He had shot him in the woods, and every day, for seventy years, he remembered. The weight of metal in his hand as he lifted, fired. The explosion, the recoil. The incomprehensible causality of smoke escaping from the barrel as far off, a figure folded and fell into bracken.
Lying in bed, his wife close by, he tells her again. I know, she says, I know, and strokes his hand gently. He feels himself slipping away…
He had taken the child when they rounded up the village. Sullen, silent faces – they drove them like cattle, to the designated place, and they went without protest. Always so accepting of their fate. A boy of about 5, he had given him chocolate and made it seem a game. Show me he said, and the boy had: secret places where others were hiding. They took them also.
Then when it was his time, he had turned and run. He shouted, drew, fired. The child never grew old.
You are a fine boy he whispers. His son by the bedside, a man in his fifties, looks bewildered. But his father sees nothing more.