went rigid with shock. “You WILL be woken up at 04h30 tomorrow morning. If I find ONE of you little cunts NOT sleeping in your bed, ALL of you will join him in at least a hundred pushups AND five times around the camp! You have until 06h00 to shit, shave and shampoo. Then you will RUN to the Mess. God helps the recruit that skips breakfast. Inspection is at 08h00. Remember that Lieutenant Basson will take the inspection. It will be a THOROUGH inspection. Even the doorknobs and window latches WILL be polished. Now, grab your varkpanne and get your lazy arses outside. FALL IN!” Peleton forty-four once more took the scenic route. They circled the parade ground at a brisk trot. Corporal du Plooy then took them around the bungalow complex. They immediately noticed that they were not the only peleton running for their supper. Every new recruit, which had “cleared in” (reported for Basic Training) that morning, was participating in the festivities. For a change, Peleton forty-four was one of the first groups entering the mess hall. Supper was as dismal as lunch had been. The same limp salad awaited the recruits. Pork chops were served instead of the afternoon's sausages. The mashed potato was replaced by overcooked carrots, brussels sprouts swimming in butter and clumpy rice. The juice table contained orange juice, guava juice and the inevitable weak army coffee. Piles of sliced brown bread and a few slabs of butter, still in their packaging, adorned a table placed next to the juice table. The pudding was conspicuous by its absence. Because they were early, the long lines of recruits waiting for supper had not yet formed. Five National Servicemen dressed in cook's whites slapped the food onto their varkpanne. Every recruit regarded the salad with suspicion. Only Vaatjie put some on his varkpan. Peleton forty-four headed for one of the long trestle tables at the back of the Mess Hall. Wouter grabbed the foot of the table. Johan and Riaan sat on his right and Vaatjie and Jannie on his left, facing Johan and Riaan. The table was long enough, so that all thirty recruits could sit at it. The brussels sprouts were surprisingly tasty. The rest of the supper tasted as bad as it looked. Vaatjie took one sniff at his salad and pushed it to one side. “There is no way in hell that I will take a bite of this shit. There are easier ways of committing suicide.” The recruits were ravenous. The running had put an edge to their appetites that even the evil-looking army food could not dampen. When the varkpanne were polished clean, they attacked the bread table. The bread was not exactly fresh, but tasted like the nectar of the gods, according to Vaatjie. “People, how are we going to survive three months of this bullshit?” Jannie asked seriously. “Pizza Face is so far out of his gourd, he will kill one of us these days – and he will enjoy it.” “Did you see him foaming at the mouth when he pulled all those blankets and stuff off the beds?” Vaatjie asked with a shudder. “I’m telling you, he’s rabid. One bite and you catch it too. Thank God, when they’re so far gone, they only last a week or so.” “Yeah right” Contributed Jannie to the conversation. “In a week he will have bitten all of us. We should start foaming at the mouth by the next weekend, then. The fucker isn’t rabid, he’s just bossies.” “Bossies? What is bossies?” “It happens on the Border. They get so fucked in the head with the heat and the shit food, and the terrorists ambushing them all the time, and having to stay continuously on guard so that they don’t get killed, that they just snap – like this.” Jannie snapped his fingers to illustrate. “They go completely mental. My brother told me that some guys that went bossies killed their own mates – right there on the spot. Boom. Finish. Sometimes it doesn’t show immediately. They come back home and only then the shit hits the fan. There was this one troop that went on pass just before finishing his National Service. He stayed somewhere in the Free State (a South African province). He took his girlfriend to the drive-in (drive-in theatre) and still managed to fuck her lungs out on the back seat of the car. He dropped her off at her folks’ place and went home. That night he killed both his parents with a bread knife, went over to the girlfriend’s place, killed her father with the bread knife and then strangled her and her mother with his bare hands. Bossies. And the guy seemed normal to everybody else.” “Nahh” said Wouter. “Pizza Face is just a mean little fucker. You know how it goes. He has little man disease. He feels he is fuck all if he can’t impress the troops. I bet his dick is shorter than my little finger.” They all laughed at the comparison. Despite the laughter, everybody at the table was very worried. They had seen a side of Corporal du Plooy that frightened them badly. They realised that they were defenceless against his fury. He literally had the power of life and – if not death – then the power of broken limbs, over them. He could cause serious harm to a recruit on a whim. This was a very sobering thought. Riaan vowed to himself that he would defend Johan against this senseless abuse with his life. Johan also made a vow. Should Corporal du Plooy or any other person, ever hurt Riaan, for whatever reason, he would kill that person on the spot.
