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TITLE
'Hands' 2nd prize, Neil Gunn Writing Competition 2009
EXTERNAL ID
NG_2009_ADULT_PROSE_02
DATE OF RECORDING
2009
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Daniela Norris
SOURCE
Highland Libraries
ASSET ID
41292
KEYWORDS
poem
poems
literature
competition
competitions
writing competition
writing competitions
story
stories
audio
Daniella Norris

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'Hands' won second prize in the adult prose section of the Neil Gunn Writing Competition, 2009. It was written by Daniela Norris.

To celebrate Homecoming Scotland 2009 the theme was 'Living with one another' part of a longer quote taken from Neil Gunn's novel 'The Serpent'.

Judges for the adult prose section were Ann Yule, Convenor of the Neil Gunn Trust, and James Robertson who writes both poetry and prose.

The Neil Gunn Writing Competition is organised by library staff from The Highland Council Education, Culture & Sport Service with support from the Neil Gunn Trust. It was first established in 1988.

Find out more about Daniela Norris

Hands

So you are convinced you're right. And it sustains you through nights with little sleep, when the dawn breaks on you like pale yolk pouring out of an egg and the air smells like nothing else you will ever smell again; a fusion of sweat and sulphur and delicious thin bread.

But of course you are right. And you are doing what you have to do. You walk the narrow alleys of the kasba in Hebron, sweat making your helmet stick to your forehead like Original Sin and the footsteps of those walking in front of you echo on the ancient stones in the crisp early morning. Advancing slowly, click-clack, click-clack. Faces dark, eyes narrowed in concentration, taking deep breaths, in, out, in, out.

It is damn heavy, this Galil, but you cling to it as if it's a lifeline, and good thing, too, because it is the only thing that can save your arse around here. So what am I doing here, in the kasba at four in the morning on a Sunday, you ask yourself, and you know that other kids your age, in other parts of the world, are driving back from a party or downing another round of drinks in some beach bar. But you are here, because this is your destiny and you were born on this cursed piece of land and you were sent to defend your people, your people who have suffered so much and all the rest of that well-justified crap.

Now they are stopping, stopping and signalling - we are almost there, just around the corner. A few more steps and you are there, banging on the door. yiftah el bab, your commander is shouting and then kicking in the door and stepping back instinctively. Your night vision goggles help you make out a human heap on the sofa, now sitting up, stunned, still gripped in the tender hands of sleep but you are already pointing your guns and he says tayeb, tayeb and lifts his hands over his head. He gets up slowly, as instructed, and you take advantage of the element of surprise and grab both his arms, twisting them behind his back.

You search his clothes (sleeps fully dressed -there's your proof) and find nothing, then push him away from the sofa, and make him sit on the floor, at your feet. When you shackled his hands you noticed his arms were so thin and your fingers that brushed against his skin lingered only for a brief second, involuntarily. Only enough to reassure him a little, for you could smell his fear, and he could smell yours. In a different life perhaps you could have been friends, but you were born Israeli and he was born Palestinian, and although you like the same food and love the same piece of land, he is The Enemy. All that time the others, your brothers in arms, are checking out the rest of the house, stomping around in their heavy boots, no longer worried about making noise. Their faces are smudged with tar to help them blend into the night, to make them look like devils from hell, to create the illusion that they are tough.

They come back into the front room with their finds - a man, and a woman carrying a little girl - two, maybe three years old (how the hell are you supposed to know the difference), all wearing their pyjamas. The little girl is crying; the woman's eyes are wide with fear. The man is the strong-silent type, his face dark with rage.

Now they search the house for evidence, and the house is immaculate. Beautiful antique furniture all polished to shine like glass - you can tell because now they've turned on the lights. You look at the woman and you think she looks twenty, maybe twenty-five, just like your sister. You've never seen such beauty, not in real life, certainly not in The Territories at four in the morning. But now her husband's eyes are fixed on you - he noticed you are staring. You lower your gaze and concentrate on your prisoner. He is staring back at you, and the ocean of hatred in his eyes threatens to drown you.

