Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Last Ounce

Aje was half sitting, half lying on the cold wet ground with a blank face. Exhausted, he could not find it in him to even stand up, what else to scale the 12foot wall where 2 cadets were sitting on top waiting to haul him to the other side. Like him, they too were tired for together, they had pushed and pulled 21 other cadets after a grueling mile run and across some obstacles which can be fun had there not been a Company Sergeant Major following behind, hurling curses, and a kick to the butt should his verbal abuse fail. But for a cadet, any cadet at the age of 15, the CSM's voice alone is enough to send one up and jumping about like a young springbok. At that moment however, Aje was more like a newborn calf, unable to stand up or run.

The morning started off with the cadets going through a light exercise. The 24 cadets of Platoon B present for the day were informed beforehand of the obstacle course exercise to be held. Many in the platoon were junior cadets of 13 and 14 years of age, and had never been through one. The purpose of this exercise, they were told, was a preparation for the PKBM Inter-school Competition to be held later that year. From Platoon B, 10 cadets will be handpicked and together with the cadets chosen from Platoon A, will represent the school.

After a 10-minute rest from the light exercise, they gathered at the bottom of a slope. There, they were paired off, and told to climb the 50 degrees or more inclination, carrying their partner on their shoulders, and down the same way. Once down, they are to change position, with exception for pairs whose partner's body size are too small. Many made it up, but not many made it down on two feet standing; unable to control the pull of gravity with a load on their shoulder and a slippery ground at that, many went tumbling down. But there were no injuries that warrant alarm.

From there, the cadets were made to run 4 times around the school field which is equivalent to a mile. And at the end of the mile, they are to climb the 12foot barren wall. But by the end of the run, even without the backpacks and rifles, the platoon was left with half the cadets. Still, the CSM urged all to climb the wall. And to do so, would need teamwork.

Being the largest in the platoon, Aje was picked as the Anchor Man, lifting two cadets to sit atop the wall. There, the two are to haul up other cadets, who in turn are to use Aje as their launch pad. With legs bent and hands cupped together, Aje launch one cadet at a time - stepping on the cup, and as Aje pushes it up, the other foot steps on Aje's shoulder; 23 cadets in all. When Aje's strength waned, he turned the other way and crouched down. The remaining cadets then jumped on Aje's back and his shoulders, to reach the top of the wall. It does not matter how big or small they were, but all were wearing military boots which by itself, were already heavy and hard. By the time the last cadet was through, Aje was a spent force, unable even to lift himself up.

The CSM and other NCO's of the 1st Workshop Company seemed to be laughing as they approach Aje. Though he has felt the boot of the CSM several times at the shooting range, it was not that which he was thinking of, but something else (which he cannot recall now). Summoning every ounce of strength left in him, Aje made a charge towards the wall and launched himself up. With both his feet trying to dig into the face of the wall in vain hope of securing a foothold, his arms were clawing the top. Assisted by the two cadets above, Aje did make it up, and later down the other side.

Almost a generation later, Aje now face another wall...alone.



Ydiana said...

Salam Shah

Aje, if you can't climb the wall, build a door... :)

On a serious note, you sound a bit perplexed. Anything we can do to help? We're all friends, right.

cakapaje said...

Wa'alaikumusalam ydiana,

Sounds a reasonable suggestion, that door, that is.

On the offer, I thank you. InsyAllah, I should be OK.