A Soldier Erect - novelonlinefull.com
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'D'ye want a piyala of rum, mate?' Jock asked him.
'Where did you get it from?' Aylmer asked. 'Did you lift it?'
'My guts has no' been too gude - f.u.c.king krab, in fact. I needed something for them, and this stuff settles them fine. Stubby's got the same complaint and he's feeling better already, aren't you, Stubby?'
'Did you lift it?'
'Bollucks to that for a question! This f.u.c.king rum was meant to come up to you b.a.s.t.a.r.ds up on Aradura, if you must know, but we couldne get it there, so I took charge of it. You wouldn't want the mules to drink it, would you? I'm offering it to you now.'
'You can keep it, Jock,' Aylmer said mildly, and marched off.
Jock laughed. *You lot are f.u.c.king sh.e.l.l-shocked or puggle or something!'
'We're just proud, Jock, that's all.'
'Proud you didn't b.l.o.o.d.y get killed?! Och, I wasne killed myself, was I?'
'Away and p.i.s.s up your kilt, Jock! We won the f.u.c.king battle, didn't we?'
'This f.u.c.king Burma campaign has only just started, do you malum that? We'll probably all be dead in another sixmonths. How many years do you think it's going to take to chase the j.a.ps out of all these great mankey hills?'
He swung his hand up and pointed into the darkness, where the hillsides stood.
I could not say anything to him. Suddenly I was s.h.a.gged out. He had not been with us and could not understand.
More gently, he said, 'How many f.u.c.king years is it going to take to chase the f.u.c.king j.a.ps out of this b.l.o.o.d.y place? I'm asking you, man, only asking. You're the f.u.c.king soldier!'
No good arguing that 'Jock, I know I've asked you before, but what were you in Civvy Street?'
'Oeh, man, I was a waiter in the Gleneagles Hotel. I thought I'd told you/ It struck me as funny at the time. I'm sorry to laugh, Jock - I'm s.h.a.gged to the wide. I must go and get my head down.'
'You learn a lot, being a waiter, ye ken. I was serving at table while you was going to school with cake in your hand.'
'Sure, Jock, I know. I wasn't really laughing, honest! You know my mate Geordie got badly shot up, up on Aradura?'
He patted my shoulder, and he was not a man who ever touched people. Don't greet over it! He was a poor wee t.u.r.d of a man, and you know it - asking to get f.u.c.king shot!'
'He's probably b.l.o.o.d.y dead by now.'
'So's a whole lot of other f.u.c.kers, including a lot of brave Jocks, but you've got to soldier on, haven't you? I learnt that f.u.c.king lesson waiting at table. At least they nailed old s.p.u.n.k Bucket, so there's some justice in the world! Now for Christ's sake come and sup some stolen rum and talk of something cheery!'
When I could, I left him. There would be time for Jock later - perhaps a lot later. I was going to get my head down early and give myself a b.l.o.o.d.y good going over to celebrate survival. My sense of personal freedom was still with me. I had survived. It could never be expressed in words, all of which belonged to systems; but it was going to be expressed in an outburst of hand-f.u.c.king, with the pukka thing to follow just as soon as possible.
You've got to soldier on...
A troop of armoured cars, followed by infantry in carriers, rolled along the road, heading towards Phesama. Fighting was going on there; as Jock said, there was still trouble to come.
I noticed there were several Mendips standing solitary, like myself, watching by the side of the road; the sight of them became terribly moving. They were smoking, watching the transport, thinking. We had all been together; now we had come apart again. Suddenly, it occurred to me that perhaps they too saw themselves as just pretending to be Mendips!
But that was all b.a.l.l.s, really. Tomorrow, we would be moving into action again at Viswema, where forward elements of 8 Brigade were already engaged - when, again, there would be no room for anything but action and the pressure for survival.
A heavy drop of rain landed on my cheek. The clouds rose over the valley, mounting high above the dark shoulders of Pulebadze. As I headed towards my char poy, I reformed the image of the Naga girl whose body had momentarily been-close to mine on Merema Ridge. She had orchids in her sleek hair.
She raised her skirt suggestively. She smiled and gave me the old come-hither.
Before I reached my blankets, I was gratified to feel a stirring in my trousers. Probably every man-jack in the Mendips had his hand on his k.n.o.b that night, giving thanks for survival.
The early monsoon rain began to fall over our positions. Down the road, the guns were pounding away at Viswema.