  11. André Jordaan had just finished his Field Medic training. The position as Medical Orderly at the SA Infantry School was his first “real” job in the SA Medical Services. This was actually a six weeks’ practical phase, before he would return to No.1 Military Hospital for Advanced Field Medical Training. André was short and slightly chubby, with midnight black hair and a pair of twinkling blue eyes. He was also one of the leading sources of gossip in Training Command. Vaatjie had taken one look at André and immediately decided that he had found a kindred soul. “So what is the latest?” Vaatjie asked André during afternoon rounds. “I don’t really know. This morning the colonel had been running around as if his tail was on fire. Even the roll call parade was cancelled. It seems that the RSM and that corporal of yours might be in deep shit. As far as I know, your peleton is still confined to barracks. My shift ends after supper, so I’ll go do a bit of snooping and let you know later on.” Major General Otto, Chief of Training Command, was not amused. “You tell me that you did not see this fiasco coming?” he demanded. “You know that your instructors are sub standard and you have no measures in place to monitor their performance. What really bothers me is that a high profile national serviceman dropped through the cracks. Private Nel should never have been assigned to the Infantry – he should have been assigned to the air force – where he would not have been the army’s problem. Your little rebellion has now escalated to the point where it costs careers, Colonel. Do you have any idea how serious this matter is?” Colonel Viljoen fidgeted uncomfortably under the steely glare levelled at him. “To be fair, General, I had no idea that a high profile recruit was placed under my command.” General Otto interrupted venomously. “Doesn’t your Personnel Officer do his work, Colonel?” He indicated Arrie Nel’s personnel file, lying on his desk. The word sensitief (sensitive), was printed in large red letters on the cover. “Military Intelligence noted Private Nel’s relationship to the President, in this very file, two years ago, when he registered for National Service. Your unit received this file a month ago, three weeks before the recruits reported for duty. Yet, nobody cared about the sensitivity notice on the file. Nobody thought of inquiring why a high profile NDP (Nasionale Dienspligtige – National Serviceman) was assigned to an Infantry training facility. You are aware of the protocol regarding high profile servicemen, Colonel?” “Yes, General”. Colonel Viljoen wisely decided that now was not the time for excuses. However, when he got back to camp, a certain adjutant and the whole personnel office would be explaining themselves - thoroughly. Colonel Viljoen was an expert at spreading blame. He firmly believed that the further the blame was spread, the more diluted it became. He silently prayed that this unholy mess would not affect his own career. “What do you propose we should do to contain the damage, Colonel?” Colonel Viljoen realised that General Otto was also a master at spreading blame. The situation was getting very tricky now. Colonel Viljoen could emerge from the mess smelling like roses, or he could cause irreparably damage to his career. He had to be extremely careful. He decided to be honest, but to make General Otto aware that he also had political influence. “RSM Struwig is held incommunicado in his office. I have confined Second Lieutenant Basson, Corporal du Plooy and the whole of Peleton 44 to their barracks. The Military Police unit that was involved in the altercation is still on active duty.” “What about the injured troops?” “Lance Corporal Schoombee has been admitted to 1 Military Hospital. He is expected to be discharged within the next three to five days. The three injured recruits are in our sick bay. The doctor told me that all three should be discharged by tomorrow or the day after.” “This lance corporal is the military policeman with the crushed windpipe?” “Yes, General. He was apparently subduing Private van Dyk when Private Lubbe grabbed him by the throat. They had to club Lubbe down to make him release Schoombee.” “What a pity that he did not save his aggression for the training programme. It would have served him well. He might even have earned a commission. All right, Colonel. We have now established that you know where your troops are, but you have no control over your unit’s admin. Did you know that a senior officer, aspiring to wear the swords of a general on his shoulders, should be a brilliant administrator above all else? It seems that you still have a way to go, don’t you think? Now, Colonel, what are you going to do about this situation?” “Private Nel has already been re-assigned to the Personnel Service Corps. We do not have to worry about him at this time. I shall personally extend my apologies to his family for the scandalous manner in which their child was treated by the army.” Colonel Viljoen permitted himself a cunning smile. It was time to remind General Otto just who he really was. “As you know, I’m the chairman of the Eldoraigne (an upmarket suburb where many of the top Defence Force officers have homes) National Party Community Committee. Because of this, I do have the privilege of contacting President Botha directly. I shall apologise to him for the army’s atrocious treatment of Mrs. Botha’s nephew and assure him that this will never happen again.” General Otto immediately understood that Colonel Viljoen was busy shifting the blame away from him, onto the army itself. He reacted to the veiled reminder of Colonel Viljoen’s political influence with a smile of his own. “It seems that you gave some thought to the matter, Colonel. What do you propose should be done with the recruits and all the other people involved?” “The recruits defied the system. To prevent any reoccurrence of this, they should be dealt with to the letter of the law. Private Nel is not part of the group anymore, so we can court marshal the others and prosecute them as stipulated in the RVD (Reglement van Dissipline – Military Disciplinary Code - the set of laws governing military personnel). It seems that both RSM Struwig and Corporal du Plooy assaulted some of the recruits. We should prosecute both of them as well. I have found no evidence that Second Lieutenant Basson was involved in any irregularities. He is an officer after all. His only failing was that he was unlucky enough to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.” “So Colonel, you want to apologise to the Nels and the President. Then you want to court marshal twenty-nine raw recruits, a senior warrant officer and a corporal. The man responsible for the recruits is blameless. His only failing is that this catastrophe happened on his watch. I assume that you include yourself in the ranks of the blameless. You were also at the wrong place at the wrong time. Am I correct?” “Yes, General, you are absolutely correct. I firmly believe that everybody overreacted. We should have matters back