Wilfred's War

This is short story about Wilfred -- a fifteen-year-old Australian kid -- and has been cropped and edited to enter into a contest in a few days time.

So constructive criticism would be very, very, very, much appreciated! Thank you, Guys!

Chapter 3

It's a Spider's Life

by: Skyling
Wilfred had been on the frontline in France for near-on five months. By now, most of the men in his Company knew that Wilf was almost three years underage. No drastic action had been taken though, since this was such a common thing in the War. The men on the Western Front had needed all the support they could get.

“Blimey! Wilfy, don’t move.”

Wilfred stiffened, and – without turning his head – glanced sideways at his white-faced friend.

Neal Rolans was a lanky seventeen-year-old with an unruly mop of ginger hair, and exceptionally bad attitude problems. But, despite his strange eating habits, outstandingly disorderly manner and chronic loss of buttons, he had quickly become Wilfred’s best mate of the entire Platoon,

“What?” Wilfred breathed through clenched teeth, still frozen, “What is it?”

Breakfast was almost ready to be served, but first the men had to endure their rifle inspections. It was a feat in itself to keep a rifle in good condition amongst all the muck and squalor in the trenches, so this was a particularly dreaded time of day.

“It’s a ruddy spider!”

“A spider?” Wilfred said incredulously, turning to gape at Neal. “A spider?”

The boy was crouched on his knees in the mud; his spiked rifle pointed fixedly at something long-legged and black, making an arduous bee-line for Wilfred’s exposed toes.

“Yeah mate, but don’t worry,” Neal’s brows drew together and he levelled the tip of the bayonet with the spider’s sinister body. “I’ll get the little blighter!”

“Blue, wait! We’re supposed to be cleaning our Rifles, not –”

With a quiet but rather animalistic cry, Neal raised the spear a little higher and plummeted it towards the scurrying bug.

“Private Rolans!” Thundered a voice from above, and the red-haired boy froze, though not before the gun’s blade had buried itself a good five centimetres into the watery ground.

“Er. . . Yes, Sir?” Neal said, and, standing once more, he left one freckled elbow resting on the rifle butt.

“Show me your rifle, Private.” Cut-throat Cowdo snapped, eyeing the half-submerged bayonet, threateningly.

“Oh! Of course, Sir!” Slowly – and with not a little difficulty – Neal yanked the sharp blade out of the earth and presented arms.

As Cowden took the gun from the boy’s hands and began his thorough, fault-finding session, Neal shot Wilfred an alarmed glance and gestured to the place where the bayonet had been embedded. The spider had obviously evaded the death blow, and hidden itself somewhere in the surrounding mud.

Wilfred’s eyes widened and he ran an anxious blue gaze over his boots and trousers, hoping not to spot the small, black creature sidling up his leg. After not locating it anywhere in his vicinity, Wilf glanced back to the Lieutenant.

To finish off his inspection, the man lifted the hinged backsight of Neal’s rifle. Just as he did so, the many-legged-monster scuttled out of it and up his arm.

“Agh!” Cut-throat Cowdo cried, flinging the creature from his hand.

Every man standing nearby winced at the crunch the spider’s small body made as it was crushed between the Lieutenant’s boot sole and the wet dirt. After a moment of stunned silence, the man straightened his jacket, and glared hard into Neal’s eyes.

“Well?” The officer snarled menacingly, “Well?”

“I, er. . . I wondered where that little blighter had got to,” Neal replied, “Thank you, Sir.”

Cowden seemed to choke; his face flushed a deadly shade of purple, and the man bared clamped teeth. He shoved the gun roughly back into Neal’s thin arms and stormed off down the line of troops.

“Close one,” Said Neal, once the man had disappeared, “But at least he didn’t mention the button.”

*

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