Ick. I had best avoid steampunk and faux-British narration techniques if this is any indication:
I was quite bored most of the time in the country. The village schoolteacher was a very old, near-sighted fellow by the name of Mr Derrykeep. He had long ago forgotten everything he was supposed to be teaching, and forgotten also where he placed his glasses, his chalk, his jacket, his lunch, and his very mind. I had learned quite nearly everything my city school had to teach, and did not like to babysit the village children while they tried not to learn their letters at all.
Since Mr Derrykeep couldn’t recognize his students one day to the next, or tell when they were in class or not, I had a tendency to abandon my studies entirely. There were no other boys my age in the village – or girls, for that matter. The boys my age in this rugged country had mostly lied about their age to join the service early, or had hid in caves among the hills to avoid conscription upon their seventeenth birthday. The girls were mostly volunteering in the hospitals and hospices and factories and farms. I was a lone figure in a quiet village full of old men, overworked women, and young children.
I felt like the last boy in the world. I felt like this whole war had been constructed by invisible machinations between the Liverspudlians and the Gerrymandrians to ruin my life for good.
I was a worldly city boy from Liverspudlian City, and a restless sixteen. My father had been conscripted early in the war, and he currently served as an officer aboard a war zeppelin in the southern shores. As bored as I was, I had tried to convince my mother to allow me to conscript early, but this would have required lying about my name and age. My mother adamantly refused, and wrote furious letters, including my deguereotype, to all the recruitment stations for three counties. She explained it to me thusly. As my family were rather important folks, we would never lie about anything in the public record. Even a patriotic lie could be used against us by conniving courtiers.
Naturally, I did not believe her for a moment, but I allowed her to tell me that reason.
I probably could have hitchhiked back to the besieged city and signed up at the first recruiting station that didn’t pay any attention to mother’s letters on the subject – which would be nearly all of them. However, as miserable as I was, I was not gumptious and presumptious enough to seek a change in my own life. I was the kind of lad to whom things happened. I was not that other sort quite yet. Thus, some boys are men quite young for they take a handle of their lives. Other men are boys a long time because they are the person to whom everything happens.
I skipped school, and that was as much gumption as I had. I walked around the country, throwing stones and watching the clouds and hunting hares with a slingshot.
I was a terrible shot, and never caught a thing.
Mr Marbury had crafted the slingshot for me. He was an older man – they were all older men in every village – with only one leg. The other leg was an elegant constructs of gears and pneumatic pumps to give him all the balance of a normal foot, with five toes and an Achilles tendon and everything. (Normally, he wore boots, but I had asked him once why one of his boots made strange noises like a large clock. He pulled off his boot and showed me his replaced limb sodered into his kneecap in a manner that looked most painful, but he assured me it didn’t hurt a bit.)
The village still had a large flock of sheep. Mr Marbury had to watch very closely lest the young men hiding in the hills snuck off with the village’s mutton. He kept a long rifle with him. If I was walking with him, he let me carry it. Country boys are accustomed to long strolls with rifles. I was not. Mr Marbury talked casually about the weather and the status of the sheep and the state of teatime with all this dreadful rationing, but he knew I wasn’t paying attention.
I was holding a gun.