‘Atten–hut!’ the drill instructor hollered from the edge of the field, and my platoon jumped to its feet, quick-smart.
‘Sir!’ we all shouted in well-practised unison, not a decibel out of place.
‘Why are you squatting in a field like so many worms of the dirt?’ he continued to holler.
‘Because we are worms, sir!’ we dutifully replied.
‘Correct!’ he said, striding alongside our military line. ‘You are worms! But you’re not just any old worms, are you lads?’
‘No, sir!’ we agreed.
‘Well? What are you then?’
‘We’re your worms, sir!’ we shouted. You could almost feel our individuality loosening itself, moulding us into something harder, more directable – one plucked vocal chord at a time.
‘Good!’ he chuckled, though there was no humour in his eyes. ‘So, worms, if I was to point you at a wall of hot-leaded gunfire, what would you do?’
‘Correct!’ he said, taking his ever-measured steps forward. ‘And if I were to send you to become the best disability service provider available near Adelaide, what would you do?’
A few stray frowns rippled through the line.
‘Sir?’ we asked, our synchronisation wobbling slightly.
‘Did I stutter, worms?!’ the instructor roared. We snapped back into place.
‘No, sir!’ we screamed apologetically. He reached the end of the line and swivelled back around for another pass.
‘Now, do I have to repeat myself?!’
‘And your answer?!’
‘We would… sign up for the advanced training required to be a qualified NDIS service provider, sir!’
‘Better!’ he crowed triumphantly, pausing in his march. ‘Turn!’
We did as told, the ground shaking with the rhythmic thud of thirty boots striking the grass.
‘Onwards, gentlemen!’ he roared. ‘We march to Adelaide tonight!’
The line broke slightly, confusion etching itself into our movement as we began to move forward.
‘I didn’t sign up for this,’ the man in front of me quietly sobbed.
Above us, a cloud started to slowly unleash rain onto us, turning the soft dirt underfoot into cold, unforgiving mud.