Appointment with the Regimental Sergeant-Major
|Regimental Sergeant-Major Riverston sat with his back to the venetian blinds in his office. Through their half open slats, the passing cars in the street flashed sun filled metallic reflections across the shiny surface of his balding shaven head, briefly haloing him like a day time neon sign, or, occasional saint.
He gazed at the aging picture of a much younger queen on the opposite, otherwise bare and institutionalized army wall, and thought his army thoughts: parades not quite up to scratch, uniforms not starched enough, dirty boots and weapons and a myriad of other dissatisfactions that fill the void, until a well earned retirement from (spare me the laughter) a University Reserve Regiment, which is, as everyone knows, a professional soldier’s graveyard!
He concentrated, picking at his somewhat red and bulbous nose; the product of many army nights in the Sergeants’ Mess over a beer, or six, and reminded himself that it was two minutes til his appointment with an incoming transfer by the name of, wait for it, Private Eastman Hyphen Flaming Nagle.
“Geezus what a mouthful! How would you be carrying that bit of luggage around all your life”, he mumbled to himself as he rifled through the pile of files sitting on his desk. “Shit! Is it under ‘E’ or ‘N’? Why can’t he be happy with just one name for Chrissake......?
There was a knock and the R.S.M., who by now had found the delinquent and disorderly file, turned and gave the door a commanding “Come In!”, in that gravelly tone that all Sergeant-Majors affect, by stripping their vocal chords on regimental parade grounds too large to shout across for long, without damage.
As the door knob turned, he opened the manila folder and put on his most authoritative and forbidding look; the one you use when you have no nice youthful looks left to lose. “Ah, Private Nagle..." The light flashed once more over his balding and shaven pate, as he belatedly raised his eyes from the folder's fascinating contents, to the handsome young man entering the office.... “Take a seat!”
“Private Eastman-Nagle, Sir”, the young man breezily corrected, with that voice and manner that says, 'nice' family and 'private school education', especially to those who lack them.
“Oh very well!” growled the R.S.M, half crossly, half incredulous, at the sheer cheek of this jumped up snot nosed uni-bloody-versity student in uniform, “Take two seats then!”