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Bernard Peasley

‘If you hear it before you see it, soldier, get flat, or it’s game over! You know the sound – it’s over in seconds.’ Sergeant Moreno had addressed his new arrival with the wisdom of one still living. The young soldier dropped his kit on the bunk with casual bravado.

‘I’ll just turn up my music, Sarge.’

Halfway into his tour, he was crouched behind a parapet with Moreno’s squad spread out across the flat rooftop. They were leading the push into Fallujah to repel the latest insurgency.

He was finishing a sweep of the building on the other side of the street with his sniper scope, when he noticed an Iraqi woman beating two carpets in the blazing sun on the roof – a graceful angel waving through the dust. He settled his eye into the viewfinder again to take in her emerald dress, rest the mill dot of its crosshair reticule between her eyes, just above her niqab. It was the natural thing to do – check where her eyes are looking. How could he detect treachery in those soft eyes focussed intently on the task of cleaning her family’s colourful rugs?

For a brief moment he saw his Jessie’s sweet face in the intense circle of light: innocent, open and hopeful for their common future. She was his first high school love. Everyone called them the perfect match. He was lucky to have found a life partner so early. But then he realized that the 60mm aperture of his telescopic sight was an intimate intrusion on this woman’s person. He panned the scope view right, traversing the first carpet as it shuddered under her laboured blows, across the small gap of blue sky and onto the second, dusty prayer rug.

It was Sergeant Moreno who yelled; Moreno who saw everything before he heard it; Moreno who never used a scope but was everybody’s guardian angel.

‘Incoming! Down! Down!’ The warning was muffled by Moreno’s own lunge for cover behind the parapet wall.


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