Ye know what they say about guns? That whenever ye see one ye do nae want to be at the wrong end of it.
Well, the Argies were at the wrong end this morning when HMS Arrow opened up on them with 135 rounds of HE shells and a good load of star shells, too.
I do nae think the destroyer hit anything, though. But that’s nae the point. The point is to make the enemy freeze, like a deer in headlights.
In the old times, they had battleships for headlights and as we row in and wade ashore for one brief moment I find myself wishing that it had been a different war and everything in those trenches had been blown to kingdom come with one or two shells before we even got there.
Then I remind myself what my job is and go forward bent on finishing what those sailors could nae.
As far as I get …
Later when I sit near the prisoners, checking the compression around what’s left of my knee, I get to talk to a young Argentine soldier with a face like a graduate student. He speaks halting English.
I give him my last smoke and ask him if someone was actually hit by the initial fire, and he shakes his head.
“That is a lie,” Jones says to my right, “I saw one of them blown to bits by a shell.”
“So how about that?” I ask Miguel, as I find out his name is. “The ship did hit someone.”
He shakes his head again. “I no see it.”
“Well, Jones here says there was a body. Did ye nae see it?”
He shakes his head for the third time.
I get up on my crutches, look out over the sound, focusing on the numbness from all the painkillers. Then I hump away, suddenly feeling disgusted.
In a moment the chopper will be here to take me to the Uganda, where I can finally lie down in one of them fancy hospital beds they got in Gibraltar.
Jones calls after me. “Don’t matter what he says, Cal. We hit them. And then we killed some more of them.”
I nod. “I know ye did.”
“Don’t feel bad,” he says. “You didn’t get shot up like Hardman.” He nods over at the body bags. The Argentinian line is the longest, but ours is nae that much shorter.
“I don’t,” I say. “I’m just glad we got the bastards.”
He nods gravely. “Damn, right. Will you be okay over there? Got to stay and watch these blokes, you know.”
At least I manage nae to fall while humping around the minefield of sharp rocks. I do nae get more than 25 yards then I have to sit. Now I can actually feel my knee. I wish I still had that cigarette I gave Miguel.
I think of Deb, and of Caroline.
Strange. I should nae think of them.
I promised myself. They would nae understand.
But now I will come home and be a cripple and I have nae done anything. Will they understand that?
Will Deb understand that better than if I had killed someone like Miguel?
I breathe in the cold air hard to clear my head, but all I smell is seaweed and saltwater and that somebody pissed nearby.
I have to get up.
But there is nothing for me to do. Nothing but wait. Here on a particularly cold and wet rock, I just found to sit my ass down on.
He grins, as I call for him over my shoulder. I can see it even though he is partly obscured by those big rocks I just risked my other knee to get past.
Yeah, he grins all right. Prick.
“What gives, Cal? Want me to come and carry you back on my free arm?”
“Shut up, bawbag. Just checking if ye were paying attention to the prisoners.”
“They aren’t going anywhere, mate.”
“I want to shoot them.”
“You don’t mean that.”
I raise my voice. “They will nae see it! The lad who took my last smoke said he did nae see Arrow make haggis of his pals. They might as well all be friggin’ blind!”
Jones raises his voice, too. “The sailors didn’t hit anything, you know that you dumb ass—now get back here. The Brigadier is coming soon.”
I do nae answer. I just sit still on my rock.
For a long time, I watch flocks of albatrosses diving after fish in Grantham Sound. They are very high up, to begin with, then they come swooping down, leaving misty trails over the gray waves.
They can see everything they need to see from up there.