on an even keel within the week.” Colonel Viljoen allowed himself another self-congratulatory smile. “You will do nothing of the sort!” thundered General Otto. "You will not court marshal a soul! Do I make myself clear, Colonel?” “But, General, these people defied army discipline”, interjected Colonel Viljoen. “I expect you to keep quiet when I speak, Colonel. I am your superior and you will carry out my orders to the letter. Do you understand, Viljoen? To the letter!” Colonel Viljoen could only nod helplessly. “Firstly, these twenty-nine recruits that you want to bring on charges are all friends of Private Nel. Many of them are frequent visitors to the Botha household. I do not think you, or I for that matter, would survive the furore if these people were court marshalled. The President is already baying for blood, Viljoen, and you want to aggravate matters. Do you have a death wish, or what?” “Secondly, if you prosecute that RSM and the corporal, while letting the troops go scot-free, you are setting yourself up for one of the most embarrassing acquittals this army has ever seen. Even a third rate lawyer would have them back on their posts in the morning, and with a massive compensation payment for false arrest to boot.” “Yes Viljoen, I know what you are thinking. They are all getting off scot-free and there is not a thing we can do about it. Yes, it is true. If you and your people did your work properly, this would never have happened. You are to blame, Colonel - you and your lazy, good-for-nothing subordinates!” Colonel Viljoen turned purple with anger. He started sputtering. Before he could get out a coherent word, General Otto held up his hand. “What I can promise you, however, is that your precious lieutenant, the RSM and the corporal will be transferred to the operational area. They will leave tomorrow morning on the first Flossie (Hercules troop transport aircraft) out. All three of them will form part of the vanguard of every offensive planned in the near future. I think we can safely guarantee each of them a splendid military funeral within the next six months. Peleton forty-four will follow them as soon as they have completed their basic training. The army has a long memory, Colonel, and holds grudges for an even longer time. It is a pity that we cannot replace you on such short notice. Picturing you in an oak coffin has been the high point of my morning.” Colonel Viljoen was incoherent with rage and humiliation. He wanted to smash his fist into the smug face across the table. He struggled to contained his anger. “Oh yes, before I forget. This morning the Defence Force had a meeting with the National Party Dagbestuur (the committee running the day-to-day operations of the National Party). We requested that they appoint another chairman for the Eldoraigne Community Committee, as you are too busy with military matters to meet all your commitments. The Dagbestuur graciously granted our request. It seems that the President will not be taking any phone calls from you after all, Colonel.” “Now you must run along. I have wasted far too much time on your incompetence. Close the door behind you.” General Otto did not even bother to acknowledge Colonel Viljoen’s shaky salute. The sick bay’s supper was considerably better than the supper served in the Privates’ Mess. This was because the NCO mess prepared the patients’ meals. The patients were served roasted leg of lamb, roast potatoes, caramelised carrots, string beans and beetroot salad. Desert consisted of canned peaches with vanilla ice cream. Johan could not finish his potatoes, but Vaatjie, the human vacuum cleaner, was on hand to lend a helping hand – or gullet in this case. “Ooh Man, this reminds me of Sunday dinner on the farm,” Vaatjie sighed contentedly. “Just as I got used to this place, I have to return to the bloody bungalow. It just is not fair.” Vaatjie switched to full sulk mode. “Come in, Guys, come in. They are in Ward Two”, came André Jordaan’s voice from outside. Suddenly the ward was awash with people. Peleton forty-four had finally come to visit their sick friends. “At long last”, exclaimed Vaatjie. “We thought you had forgotten all about us. Some friends you lot turned out to be.”
  12. The Parade Ground at No. 1 Training Battalion Voortrekkerhoogte is Hallowed Ground. For the English-speaking militarists, the parade ground is the symbol of the conquest of Southern Africa by the British Empire. On this Hallowed Ground, Lord Roberts formally concluded the military conquest. Here, his presence is still very palpable. For the Afrikaner militarists, the parade ground is also Hallowed Ground, but for another reason. This parade ground is the symbol of how we recaptured our country from the bloody English and how we transformed its colonial army into the formidable Afrikaner-dominated war machine it is today. Quite a few RSMs (Regimental Sergeants Major), being the sentimentalists they are, have had their ashes strewn on the Hallowed Ground, to sweeten the ground for the boots of their successors. Rudyard Kipling must have been their favourite author. Being Hallowed Ground, some very specific rules apply to the parade ground. Nobody, but nobody, walks across it. You march – and not in any old way: You march with your arms at an angle of ninety degrees to the ground, elbows locked, back straight and at one hundred and twenty beats to the minute. You also have to have a very valid reason to be there. Sightseeing is definitely frowned upon. All three thousand new recruits have been marched onto the Hallowed Ground, with different levels of success, depending on their marching ability. This parade ground was the one place in the South African Defence Force where nobody was allowed to run. An instructor's first instinct, when a mistake is made, is to make the instructee run for his life. Here, on the Hallowed Ground, the instructors were denied that simple pleasure. They pouted terribly. Their voices grew shrill with frustration. Corporal du Plooy was having a very bad morning. Lieutenant Basson's sarcasm had cut (him) like a knife. In the best military tradition, the lieutenant has stated his boundless dissatisfaction with the new