"I thought Rangi said the monsoon wasn't supposed to start for another fortnight," Parky says, dolefully. Being tall's inclined to work against him a lot of the time, and the bushes aren't providing him with much cover. He tries to duck further in out of the rain, but only succeeds in causing a river of water to pour down the leaves and cascade off Lofty's hat. Parky looks awkward. "Sorry, Lofty."
Paderewski wipes his glasses for the hundredth time. "If the northward shift of the sub-tropical jet stream over the Bay of Bengal occurs earlier than usual, it results in an early monsoon."
"Where'd the Sergeant-Major go, Solly?"
"He said he was going to follow the path back to the road and flag down a transport lorry."
"Shouldn't one of us go with him?"
Atlas gives a derisive snort. "I'm nae moving. The longer he takes, the more chance he'll get wetter than us."
Nobby's found part of a tarpaulin, and he and Nosher are taking it in turns to sit under it. For the first time, he wishes he'd been up the jungle. Then at least he'd have a bush hat to keep the rain off a bit more.
"I don't know why the Sergeant-Major had to bring us on this patrol anyway," Gloria says. "You'd think we were soldiers or something, the way he treats us! It's inhumane, that's what it is."
"I might get a cold," Lofty says, worriedly. "I could lose my voice."
Solly considers for a moment actually using his stripes and commandeering the tarpaulin to sit on. "If you get jungle rot out here, that ain't all you could lose."
"If I go back home wi'out something vital," Atlas announces, "I'm suing the British army."
"Well, if my agent was here," Gloria adds, "he'd sue the Sergeant-Major for loss of earnings."
"In case you hadn't noticed, sunshine, apart from army pay, we don't earn anything."
Paderewski looks thoughtful. "Isn't there a river a little way in the direction that he went?"
Solly shrugs. "About half a mile, why?"
"Oh, no particular reason, really. It's just that the smaller distributaries are statistically inclined to swell without warning during the monsoon season, just as the parent channel does."
"Won't the Sergeant-Major have to cross one of them?" Parky asks.
From beyond the trees comes a sudden yell, accompanied by an almighty splash. "I expect so, yes," Paderewski replies.
"Tell you the truth, fellas," Solly manages to say, as the sniggering finally dies down, "I don't really mind the rain all that much."
"Aye, it's quite nice," Lofty agrees.
Gloria nudges him. "Here, Solly, what d'you think? We could put in some special songs just for the monsoon season. We could be Fred and Ginger in the gazebo, or I could do Singin' in the Rain as Judy Garland with a big swing band behind me!"
"I like it. We should dedicate a number to the Sergeant-Major. Paderewski, have you got the music for Up a Lazy River?"
"If I haven't, I'm sure I can improvise."
Sometimes Parky feels sorry for the Sergeant-Major. A bit. All he wants, really, is to be in charge of some real soldiers. Parky doesn't suppose that any of them could be much less like soldiers (he's tried to do his best; he just doesn't seem to be cut out for it), but he can't think of a better crowd of blokes to have to sit in the rain with. He shifts in his wet uniform. It's funny - you'd think that rain would always be cold, but out here it still makes you sweat. He'll have to tell his mum about that, the next time he writes.