If it moves, salute it; if it doesn't move, pick it up, and if you can't pick it up, paint it.
Ron thought the instructors were joking when they told him that in training. A month later he was crouched in the snow outside the barracks with a tin of white paint by his side and a brush in his hand. He’d spent most of the day painting doors and walls around the camp, and when he finished Sergeant Wilson told him to paint the rocks.
Someone screamed in the cook house. Ron wasn’t surprised, he felt the same way about the food the first time he tried it. He brushed snow from a rock with his hand, then dipped the brush in the paint and began to cover it with a fresh coat of white. He didn’t think the paint would work in the freezing weather, but the sun was out and perhaps the heat would be enough to make it stick.
Or perhaps that was Sergeant Wilson’s idea, and he’d be painting them every day until summer.
He remembered Mr Hargreaves at St Brice’s Grammar School For Boys. “There are men who spend all year painting a bridge, and then the next year they go back to the other end and start painting again.”
Ron was beginning to feel that an army camp was the same. His two years of National Service weren’t going anywhere near fast enough.
Gravel crunched beneath stomping feet behind him.
“Private Durston,” Sergeant Wilson shouted.
Ron ignored him. He was following his orders and no-one was going to tell him otherwise.
Hands thumped down on his shoulders.
“Stand up when I’m shouting at you,” Wilson shouted into his ear.
Ron placed the brush in the paint tin, stood and turned around. His ears rang from the noise of Wilson’s shouts and he pushed a finger into one to try to calm it down. Wilson looked up at Ron, his face red and eyes bulging.
“What in God’s name do you think you are doing?” Wilson shouted.
Ron waved his hand toward the paint tin. “Painting, like you told me, sir.”
“I am not talking about that. I am talking about scaring the cook half-out of his mind.”