“Somehow, I’ve lost
the feeling,” Oliver explained to his handlers, his fingers gingerly touching
the suicide bomb belt attached to his waist. “I don’t know if I can go through
with it now.”
“But what of your
faith in the cause?” asked the short,
rotund man with the sleepy eyes. “Have you lost that, too?”
“Of course not. Don’t
get me wrong, Sammy. I must simply be in the right state of mind.” replied the
tall, aristocratic-looking man. “It’s not every day that one sacrifices one’s
life to destroy a government.”
“That is not true,”
said Gabe, taking a deep draw on his Gitane. “Perhaps you need more time to
think about it. We’ll leave you alone for a while so you can meditate on the
glory of your great mission.”
shuffled out of the room into the kitchen, pausing by a grimy window to look
out at the dark factories and shadow-laden houses of the city’s slum quarter.
“Just our luck,”
complained Gabe with a nervous shake of his head. “Our first North American
assignment, and we get saddled with an artist who has to be in the right mood.”
Sammy. “The minister, Mr. Linscombe, was once a stage actor, an artist of high
“Bah!” spat Gabe.
“Mock him if you
will,’ said Sammy, “But don’t forget what happened to Lincoln when he met
Booth. Now how’s about relaxing with a game of cards while our Minister of
Culture prepares for his glorious self-immolation?”
Government Minister of Culture, sat on the carpet looking deep within himself
for an answer.
must be removed to make way for the adherents of the true cause,” he reflected
with fervid conviction. “Yesterday, I
was certain I was the man who could do the job. Now, I’m not so sure. Somehow…”
Oliver’s fingers explored the bomb belt. “I must convince myself that I can
perform this act of purifying violence.”
The thespian’s eyes
lit up with sudden inspiration. “I’ll take on the role!” he blurted out
He imagined he was walking into the seat of government, the bomb belt hidden
beneath his suit. “No one will suspect a cabinet minister of being a suicide
bomber,” he whispered to himself as he sat down in his usual chair next to his
fellow cabinet members. His hand slid stealthily down toward the detonator’s
trigger switch in his pocket; his heart beating wildly. All I have to do is flip the
switch, he thought. It’s so easy…
squeezed the trigger switch; then he stopped.
“For a moment there,
I felt I could do it,” he said, gasping for breath.
Sammy turned over
his hand and grinned. “A flush, all diamonds,” he laughed. “Diamonds represent
money, you know. Too bad we can’t gamble for stakes. But it is forbidden.”
Sammy closed his eyes and rubbed his fingers together, as if they were holding wads
of cash. “but I can still imagine my winnings.” He smiled and said, “And it
feels like all the money in the world.”
Gabe. “Now all you have to do is live long enough to enjoy it. You’re in the
wrong business for that.”
Oliver wiped the
sweat from his brow and breathed heavily, until he felt himself calming down. I still
lack the conviction to destroy
myself, he thought grimly. Being a
suicide bomber is the hardest role I have ever attempted. I must take on the
role again, but this time with greater zeal and depth of feeling.
Gabe turned his hand
over and grimaced. “A royal flush, all spades,” he whispered. “Spades represent
death.” Gabe’s eyes opened wide, as if he were seeing the world anew. He rubbed
his cold hands together in an effort to warm them. “But I don’t have to imagine
death, do I? That’s the business we’re in.”
Oliver closed his
eyes and concentrated. He imagined he was back in the cabinet chamber, his ears
filled with the sound of cabinet members seated about him, conversing in low
tones. He could smell the fragrant perfume of the Minister of Women’s Affairs.
Suddenly his eyes blinked open, his hand firmly gripping the trigger switch.
“You’re all going
die!” the thespian shouted, jumping up from the floor, flipping the trigger
Gabe stood up
abruptly when he heard the minister shouting in the adjacent room. “I can feel
death all about us, Sammy!” he cried with sudden realization.
For a moment, Oliver
realized he was completely lost in the role he was playing. That he’d gone too
far to turn back.
The ancient man
turned his gaze away from the gruel on his dinner plate when he heard the
blast, to stare out the dirty tenement window at the burst of light illuminating
the garbage-strewn alley.
“Well, look at that,”
he said to his wife. “It sort of gives you a feeling of warmth and security to
see the old neighborhood lit up like that, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, dear,” she