FIRST NIGHT IN GAZA
Thick smoke was burning his throat, slowly filling his lungs. He threw the cigarette butt on the pavement and crushed it with his boot. After that, he inserted the magazine cartridge into the automatic rifle, entered the backseat of an armored SUV and slammed the door.
“Are you new here?” asked the man behind the wheel, looking at the passenger in the rear view mirror. He nodded.
“I was transferred from the tank school.”
“You are out of luck, bro.” laughed the driver.
“Luck has nothing to do with it. I applied for the transfer myself.”
“Yourself?” the amazed driver looked at the reflection of the passenger’s eyes. “What the fuck!”
“Are you surprised that people can choose their own destiny?”
“No, I am rather surprised about the choice you’ve made!” the driver chuckled, examining the passenger’s shoulder straps. “Are you a tank commander?”
“Yeah. My name is Yohai. What's yours?”
“What difference does it make?” replied the driver. “So you must be Pinsker’s replacement.”
“I guess… I don’t really know. What happened to him?”
“He was born a fool. How many times have they warned him not to expose himself! And what does this idiot do? He climbs on top of the tank and stares over the fence, enjoying the scenery like a Swedish tourist. That’s when the Palestinian fisherman caught him.”
“What's a Palestinian fisherman? Local slang?”
“This is what we call snipers here. ‘Cause it’s like fishing; you set your optical hook and wait for the first idiot to expose his foolish mug.”
“I see,” muttered Yohai, writing the new phrase in his notebook. “And how did the story end?”
“No happy endings here,” the driver said quietly with a shiver, recalling that sinister pop of the bullet puncturing flesh. “The guys pulled him off the tank, onto a stretcher and into a helicopter. Now he is recovering in the hospital in stable condition. The whole outpost was up in arms that day; everyone rushed to cover the perimeter, but the sniper was already long gone; disappeared into the dust.”
Their conversation was interrupted by the opening of the front passenger door. The battalion commander entered the jeep and looked at Yohai: “Are you ready?”
“Let's move then!” said the battalion commander, nodding to the driver.