Excerpt nine from Army of Worn Soles
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Chapter 4: In the Red Army training camp
Akhtyrka, Ukraine, 1941
Finally, much too late, the cadets stumbled into their barracks and everyone collapsed, exhausted, onto their cots. Within minutes, snores filled the room.
Maurice had just closed his eyes as the opening door hit the wall hard enough to rattle it. The overhead light seared his eyes. He jumped out of bed. The un-curtained window was dark.
“Attention,” a corporal bellowed as he stepped into the dorm and stood beside the door. The senior lieutenant came into the room with a captain Maurice hadn’t seen before. He was tall and thin with cropped black hair. The peak of his officer’s hat gleamed and the red star seemed to glow. His uniform was stiff and perfectly creased, and made him look simultaneously powerful and precise. He looked as an officer should, Maurice thought, embarrassed to be standing in his underwear.
“Inspection,” the corporal yelled.
“The cadets are ready, Captain Slutsky,” the lieutenant said. Maurice struggled to remember his name.
As the lieutenant had earlier, Captain Slutsky strode the length of the room, looking carefully at each man, his folded uniform, his boots, his kit. The captain did not say a word, but looked at the lieutenant, who jotted down notes on a clipboard.
When the captain came to Maurice, he looked disappointed. The lieutenant wrote something down.
Captain Slutsky left without saying a word. The lieutenant stood by the door, scribbling on his clipboard. Two cadets sat on their cots.
“The cadet company has not been dismissed,” the corporal shouted, and the two young men sprang to their feet again. The lieutenant pointed to them. “You and you, get dressed. You will stand guard duty tonight.” The men groaned as they reached for their uniforms. “And tomorrow night.” They did not groan again.
As the remaining cadets stood at stiff attention, the lieutenant told each one what to do to bring his belongings up to officer standards. Maurice knew what the lieutenant would say to him. He had just tossed his uniform over his trunk, without ensuring everything was folded just so. His boots were scuffed at the toes and still muddy.
He hurried to smooth his pants and wipe some of the mud off his boots while the lieutenant spoke with the other cadets. When the he looked at Maurice’s uniform, Maurice knew he had failed to meet his standard.
“Fold it like you’re going to wear it to your wedding tomorrow. You are training to be an officer. Your boots should shine.” He moved on to the next cadet.
It took the cadets more than an hour to clean and fold their uniforms and tidy their cots to the lieutenant’s satisfaction. They looked completely worn out, but the lieutenant seemed comfortable.
Finally, the lights went out and the cadets collapsed onto their cots again. Maurice wondered if the lieutenant planned midnight inspections every night.
About the book:
1941: Their retreat across Ukraine wore their boots out—and they kept going.
Three months after drafting him, the Soviet Red Army throws Maurice Bury, along with millions of other under-trained men, against the juggernaut of Nazi Germany’s Operation Barbarossa, the assault on the USSR.
Army of Worn Soles tells the true story of a Canadian who had to find in himself a way to keep himself alive—and the men who followed him.
It is available in e-book form exclusively on Amazon.
About the author:
Scott Bury is a journalist, editor and novelist based in Ottawa, Canada. He has written for magazines in Canada, the US, the UK and Australia.
He is author of The Bones of the Earth, a fantasy set in the real time and place of eastern Europe of the sixth century; a children’s short story, Sam, the Strawb Part (proceeds of which are donated to an autism charity), and other stories.
Scott Bury lives in Ottawa with his lovely, supportive and long-suffering wife, two mighty sons and two pesky cats.
Today’s clue: book