|Sarah Hall [theguardian]|
Grace turned to the man behind her. She smiled.
— You’ll see. You’ll also be trying to get away from the pain. Look at you, so fresh in your uniform, you think you understand what it is to fight.
— Well, I have an idea, but why don’t you inform me, colonel.
— Let me tell you then. They tie the tubes off in your stomach with small metal clamps before you die, so that your shit can’t come out of the bullet holes while the priest reads last rites. It’s not possible to have a priest vomiting over a dying man because of the smell of guts and food turning into shit, you see. Have they told you what the most common injury is in the war? It’s your brain. The war punches an asshole in it and whenever it feels like it, it fucks the asshole. Always it feels too small, like it’s tearing open. You’re never going to get used to it — like a virgin will make herself stronger and stop bleeding. It always hurts when the war fucks you, but you know it’s rubbing on a place in your brain that you can’t control so you’re going to respond like you want to be fucked by it — maybe you’ll beat your wife when you get home or put your fingers in your little daughter, put her up on the table and make her dance for you in her mother’s shoes and pearls. And when the war is done fucking it comes, this stinking mess, this juice just like your own, and then the children of the war will live in your brain too. Even when you’re an old man with your polished medals, all bent over and can’t get hard and smelling of piss, sometimes the war will want to come back and fuck your brain in its asshole. All your life. Or until you put your gun up to here and pull the trigger. Yes. Yes.
Only the noise of the bobsled chicaning on its runners and the screams of the jubilant riders and the creak of shutters and signs leaning into the breeze on Oceanic Walk could be heard in the ensuing quiet. Grace was still smiling, broadly now, with her finger pointing to her temple like a gun barrel. And it was a terrible smile, terrible for the lack of psychotic characteristics, for the peaceful crescent moon it made of her mouth while the words escaping it had been rank. Cy could smell the tide coming in four hundred yards away, though he was holding his breath. She removed her hand and nodded again.
— Jesus Christ! Alrighty then, missy, no need to get crazy. Why the hell did you have to go and say all that for, anyway?
The young man turned to face Cy, to find out where his allegiances lay.
— This your girl? ‘Cause she sure is a swell lady. A real charmer.