Chapter 5:

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?


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?”


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.


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?”


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.