This story is by Grumps and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Private Parts wasn’t much to look at. His head drooped, his shoulders stooped, he had one eye open and the other half-closed, and he looked like he could shrivel up at any moment. A sad sack indeed. It’s a wonder he ever passed the army medical. But here he was in the infantry division, right on the front line facing the enemy.
He hadn’t planned on being in this outfit. He had aimed to drive ambulances and carry stretchers, both of which entailed exposure to danger, but not to the same extent as that risked by infantrymen. He cursed the stupid recruiting officer who had placed the enlistment file in the wrong tray while focusing on a curvaceous secretary as she bent over to retrieve a document from the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet. That brief distraction had caused Private Parts to end up at the front in a war zone.
He found himself in battle conditions, under the command of the roughest, toughest, no-nonsense, Sergeant major in the Army. A mountain of a man, with craggy features, a barrel-sized chest, a gravel-grating voice, and, under his camouflaged combat jacket, a colourful range of medal ribbons earned in countless conflicts around the globe. When he spoke, the troops listened. They knew their lives depended on following his orders.
The battle situation had reached a level of stalemate, so the Sergeant major ordered his troops to take cover, dig in, and wait for the arrival of reinforcements and air cover.
Glad of the break from combat, Private Parts found a pile of logs behind which to seek shelter. He wasn’t a coward, but he wasn’t a hero either and had no intention of disobeying orders if it kept him alive. He peeked at the enemy lines through a gap in the logs. They had settled down out of sight, too; with only their rifle barrels in view over the rim of their hastily-dug shallow trench as a reminder of their readiness to enjoin battle should the need arise. Confident of not being disturbed for a while, Private Parts shuffled his body around against the rough surface of the logs to find the most comfortable position.
A stiff breeze slaughtered the thick clouds of battle smoke into thin subservient strands, but the acrid stench of burnt cordite didn’t surrender so submissively as it clung to the earth, grass, and shrubbery. A reminder of the devastating consequences of warfare. His mind drifted onto pleasanter thoughts, and he entered a soporific state. In the distance, a blackbird sang a melodic serenade, and another answered with a complementary descant. Love existed even in the midst of conflict. If only Mankind could learn from Mother Nature.
Suddenly, Private Parts leapt to his feet. He shouted and screamed like a tortured dervish, in a nonsensical language that his fellow troops couldn’t understand. What could he be up to? Ser’nt major had told everyone to keep a low profile.
Private Parts darted from behind the log pile, hopping from foot to foot and flailing his arms in all directions. It didn’t make sense to the onlookers. The troop’s signalman ruled out the arm movements being semaphore and hastily checked his code manual for another solution.
Meanwhile, Private Parts had turned to face the enemy lines and was now heading in their direction. Hearing the ruckus, the enemy peered over the rim of their shallow trench. Once they had focused on the source of the noise, a few began firing their rifles. Private Parts continued his headlong rush toward them, taking evasive action by darting from side to side.
His determination unnerved the enemy, and several stood up. Small droplets of sweat and blood mingled in his eyebrows. Through his blurred vision, the opposing forces’ facial features took shape. They looked so young and inexperienced–rather like himself. The firing continued. Private Parts felt invasive stinging sensations all over his body, but he kept going forward. More of the enemy rose to their feet, incredulous at Private Parts’ display of courage. The firing grew less frequent as the enemy watched his progress in amazement.
Private Parts set his sight on an intended target. The enemy shifted uneasily on their feet. Private Parts clenched his teeth. His breaths came shorter and quicker. A fire burned in his chest. Panic spread through the enemy. They threw down their weapons, turned tail, and retreated. They had no stomach to face a foe like Private Parts; and, as far as they knew, he was only the first of many such super-soldiers.
He lost count of the number of wounds he’d suffered. Onward he went, his feet pummelling the rough battleground, his face set into a permanent grimace now, as he concentrated on his goal. The last remnants of the enemy turned and ran away from the seemingly unstoppable breed of soldier charging toward them. He only had a short distance to go now, and relief took some of the sting from his wounds.
The panicked enemy had left a huge gap in their defensive lines. In the distance behind him, Private Parts discerned the gravelly tones of the Ser’nt major growling out orders. Shit. He’d soon have to face interrogation and a possible court-martial. But, right now, he had more important matters on his mind.
He reached his objective, a water-filled shell hole, and dived into it. The immersion from head to toe gave protection from his closest attackers. His wounds welcomed the cooling effect of the muddy water, and he stayed below the surface until the air in his lungs threatened to give out.
As he surfaced, spluttering and gasping, the Ser’nt major’s size 14 boots entered his sight line. His eyes followed the trunk-like, camouflage-covered legs to their apex, past the huge hands planted on hips, up the Velcro and double-zipped front seam of the XXXL size combat jacket, past the square-set jaw, the pursed lips, and broken nose, into the searing blue eyes staring down at him. By this time, he had rolled onto his back to take in the full height of the Ser’nt major.
As Private Parts stared upward, fear gnawed at his gut and bubbles popped on the surface of the water. Whoops! If farts don’t have lumps in them, I’ve just shit myself.
He decided the best course of action would be to come clean and explain that he had no choice but to disobey orders. If he’d stayed by the logs he’d have choked to death; and if he’d run back toward his outfit, the Ser’nt major would have shot him as a deserter. His best bad choice had been to run toward the enemy–because the logs he took cover behind had harboured a hornet’s nest, which he’d disturbed and had to get away from before any stung him in his mouth and made his tongue swell.
Before Private Parts could open his mouth to confess, the Ser’nt major reached down a huge hand, smiled, and said, “Well done, Parts. I’ve never witnessed such bravery in all my service. I’m recommending you for the medal of honour. Your valiant action ended the battle and saved many lives. Let me help you out of that hole.”
Private Parts, stunned into silence, grabbed the Ser’nt major’s hand and allowed himself to be lifted to his feet. I hope Ser’nt major never finds out the hole he really got me out of.