Spirit of a Sniper

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Spirit of a Sniper

The sheepskin hand-grip wrapped around the wooden guard of the rifle rested snugly in his right hand.  Again and again he sighted carefully at a mark on a wooden post beside the trough.  It was about the right size and the right height of a top tunic button.  

The rest for his right forearm was perfect.  The foresight of the No4 Mk1 rifle rested steady and dead black in the centre of the mark.  When he breathed out slowly the front sight rose vertically above the mark and when he breathed in it slid down until he checked his breathing to steady it again.  The rifle was perfectly balanced on the palm of his right hand.

In the afternoon when the angled sun beat into the sheltered yard of the farmhouse a man wearing only a towel around his waist sauntered out of the house.  Peter's breath caught in his throat and he stared aghast at the German.  He was as young as Peter himself and there was no tunic button to aim at.  There was only white skin with a small tuft of dark hair between the nipples on his chest.

He felt his hand began to tremble and he lowered the muzzle of his rifle. "No", he whispered to himself, "Go back!  Put some clothes on!  Get your rifle!  Please, God, I can't shoot him like this.  He's not even carrying a weapon!  This is MURDER," he thought in a panic of indecision.  He forced himself to raise his rifle and tried to take aim.  But the top of the foresight wavered in a circle over the boy's chest and before he could steady it he saw the German turn away from him to look at the ridge above.  He knew he was in full view of anybody who might be watching from up there but he stuck his two fingers in the air in a defiant salute.

Peter's sights were jumping all over the place. The young man pulled the towel from his waist and draped it over the post.  Peter stared at his thicket of dark pubic hairs.  Peter forced himself to steady his foresight on the side of the enemy's ribs. The German capered to and fro across the trembling foresight as he sluiced himself with water to wash away frothy patches of soap suds.
Then the smell of leather from the sheep skin covering of the hand-guard sobered Peter.  It reminded him of Mashona.  He exhaled a pent up gust of breath and he breathed deeply several times while his fit of nervous revulsion left him.  

Grass stems leaned slightly to the stroking hand of a breeze and Peter realised he would have to aim an inch to the right of the centre line of the man's chest to compensate for a little wind deflection.  The standard battle sight was fixed at 300 yards.  He would have to aim low because the bullet would throw two inches high at this short range.

The man put down his mess tin dipper and toweled himself vigorously.  He wrapped the towel around his waist and stood erect facing full on to Peter.  The top of the foresight rose smoothly and checked rock steady two inches below the centre of his chest and an inch to the right of the centre line of his breastbone.  The German jerked his two fingers up again in the direction of the ridge as Peter's hand closed and the trigger paused momentary on the brink of the final pressure required to fire it.

The tendons on the inside of Peter's wrist raised a line of whitened skin.  He inhaled fractionally and the flat top of the blade sight sank to an inch below the black pin-head of the German's navel.  The rifle bucked hard in his hands.  The crash of the shot slammed against his eardrums but his eye remained on the alignment of the sights to follow the flight of the bullet onto an imaginary belt buckle.

He felt drained.  He felt miserable and confused.  What had gone wrong?  Thou shalt not kill.  No!  Not in cold blood like shooting an unarmed man while he's having a bath.  Was it God who had changed his point of aim?  Was it God showing him only +++HE had the right to create life or to destroy it?  

Thoughts cannot be measured in terms of time.  The German folded over his navel as his legs crumpled.  He dropped to his knees and fell onto his back with his feet folded under his buttocks.  His bare arms beat the ground and he tried to turn over but only his upper body turned while the lower part remained facing the sky.  He pressed his hands against the ground and lifted up his head and chest with his hips pointing obscenely in the wrong direction.  He opened his mouth and screamed the unbearable agony from tattered nerve ends in his shattered spine.  His hooked fingers clawed at the ground to drag his broken body to safety but the dead lower half held him back.

"God, please finish him off for me!  Please God!  Put the poor bugger out of his misery.  PLEASE GOD!  I can't fire another shot ... Not now.  God, have you left this mess we have made for US to sort out?  Did you send Mashona and Cimela to train me to kill and now you've left me to get on with it?  If this is what YOU want me to do then I'll do it.  I won't ask you for anything.  Next time I won't think!  I will kill the way I was taught to kill and when it's all over I'll come back to you, God.  If I live through it."

A salvo of mortar bombs exploded among the rocks along the top of the ridge as two men ran crouching from the farmhouse looking fearfully up the slope as they ran.  They grasped the wounded man by his armpits and lugged him along between them at a shuffling run towards the farmhouse with his legs trailing uselessly along the ground and his screams of agony tearing at Peter's tortured nerves.

Read 65895 times Last modified on Monday, 09 December 2013 06:18
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