Jil Plummer: Author

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Jil Plummer, Author

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© 2016 Jil Plummer. All rights reserved.

Issabit

“There was no kindness left here, maybe not anywhere.”


A young soldier, a terrorist and a small, homeless dog create a magical moment in the midst of an ugly war.

Issabit

by Jil Plummer


The small, ragged dog darted down alleys, across busy streets, eyes bright with terror and tongue flying backward like a streak of blood, as he fled the roar and confusion of the latest car bombing.  He stopped and huddled trembling in a doorway, short tail clamped down tight.  He didn’t know how long he’d been living this way; how many days since his own home had exploded into a heap of rubble, burying his people who, although he dug until his paws were raw, never answered him. Mistress had been very proud of his prestigious pedigree, keeping him crisply white with baths in perfumed suds and feeding him  tidbits from her own plate. The children,who named him Issabit because the word meant Saturday and that’s when they had  brought him home three years before, tussled and played ball with him, then fought over whose bed he would sleep in each night. The big Master would complain, “Jack Russels are tough little dogs,you’re spoiling him.” But he would stroke Issibit’s ears as they sat together watching television. Was it all a dream?

     The little dog bit an itch along his back, bony now from his diet of rats and garbage. He was a better hunter than many of the homeless dogs who roamed the city, but he had to eat fast or they would kill him if they caught him.  Life was all fear and hunger now. At night, curled in some hidden corner,he would often whimper in his hopeless dreams.

                        

    The young, American soldier prowled the streets with his gun ready, seeking out insurgents. He seldom thought of his  home and family who lived another life—in another world.  To survive here and do his job he must concentrate. After those first harrowing days as a newcomer in this ravaged country he had come to the painful conclusion that there was no kindness left here, maybe not anywhere, and it was then that he vigorously began to nurture the hatred that gave him strength; had trained himself to believe that those he killed were only the enemy—nothing more. Now he no longer smelled fear in his sweat. His name was Sargeant, not Davey, and he ignored the incessant heat and  weariness.  


    The young terrorist, dressed like any other impoverished twenty year old, strolled unregarded, past the ragged edges of half destroyed buildings. Inwardly his heart fluttered like a hummingbird’s, for he was checking out tomorrow’s route when it would be his turn to sacrifice himself for the cause.Saturday’s market would be bustling. So many souls he would send to hell while he rose to heaven! What glory! His mother  would be so proud. Just as he had been told she was when his father blew up the bus full of people along with himself. Syed had tried to remember that time of pride but decided he must have been too young, for her wet, dark eyes and terrible wailing were all he could recall. He never told anyone that of course, he knew it was all bad thinking on his part. Tomorrow she would be very proud of him.


    Issabit burst into a small courtyard and stopped,one paw raised, surprised at the quiet. Here the burning sun seemed only to stroke him, and a light breeze brushed his flanks. A fountain lazily gurgled in the middle and he trotted over, jumped up on the rim, and stretched to catch the sparkling cool diamonds.They splashed deliciously  on his tongue and after days of drinking from gutters he closed his eyes to savor the pleasure. Smack! Something hit the cobbles nearby startling him into alertness. It was a large, red rubbber ball and he watched intently as it  rebounded as though trying to return to the  high window from which it must have fallen.  Issabit crouched and quivered as its bounces grew lower then changed to a roll. Now, unable to resist, the little dog dashed after it, snapping and growling, pushing it along with his forepaws, filling his nostrils with the well-loved and familiar scent of a toy.  He chased that ball, full speed, until it stopped short.

    Issabit looked up, following camouflage fatigues, until he reached the young soldier’s eyes. Of course, a ball was always connected to a person. He remembered this game. He grinned and wagged his whole hind end, yapping invitingly, his front feet lifting with each shrill demand.

Sargeant’s dirt streaked face stretched into a grin.  “OK, Pup,” he said. “Wanna play do you?”  He rolled the ball back across the yard his heart lightening as he watched the matted, filthy little animal chase it with joyous abandon. At the other end, to the  terrier’s  delight, his quarry was  stopped by  another pair of boots, those of the surprised young terrorist who had just rounded the corner. Issabit, overjoyed to find another playmate, barked, pushed and pawed at the ball until the boy laughed. Some people said dogs were unclean but he had never seen that in the Qur’an. He remembered the pup at his grandfather’s farm when he was a child, before he had devoted himself to al Qaeda.  It had been a friend to him when there was no one else to play with and now he could not resist this bundle of merriment. He picked the ball up and threw it .


    The American saw the terrier in full pursuit of the misssile coming straight toward him .  Automatically he caught it and pitched it back to be again chased by the delighted dog. Back and forth the men threw the ball, each of them laughing at Issabit’s comical antics as he endeavored to catch it.The surrounding walls echoed with their game. In unspoken  agreement, the toy was made to bounce giving Issabit  a chance to succeed, which he promptly did .

     “It’s too solid and big.  He can’t  hold  it,” muttered Davey, watching Issabit struggle to get a grip.  Easing it away from the frustrated jaws he turned it over and over, searching for a hole from which to let air.

    Syed ran to his side,  took a  knife from his belt and pantomimed poking a hole into the soft rubber.  Then he mimed plugging it, looking around for something to do it with.  Issabit whined and watched, cocking his head from side to side, tail working like a small propeller.

    Davey had a sudden thought and pulled a pack of bubble   gum from his pocket.  By the grin on the other boy’s face he saw he was understood and they each took a stick, unwrapped it and noisily chewed. Syed took the ball and poked it with the blade of his knife .  Wheesh! Rubbery air gushed out. Davey quickly snatched it, pulled the gum from his mouth and stuffed it into the puncture.  Syed then did the same, pressing his wad over the top.Both watched anxiously while Issabit alternated standing with his front feet on either of his playmate’s shins. Two hands dropped to stroke the rough little head and a pink tongue flashed out  a caress for each of them. “It’s Ok.” said the American. “OK,” agreed the other. Issabit snatched the ball by a pinch of its softened skin, bounced and caught it, then zoomed around the small courtyard, bucking and leaping, relishing his prize.  He strutted and tossed his head, arched his neck, twirled, reared and pranced, egged on by the  irrepressible boyish laughter which followed him.

    Thud of boots. Shouts. Roar of approaching vehicles.  The  three froze and looked at each other. Smiles faded and the ball dropped from the terrier’s mouth. Silently Issabit, the Sargeant and the terrorist each vanished into his own separate, lonely shadows.

    Only a red ball remained in the deserted courtyard, gleaming with saliva from a happy dog’s mouth and made friendly by a hole plugged with chewing gum from the mouths of two, momentarily carefree and united, young men.


end




Jil has currently published three novels, Caravan to Armageddon (2012), Amber Dust (2014) and Remember to Remember (2016). Paperback and eBook versions are available.

ISSABIT