Wings of Honor
Wings of Honor Title Wings of Honor

Red Baron II/3D - Articles




The Last Bullet

A Fictional Novel By Mike Smylie


INTRODUCTION

Well, here I am. I'm dead. Lying in German held territory, in the mud. My burning plane 30 yards away from me. My body riddled with bullet holes. German ground troops inspect my plane and the corpse sitting not too far from it. The corpse is me. They turn me over, and look at me. One of them starts to cry, but the most just stare into my lifeless eyes, and realize that I'm just like them - a young man. Now a young, dead man. One of the troops extends his hand, and closes my eyes, still open with the look of death, and they move on, but with the image of me in their heads. For who knows - it might be themselves, lying face first in the mud, just a short while from now.

It wasn't always like this for me. I wasn't always a nameless corpse. I had a name. I had a home. But it was all changed for me a year ago on this very day.

My name was Mike Smylie, and I was 19 years old, and I was from Ontario, Canada, and the year was 1915, and the place… was Verdun. And it all started with a misplaced cigarette…


CHAPTER ONE: "OFF TO WAR!"

"Hey dirtbag!" a voice boomed. It was my brother Jones. This sudden voice caused me to suddenly jerk up from the ground I was lying on and hit my head on the transmission of my automobile directly overhead.

"DOH!" I stammered in pain, followed by Jones' laughter. I started laughing too, even when I felt a small trickle of blood comming down my head. I got up to examine my wound.

"Oh, did I just give you that souviner on your forehead. Oh well," Jones said with an ever present smile on his face while pointing out my 'souviner', "It'll heal and if it leaves a scar, it'll always remind you of me."

"Don't you got a job to go to?" I said back to him, with just a hint of aggrevation in my tone of voice. Also because I was tending my wound with a greasy rag, which caused it to sting.

"Me? A job? You mean like what you do to that heap of bolts all day long?" He rang out.

"This is my *hobby*. I'm only 18, gimmie a break…"

"Excuses, excuses," Jones repeated, "When our father was 18-"

I interuppted him because I knew what he was going to say: "'- was 18, he had 2 sons and worked on the farm 16 hours a day - everyday.' What are you, a broken darn record? All you do is copy Dad's speech?"

"Only to annoy you!" He proudly announced while slapping my back. "So, when's this junk heap gonna' be running? Sometime this year, I hope."

"Actually," I started while cleaning off my tools, "I just finished it before you… interrupted me, I have just done doing some major modifications to it. Wanna' close the hood for me please?"

He closed the hood with a light slam. "So, how fast will it do this time?"

"I don't know," I said, kind of taken back that for the first time., he seemed interested in my automobile hobby, "Hopefully, I can get it up to fourty miles per hour this time."

"If that thing blows up again," Jones started snickering, "I'm gonna… laugh… my ass off!"

I gave him a stern look. "We'll see who'll be laughing at the finish line."

"Yeah", he laughed, "ME! When I watch them tow it away again. If they do, I'll give the team of horse-drivers five dollars to bring it to the dump instead of our barn!"

"Ha ha ha." I mimicked him. I didn't care what he thought. I threw the oily rag onto the front seat, and proceeded to the front of the automobile to try and start it. Jones stared at me, hoping that it wouldn't work. It never did most of the time. I had gotten the automobile from my great uncle, who passed away 2 years ago. It wasn't that old either, but it was in a decrepit state.


I started to turn the starting crank. faster and faster, untill the engine fired, but it sounded different, but soon was idling at what seemed to be normal. I jumped in the front seat.

"My brother came up to me and yelled over the sound of the exhaust. "I'll bet you five dollars it wont leave the driveway!"

"You're on!" I yelled back. I shifted into the first forward gear, followed by a crescendo to meshing gears and grinding noises, and stepped on the accellerator, and shot out of the barn at full speed… backwards!

"WHOA!" I screamed and stopped the automobile. Jones was doubled over backwards in the hay pile, laughing, while I was trying to figure out what happened, then realized I must have assembled the transmission wrong. I quickly shifted the car into 'reverse' and it slowly went forward. Jones looked up at me; tears in his eyes.

Now since the reverse gears make the car go slower in reverse, I had the engine at full speed, but was only doing five miles per hour out the front of the barn, followed by the thick blue smoke that came from the rear of the car. Jones was still in the barn laughing, but was soon flushed out by the choking smoke. Out of the sudden fright of going fourty miles an hour in reverse, I lit up a cigarette and smoked in the car hastilly while Jones came over, coughing and laughing at the same time.

"Pay [cough]… up!" He stammered, still laughing and coughing.

I forked over the money. "Still have to do a few more midifications." I made an excuse for my mistake, "Want the rest of my smoke?"

He took the butt end of it and I exited the car. Just then a familliar face popped out of our kitchen window at home.

"Boys," my Mom called, "Dinner's on!"

Me and Jones raced towards the house. Without looking, Jones tossed the lit smoke in the front seat of my car, which landed ontop of the oily rag still sitting ontop of the front seat.


We clambered inside the house and sat at the table, adjacent to our mother and father. Mother loaded our plates with mashed potatoes and we immediately ate it all up.

"Now boys," Mom sighed, "Don't eat so fast, you'll get sick!"

