Two Soldiers

My breath is as thick as our tension. I chance a look around the crumbling wall I shielded myself behind. Our eyes meet across the ten foot no-man’s-land. My trigger finger twitches. Bullets spew from my rifle and I stumble back behind cover. The ground where I stood was studded with bullets. A din of silence falls between us. I crouch upright and clutch my only weapon to the ramming heart in my chest. Distant gunfire sounds off. My quivering legs can barely maintain a crouch, but the tenseness of my muscles keeps me upright.

“Are you still there?” I hear an accented voice from across the concrete gap.

I swallow until I have cotton mouth. “Yeah.”

“Are you hit?” The squiggling pitch of the voice suggests that whoever I shot at is in a pretty similar state to me.

“No,” I huff, “are you?”

“No,” the voice replies followed by a beat of delirious laughter. “You’re an awful shot.”

I furrow my brow and peer over the weathered brick. Through windows between shrapnel I can see bits and pieces of the person I shot at. They’re inching away from the edge of their cover.

“Should we try that again?” They suggest.

I duck back down and let out my own bout of hysterics. “Well shit, if you wanna.”

I hear a mutter, but can’t discern their words. “On three then.”

When you say three or after?” I inch my foot towards the edge of the crumbling wall.

“Let’s say after.”

“Okay.”

“One. Two.... three!”

I leap out with my gun poised. My penpal walks out with his hands up. He kicks his rifle aside and grins at me. “It is well after ‘three’.”

I move my finger off the trigger and rest it on the guard. “Pick up your gun. I won’t shoot an unarmed man.”

“Then you are more earnest than your companions.” His grin drops with his tone.

“Well? Pick it up,” I insist.

“I’m as good as dead in any direction I go. I only ask that you make this quick.” His bushy eyebrows bunch and he turns his head down. He moves his innocent hands to give me clear aim at his chest.

I lower my weapon. “I would if I could-”

He looks up, the brown of his eyes glossed over with tears.

“-but like you said,” I continue, “I’m a shit shot.”