Hilda Oakley

Australian author and poet

   Oct 27

On the Run

Tension was high, as the two opposites clashed.

The powerful Sergeant, the weak, spineless private.

How could this disaster happen?

Shut in with this bully of a man.


He was cruel, loud and always angry,

Demanding perfection, even in these disgusting conditions.

He despised the Sergeant’s harsh, stringent orders.

He hated the army, its rigorous training.


Sam was cowering in a corner.

“Listen to me you snivelling little twerp.

If you don’t do what I say immediately,

I’ll have your ears for ashtrays.”


They were out on night manoeuvres; it was Sam’s chance,

His face blackened and wearing camouflage gear.

The raucous Sergeant shouted commands.

“March properly!” he bellowed, “or, I’ll have your guts for garters!”


Sam, being an only child, discipline was lax.

He disliked intensely anyone in authority.

Detesting and loathing the feeling of being tortured,

Desperation overcame and overwhelmed him.


Thunder roared overhead that dark night,

It sounded like a lion catching its plunder.

Lightning flashed across the sky,

With brilliant, vivid sparks of electric blue.


Sam had planned and plotted his escape down to the very minute.

This was his opportunity, now he must go.

Scampering away from the camp like a frightened hare,

Faster and faster he ran.  He thought his heart would burst.


Gasping for air, Sam pushed himself to the limit.

Wading, waist deep through dirty, murky, polluted swamps.

Up hills, down valleys, through gorges, slipping and sliding,

Twisting, turning, cursing, eventually losing his way.


He was on the run, he hoped he wouldn’t get caught.

For that meant confinement at the barracks and a dishonourable discharge.

Little did he know, the sergeant had noticed him sneak off,

Was fast on his heels, following him in hot pursuit

Dirt and grime oozed through the pores of Sam’s skin,

Greasy, slimy green hair, scabs on his face,

Unshaved whiskers sprouted over his chin.

Shivering and freezing, the pang of hunger struck.


Looking for shelter, near impossible.

Lost.  All the trees looked the same.

He’d learnt a few skills in training,

But was an army lad for only six weeks.


Here would be his baptism of fire,

Prove himself to others and to himself.

Crossing dark, deep, bottomless rivers,

Swimming across to evade detection.


Foraging for bush food in places out of reach,

Stumbling, falling, crashing, plummeting down.

A ginormous tree broke his fall.

Branches snapped, crackled, smashed, lay broken.


Literally clinging to life, he must find a way down.

Treacherous was his descent.

Crawling through thick prickly undergrowth, a vision.

Was it real, a mirage, an hallucination.


A cave!  With all his strength he reached the entrance.

For the first time, Sam felt safe.

Oh how wrong the cadet would be!

His surroundings, though reeking like rotten vegetables, was comforting.


While tracking, Sergeant Amos thought he’d come close,

Lost sight of Sam when he plunged over the cliff.

Determined to carry on the hunt, like a jaguar chasing its prey.

And then, fortune came his way, saw Sam entering the cave.


The Sergeant approached, again Sam felt trapped.

The odds were stacked against him,

Though he hoped luck would be on his side

Cornered in the cave, with no other way out.


Sergeant Amos spat the riot act at him,

How weak and irresponsible he was!

Sam, defeated, ready to accept his fate,

The Sergeant took up his position, bunked down at the cave entrance.



Early next morning they headed back towards the campsite.

Approaching the river, a challenge before them.

The river was swollen, raging and surging.

Dangerous, but they had to cross it.


Shouted the Sergeant, “I’ll make my way across first,”

Tied the rope around his waist, gave the other end to Sam.

Wading in.  About mid-stream trouble struck,

The Sergeant lost his footing, went under.


Sam reacted instantly.

Held the rope with force.

Dragged and dived, dragged and dived.

At last!  The captive set free.


Sam hauled the drenched, listless sergeant to safety,

Urgently resuscitating him back to life.

The Sergeant, gasping spluttered, “Where did you learn that?”

Sam, relieved, “I was a life-saver back home.”


Although the Sergeant remained stiff and gruff,

Sam deserved a second chance.

Sam, at camp, faced court marshal,

He stood before the Captain and Military Police.


Then the Sergeant took all the blame!

He said, “Let the lad be.  He didn’t go AWOL.

I was training him on night manoeuvres!

Leave him in my care, let him finish his training!”


From that time on, the Sergeant’s gruff roar never worried him,

Sam knew the Sergeant must do his job,

Sergeants always shout.

It’s the way it is.


Hilda Oakley

Copyright © 13.08.2012

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