Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Man Who Knew Too Much - II

The story continues from previous post

In pursuit of his ambition he worked hard. We had to give him credit for that. He borrowed training manuals and stayed up late at nights reading them. He badgered the instructors with questions. He drilled with enthusiasm, and on route marches he was not only miraculously tireless but infuriated us all with his horrible heartiness. 'What about a song, chaps?' is not greeted politely at the end of thirty
miles. His salute at the pay table was a model to behold. When officers were in sight he would swing his skinny arms and march to the canteen like a Guardsman.

And day in and day out, he lectured to us in his droning, remorseless voice on every aspect of human knowledge. At first we had a certain respect for him, but soon we lived in terror of his approach. We tried to hit back at him with clumsy sarcasms and practical jokes. The Professor scarcely noticed; he was too busy working for his stripe.

Each time one of us made a mistake the Professor would publicly correct him. Whenever one of us shone, the Professor outshone him. When, after a hard morning's work cleaning out our hut, we listened in silence to the Orderly Officer's praise, the Professor would break out with a ringing, dutifully beaming, 'Thank you, sir!' And how superior, how condescending he was! It was always, 'Let me show you, fellow', or, 'No, you'll ruin your rifle that way, old man.'

We used to pride ourselves on aircraft recognition. Once, out for a walk, we heard the drone of a plane flying high overhead. None of us could even see it in the glare of the sun. Without even a glance upward the Professor announced, 'That, of course, is a North American Harvard Trainer. It can be unmistakably identified by the harsh, engine note, due to the high tip speed of the airscrew.'

What could a gang of louts like us do with a man like that?

to be continued...