THE SNIPER’S SON • by Jill Barth

Each time they make love it is the same: his vigorous young body blanketing hers, her plaid skirt pulled up, his red bicycle on its side, forgotten momentarily. You are my obsession, my love, An bpósfaidh tú mé. His bold Irish mouth begging, insisting into hers, marry me. Marry me.

Afterwards he zips up. He stands tall over her, pockets his hands. Still lying on the ground, she pulls her skirt down, crosses her thin legs at the ankles. This is what I mean, he says, throwing a long leg over the bicycle. This is what we could have, more of this, all the time.

She approaches his bike, still on her knees, reaches up with thin arms. A kiss for her from above. A whirling set of tires and he is gone. She is left on the ground. Nowhere to go but up.

She still tastes him, the cursed skin tattooed with his alliance to the church, to the cause. His heavy voice pounds in her head, the ancient language, illicit to her. The thought of his small gun, carried in a pouch on the back of his bike makes her thrill.

Her brother was killed by his father. The boy is forbidden.

She first saw him at her brother’s funeral. Mourning garb, suit jacket too big, grey trousers too short. Her father spit at him with hate and horror. The boy left, knocking the minister with his shoulder as he passed the fresh, muddy grave. He was a boy so repulsive Mum didn’t even warn her of him. But Mum had never lain under him, never sucked his breath or pressed into his hips.


Listen for the pebble; I will wait under your window. He presses his back against the stone house, feeling her room above him. She is up there, somewhere between his thoughts and the gray, mottled moon.

The pebble burns in his hand. He throws it upwards and over his shoulder and waits, can’t breathe. The sound it makes is so tiny, lost in the pressure of this night. He presses his hands to his face, prays to Mary for their unborn sons; let them never feel this fire-love, this grappling lust.

Without a sound from the door, she leaves home. The girl sidesteps, her thin back pressed against the solid wall. She pulls herself along the house, smooth stone cool through her cardigan. Her hands feel along the edge. She anticipates his energy as they stand, just a meter apart, looking separately, silently into the dark.

Her small, white hand reaches, feels gingerly along the stone, catches a bit of fabric and pulls. Frantically, he clasps her hand, tiny enough to crush. At the crux of her home they are connected, backs against different walls, facing different directions, holding on.

Jill Barth lives just outside of Chicago in a very old house with her very young children and her just-right husband. She has been a recent contributor to Boston Literary Magazine and Virtual Writer.

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