recruits, without going into specifics. It was expected of Corporal du Plooy to act decisively against Peleton 44. He had absolutely no problem with that. He would fuck them up so badly, that they would not be able to walk for a week. His problem was that, if he did not immediately address the specific aspects the lieutenant was dissatisfied with, he would be in major shit. Being very solicitous of his own skin, Corporal du Plooy was a very worried man indeed. The lieutenant was definitely dissatisfied with the recruits' drill performance. Corporal du Plooy would make them piss blood for that. Whatever the problem had been with the cleanliness of the barracks was still a mystery. Oh well, he would just have to inspect the bungalow properly and make the little shits clean it from top to bottom several times over. On the northern side of the parade ground, there was a grandstand with a raised dais in front of it. The dais was equipped with a sound system that could be used as a weapon of war. Massive speakers were set on poles on all four sides of the parade ground. The sound system was capable of producing a whopping fifteen thousand watts. The speakers were set on five metre high poles. If the poles were any shorter, the sheer noise produced by the massive speakers would cause permanent hearing damage to people on the parade ground. The dais was occupied by Regimental Sergeant Major Struwig and a microphone. RSM Struwig was not impressed with the new recruits' performance. He was also not impressed with the teaching ability of his corporal instructors. Invective rained down on them like manna, at two hundred decibels per word. The theory was simple. The new troops had to be marched onto the parade ground, peleton by peleton. They then had to be arranged in a block formation, called a Company. In practice, this proved to be much more difficult and challenging than the instructors expected. Each peleton had its own specific slot in the Company patchwork. It was a sure recipe for disaster, if the peletons did not march onto the parade ground in strict numerical order. Some of the instructors were a bit hazy on where exactly their peletons were to halt on the parade ground. Chaos erupted. RSM Struwig's shouting did not improve matters. He managed to confuse the corporals even more. After much screaming, the Company was finally arranged to RSM Struwig's inadequate satisfaction. To be fair, this group of instructors were new at the job. One could not expect of them to knock the new recruits into shape on the very first day. On RSM Struwig's order, the corporals marched to the centre spot behind their peletons. RSM Struwig left the dais and his beloved microphone. He took up position in front of the Company. “March on the officers!” he shouted. Even without amplification, his bellow could clearly be heard to the other side of the parade ground. With great precision the lieutenants marched onto the parade ground and took up position in front of their peletons. A group of senior officers marched onto the dais. “Company! Company, sta-a-a-and at EASE!” bellowed RSM Struwig. Three thousand left legs moved in approximate unison. “There is much work to be done here”, muttered RSM Struwig to himself. The first order of business was roll call. Each corporal marched up to his lieutenant, saluted and smartly turned about face. He produced the clipboard that was clutched under his left arm. As a recruit's name was read out, he was supposed to come to attention and shout “Here!” When the next name was read out, the recruit would assume the at ease position - theoretically. In practice, it was an entirely different matter. Torrents of curses rained down on the unfortunate recruits. When a corporal had finally finished taking the roll, he stowed his clipboard under his left arm, did another about face, and shouted as loud as he possibly could: “All accounted for and correct, SIR!” The lieutenant would then regally nod at the corporal. The corporal then made a left turn and marched up to the RSM. The RSM, being a Warrant Officer, was not entitled to a salute. The corporal stamped to attention in front of the RSM and again shouted “Peleton 1! (Or whatever the peleton number was) All accounted for and correct, SIR!” The RSM marked down the peleton number on his clipboard. After another left turn, the corporal marched back to his spot behind his peleton. After all the reports had been received, the RSM marched up to the dais and saluted the senior officer on it. In this instance it was the Commanding Officer, No.1 Training Battalion, Colonel Viljoen. The RSM did not bellow at the colonel. He quietly told him that all the troops were accounted for and returned to his spot in front of the Company. The chaplain moved forward. In a funereal voice he announced: “Laat ons lees en bid” (Let us read and pray). “Pette AF! (Caps off)”, bellowed RSM Struwig. “ONE!” shouted the corporals in unison. Everybody grabbed hold of the front of their berets or doibies with the right hand. “Two, Three!” They took off their headdress. “ONE!” They slammed the headdress against their chests. The chaplain read a passage from the Bible and prayed for about three minutes. When he said “Amen”, RSM Struwig bellowed again: “”Pette OP!” (Caps on). The process reversed itself. Six officers descended from the dais. They formed up into a little procession for the inspection of the parade. Colonel Viljoen, the senior officer, took his place in the middle row of the little cavalcade. The six officers criss-crossed the parade ground, marching past every peleton. As they passed a peleton, the lieutenant in charge brought the recruits to attention. He then saluted Colonel Viljoen. Not a word was spoken; neither did the pace of the inspection group falter. As the inspection group passed on to the next peleton, the lieutenant shouted “Stand at EASE!” With inspection over, the group of officers mounted the dais again. It was now Colonel Viljoen's turn at the microphone. “We welcome you, the new recruits to this, your home for the next three months. You are now part of a well-oiled war machine. Russia and her surrogates are infiltrating and subverting the