Gaza stories: Fat boy
We were stationed in Beit Hanoun. Every day I would take some 10 soldiers or so for a foot patrol along the main streets. Fully clad, sweating like hogs, and scared like shit. You see, macho as we were – it was their turf. You keep a distance between men. Stick to the walls and look at the roofs. All the time. Last man looks back. One before last looks at the last, to see he’s not snatched. You do not stop. If you do stop, everyone knows the defence positions. When you see a stone flying over a roof you shout ‘stone!’ and everyone looks to see where the next one’s coming from. Every stone shower is a dilemma: if you run after them, most chances are you’ll just waste your breath. If you don’t, you’re inviting some more. One time a couple of guys just burst out running into the allies trying to catch the kids. 30 seconds and they were gone. I was scared as hell. Luckily, they found their way back.
Then we go past an alley, a dead end, and the kids are waiting for us. the shower scatters around us, and we all charge in. There’s a wall at the end of the alley, and a garden behind it. They jump over the wall and they’re gone. But one kid is too fat, he tries to jump over and can’t. Poor bastard.
So we take him with us. I can’t say he didn’t get a slap on the face or two. Nothing serious, but its hard to stop the guys from venting off. Pity, he looks like such a good boy. Probably got into it by mistake. Really not the type.
We walk him with us back to base. Standard protocol is to keep him confined and call an interrogator from headquarters. Most times he’d just scare him a bit and send him home. Otherwise, if he gets logged in the system it could be 10 months jail.
We leave him by the sentry and go to wash the dust out of hour hair, maybe take our socks off and lie down in the tent until we can gather enough strength to play some backgammon. I hear some jubelious shouting, peep under the tent flap and see the cooks running towards the camp gate. I put on my shoes and rush out to meet them there, not a minute too soon. The assholes are having a party poking the kid.
If ever, in all my years of service, I nearly hit someone, it was those cooks. When my soldiers give someone on the street one across the face, I discretely take them aside, cool them off a bit. When they gave this kid an elbow, I told them to stop – but I knew where it was coming from. These cooks, they never set foot on the street. Never seen their friend’s face ripped by a metal pipe. Never smelt their friends fear sweat mixed with dust and gun oil. For them, it was entertainment. And for that, I could have skinned them.