'It's ok,' you find yourself saying to him, but deep in your heart you know it is not. It is not ok, and it has never been - but what choice do you have?
You were sent to round up terrorists, surprise them in their beds in the middle of the night (and this one is not even in his own bed. He surely has something to hide!).

'He knocked on the door three hours ago, I had to let him in,' says the man with the dark eyes and the woman is trying to rock her little girl back to sleep.

'It is our culture; we can not leave a man in need out on the street.'

'You are hiding a terrorist,' says the commander gloomily, as he ties the husband's hands behind his back and pushes him towards the door. The other soldiers have finished searching the house - nothing of importance found; they left it almost as they found it, give or take a few dirty footsteps in the hallway. Such a nice house.

'You'll get him back, don't you worry,' the commander tells the woman in a spurt of humanity and asks -

'How can you hide a terrorist in your house? Don't you know this man has killed people? Women? Children?'

The woman lowers her eyes, doesn't answer.

'You are the ones who kill us, you are the occupiers,' says your prisoner. You look down at him; you are in charge of him now - that is what your commander had said.

You're pulling him to his feet and can feel he is resisting. His body is all tense, his face a mask empty of emotions. You tug on his arm to make him stand up. He is shorter than you, and you know that if it were just you and him you could have easily crushed him in a fist-fight, he weighs nothing. But would you want to? asks a little voice, for he looks human, he looks fragile, he looks like a person who has a father and a mother and maybe even a wife and child.

Of course you would, you answer your own question. He planned suicide bombings, organized an attack on a bus in Tel Aviv. Dozens were killed. He is the brains behind many hostile operations, explained your commander before you left the base that night. Your commander is twenty, maybe twenty-one. He's been in the Army two years longer than you have. He is a Lieutenant. He knows these things.

You look at your prisoner again and he still seems completely human, you almost feel sorry for him. What would you do if you were in his shoes? nags the little voice. Didn't think terrorists looked human, did you? You were sure something about him would be different, that he would look evil, and he doesn't. Of course, if asked, he will deny the accusations, he will say he didn't do anything wrong. He was just fighting for the independence of his people, fighting against the occupation. He will say all that, if given half a chance. But no chance should be given to terrorists, we will eliminate them one by one, you hear over and over again for the past year, since you were drafted to the Anny, and the question you want to ask, does that make us better than them, this question remains unasked. For what do you know, you are just a foot soldier.

You must have been too preoccupied in your thoughts, for he suddenly slips your grip as you take him through the door towards the jeep which is waiting outside and he scrambles, his hands still tied behind his back; he is trying to escape!

The others are still inside the house; only one soldier is near thejeep, holding on to the husband. A few other soldiers are a little distance away, covering your backs.

'STOP HIM!' you hear yourself shouting and they come out running. A single shot is fired. The man falls to the ground, his face in the dirt.

'Serves him right!' you hear one of the others saying. 'This one has killed with his own hands'.

Whether he did or he didn't, that is not for you to determine, it is out of your hands now; you are just following orders. And the orders were to make sure he will never get a chance to kill again, never be used as a bargaining chip in a prisoner exchange, never allowed to enjoy another day in his damned life, not after he killed your people. His hands are dirty with blood, they said. He is guilty. And whether he is or he isn't, you are just doing your duty.

But you know one thing for sure: he will never forget this early morning, four thirty on a Sunday. And neither will you. For you are the one who pulled the trigger. You can't help glancing down, at your own hands.