Fatherland. It is your duty to protect your families and all that is dear to you, from the Communist hordes. They are poised on our borders, hell-bent on destroying the Republic and our Christian way of life.” Johan tuned out the stentorian voice. His mind drifted to Riaan. He had finally admitted to himself that he was in love with the red-haired boy, but his conscience troubled him terribly. If Johan had never met Riaan, he would not have lusted after his body. He would not have come to the realisation that he was a pervert. His immortal soul would not be destined to burn in the fires of Hell. He would not be wracked with guilt. But, would this not only have postponed the inevitable? Was it not just a question of time until his perverted nature had made itself known? If he had never met Riaan, would he not perhaps have found another man to lust after? Johan was certain that Riaan was blameless of any wrongdoing. This mess was caused by Johan lusting after a man. Johan was the sinner and he had to answer for his actions. Try as he might, Johan could not shift any blame from himself. Yet he was hopelessly in love with Riaan. He wanted to be with Riaan, no matter what the consequences would be. The speech was finally over. Colonel Viljoen stepped back from the microphone. “Fall out the officers!” thundered RSM Struwig. The lieutenants marched to the dais. They quickly arranged themselves in a straight line, facing Colonel Viljoen. At the command, “Salute!” the lieutenants saluted briskly. Colonel Viljoen reciprocated. The officers on the dais about-faced and marched off. The lieutenants followed at a respectful distance. When the officers had left the parade ground, RSM Struwig mounted the dais. “Now listen up”, he shouted into the microphone. His booming voice very nearly caused the demise of the sound system. “I have NEVER seen such shitty drilling in my LIFE. It is a disgrace to the army and to ME! If your drilling has not improved by at least a hundred percent tomorrow morning, EVERYBODY on this parade ground will be doing punishment drill for the next WEEK, instructors included. I shit you NOT!” This was bad news, especially for the instructors. Punishment drill meant that they would be drilling their troops for twelve hours every day. RSM Struwig would be in attendance, with voice and fist. Neither instructor, nor recruit would be safe from his wrath. An urban legend periodically did the rounds that RSM Struwig had drilled his own son to death on this very parade ground. The instructors did not really believe this, but nobody was prepared to take the risk. “Medical examinations will start this morning. We need to be sure that you are healthy cannon fodder”, announced RSM Struwig next. “Typical bloody army,” mumbled Jannie. “First they fuck us up, and then they worry that we might die on their hands.” “Drill instruction will continue for the rest of the day. Only one peleton at a time will be allowed at the sick bay. When you have finished, you will carry on drilling. Not all your kit has been issued to you yet. If you haven't noticed, there is a war on. Troops on the Border get preference. When your running shoes have been issued, the physical training phase will be implemented.” “Running shoes? Physical training phase? Oh boy, we’re going to shit bricks.” Jannie predicted. “RIGHT! Don't you shitheads have anything better to do?” shouted RSM Struwig. “Instructors, start earning your pay. Get BUSY!” The Company was marched off the parade ground, peleton by peleton. The ban against running was only enforced on the parade ground. The moment a peleton stepped off the Hallowed Ground, their corporal was free to make use of his favourite teaching tool. Corporal du Plooy had several scores to settle with Peleton 44. Their morning took a definite turn for the worse. The fence, running around the base, was about five hundred metres away from where Corporal du Plooy drilled Peleton 44. The recruits got to know every strand of wire on the fence intimately. Corporal du Plooy took a fiendish delight in chasing them to the fence at least once every ten minutes. After an hour of punishment, Vaatjie wheezed like a leaky bellows. His wheezing fell on deaf ears. Or rather, it was sweet music to Corporal du Plooy's ears. Corporal du Plooy had decided that Vaatjie was a slacker. It was time to teach Vaatjie the value of earning his bread in the sweat of his brow. Vaatjie was a fast learner. He sweated copiously. At 11h00, a siren went off. It was officially teatime. Tea and lunch breaks are sacrosanct in the South African Defence Force. The recruits collapsed on the spot. Corporal du Plooy stalked off towards the staff tearoom. Johan and Riaan had collapsed next to each other. “Oh shit, my feet”, groaned Riaan. “These bloody new boots are blistering my heels.” “Are you all right? Let me see.” Johan was immediately concerned. “Nahh, it’s OK. I just have to get used to them.” “Quit playing the bloody hero. Off with those boots!” Johan nagged until Riaan had removed his boots and army socks. An angry-looking blister had formed on each heel. Instinctively, Johan wished he could massage the pain away. This was impossible. The other recruits would immediately label them as “queer” and turn on them like a pack of rabid dogs. “I wish I could rub the pain away” Johan softly told Riaan. “We need methylated spirit (a purple, alcohol-based solvent, traditionally rubbed onto blisters to speed up the healing process) and some plasters. I hope we can get them at the shop next to the mess hall. I hope we are allowed to go to the shop. One never knows in this outfit. Wouldn’t you rather go to the sick bay?” “Sick bay? Pizza Face will have kittens. He’ll say I’m shirking and we’ll all suffer for it.” “One word out of that little cunt, and I’ll kick his arse into next week. Enough is enough! The little shit is beyond irritating.” “OK! OK! Don’t loose your cool! It’s not worth getting yourself into trouble over my sore feet. Besides, they are already feeling better.” “But you have blisters! The blisters are going to get much worse with all this marching. It’s going to hurt badly. I don’t want you hurt.” “Don’t worry. My feet will be better