The Bond between Heaven and Earth

His face had been shot off during the war, taken by a screamer shell that burst overheard while he was pissing. He was tied to the ground by the thin stream of his urine, tethered for just a second by shame and the remains of a once-overriding fastidiousness. He started to throw himself forward, penis waving wildly in the air, sprawing piss against his boots, his pant legs, his arms, but by then the shell had burst and his face was gone. He was lucky. If he’d been standing upright when the screamer went, he would have been taken across the chest, across the spine, and that would have been that. Of course, if he’d been faster, if he’d thrown himself into his pisspuddle sooner, he would have been spared entirely. Of such things are our lives made.

He returned home for his father’s funeral, reluctant and shameful. Some part of him, harder to pin down than the foot and a half of flesh that was fertilising the ground outside some nameless Alsatian town, had been left behind. Everything was strange, everything was unreal. He covered the ruin of his face with special lenses, special sterile masks, and stood, well-bundled up, among the mourners as they buried his father. He said nothing, just stood and watched until the coffin was laid, then shuffled forward with the rest to scoop his little spadeful of dirt and ashes into the grave.