RAIN - 06 Oct 2014
I love the picture of a girl standing in the rain by Marek Okon. She's standing, soaking wet, holding a grenade. I wrote a quick paragraph about it. I hope you like it.
She slowed her pace and turned to face them, the pouring rain bouncing off the yellow hood of her oversize slicker. Her face was prettier than they’d expected. No fear, just resolve. The pin pricks of their laser sights glowed red against her breasts. She stood silently twenty feet away. A waiting game.
The men looked to their leader for direction. He was as mesmerized as they were. They blinked the water from their eyes. Holding their weapons at sight level.
“Put your hands above your head!”
Her deep brown eyes were on fire. Slowly, she pushed her right hand out of the sleeve of the jacket, revealing the M67 fragmentation grenade.
Two of the men took a step back.
“You don’t have to do this. Put it down!”
Time slowed. A shadow of a smile crossed her lips. Her left hand opened to the glint of the pulled pin against the street light. The round pull ring dangled from her wedding finger.
“This is not the way. Put it down. It doesn’t have to go down like this. Stop!” The leader held his free hand out toward her, desperate.
Her fingers trembled against the striker lever, inching it closer to detonation.
There was no sound other than the rain hitting the asphalt as she stood defiant. She looked down at her soaked beat up converse tennis shoes. She sighed and a shiver went through her body.
“No. No. No.” His voice cracked.
The leader knew they were already dead.
The morning of August 2, 1980 my father and I were on a train crossing Italy. As we pulled into the Bologna Central Train Station, I peered out the window . The Italian sun was already sweltering, and each time the train stopped, the lack of air movement and rays of heat against the metal cars made it feel like a Turkish bath. We needed fluids so I hopped off the train and ran into the main waiting area crowded with summer tourists. There I purchased a couple of bottles of water, and if I remember correctly, some delicious Italian chocolate. A few minutes later the train’s horn wailed and we chugged slowly out of the station. My trip into the main waiting area had been completely routine.
Pulling into the next train station an hour later it was chaos. It appeared the apocalypse had broken out while we were traveling. Police swarmed the train. People were yelling. Passengers looked panicked. Tourists were trying to cram themselves on an already crowded train.
In my broken Italian I asked what was going on and made out the word bomba. Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari, or NAR for short, an ultra right neo-fascist terrorist group had blown up the main lobby of the Bologna station, killing 85 people. The bomb detonated at 10:25 am. We’d missed being blown up by about 15 minutes. I remember thinking, most likely, the bomb had already been planted and sat in the waiting area, hidden in a nondescript suitcase, as I passed by.
I’ve been reading 15 Seconds by Andrew Gross, http://www.andrewgrossbooks.com/ , @The_AndrewGross , his latest in a series of best selling thrillers, and it brought me back to that train ride. I still wonder what would have happened if the train was a few minutes late pulling into the station. Just like his latest book, a few seconds, a few minutes, or a few hours can change your life in incomprehensible ways. Years later, I still think but by the grace of God the explosion missed us. Dumb luck.