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'Hands' 2nd prize, Neil Gunn Writing Competition 2009

2000s

poem; poems; literature; competition; competitions; writing competition; writing competitions; story; stories; audio; Daniella Norris

Highland Libraries

Neil Gunn Writing Competition (audios)

'Hands' won second prize in the adult prose section of the Neil Gunn Writing Competition, 2009. It was written by Daniela Norris.<br /> <br /> To celebrate Homecoming Scotland 2009 the theme was 'Living with one another' part of a longer quote taken from Neil Gunn's novel 'The Serpent'. <br /> <br /> Judges for the adult prose section were Ann Yule, Convenor of the Neil Gunn Trust, and James Robertson who writes both poetry and prose.<br /> <br /> The Neil Gunn Writing Competition is organised by library staff from The Highland Council Education, Culture & Sport Service with support from the Neil Gunn Trust. It was first established in 1988.<br /> <br /> Find out more about <a href="http://www.danielanorris.com/"target="_blank">Daniela Norris</a><br /> <br /> Hands<br /> <br /> So you are convinced you're right. And it sustains you through nights with little sleep, when the dawn breaks on you like pale yolk pouring out of an egg and the air smells like nothing else you will ever smell again; a fusion of sweat and sulphur and delicious thin bread.<br /> <br /> But of course you are right. And you are doing what you have to do. You walk the narrow alleys of the <i>kasba</i> in Hebron, sweat making your helmet stick to your forehead like Original Sin and the footsteps of those walking in front of you echo on the ancient stones in the crisp early morning. Advancing slowly, click-clack, click-clack. Faces dark, eyes narrowed in concentration, taking deep breaths, in, out, in, out.<br /> <br /> It is damn heavy, this Galil, but you cling to it as if it's a lifeline, and good thing, too, because it is the only thing that can save your arse around here. So what am I doing here, in the <i>kasba</i> at four in the morning on a Sunday, you ask yourself, and you know that other kids your age, in other parts of the world, are driving back from a party or downing another round of drinks in some beach bar. But you are here, because this is your destiny and you were born on this cursed piece of land and you were sent to defend your people, your people who have suffered so much and all the rest of that well-justified crap.<br /> <br /> Now they are stopping, stopping and signalling - <i>we are almost there, just around the corner.</i> A few more steps and you <i>are</i> there, banging on the door. <i>yiftah el bab,</i> your commander is shouting and then kicking in the door and stepping back instinctively. Your night vision goggles help you make out a human heap on the sofa, now sitting up, stunned, still gripped in the tender hands of sleep but you are already pointing your guns and he says <i>tayeb, tayeb</i> and lifts his hands over his head. He gets up slowly, as instructed, and you take advantage of the element of surprise and grab both his arms, twisting them behind his back.<br /> <br /> You search his clothes (sleeps fully dressed -there's your proof) and find nothing, then push him away from the sofa, and make him sit on the floor, at your feet. When you shackled his hands you noticed his arms were so thin and your fingers that brushed against his skin lingered only for a brief second, involuntarily. Only enough to reassure him a little, for you could smell his fear, and he could smell yours. In a different life perhaps you could have been friends, but you were born Israeli and he was born Palestinian, and although you like the same food and love the same piece of land, he is The Enemy. All that time the others, your brothers in arms, are checking out the rest of the house, stomping around in their heavy boots, no longer worried about making noise. Their faces are smudged with tar to help them blend into the night, to make them look like devils from hell, to create the illusion that they are tough.<br /> <br /> They come back into the front room with their finds - a man, and a woman carrying a little girl - two, maybe three years old (how the hell are you supposed to know the difference), all wearing their pyjamas. The little girl is crying; the woman's eyes are wide with fear. The man is the strong-silent type, his face dark with rage.<br /> <br /> Now they search the house for evidence, and the house is immaculate. Beautiful antique furniture all polished to shine like glass - you can tell because now they've turned on the lights. You look at the woman and you think she looks twenty, maybe twenty-five, just like your sister. You've never seen such beauty, not in real life, certainly not in The Territories at four in the morning. But now her husband's eyes are fixed on you - he noticed you are staring. You lower your gaze and concentrate on your prisoner. He is staring back at you, and the ocean of hatred in his eyes threatens to drown you.