Thursday, May 24, 2012

Flash Fiction Friday #9: Liminality is a Wonderful Nighttime Snack

The 9mm Glock is a great gun.

It rarely, if ever, jams.

In fact, when Glock GmbH, an Austrian-based knife and fine cutlery firm first designed the model 17, their goal was to have no more than 20 malfunctions permitted during the first 10,000 rounds fired, not even minor jams that could be cleared without the use of any tools. Nobody thought Glock could do it. The laughed at the little knife maker who had never even attempted at producing a firearm before.

But Glock did it. All because of new materials and ingenious engineering.

The Glock 17 was so aptly named because the Austrian military had seventeen different criteria which needed to be filled for a new handgun for purchase in 1980. A competition was held to find the new gun. Glock set to meet all the criteria with flair.

They won the contest, hands down. The tough little plastic gun that just wouldn't jam.
Except for mine.

I wonder how many times a camel has changed history.
Fine, I know, I dropped it in the sand. And a camel walked on it. And shit on it. But that's beside the point.

Youseff bin al Harlas was in my sights. And I pulled the trigger. Nothing.


At least he didn't shoot back. I don't even know if he had a gun with him. He just smiled that sly, wild dog smile that he's smiled before and walked off.

We had tracked Yibber (the nickname we gave him - personally, I think it's much better than "the Comet", which is the codename Langley gave him) for the past seven months. Al Qaeda's cells have gotten much more dispersed since Bin Laden was taken care of. We really have them beat, you see. But they keep adapting, changing. We don't even call them Al Qaeda anymore. We call't talk about that.


There I was in south central Yemen, a government attache to the Swiss consulate on trade, and my Glock jams on me.

There are certain points in history in which we realize that a chance has been taken and is now lost. That was one of those times; a threshold between two existential planes about to be born.

The only way I can find any consolation now is to fantasize, right before I go to sleep, that had I had another chance, I would have done things differently.

I would have left Sana'a (Yemen's shitty capital) an hour earlier than the Swiss consulate. I would have made the excuse that I don't like traveling at high noon. It's the heat, you know. Lots of excuses, really.

I would have, then, never met the dusty caravan trading machine parts for oiljacks. My privacy, then, would have left my gun devoid of camel stomp and shit when I dropped it trying to conceal it from the little boy from the caravan, who was far too nosy for an eight year old.

Then, I would have met Yibber by myself at crossroads 67. He would have asked me for a light, and BANG! Thup. Yibber's dead. Medals for me. Maybe retirement in Europe. Somewhere nice like the Italian lake region in the north. Lago Maggiore or Locarno. Yes.

But no.

The Yibber smiled at me.

And my Glock had sand and camel shit stuck in it.

Sometimes, that moment of historical significance, that liminal edge of making it big, slips away.

And all your left with is your what-if-fantasies.

But maybe it's better this way. I still have a story to tell my grandchildren (I was this close to him!) And I didn't have to kill someone; even a religious nut like Yibber. That's good, right?

What would my life be like had I done it? I don't know.

But I know that tonight I'll sleep well. Because, tonight, I'll toy around with the what-ifs again. Then I'll sigh.

And I'll drift off, wondering.


Kari said...

Did you hear the NPR interview with the journalist in Yemen who went to Qat chews? It was interesting, although a bit depressing. Anyway, I like your story. Yibber is a great nickname. The opening interested me and it moved on just as I started to wonder what the point was. Liked the humor and the character.

Trent said...

Hey brother, from my own perspective, if I heard this in a bar, I'd have to giggle at the guy. If you're close enough to shoot a fella in the face with a 9, and you're the sort who'd be tasked and/or in a position to do so, then you might as well just stick the bastard. It's more polite. That said, it's a good read. Grassyass.