A SHORT STORY…..
I pulled the reigns back sharply to stop the horse and looked over the edge of the canyon,as the dizzying sight came fully to my vision , looking almost straight down into the currents of the Snake river , the horse turned back to the path and stopped , Climbing down and tying the reigns to an old blow down , I stood for a moment and watched as the lazy current of the river swirled around the boulders below. I looked down at the spot where everyone pulled into the banks of the river to portage around the unnavigable part of the canyon .
I removed the rifle from the rolled up old army blanket , took the olive green square by the corners and spread it out onto the pine needles , thinking back a few years to the time when I was in the woods of another country , the same rifle was now lying here before me. Some of the intensity of those experiences in the jungle come back now in visions of black and white , maybe that’s how it should be , maybe that’s what the mind has to do to effectively deal with the images of the war and exploding visions in one old snipers twisted mind…….who knows , but come back they do , in the darkened dreams of the night or in the hot sticky realities of flashbacks in the daytime. They always come back……
It’s strange though , I had never before connected the duty of a soldier to this……and to make sense of the last five years , Revenge , had never crossed paths with the duty of a soldier . No one chooses to become the sniper, at least that’s my opinion of it , snipers are created ! That’s the usual way of the process . First , a man goes through boot camp in the military , at which point he or she learns to fire a rifle , some people can’t handle the amount of precision needed for extreme accuracy at long ranges , really it’s just a matter of steady hands and an intense focus on the targets , locking out of your mind evrything but the moment , the rifle and the target. A trigger an actual extension of the finger , the finger , the arm the eye , all of it one fluid machine, “Aim small , Miss small…….” that old revolutionary term used in the training of the mind.
His raft would be coming down the river this afternoon , and pulling out here at the shoreline . He ! Thats how I describe the target , will turn at the last minute like they always do here , pulling the oars quickly and strongly to draw him away from the rapids that would carry him into the whitewater abyss that no man ever goes into , voluntarily at least , although those who have made the mistake of trying the run this part of the “Snake ” had learned the hard way. Thier bodies turning up days or weeks later , if ever .
The Target , the man that vowed at the end of the long trial to never be taken alive if the law ever came for him again. The man who so blatantly denied killing her , her ………The evidence was all there , It’s funny how the system can fail so quickly in a trial , the evidence can be there in spades , the attorneys , the prosecutors , all of them” just doing thier jobs” , as some minor trial procedure , one minute part of a system can abruptly play into the picture ………….”All Charges dropped ” against the defendant ! ………The system failing as the attorneys shake hands with the judge , the defendants throw there hands up in celebration…….but the worse part of it all, the defendant looking directly at me and sneering …….
The headlines ” Repeat Drunk Driving , Manslaughter Charges Dropped”…….in the papers after the trial……….How does this happen , ………how do victims get swept under rugs again and again and again? How does an innocent woman die at the hands of a man who shouldn’t be on the road at all , and just to be forgotten by the law designed to protect the victim from these animals…….
I have waited ten years for this day ……and nothing now will stop the process of universal justice from finally having it’s day in the courts of revenge. The old rifle fits into my hands well, like shaking hands with an old friend , you never forget the hand you shook again and again.
And lying here for hours ?……..waiting has never been a problem for me , As just before dusk I see the yellow hull of the raft , his raft , alone…….coming slowing down the river ……yes he’s alone ……and I watch as he raises and lowers the oars , the gleam of the water running along the handles and back to the river from which it came…….He looks at peace , his glances along the shore a look of content on his face , all of this in the rifle scope ……
The rifle on its bi pod stand follows its target like a movie camera follows a dancer across the floor of the ballroom, the crosshairs move slightly from on thing to another , so many targets , but there is only one I will accept ……..In my scope the river flashes on the ripples of water in the background , my crossairs in the scope find the handle of his right handed
oar just at the place where it meets its hold on the hull of the raft.
Just at the moment he begins to pull hard to turn the raft away from the point of no return in the river , I fire the rifle ………..In the recoil of the shot , I have one quick vision of the oars handle exploding in splinters , and holding hard in follow through I regain my target into view and raise my head in time to watch it happen …….The quick spiralling turn of the raft , the scramble of a man in action …..in complete surprise ……jumping to try frantically to regain control of the big raft ………….Too late!
I stand quickly from prone to full height and as I do I see the raft spin once quickly as he loses balance and hits hard against a boulder ……..as it up ends and dumps him head first into the white swirling currents of white water rising into a wall in front of him ……..and just as quickly he is gone …….all there is now is the sound of the whitewater against the canyon walls so loud that the echoes of the shot aren’t even present ……something inside of me feels a chilling coolness as he dissapears into the white surfaces of the river……..
I feel it more than acknowledge any thought as my eyes drift to the lower part of the falls ……..and at once more a feeling of the sounds on the river …..a feeling at the knowing mind of the sniper …….Aim Small , miss small ……..One shot one kill……. And just as the sun dips below the rocky ridge along the opposite banks , I throw the rifle over the edge of the rim of granite and watch it hit the deep pool of a swirling calm and deep whirlpool.
Rolling up the wool blanket …..the blanket that for so many times we laid right in this very spot and watched the same sun dissapear across the river. Our blanket ……hers and mine ……..and rolled it unto the back of the saddle ……climbing up onto the horse’ back I turn once and look down at the empty river below , our river ! And realize at once , I will never see this place again ………For long moments a feeling of numbness flows through me as visions of her smiling walk before my eyes ………and Her walk ……her love !
Riding slowly down across the pine forest trails , as the sound of the river behind me dissapears and the darkness settles into the forest like a thousand times before , as we returned from our spot there on the riverside cliffs , there is only one thought , one feeling really ……..revenge on the river.