in no time. Thank you for caring.” “I do care. I don’t want you suffering. I want to take care of you”, blurted Johan as he instinctively reached for Riaan’s left foot. He realised that they were sitting in full view of the other recruits and helplessly dropped his arm to his side. Riaan could not believe his ears. Johan actually cared about him. He wanted to massage his feet! Johan would take on old Pizza Face - on his behalf! This was much more than caring for a friend! Riaan’s heart sang. He smiled his lopsided smile at Johan. Johan blushed. “I’m sorry for embarrassing you like this. I just want to make you feel better. If I could rub your feet, I would. I just can’t help myself. I care about you.” “Bugger the others. Who cares what they think? Do they have their own personal foot-rubber? You’re here for me. Just looking at you makes me feel better already.” Riaan’s smile grew even wider. Johan realised that Riaan was right. He did care about Riaan. He more than cared. Riaan had found a special place in his heart. He finally admitted it to himself: he loved Riaan. It did not matter if his love for Riaan was right or wrong. The fact of the matter was that he loved Riaan with every fibre of his being. He so badly wanted to touch Riaan. Instead, he returned Riaan’s smile. “Jy is my maatjie”, whispered Riaan. You are my friend, my companion, my heart’s desire. “You are my life. You are my soul. I need you. I want you. I will sacrifice myself for you. You are the most important person in my life.” Johan could only nod. This was right. Words failed him. He involuntary raised his hand to touch Riaan again. Even that small gesture was not possible in front of the other recruits. Johan stared into Riaan’s dark green eyes. Finally he said, “You are my life. You showed me that I am no different from the guys that have a girlfriend. You showed me that I am no pervert. You are the reason for my existence. I will die for you. I cannot live without you.” The dark green eyes sucked Johan into their depths. Suddenly everything was all right. Johan knew that Riaan would always be there for him. Johan was content. Riaan was not the only recruit suffering from blisters. Fully half the recruits were barefoot, morosely regarding their throbbing heels. For a change, Vaatjie’s luck held. His boots fitted perfectly. Not one of his heels was chaffed. Jannie also struck it lucky, but Wouter had two matching sores on his heels. The recruits were despondently certain that Corporal du Plooy would drill them until their feet rotted off with gangrene. When Corporal du Plooy returned from his tea break, he took one look at all the blistered heels and threw his arms up into the air. “I give up! Have you dumb fucks NEVER heard that you wear TWO pairs of socks to prevent your heels from blistering?” Corporal du Plooy got into his stride. He saw the blisters as a ploy to get out of the day’s training. He accused the recruits of being lazy pieces of shit. The army was too good for them. They were lower than snake shit on the bottom of the ocean. By this time, it had become apparent that Peleton 44 was not the only peleton suffering from new boot disease. All over the base, instructors were heaping invective upon the unfortunate recruits. This sad state of affairs was reported to RSM Struwig. RSM Struwig mounted the dais at the parade ground with a thunderous expression on his face. “It seems”, his voice resounded over the loudspeaker system, “that certain parties neglected to inform the new recruits on how to take proper precaution when wearing new boots. This has now delayed the training programme by at least two days. WHILE THERE IS A WAR ON and every able-bodied soldier is needed on the Border! Every recruit with blisters on his feet will IMMEDIATELY report to the sick bay. The other recruits will return to their barracks. When all the injured recruits have been seen to, the instructors will report to me in the NCO Mess (Non-Commissioned Officers’ Mess – the corporals’ Mess in other words). IS THIS CLEAR?” The base erupted into a hive of frantic activity. Nearly half of the three thousand recruits hobbled to the sick bay, with the anxious instructors in attendance. The able-bodied recruits leisurely strolled to their bungalows. For a change, nobody cared if they ran, marched or did cartwheels. All attention was focussed on the “blisters brigade”. Johan wanted to help Riaan to the sick bay. This was not allowed. Riaan had to get there under his own steam. He and Wouter hobbled off together, while Johan and the others returned to their bungalow. Fifteen minutes later, the “blisters brigade” started trickling back to their bungalows. Riaan and Wouter appeared an hour later, just before lunch. They had been given ointment to put on the blisters and a massive amount of sticking plasters (Band-Aids). They were also excused from training for two days. They were also informed that the medical examinations would start that afternoon. Corporal du Plooy would fetch Peleton 44 when it was their turn. “Mmmm”, said Vaatjie. “It seems that things are on the up and up for us.” He was sadly mistaken.
  13. The metal dustbin lid hit the floor with a heart-stopping crash. “Come on Ladies, a new day is dawning! Rise and shine, you lazy FUCKERS!” The overhead strip lighting came on and bathed the bungalow in its harsh white light. Stunned recruits tumbled from their beds. Corporal du Plooy was in full cry. Bellowing obscenities, he stormed down the centre aisle of the bungalow, yanking sheets off recruits still in their beds. “UP! UP! On your FEET!” Groggy recruits shuffled around their beds. Corporal du Plooy’s bellows reached the pain threshold. “GET your arse to the foot of your BED! DO you think this is a HEALTH spa? You're my guests now – here you do as I SAY!” By now all the recruits were at the feet of their beds and reasonably awake. “DOWN on the floor. It is time to wake UP, Ladies!” Doing pushups on a full bladder is no joke. The recruits sweated and cursed under their breath. They made sure, however, that Corporal du Plooy did not hear the muttered comments on his parentage. The previous day's temper tantrum was still fresh in their