Flash Friday 26/12/2014: Target Malpractice
“Gentlemen.” The chiseled-face officer walked up and down the length of the trench, refusing to look at any of the confused and scared faces of the boys he had to call men. “We have intelligence that the other side is commencing a charge on this spot as I speak. All hopes of covering fire or backup has been lost. It’s us versus them, men, and I’ll be honest with you. If I were a betting man, I would have hedged my house against them before this war even started.
“But I know you’re all better than that.” The officer balled a fist. “I know that somewhere in that soft, useless shell you call a body is a lion waiting to burst out. So I ask you this; when they arrive at the trench, I need you to cast aside all fear and worry. I need you to raise your rifles and shoot them like the dogs that they are. Now, are you all ready?”
A silence fell upon the trench as the soldiers eyed one another.
“Sorry, Officer Jenkins, sir,” one of the soldier said. “Can you repeat that?”
Jenkins sighed. “Very well, Thompson. I said, are you all–”
“No, before that.”
“…you mean the part where I told you to shoot them like rabid dogs?”
Thompson nodded. “I thought you said that.”
“Why do you ask?” Jenkins stared at Thompson with a steel gaze. “Do you have a problem with my orders?”
“Well, no. it’s just, well…” Thompson looked down at his rifle. “Won’t that hurt them?”
Jenkins slapped Thompson on the shoulder. “Of course it will hurt them! This is war, boy! Why else do you think you’re here?”
“You said nuffin about us shooting people. Up until now, all we’ve done is shoot targets and dummies that look like people. That was a lot of fun. But I always thought, you know…someone could get hurt with one of these things.”
“That’s what they’re made for!”
“Well, I didn’t know that! I thought it was just for knocking cans off of fences and taking out ducks! And now you’re telling me that I should use it against another person. I mean, how cruel can you get?”
Jenkins snorted. “I think you’ll be horrified to know, then, that the rest of your squad are ready to kill for their country. Squad, let this man know the reason why you’re knee-deep in mud in unknown territory. Perhaps he’ll get the picture.”
One soldier rubbed his head. “I thought we were clay pigeon shooting.”
Another scratched at his rifle. “I thought we were here to see some nature. I mean, the barracks are all stuffed up, you know?”
A third was peeking over the trench. “You know, I still don’t know where they hid all the targets. Very sneaky.”
Jenkins growled. “Are you telling me that I’m standing in a trench full of men who don’t know how to shoot a man with a rifle?”
Thompson sneered. “See, I told you. The only one who’s lacking around here is you, sir, and that’s in decent human respect.”
“I’ll have you know that I am your officer, and if I hear any more back-talk like that from you, you’ll be eating your dinners through your–”
The officer’s speech was stopped by a war-cry from over the trench. He peered over it to discover that he was too late to rally his troops; the enemy squad was now upon them, charging forwards with their bayonets out, the enemy officer yelling rallying cries behind them. A line of guns popped over the lip of the trench, all aiming down at the men within it.
Jenkins closed his eyes and waited for the crack of the guns. He remembered something about not hearing the bullet that hit you, and wished he never bothered. Now he didn’t know if he was dead or not.
“Hold on a moment,” a voice from the enemy said. “These look like awfully realistic dummies.”
Jenkins opened his eyes and looked up. None of the enemy soldiers were shooting. They were all stood, looking down at his squad with surprise.
“Well,” Thompson said. “My officer always said I was one.”
“That one spoke! Well, that just confirms it, doesn’t it? These aren’t dummies at all, they’re real people.”
The enemy officer sighed. “You were supposed to shoot before you realised that!”
“Well it’s a good thing that we didn’t, isn’t it? Otherwise we would have harmed these poor people. What a pickle we’d be in then, eh?”
“Shoot them before they shoot you, you idiot! You’re only going to get yourself killed!”
Thompson shook his head. “Oh no, don’t worry about that. We all thought we were here on a field trip, and then this awful officer kept telling us to hurt people with our rifles. I mean, can you imagine it?”
“I know, i know! Our one is saying the exact same thing!”
“Shut up and shoot them already!” the enemy officer yelled.
“Look, sir. We can either fight like wild animals and take out each others eyes and be miserable, or I can go back and fetch the football from the trench we just left.”
The enemy officer snorted. “I stated before we left that I would do my duty for my country.”
“Yeah, but you also said you wanted to show these scoundrels how good a striker you were.”
The enemy officer looked as if someone had just one-upped him in a game of Poker. “Very well. Put down your guns and go get that ball.”
Jenkins was about to breathe a sigh of relief as the enemy left, but tensed up again when the enemy officer pointed directly at him.
“And if I catch you moving the goalposts,” the enemy officer said, “I’m telling my commander.”
“See?” Thompson said, nudging Jenkins as the enemy ‘fell back’. “Now we don’t have to hurt nobody, right?”
Jenkins nodded. “Just so long as you don’t put me in goal.”