We sat in the cramped kitchen huddled around the stove the open oven door spreading a faint warmth that barely slid through the winter chill. The bare bulb in the ceiling strained and flickered fighting to hold as the generators were shut down, and darkness enveloped our small world. The sky was lit by the flares and the odor of exploding shells seeped through the towel sealed windows covered in the tattered bedsheets too thin to afford warmth. Ibrahim had been gone two weeks sneaking out of the city to join his brothers in Gorazde or Tuzla, or wherever it was that they were struggling to save what little was left. We huddled under the small table and dreamed of the taste of fresh bread, or even pork. In the morning he would run among the craters in the streets in search of the convoy and the handouts, which we would raven as the sun set over our war torn hell.
First published in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. XXX, No. 1 & 2, 2006
The dog refuses to walk around the house and check the driveway, and so the shells will rain on the village as they do each time she senses fear.
She has a sight beyond that I can fathom, curled under the heat vent, as though the cries of children carry in her dreams, her tail dances against the grate.
On most nights when she makes her final trip, the automatic light over the garage flips on and we can all sleep peacefully until we realize that God has chosen a furry surrogate, lives resting between her paws.
She surely should have known better. Selling sea shells by the sea shore is a short sighted career path. Anyone can pick up the shells on the seashore, selling shells is simply silly, and she should see that. But each day she sets up her stand, sets out the shells, and sits waiting to see who will shop for her sea shells. No one does, of course, but she is certain she will sell some soon if only to sailors shortly setting sail. So sad, really, but she certainly does not seem to mind.
There was nothing he liked more than wandering along the shore early in the morning, before the rakes and people arrived, just to see what the night had washed in on the now departed high tide. There would be shells of course, but rarely one he didn’t have already in profusion, and the occasional jellyfish which he would flag for the lifeguards to remove later. He always hoped for a bottle with a message in it, from some far off place, or containing a cry for help, but all he had found were plastic soda bottles, a few he was surprised to see, with labels in Portuguese, from Brazil, he imagined, until it became clear from the other trash, that they were from a ship jettisoning garbage into the ocean he called mother.