Leaving Cert Sample Short Story
This short story sample was originally submitted by a student of mine. I have since edited it. This student drafted and redrafted this short story until they were happy with it. This student took inspiration from the following texts when planning and writing this piece of work:
- ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ by Wilfred Owen (poem)
- Forrest Gump (movie)
This student consciously left this short story quite vague so that they had the option of using some of it’s elements/ideas on the day of the exam.
Why this is a Successful Short Story:
This short story would pick up marks for the following:
- Shift in tenses (Present and past)
- Consistent narrative (first person)
- Descriptions (use of 5 senses, similes, adjectives etc.)
- Obstacle (mental/figurative obstacle)
- Fluidity in terms of storyline
- Wide range of vocab
The Short Story:
A Big Decision
They say that it’s important to write about your feelings before you go and do something crazy, so I take my pen and I begin to write. I’m fully aware that this is a critical moment in my life, one not to be taken lightly, yet I find my thoughts deviating away from the big decision at hand. Instead my mind is drawn back to where it all began.
It’s the summer of 1915 and I am eighteen years old. I only know a life of comfort here in this small village, just outside of London. I always performed relatively well in school, maintained a close-knit group of friends and seemed to get on well with my parents. I was due to inherit a small tuck shop and was destined to live a life of stability in this antiquated village, nestled in the rolling hills of the English countryside. I had a life that most would perceive as one of contentment, comfort and security, but no one could see that the dullness and boredom that went hand in hand with stability, were suffocating me. My home felt like a prison, and I felt like the prisoner.
A cool gust of wind and the familiar creaking of the oak doors drew me from my brooding. “Evening George” my friend Jack said, as cheerful as always. Hands thrust deep in his pockets; he jerked his head sideways in a kind of questioning manner, a gesture that had become synonymous with our weekly trip to the local pub. I closed up the shop, put on my hat and off we both went, venturing out into the warm outdoors. “One for courage?” I asked, knowing full well that today was the day in which the routine nature of my life would be swept away forever. “I think its only fair that we get a drink before we go” came the reply. “Besides, the war will be over by Christmas”. “Are you sure you want to go through with this?” I asked. I left the question hang and tried to measure his response. The doubt, I could tell, was chipping away at him. His pained facial expression told me everything I need to know, he was afraid. It’s not everyday you enlist yourself for war. “Of course I’m sure” he spat back, “one drink and we’ll sign up”.
As with most boys our age, two drinks turned to three, and three drinks turned to more. With our spirits now more elevated, we unsteadily ambled towards the recruitment office, now with a more developed sense of patriotism.
Fast forward a few Christmas and I find myself waking up to the thunderous sound of continued shelling, accompanied by undertones f screams from wounded men. Slowly rising from my sleeping bag I made a move to envelope myself in my thick overcoat, forgetting that it was thoroughly soaked in mud and cold water, from last nights walkabout. A pool of sludge formed around me as I went about rousing the lads. I poked my head out of the makeshift shelter and into the strafing rain, surveying the chaos in all its splendour. Suddenly self-conscious I did my best to supress the manic grin, which I felt spreading across my face. This was trench warfare I thought to myself, and I loved it.
Don’t jump to conclusions; I’m still a fairly normal person. Admittedly I do enjoy war and the killing that accompanies it, but aside from that, I wager you would find yourself hard-pressed to separate me from the average man in this vast network of barbed wire and death. I had managed once more to attract a group of friends, as well as remaining friendly with Jack. I can say with confidence that I never even considered killing anyone on my side of No Man’s Land. See? I was still, reasonably, in control.
Jack on the other hand was reduced to little more than a frightened child by the whole affair. Too often I would see him wake from his sleep, screaming at unseen terrors, which lived only in his nightmares. Occasionally, when the shells were landing too close or a push was being made, Jack would be found muttering to himself in fear. Which one of us was the mad one? It often occurred to me that I saw this life as one of excitement, living each day to the full. So what if I derived pleasure from killing those men on the other side of the trench? After all, it was what we were all here to do. As the sense of victory gradually became tangible, I could sense the majority’s spirits rising, whereas us few, whom were addicted to the thrill of war, were becoming progressively agitated.
We all began to file out of the shelter into the network of trenches. With mud up to my shins, I felt alive; a feeling that I knew couldn’t be replicated at home. Most were shivering and busying themselves in their own thoughts while we began to make our way up to the frontline. Jack, all cheerfulness he once exhibited gone, fell into step beside me. “Tom’s dead” he said, his voice unsteady. I raised an eyebrow and formed and inquisitive expression on my face. “With his belt” Jack shuddered. I suppose he decided to end it all. Honestly I wasn’t surprised. Too often you’d find that good men would take their own lives out of pure desperation, rather than face the challenge of war. I could understand this, but couldn’t relate to it.
We trudged onwards, hunched over for fear of snipers who inevitably lurked somewhere out there, camouflaged in the torrential rain. I felt alive and Jack, not one to miss anything, noticed my elation. “I knew it” he said accusingly, “You’re enjoying this”. I shook my head trying to stifle a laugh. Of course I did! This was comradery, adventure and fun all rolled into one. Without waiting for a response he spoke up again “I’m supposing you don’t know anything about the German the found on our side? They say he was tortured”. All of a sudden I was violently wrenched from the conversation by a blinding force and a deafening roar. I woke, under mud, water and other things that didn’t bear mentioning. Struggling to rise I glanced for Jack. Eventually rising to my feet, I clenched the coarse material of his uniform and set about dragging him through the thick mire. My shoulder burning like fire, I charted the ghastly scene that lay before me. Bodies, or what was left of them, were strewn haphazardly along the wide-open space. Jack lay screaming and desperately clutched a thick shard of shrapnel that was now protruding from his leg. I tried to shout but fell, the world spun and all went black.
I woke in a bed. Beside me Jack was sitting in a chair, nursing a steaming mug of tea. He glinted at me, seeing that I had woken up and called the doctor. It was then that I had come to the realisation that Jack had received his freedom, and I my death sentence. We were both to be given honourable discharges.
At home, if you could call it home, I was a war ‘hero’. Jack bears the scars of war badly and it’s quite clear that he wouldn’t ever leave the village again for all of the money in the world. Me? This is prison; claustrophobic and terrifying. I miss the thrill and the excitement of my true home, where I could live life to the full.
But now I sit and write, staring at the gun on my desk. Jack could understand the lads who took their lives in their versions of hell, so perhaps he could understand if I did the same. But I remain undecided, so I sit here and I write.
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