BONES IN THE MUD"Quiet now, don't let the little jerk see us," said Jake. In all the years he had been playing tricks on the new apprentices this was the best ever. Another long wail broke the silence as the construction site slipped further into darkness."You are a wicked old man," said a fellow conspirator struggling to stop giggling like a schoolgirl. "And a clever one too. I'd never have thought of getting him to leave his mobile phone behind on charge.""Or sending him down to the soft spot," said another."Can you hear me? Over here. I'm stuck in the mud. Help!" The apprentice waved his arms as he shouted.He shouted some more, then got back to wailing.Jake checked his watch and grinned, "He'll soon have company. They'll be letting the dogs run the site. I'll bet he can find a way to slither out when he sees them coming."What if he can't get out of the mud?" someone asked."It's only a couple of feet deep. He can't come to any real harm," said Jake, "Time for us to get away home now. We'll hear his story in the morning."The next morning came bright and fresh to the site. Men arrived singly and in little groups. These were difficult times in the industry so no one came late, or forgot their tools, or admitted to nursing a hangover.But there was no sign of the apprentice."Hey Jake, you don't think he might still be out there in the mud?" said someone. They all had a good laugh but soon went quiet. Without another word being said, they set off down the site, slowly at first then quicker and quicker.Jake was soon way out in front. As he got closer what he saw had him choking for breath and reaching out for something, anything to steady himself."Stay back," he shouted to the others as they came up to where he had stopped, pale and shaking at the edge of the soft spot.And they did stay back, for no one had the stomach to go near where the dogs were grinding bones and quarrelling over the few scraps of flesh that remained.One of the men slipped away behind a wall. No one said anything, but they all heard him bringing up his breakfast.For a while they threw stones at the dogs. Still no one said a word.They made a sad little procession as they headed off to the site offices. Jake shivered as he thought over and over again of the empty, blood soaked overalls that had so recently carried the hopes and dreams of a new career.When they finally got to the offices, the site manager was waiting for them.Right beside him they saw the new apprentice who called out cheerfully, "I came in real early today. Hope the dogs liked the bones I put out for them. Oh and by the way, I seem to be needing a new set of overalls."endBones in the Mud was published in the print and online versions in Blinking Cursor Literary Magazine, Issue Two, Winter 2009.First appeared as 'Just Kidding' as First Place in Adult Creative Writing Club, Competition No. 94, June 2009.