Author: Hari Navarro
The bullet that didn’t kill my distant ancestor struck him just above the peak brim of his steel helmet. Our histories are boxed and sent and folded for us so neatly. I received my past on my ninth birthday, no surprise everyone does. Memories gleaned and projected from DNA so as we can sit and cringe and laugh and cry at just how so damn lucky we are.
I played it back. I listened to it so many times. The old man with eyes like mine who spoke of himself and a bullet. I listened to it late at night though I’d been told to turn down the light. So many times that it should of numbed my attention and lost its legs and become just another of the many childish things that I swallowed. But it was a story that grew as I grew and it flourished into a truth, whereas once I had thought it a tale.
As I grew to a teen he told my young ears that bullets they make a sound in battle that cannot be easily described. It was not so much their sound so much as their feeling, he said.
As if they were fingers. Fingers that stretch out from barrels and peel strips off of the airs true flesh. It a sound that becomes a reflex cringe that pushes down and has you want to claw into the earth, away from even the foul air that feeds your lungs, away from the screaming and the broken away skin and away from the ones that you love.
His bullet was a gush wail that ended in a crack. A snap that struck at the helmet that then grabbed at the strap that hung loose beneath his chin. The sky it rose up and he felt his eyelids clap shut and then the dark it swallowed him whole.
I loved the humour of this beautiful man. That smile as he told of the typed notice which would ride the wires across oceans and all the way back to his tiny home so many far miles away. False news of his death that would slap at his mother Mary and his father George and fold them both down to their knees.
The smile was for the message that followed “Condolences but your son he is still very much of this world”, or at least that’s how he said it did read.
I think about my ten times great grandfather often. I think about that tiny projectile that released and flew away from its shell. I think about the jolt of the Germans rifle and the smell of burnt fire that stunk in his nose. And I imagine myself fading to nothing had that fragment of flesh-eating lead been but a fraction of a fraction bit lower.
I sit in my car as it shimmers on air and I look at the whore as she sits in her chair. I look as the night heat it plays with her skin and I wonder just how she would taste. I think to snip off her hair and savour it stacked and bound in a box and I think of her frozen in ice. I want to soak her sweet bones and have them come out all clean and I want to then etch and then rub into them my blood, so as to draw out this tale of a shot.
But then I think of that bullet and I push the knife back under my seat and I drive away into the night.