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February, damp and unpredictable, the air still. On the edge of the allotments two men stand talking. One smokes a slow pipe while the other, young and thin, describes with his hands something large and vague.

A lean brown dog belonging to one, ignoring both noses wet grass, tracing elusive smells

to and fro along the path.

On the far side another man, stocky in jeans and jersey is tying up a net, patiently patching and mending thinking of next year’s growth.

From a blue van stream four greyhounds, slender, high-stepping, tails curved between quivering legs. Three men follow, pause, light cigarettes in cupped hands. Securing leashes, they move past the allotments and up the hill.

These are not the same men who in war rape and kill. Soldiers are different – trained to violence

and hardened to atrocity.

brown dog path Alexa Photos Pixabay

And yet, in times of war men must come off the allotments, tap the dottle from pipes, shut the dog in the house and go off to battle, turning into soldiers on the way.

So the men who crack jokes as they stand in line to rape terrified girls, who level guns and shoot without compunction old women in headscarves are men who once were ordinary and stood talking on the edge of the allotments.

MOIRA FORSYTH is the author of five novels, the latest of which, A Message from the Other Side, has just been published in July 2017.

She has also published short fiction and poetry in magazines and anthologies.

As Editorial Director of Sandstone Press she has edited more than forty fiction and non-fiction books, including several which have won or been listed for awards.

Images: Man smoking pipe, Tabea

Dog on path, Alexa Photos

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