<br /> <br /> 'It's ok,' you find yourself saying to him, but deep in your heart you know it is not. It is not ok, and it has never been - but what choice do you have?<br /> You were sent to round up terrorists, surprise them in their beds in the middle of the night (and this one is not even in his own bed. He surely has something to hide!).<br /> <br /> 'He knocked on the door three hours ago, I had to let him in,' says the man with the dark eyes and the woman is trying to rock her little girl back to sleep.<br /> <br /> 'It is our culture; we can not leave a man in need out on the street.'<br /> <br /> 'You are hiding a terrorist,' says the commander gloomily, as he ties the husband's hands behind his back and pushes him towards the door. The other soldiers have finished searching the house - nothing of importance found; they left it almost as they found it, give or take a few dirty footsteps in the hallway. Such a nice house.<br /> <br /> 'You'll get him back, don't you worry,' the commander tells the woman in a spurt of humanity and asks -<br /> <br /> 'How can you hide a terrorist in your house? Don't you know this man has killed people? Women? Children?'<br /> <br /> The woman lowers her eyes, doesn't answer.<br /> <br /> 'You are the ones who kill us, <i>you</i> are the occupiers,' says your prisoner. You look down at him; you are in charge of him now - that is what your commander had said.<br /> <br /> You're pulling him to his feet and can feel he is resisting. His body is all tense, his face a mask empty of emotions. You tug on his arm to make him stand up. He is shorter than you, and you know that if it were just you and him you could have easily crushed him in a fist-fight, he weighs nothing. <i>But would you want to?</i> asks a little voice, for he looks human, he looks fragile, he looks like a person who has a father and a mother and maybe even a wife and child.<br /> <br /> <i>Of course you would,</i> you answer your own question. He planned suicide bombings, organized an attack on a bus in Tel Aviv. Dozens were killed. <i>He is the brains behind many hostile operations,</i> explained your commander before you left the base that night. Your commander is twenty, maybe twenty-one. He's been in the Army two years longer than you have. He is a Lieutenant. He knows these things.<br /> <br /> You look at your prisoner again and he still seems completely human, you almost feel sorry for him. <i>What would you do if you were in his shoes?</i> nags the little voice. Didn't think terrorists looked human, did you? You were sure something about him would be different, that he would look evil, and he doesn't. Of course, if asked, he will deny the accusations, he will say he didn't do anything wrong. He was just fighting for the independence of his people, fighting against the occupation. He will say all that, if given half a chance. But no chance should be given to terrorists, <i>we will eliminate them one by one,</i> you hear over and over again for the past year, since you were drafted to the Anny, and the question you want to ask, <i>does that make us better than them,</i> this question remains unasked. For what do you know, you are just a foot soldier.<br /> <br /> You must have been too preoccupied in your thoughts, for he suddenly slips your grip as you take him through the door towards the jeep which is waiting outside and he scrambles, his hands still tied behind his back; he is trying to escape!<br /> <br /> The others are still inside the house; only one soldier is near thejeep, holding on to the husband. A few other soldiers are a little distance away, covering your backs.<br /> <br /> 'STOP HIM!' you hear yourself shouting and they come out running. A single shot is fired. The man falls to the ground, his face in the dirt.<br /> <br /> 'Serves him right!' you hear one of the others saying. 'This one has killed with his own hands'.<br /> <br /> Whether he did or he didn't, that is not for you to determine, it is out of your hands now; you are just following orders. And the orders were to make sure he will never get a chance to kill again, never be used as a bargaining chip in a prisoner exchange, never allowed to enjoy another day in his damned life, not after he killed your people. <i>His hands are dirty with blood,</i> they said. <i>He is guilty.</i> And whether he is or he isn't, you are just doing your duty.<br /> <br /> But you know one thing for sure: he will never forget this early morning, four thirty on a Sunday. And neither will you. For you are the one who pulled the trigger. You can't help glancing down, at your own hands.