minds. The pushups finally stopped and a few very nasty accidents were avoided by seconds. Without waiting for permission, the recruits stormed to the bathroom. “Oooh man, one more pushup and Pizza Face would be swimming.” Jannie sighed contentedly as he emptied his dilated bladder. “Careful, if our fearless leader hears what you call him, we'll be doing pushups again,” cautioned Wouter. “Fuck the turd. His father squirted him out on a rock and the flies raised him.” Jannie lowered his voice. Even he was learning the value of prudence. “Kaserne – AANDAG!” bellowed Corporal du Plooy from within. “Hustle along, Baby. They're playing our song,” muttered Jannie. A few recruits snickered at this comment. They squeezed out the last drops and rushed back into the bungalow. “All RIGHT! Now that you have finished wasting my time, listen UP! Breakfast is at 06h00. At 05h55 you will form up outside the bungalow and RUN to the mess. I shall be watching you. If I see ANY slacking, we will have LOTS of fun together. Inspection is at 08h00. If you little fuckers make me look bad in front of Lieutenant Basson you will regret the day you were born! Just a word of caution, Ladies: I see that not ONE doorknob OR window fastening has been polished. This is a VERY serious matter. You can bank on at least two hundred extra pushups for this little oversight. See you at inspection”. Corporal du Plooy swaggered from the bungalow. “Shit-faced little arsehole”, remarked Jannie. “What’s with the ‘ladies’ every time? I’ll show him a lady.” Jannie suggestively cupped the front of his underpants. “I’ll shove it so far up his backside, the head will come out his shitty little mouth.” “Shove what up his backside? Your little mini salami?” jeered Vaatjie. “It won’t even reach his prostrate and you’ll just pick up rabies.” Johan collapsed on his bed. He had not slept much the previous night. Every metal strut of the bed had tortured him through the thin foam mattress. He was also not accustomed to sharing a bedroom with thirty other people. To make matters worse, Vaatjie snored like steam locomotive. The red-haired boy in the next bed was the main reason for his sleeplessness. Every time Riaan moved, Johan woke up with a start. Riaan was so close to him, yet so far. Johan longed to crawl into Riaan’s bed. He would find comfort in Riaan’s arms. Riaan would be his defence against the brutal world. Those dark green eyes promised solace. He longed with his whole being to be consoled by Riaan. Riaan had also spent a restless night. He had been intensely aware of the blond curls and baby blue eyes in the bed next to him. He understood how Johan was affected by the realisation of his own sexuality. The previous year, Riaan had suffered through the same crisis as Johan. Johan’s pain affected Riaan deeply. He would do anything to make it go away. He longed to take Johan in his arms and shield him from the world and its cruelty. But would Johan ever allow Riaan to protect him? Did Johan even realise that Riaan cared for him at all? Riaan did not regard himself as particularly attractive. He hated his carrot-coloured hair. Even worse, he had a very pale face, covered with freckles - speckled like a guinea fowl. Johan with his curly blond hair and golden skin could have anyone on earth – male or female. How could Riaan ever expect that Johan would take an interest in him? The recruits reluctantly drifted to the bathroom for the three S’s – shit, shave and shampoo. Johan studiously avoided staring at Riaan. Riaan immediately realised that Johan was ill at ease. “Are you OK, Johan?” he asked. “Yes. Thanks for preventing me from embarrassing myself in front of the other guys last night.” “No problem. That is what friends are there for.” Riaan was rewarded with a lopsided smile. “We can always tell Pizza Shit that you’re not feeling well.” “Rather not. The cunt will probably jump all over me.” “I suppose you’re right. Pizza Cunt is a right little arsehole.” “Amen, Brother,” piped up Vaatjie. “I’ve torn all the ligaments in my arms again. Ja-a-a-annie?” “Forget it, Baby Whale. Shape up, or take the punch. I’m not there for your convenience.” “But I am in terrible pain. Jo-o-o-han?” “Nope. Your arms hurt, not your back. You can rub them yourself. I’m not touching that horrible stuff you rub yourself with. It stinks. Sies!” (an Afrikaans expression of disgust, used by all South Africans, whatever their language) “God will get you two for this - abandoning your friend in his hour of need. I thought we were friends. It just goes to show; there is no justice in this world. Friends abandon you, when you need them most.” Vaatjie finally manipulated Johan and Jannie into rubbing the foul-smelling liniment into his arms, much to the amusement of the other recruits. By 05h50 every recruit was dressed in his overalls, with his doiby on his head and his varkpan clutched under his left arm. Their combination eating utensils were stowed away in the overalls’ breast pockets. The only pocket a pair of overalls had was the breast pocket. Their beds were ironed to perfection, their boots were shined and they were ready for whatever else the day would throw at them. They decided to clean the bungalow after breakfast. As bungalow bull, it was Wouter’s task to take the place of Corporal du Plooy. They assembled outside the bungalow and set off at a comfortable trot, with Wouter running on the left hand side of the squad. Breakfast was a study in oil. A row of Bains Marie contained fried eggs swimming in oil, packed onto a layer of slices of brown bread. The bread was supposed to absorb the oil, but failed miserably in its task. As the recruits filed past, a yawning cook slapped two eggs on each varkpan. Astonishingly enough, the next cook on the serving line piled a huge heap of perfectly crisped bacon rashers onto each surprised recruit’s varkpan. The meal was rounded off with fried tomato – once more swimming in oil. The side tables held the inevitable weak coffee, orange and guava juice, as well as the piles of sliced brown bread. Vaatjie was ecstatic. “Bacon, beautiful bacon – perfectly cooked! I’ve died and gone to heaven.” He crammed his mouth to capacity and