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Nature of War
Hadeel Salameh


The yells calmed down, the baby stopped crying, and they began to pack their guns. The job was done.  Aharon looked at Ariel, she had an uneasy look on her face, as though she were about to throw up.  “It’s okay, you’ll be able to do it someday,” he said.

“I heard them beg for freedom just before the shots fired.”

Aharon put down his gun and walked towards her.  He put his hands on her shoulders and looked into her eyes, trying to convince her to carry on.  This is justice, he thought and he wondered how to help Ariel see it as she should.  He started to explain self-defense and how if they didn’t take action they would end up the refugees but all she heard was the sound of children and grown men crying.  “But they didn’t even attack—we came to their streets,” Ariel said.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me, Ariel.”

“I—I’m not, why are we—what are we doing here?”

Aharon wiped the sweat off his face with his hands and brushed his fingers through his hair.  He let out a long sigh.  The village once quiet and ordinary was now stained with blood and it was only 5 p.m.  It was going to be a long day, and the good kind of long—the kind that was lengthy in its celebration at the bar, the kind that ended with cheers. 

She watched the men and women kick the bodies to the sides of the streets.  “I can’t stay here,” she said.  Aharon lifted his hands and shrugged; it wasn’t his decision to make.

“If you denounce your position on the force, you know you’ll have to do time,” he said.

“Yes, I know that but I can’t stay here.”  Ariel walked past the tank to a man bleeding—the collar of his shirt stretched to the width of his shoulder, the buttons piercing into the bare skin of his torso, the material of his shirt sticking to the curly hairs on his chest from sweat and blood. 

There wasn’t much she could do and she knew that, but she helped him up and walked him to the tank anyway, telling him in broken Arabic that he’d receive medical care once they reached Tel-Aviv.  He removed his shaking hand from the struggle of applying pressure to his wound and tried to push her hand away, his hand lazily falling on her lap.  He was muttering something under his breath that she could only understand as a refusal of help.  She saw the pain in his eyes and pulled back a little, afraid of how this man saw her.

“What the hell, are you out of your damn mind? You can’t bring dead weight with us.  We just shot him,” he tried to keep his voice down.  He didn’t want to attract the attention of the other soldiers.  “He can’t stay here,” he said, “What?  Do you—do you want me to call his people to come for him?” Aharon let out a smug laugh.  The man was starting to pass out.  Ariel stared at her boyfriend until the lines at the corners of his mouth dulled out.  He hated that she felt for this man.  The enemy.  It shouldn’t matter if he was in pain.  She should know better.  “Let’s go,” he said.

“Just hold on, okay?”

The other soldiers started to notice Ariel search this man, mocking her while she frantically looked for his ID, as if she thought he was a person.  They laughed and she let them, they could think whatever the hell they wanted, she thought.  Then Dead Weight made a loud, waking sound and Aharon and the other soldiers passed quick glances to one another.  Aharon made his way to the man and nudged his limp body with this boot. 

“What the hell’s your problem, as if killing the guy isn’t enough?”  Aharon could have kicked her for this, for defending the enemy, for being so brainwashed by their cries.  He took his M16 and called the new boy on the force over.  He handed him the gun and ordered him to shoot the man.  The way the new boy gripped the gun with a steady hold on the trigger could have fooled just about anybody.  The kid was a natural.  “You’ve got it, son.  Now shoot it.”  Aharon’s eyes shot to meet Ariel’s.  He starred at her with clenched hands, waiting for her to look up from the ground she was crouched over, waiting for her to rise from the level of filth.  But she didn’t move.  Her eyes strained and burned, wounded by the sight of the unbroken skin on the man’s bare belly, flawlessly glistening from both sweat and blood as he gasped his last moments of the dry, unwavering air.   She didn’t notice she was holding his hand until she felt his fingers twitch.