"These boys?" Dad clambored up, "These Clydesdale horses get sick of eating?" He started to snicker, "Sometimes I wonder where you boys pack away all that food!"

"Well, Dad, after all, were busy teenagers." I siad with my mouth full, which quickly warranted a look from Mom.

"Busy, eh?" He started…

"Uh-oh…" I thought, "Here we go again!" I said his exact words in my mind along with his:

"When I was 18, I had two sons and worked on the farm for 16 hours a day - everyday!"

Mom interrupted him, "Do you smell smoke?"

We all looked at each other.

"Fireplace?" Jones asked?

"No," Mom said, "Smells different… almost like oil or kerosene fire."

While wondering what it could be, I glanced out the window, not immediately noticing that my beloved car was in flames. I went back to cleaning my plate off, then quickly took a double-take out the window.

"Bloody hell!" I screamed, jumping up from the table.

"Watch your language, young man!" My Mom exclaimed, but I was already out the door with my brother behind me before she finished the scentence.

We ran to the car, half in flames. We looked at each other.

"What do we do?" Jones asked.

"I don't know! Do something!" I yelled back.

"Like what?"

"I don't know, anything!!"

He started to blow on the 4 foot high flames like as if he were blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. "Not working!"

"What about the well?" I asked.

"Nah! Take too long!"

We sat starting at the flames for a minute.

"Wait!" Jones jumped, "Is it in neutral?"

"Yes!" I yelled back, hoping an idea was forming in his head.

"Push it towards the lake!"

"Are you a lunatic? That's over half a mile away!" I screamed back, watching the flames devour my most prized possession.

"Well, it's either that our watch it become ashes!"

So, we started to push it down the road. The flames were mostly on the foreward part of the car, so we could push it by the rear bumper down the road, which luckily for us, was dead straight headed for the lake, so we didn't have to worry about steering. A couple of minutes later, with the car aflame, we came to the lake. There was a slight hill leading to the rocky shore, so, we let it go and watched it go down the hill.

I looked around the lake and realized that there was a rather large group of fishermen and picnicers watching this event take place. I turned beat-red amid the laughter of Jones and about fifty other people.

The car picked up speed down the hill and crashed into the water, followed by the sounds of cracking metal, boiling water and steam. Suddenly, my eyes transfixed on a sign by the shore.

"You arse…" I muttered.

"What?" Jones asked, his eyes with the expression of a wrongfully accused man might have.

"You arsehole!" I screamed, pointing at the sign. Jones read the sign, then started laughing uncontrollably.

The sign read "Drop-off Beach". It was named that because that perticular spot we chose to drop the car into was five feet deep at the shore, but, seven feet out from shore, dropped off to thirty-five feet deep!

Jones was at a loss for words. He stammered to try and make an excuse for his honest mistake. He didn't really mean to do this. He forgot about the beach.

"I'm sorry?" he managed to squeak out.


When he woke up, he was in bed with a piece of frozen meat over his eye, and I was in the bed next to him, with my knuckles all bruised.

"You got a thick damn skull, you know that?" I managed to say, not knowing what to expect from my brother. "I broke my knucles and I only hit you once."

"I ain't thick-skulled, you just got bony, girl arms." he smiled.

I snickered also. "I'm sorry I hit you…"

"Bah…! I had it commin'. I'm sorry about your car!"

"Bah…!" I said, copying him, "It was a piece of crap anyways!"

We both laughed, then Dad came in.

His eyes were afire and his jaw heavy-set with anger.

"Why…" he began, shaking his head, "Why can't I have normal sons? I prayed to God for two *healthy* boys when Mom was pregnant with you'se, but I should have stressed *mental health*, also!"

We snickered again, and Dad also cracked a smile, but soon went into serious mode again. "When will you two grow up for a change?"

Here and then, I said the two words that would haunt our family for the rest of our days: "We're bored."

My brother looked at me, taking the steak off his eye, then looked at Dad with agreeing eyes. Dad just stared at me the whole time.

"Bored, eh?" He started. "I got an idea… When I turned twenty-one, I joined the Army!"

Jones' and my eyes opened as wide as saucers.

"Are you insane!?!?" Jones exclaimed, "There's a war on!"

The look Dad gave him quickly passed the hint on to Jones that he had steeped out of line with that outburst.

"Sorry, sir." he sulked.

"I know there's a war on, but bileve me, it'll make a man out of you! I went to the Army. Your great Uncle was in the Boer War and your grandfather fought in the Fenian Raid! When they came back home, by God, they were men!"

"But why should we go, father?" I asked. "Were young men already! Why do we need to go to war and get the risk of being shot, or even killed!"

He thought for a bit while staring at us. He tapped his jaw while thinking, something he always did when deep in thought.

"Well, let me put it this way," he stated, "You can go to war, spend a few months in a trench, or you can stay here, not serving your King and home country, living as cowards, and… put on mucking duty for the next year. I bet you that if you're on mucking duty, you won't have time to be bored!"

'Mucking Duty' was the most smelliest, awful, lowest paying job a person could get. Dad owned half the farms in the city area and mucking is where you had to clean the stalls of *every* animal and pile the manure in big heaps to be made into cheap fertilizer. It was common to come home half covered in animal feces.


Me and Jones packed up, said our good-byes, and took the first ship to England.


Mike Smylie