I Hate Martin Amis et al.

I Hate Martin Amis et al. by Peter Barry

Book: I Hate Martin Amis et al. by Peter Barry Read Free Book Online
Authors: Peter Barry
I’d be forced to shoot them. I wouldn’t be keen to move, that’s for sure.
    Already I’m becoming used to the continual bombardment, the sounds of traffic and factories in any normal city replaced here by gunfire. It never stops throughout the daylight hours. Cannons boom in the surrounding hills, and when the shells explode in the streets below, everything shakes, even the ground on my side of the river. This shaking must do more damage to people’s heads than the shells themselves. It must wear them down. There’s also the hammering of machine guns and the whistle of artillery shells flying overhead, both punctuated by the flat crack of rifle fire from the snipers ringing the city. I always hear the report first. It can be from the mountains behind me, or in front, or to one of the sides. The city is surrounded by mountains – it nestles.
    We all watch and wait, those in and around the city, each wondering if a particular missile has our name on it. That’s an interesting expression: this missile has your name on it . John Smith, Flat 3, 54 Elm Walk. Who decides which name goes on the missile, then addresses it, writing the name and address neatly on the cone before posting it? God, is He the addressor? The waiting doesn’t take long in reality, before a building in the city erupts in smoke and dust, exploding with varying degrees of impressiveness, flames sometimes shooting skywards moments later.
    After advice from Santo, I now have a balaclava, a black one, which I stuff daily with an article of clothing, affix a pair of dark glasses to, and then, with a small forked stick I keep specially for the purpose, slowly raise a few inches above the window ledge. I call this ‘head’ after the headmaster who made my job as a school janitor so miserable. My feelings towards Mr Gilhooley are ambivalent. While wishing someone would put a bullet through his cotton-filled brain because of the way his namesake treated me, I also appreciate the fine job he’s doing on my behalf. Because of this, I hope and pray he’ll not be spotted.
    â€˜Come on, Gilhooley,’ I say as I expose him slowly to the enemy, ‘let me know what you can see out there.’ It has to be admitted that he volunteers for this dangerous work without hesitation, and I have nothing but admiration for the way in which he conducts himself. He is both selfless and patriotic, never once complaining or requesting a change of duties. So far he’s been fortunate: no one has taken a shot at him. When I eventually lower him back onto the floor, uninjured, and take his place, I can almost hear him give a sigh of relief. Mission accomplished, without mishap.
    My days are dominated by two activities: trying to keep warm and trying to shoot people. I wish shooting people was a more strenuous activity. I’m perpetually numb with cold, my hands and face blue. Lying prone on the ground, scarcely moving for most of the day, doesn’t help. Although I wear so much clothing I can’t imagine a bullet ever penetrating so many layers, some part of my body will still go into cramp on a fairly regular basis. I try to flex my muscles while remaining still. I make minute adjustments to the rear sight to allow for elevation and to the side sight to allow for windage, persuading myself that such tiny movements help to move blood through my veins, even though it’s already acquired the consistency of thick syrup. I pray for a target to appear, and it does, every so often. But it’s a challenge. We’re talking about someone who’s usually several hundred yards away, visible only for seconds and, to make it even harder, doubled up and running. It’s similar to a funfair shooting gallery: the target pops up and drops back down, or flashes across your line of vision. You don’t get much time. You have to be quick, instinctive. And that’s what saves me.
    I didn’t have time to think about

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