I was hoping someone would get shot. Why else was I there? But I never said that, none of us did, how could you? I needed some action for the head office.
It was a little cold, but sunny. We set up chairs on the side of the street covered by a building where we couldn’t be killed. We took the chairs from the bar that was right there. They had beers. So we set up our cameras on tripods and waited. The guy in the bar put some music on. It sort of felt like being on holiday. Some took their shirts off as it got warmer, to start tans.
No, we’d never say that, about why we were sitting in the chairs on the safe side of the street in the sun waiting for someone to get shot by a high calibre bullet. We would say, ‘the world has to know,’ and that, ‘we were there to help.’ Helping the people. I guess the most important thing to have covering a war was what Nietzsche talked about, ‘showing pity, but never having it.’
I saw the man in the fine suit standing over in the park, but didn’t take much notice of him at first. It did seem strange; he was so well-dressed in the middle of a war.
A bit drunk now after a few beers. This war business isn’t so bad after all. The sun, the music, beers. Waiting. Somebody would have to pass by on the other side of the street. They’d have to go shopping, or somewhere.
We told the guy in the bar to turn the music up. I thought about my head office. I was thinking about that phrase that I often heard down the phone line, ’got any bodies?’
If I got some it would be a good day’s work. It would help me in the company. Ghosts helping me, imagine.
Then we saw the old woman. She walked right there in plain view of the man with the rifle who sat up in a darkened apartment way up high and down the street. That man was hard to find. He sat at the back of the apartment resting his gun on sandbags, steadying it, at the back so no one outside could see the muzzle flash when he fired. He was probably quite young and walked to his job, which was hunting and killing, anyone would do, slower walkers preferred, or those that had lost their minds during the war.
We raced to our cameras. I followed the old woman looking through the viewfinder, hoping.
‘Got any bodies?’
Then a window opened across the street and another old woman shouted at us. She called us ‘vultures.’ She threw a tomato. Another window opened. An old man in a white T-shirt shook his fist at us and swore.
A journalist shouted back, ‘we’re here to help you old man!’
So we shouted at the woman on the street: ‘Sniper!’ we screamed. But she didn’t care. That happens to some after years of war. They don’t care anymore. One fellow had gone really mad. Everyone knew him. He used to dance in his underwear in the middle of the street.
He just stood there with the bloody palm in front of my truck. He wouldn’t let me go.
I guess we felt guilty. One of us jumped in an armored car, the ones we used in that city, and tried to shield this woman on the street from the man up high who wanted to kill her. We opened the door as we shadowed her with the car and kept telling her about the sniper but she told us to fuck off.
A tomato hit the car.
A door opened and someone let her into a house. She was gone.
We left the cameras on the tripods and sat down in the chairs. We got more beers. Somebody else would come soon. I saw that man in the park again. He was glaring at us. I noticed he had a dog with him. The dog was just sitting there sniffing in the air.
Then he pointed at me. His arm extended just like that with his finger right on me.
I leaned over to a colleague. We laughed, ‘go away you crazy old coot,’ I shouted. He kept pointing. ‘Don’t know if we’ll be lucky today,’ I said to the man next to me. It sounded as if we were on a fishing trip. I leaned back in the chair and swallowed some beer. It was getting hotter.
Then a man came. He was walking slowly down the street carrying a bag of fruit. I could see the ends of celery sticking out. We shouted again, told him about the sniper. The windows opened across the street. No tomatoes. She’d probably run out. But she did keep calling us vultures.
This guy was really spaced out. He was old and had on a tattered grey suit and a grey hat. There was a very loud crack on the pavement. The man high up was shooting.
‘Sniper!’ we screamed. But the man only glanced over at us. It was the last thing he did. The next shot hit him in the head and he fell lifeless to the pavement. Got it! Wait til the head office sees this! Right on camera. Now he’s dead.
The people in the windows were screaming. Blood pooled up around his head. I saw his hat on the ground next to him. The celery had fallen out of the bag and was nestled in the blood. We’d best get out of here. Lots of people are angry. We started to pack up the equipment.
That’s when he came, the man that was in the park. He walked over to the body and bent down. He put his hand into the red patch of blood. Then he lifted it up and showed his bloody palm to us. We packed faster and faster. He started coming right at us, walking. More cracks on the pavement all around him but he didn’t stop. He came closer and closer with his bloody palm extended.
‘Fuck off!’ one of us shouted. ‘Yeah, fuck off,’ another chimed in. But this guy kept coming. I grabbed everything and ran to the truck. I jumped inside and started the engine. I wiped sweat from my forehead and when I looked up he was coming right at the truck, right at me. He stopped there, stared at me. The blood dripped from his palm onto his wrist. He was right in front of me. He wouldn’t move. He just stood there with the bloody palm in front of my truck. He wouldn’t let me go.