Joe – Well no, it wasn’t like that. It might have been, and the books might say it, but no, I’m sorry. I was there.
Conrad – Tell me. Please.
Jose – Have you ever met someone who constantly bragged about the situations they had been in throughout their lives? Generally it means that they haven’t really experienced much. There’s a cliché that real soldiers never speak about their wars, and a lot of the time that’s true. I knew a man, older than me, he was a sniper, he killed, oh, fifty, sixty people, none of them in the heat of the moment, all of them killed after hours of meticulous preparation, and after he was done, or after the war was done, he put down his gun, returned home, and told his wife that he served the war as a cook. She was disappointed – she wanted a hero in her bed – and nobody back home ever knew what he had done. But these men are as rare as the endless braggers. Most talk, at least a little. They share, often with strangers, and sometimes very late at night when they are drunk and vulnerable.
Conrad – And. What about you? You aren’t talking about yourself.
Joe – Perhaps I am. I could be a bragger. I could be the silent sniper.
Conrad – But what are you?
Joe – You mean, who was I? Let me say. In the war, during the war, a tough period, about a month before they bombed London, I saw a little girl trapped under a collapsed church wall. Her face was white. Paler than I had seen before. Her left arm was under some rubble and she was caught, and her chest was caved in from a large clump of plaster that had fallen on her. And when I saw her I noted her position, I noted that she was dead, and I noted that her face was completely unknown to me.
Conrad – And? Then what?
Joe – And nothing.
Conrad – I don’t understand.
Joe – No.
Part of the Railroad Perfection series