chewed blissfully. “Jeez, Vaatjie,” exclaimed Jannie. “The food won’t run away. Eat slower. No wonder you’re as fat as a pig. You’re supposed to come up for air once in a while.” “Fuck off.” Vaatjie mumbled around another huge mouthful of bacon. The whole table was in awe of Vaatjie’s gigantic appetite. He managed to wheedle another massive pile of bacon from the cooks. Even the oily eggs and tomato disappeared like mist before the sun. Both Riaan and Wouter could not face the oily eggs. Vaatjie deftly transferred their eggs onto his varkpan. The eggs disappeared down his gullet in the twinkling of an eye. Then he contentedly folded his arms and belched thunderously. “Fuck. The human vacuum cleaner in action,” commented Jannie. “Just remember, oh splendid one, you have just put on another ten kilos. If your arms can’t support that tonnage, you’re in serious trouble. And we won’t be there to help you. AND, you can just forget about me massaging away your aches and pains.” “Shit. You know exactly how to ruin a perfect moment. Did you take classes?” Vaatjie was miffed. “You two carry on like an old married couple,” commented Wouter. “Do you still fuck, or are you too old for that as well?” Vaatjie condescendingly stared at Wouter. “What do we have here? Drivel masquerading as wit? Did your mother not teach you to be quiet when you are in the company of grownups?” Wouter reverted to his baser nature and compared Vaatjie’s sanitary and reproductive habits to those of various farm animals. Vaatjie waxed eloquent. All in all, they had a splendid time. Johan smiled at Riaan. “Vaatjie has always been like this. He has serious delusions of grandeur.” Riaan giggled. “I think Wouter has met his match. He always has to have the last word. Vaatjie might just cure him of that particular habit.” Johan and Riaan basked contentedly in each other’s company. They did not really join in the conversation, such as it was. They were happy just sitting next to each other. Too soon, two dustbin lids were crashed together and breakfast was over. Vaatjie had learned his lesson well. He made very sure that he firmly held onto his eating utensils when he dipped them in the wash trough outside. Peleton 44 formed up and Wouter conducted them back to their bungalow at a decidedly slower trot than the run to breakfast. Vaatjie practised his wheezing, but was completely ignored. The recruits realised that they had less than an hour to prepare for inspection. They exploded into a frenzy of activity. Johan and Riaan once more manned one of the brooms. There was not enough time to polish the cement floor, so they made do with a thorough sweeping of the floor. Wouter, Jannie and Vaatjie, armed with cans of Brasso (a metal polish) and cloths, attacked the door knobs and window fittings. As they finished daubing every fixture in Brasso, they were followed by the other recruits, who polished the fixtures until they shone. They finished just before eight and every recruit took his place in front of his trommel. A tall officer with a purple beret and with Corporal du Plooy in tow appeared in the doorway. “Kaserne, Aandag!” squeaked Wouter. Whenever he was nervous, his voice jumped a couple of octaves. The recruits slammed their right feet and stood rigidly to attention. “Sloppy, sloppy,” murmured the officer. “Corporal, will it take too much of your precious time to teach these people how to drill properly? Do you perhaps have more important matters to attend to, than performing the duties that are expected of you? Are you perhaps more important than a lowly lieutenant? Must I fix your fuckups for you?” Corporal du Plooy blushed scarlet. “No, Sir,” he muttered. “Speak up, Corporal. I cannot hear you.” “NO! SIR!” The officer smiled viciously at Corporal du Plooy. “You and your troops are a disgrace to the army, Corporal. You will see to it that there is a vast improvement in their drilling before this day is out. Do you understand me, Corporal?" “YES! SIR!” The officer turned back to the recruits. “If you ever again stamp your feet like a drum roll, I shall be upset. When I am upset, people get hurt. Do you follow?” “YES! SIR!” the recruits thundered. Corporal du Plooy might have frightened them, but this officer was truly terrifying. “You will stamp your feet properly. For those with limited understanding, it means at the same time! Are we clear on this?” “YES! SIR!” My name is Lieutenant Basson. I will be in charge of you and Corporal du Plooy for your basic training period. Do you see that my beret is purple, not vomit green like Corporal du Plooy’s?” The recruits stared ahead in confusion. Did the man expect an answer, or should they keep quiet? “ANSWER THE LIEUTENANT!” Corporal du Plooy tried to salvage some of his dignity. “YES! SIR!” “That is because I am a Parabat (Parachute Battalion). We are to the Infantry what a lion is to a jackal. We are the elite. You are simply cannon fodder. Do you understand?” “YES! SIR!” “I expect the only highest standards from you. Disappoint me, and you will suffer the consequences. By the way, Corporal du Plooy, brown-nosing is a very unsavoury habit.” Lieutenant Basson slowly strolled down the central aisle, with a furiously blushing Corporal du Plooy following him. He turned around at the entrance to the bathroom. “I am not sure if I would risk my life in there. Judging by the state of your sleeping quarters, I might pick up an incurable disease or two. If I ever see this bungalow in this state again, you will suffer for it.” Corporal du Plooy turned purple. Lieutenant Basson strolled to the door. “Come along Corporal. Get your men formed up in the semblance of a peleton, at least. In five minutes’ time you have to be on the parade ground for roll-call.” Lieutenant Basson faced the recruits. “You had better not be late.” With that he turned on his heel and left the bungalow. Corporal du Plooy turned an even deeper shade of purple. “I asked you nicely not to embarrass me,” he hissed. “Yet you maggots ignored me. When Parade is over, we will have a long discussion.” “Get your arses out the door! FORM UP!” Their first day of basic training had started.
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