Shooting Waters


Aimar plays shooting waters with a bag with a tiny hole in the corner and a puddle swished up into it. He holds the top tight and squashes it, aiming the spray at the blue plastic on his and Joram’s tent. The water bleeds down the side, little dribbles.

‘Hey, Joram,’ he calls.

Surely Joram has heard the spurt of the water against the plastic. Surely he is crouching behind the black canvas which hangs over the doorway, giggling.

‘Joram, you scoundrel.’

Still no noise. Aimar stoops to scoop what’s left of the puddle and as he rises his trousers come away from the string holding them up. The lady from Germany brought the trousers, just after the barbed wire had been laid across the roads and fields. She held them up against him, pushed her fingertips with the fabric into his sides as though it mattered that they reached half-way round him.

‘Thank you,’ he said and whatever she replied he didn’t understand so he looked away, not wanting to see if she was angry or sad. But she went on talking as though he were three instead of thirteen and that made him stare even harder at the police.

Aimar is taller now and thinner. The trousers don’t stay up and, when he squats, they come away at the back so that he is forever holding the material to stop people looking. But that is fine, since the trousers are his and no one will mind as he was given them by one of the German ladies who came and went.

He reaches behind and hitches the waistband over the string.

‘Jooooooraaam!’ He lines up the corner of the bag again and removes his finger from the pin prick hole as he applies pressure with his elbow. This time he doesn’t let the water all land in one place; instead he writes out his name across the sheet. The wind blows and he shivers. When the lady came, he waved away the coat she offered. It was hot then, as hot back in Homs. How could he know then that they would stop here forever and the wind would arrive bringing wet and snow? And still the lorries don’t stop, and the trains whoosh on past to Budapest as though they are frightened of him and Joram. An elephant frightened of an ant. A man frightened of a baby.

No response from the tent. No judder of the canvas from inside. No rat-a-tat-tat banging against the plastic to indicate that Aimar should go away since Joram has someone with him, someone Aimar must not see but who he would see later anyway. A man from Libya or Sudan. A man who leaves food which Joram shares with Aimar.

‘He go.’

Aimar turns. This man is tall and thin and has that Somalian face.

‘Soldiers come,’ the man says. ‘You not hear?’

Aimar had been shouting through the fence with the others in the morning, before sneaking off to the woods for a shit, his first in two weeks. It had been a good shit, a great long one. He felt lighter, relieved, ready to wander for an hour or so along ditches and through a snicket where he found this bag.

‘Everyone go in a bus,’ the Somali says. ‘I hide.’

Aimar smiles but his smile is a trick. He is not going to fall for any false charm from a man telling him a whopping great tale. Joram wouldn’t have gone, not without Aimar.

‘Liar.’ He drops the smile.

‘Tell them you’re a boy, or they put you in a container. No windows.’ The man from Somalia glances around like this is a foreign place, not somewhere they have waited for a year. ‘Everyone here is a boy now. You be one too. Maybe then they put you in a house not a camp.’

The Somali backs away.

‘Where have they taken him?’ Aimar calls but the man turns and lopes towards the railway track.

The bag has leaked down the front of Aimar’s trousers. He throws it on the mud. His name on the blue plastic sheet has merged into a damp smear, little droplets running out of substance. Around him there is no noise of rustling, no murmurs, no shouting. When Joram was here to call Aimar by his name, he was someone. Now he is alone with the wind, he is nobody.

Ruth Brandt’s short stories have been published in anthologies and magazines, including ‘Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual,’ ‘Bristol Short Story Prize’ and ‘Litro,’ nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and read at festivals. She has an MFA (Distinction) in Creative Writing from Kingston University and won the MFA Creative Writing Prize 2017.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.