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The Sniper By Liam O Flaherty by anthonyvela

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									                                   The Sniper
                                Liam O’Flaherty
The long June twilight faded into night.       street. It stopped on the opposite side of
Dublin lay enveloped in darkness, but for      the street fifty yards ahead. The sniper
the dim light of the moon that shone           could hear the dull panting of the motor.
through fleecy clouds, casting a pale light    His heart beat faster. It was an enemy car.
as of approaching over the streets and the     He wanted to fire, but he knew it was
dark waters of the Liffey. Around the          useless. His bullets would never pierce the
beleaguered Four Courts the heavy guns         steel that covered the grey monster. Then
roared. Here and there through the city,       round the corner of a side street came an
machine guns and rifles broke the silence      old woman, her head covered by a tattered
of the night, spasmodically like dogs          shawl. She began to talk to the man in the
barking on the lone farms. Republicans         turret of the car.
and Free Staters were waging civil war.        She was pointing to the roof where the
On a roof-top near O’Connell Bridge, a         sniper lay. An informer.
Republican sniper lay watching. Beside         The turret opened. A man’s head and
him lay his rifle and over his shoulders       shoulders appeared, looking towards the
were slung a pair of field glasses. His face   sniper. The sniper raised his rifle and
was the face of a student - thin and           fired. The head fell heavily on the turret
ascetic, but his eyes had the cold gleam of    wall. The woman darted toward the side
the fanatic. They were deep and                street. The sniper fired again. The woman
thoughtful, the eyes of a man who is used      whirled round and fell with a shriek into
to look at death.                              the gutter. Suddenly from the opposite
He was eating a sandwich hungrily. He          roof a shot rang out and the sniper
had eaten nothing since morning. He had        dropped his rifle with a curse. The rifle
been too excited to eat. He finished the       clattered to the roof. The sniper thought
sandwich, and paused for a moment,             the noise would wake the dead. He
considering whether he should risk a           stopped to pick the rifle up. He couldn’t
smoke. It was dangerous. The flash might       lift it. His forearm was dead. ’Christ,’ he
be seen in the darkness and there were         muttered, ‘I’m hit’. Dropping flat on to the
enemies watching. He decided to take the       roof, he crawled back to the parapet. With
risk. Placing a cigarette between his lips,    his left hand he felt the injured right
he struck a match, inhaled the smoke           forearm. The blood was oozing through
hurriedly and put out the light. Almost        the sleeve of his coat. There was no pain -
immediately, a bullet flattened itself         just a deadened sensation, as if the arm
against the parapet of the roof. The sniper    had been cut off.
took another whiff and put out the             Quickly he drew his knife from his pocket,
cigarette. Then he swore softly and            opened it on the breastwork of the parapet
crawled away to the left.                      and ripped open the sleeve. There was a
Cautiously he raised himself and peered        small hole where the bullet had entered.
over the parapet. There was a flash and a      On the other side there was no hole. The
bullet whizzed over his head. He dropped       bullet had lodged in the bone. It must
immediately. He had seen the flash. It         have fractured it. He bent the arm below
came from the opposite side of the street.     the wound. The arm bent back easily. He
He rolled over the roof to a chimney stack     ground his teeth to overcome the pain.
in the rear, and slowly drew himself up        Then taking out his field dressing, he
behind it until his eyes were level with the   ripped open the packet with his knife. He
top of the parapet. There was nothing to       broke the neck of the iodine bottle and let
be seen - just the dim outline of the          the bitter fluid drip into the wound.
opposite housetop against the blue sky.        A paroxysm of pain swept through him.
His enemy was under cover.                     He placed the cotton wadding over the
Just then an armoured car came across          wound and wrapped the dressing over it.
the bridge and advanced slowly up the          He tied the end with his teeth.
Then he lay still against the parapet, and,       from his grasp, hit the parapet, fell over,
closing his eyes, he made an effort of will       bounded off the pole of a barber’s shop
to overcome the pain.                             beneath and then clattered on to the
In the street beneath all was still. The          pavement.
armoured car had retired speedily over the        Then the dying man on the roof crumpled
bridge, with the machine gunners head             up and fell forward. The body turned over
hanging lifeless over the turret. The             and over in space and hit the ground with
woman’s corpse lay still in the gutter.           a dull thud. Then it lay still.
The sniper lay for a long time nursing his        The sniper looked at his enemy falling and
wounded arm and planning escape.                  he shuddered. The lust for battle died in
Morning must not find him wounded on              him. He became bitten by remorse. The
the roof. The enemy on the opposite roof          sweat stood out in beads on his forehead.
covered his escape. He must kill that             Weakened by his wound and the long
enemy and he could not use his rifle. He          summer day of fasting and watching on
had only a revolver to do It. Then he             the roof, he revolted from the sight of the
thought of a plan.                                shattered mass of his dead enemy. His
Taking off his cap, he placed it over the         teeth chattered. He began to gibber to
muzzle of his rifle. Then he pushed the           himself, cursing the war, cursing himself,
rifle slowly upward over the parapet until        cursing everybody.
the cap was visible from the opposite side        He looked at the smoking revolver in his
of the street. Almost immediately there           hand and with an oath he hurled it to the
was a report, and a bullet pierced the            roof at his feet. The revolver went off with
centre of the cap. The sniper slanted the         concussion and the bullet whizzed past
rifle forward. The cap slipped down into          the sniper’s head. He was frightened back
the street. Then, catching the rifle in the       to his senses by the shock. His nerves
middle, the sniper dropped his left hand          steadied. The cloud of fear scattered from
over the roof and let it hang, lifelessly.        his brain and he laughed.
After a few moments he let the rifle drop         He decided to leave the roof and look for
to the street. Then he sank to the roof,          his company commander to report.
dragging his hand with him.                       Everywhere around was quiet. There was
Crawling quickly to the left, he peered up        not much danger in going through the
at the corner of the roof. His ruse had           streets. He picked up his revolver and put
succeeded. The other sniper, seeing the           it in his pocket. Then he crawled down
cap and rifle fall, thought that he had           through the sky-light to the house
killed his man. He was now standing               underneath.
before a row of chimney pots, looking             When the sniper reached the lane-way on
across, with his head clearly silhouetted         the street level, he felt a sudden curiosity
against the western sky.                          as to the identity of the enemy sniper
The Republican sniper smiled and lifted           whom he had liked. He decided that he
his revolver above the edge of the parapet.       was a good shot whoever he was. He
The distance was about fifty yards - a            wondered if he knew him. Perhaps he had
hard shot in the dim light, and his right         been in his own company before the split
arm was paining him like a thousand               in the army. He decided to risk going over
devils. He took a steady aim. His hand            to have a look at him. He peered round
trembled with eagerness. Pressing his lips        the corner into O’Connell Street. In the
together, he took a deep breath through           upper part of the street was heavy firing,
his nostrils and fired. He was almost             but around here all was quiet.
deafened with the report and his arm              The sniper darted across the street. A
shook with the recoil.                            machine gun tore up the ground around
Then, when the smoke cleared, he peered           him with a hail of bullets, but he escaped
across and uttered a cry of joy. His enemy        He threw himself face downwards beside
had been hit. He was reeling over the             the corpse. The machine gun stopped.
parapet in his death agony. He struggled          Then the sniper turned over the dead body
to keep his feet, but he was slowly falling       and looked into his brother’s face.
forward, as if in a dream. The rifle fell


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