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16 October 2014
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David Braziel

Although born and raised in England I have lived in Portadown for over ten years now. Married with two young children I spend my days working as an IT consultant but increasingly spend my spare time writing poetry and short stories. In 2004 I was a runner up in the BBC End of Story competition.

Hiding from the Sun by David Braziel

On the television screen I watched people from far away dismantle the wall that had divided their city. Years later I can still recall the young men standing on top pulling people up from the other side to join them in their wild celebrations. I remember the determination and the joy on their faces. The television was small and I couldn't understand any of the words but the pictures are still in my mind.

Growing up in a place so cut off I fell in love with that television. As a small boy I was fascinated by the idea that these pictures were coming to me from all over the planet, bouncing off shiny metal objects high in the sky. I soon learned how to adjust the dish, to fine-tune the set, finding as many different worlds as I could with that magic box. My parents disapproved of what they saw and discouraged me so I confined myself to times when they were out of the house. I could sit for hours, transfixed by a new channel whose words I couldn't understand and whose images often mystified me.

It was during one of these long afternoons, hiding from the sun, that I watched that wall come down. Even without fully understanding what was happening I felt instinctively the connection with my own life and with my people. I even wondered if such a thing could happen in my country, if we would wake up one morning, forget our differences and dance and hug one another in the land between the territories. It was a dizzying thought, almost funny in its impossibility.

Today my television is switched off, the house silent, and I am staring out of the small window into the full glare of the afternoon sun watching clouds of dust rising up in the distance. I couldn't go to work today. Soon I will have to face the fact that my days of working in the shop are over. It came as a shock to my parents that my early fascination with their television set and its inner workings eventually turned into a useful, even profitable, career. For three years now I have worked in a shop in the city repairing and fine tuning TV and satellite equipment.

This job gave me a little money, kept me busy and kept me out of trouble. Most of the boys who grew up around me in this village are now involved in the struggle, many are dead or in prison. Personally I hate violence, I do not believe that anyone has the right to kill solely because they are oppressed. Perhaps this is because I am not a physically strong person but I prefer to think that it is because I have seen a wider world and more diverse people through my television screen.

I have watched the ends of many bitter conflicts and often thought that during my lifetime the same miracle might happen here in my homeland. Today these hopes are buried under piles of rubble and coated in the thick dust that covers everything near to the construction site.

I went to the site this morning, standing as close as the soldiers would allow. As I watched I imagined again those pictures of people rising up and tearing down the wall that divided their city. This time though I played the scene in reverse. In my mind men pushed each other from the top of the wall, manhandled huge blocks of stone into place, erecting whole sections with ropes and chains, then retreated into their own territories.

When I was a small boy attending a family wedding one of my uncles told me a story, reciting it gravely.

A man built a new house and then found that he has a hornets' nest nearby. He is afraid of the hornets, afraid that they will sting him or his wife. First he takes a large stick and beats the nest to make the hornets leave. Of course, this only angers them and he is stung.

Next he takes a sack and wraps it around the nest to stop the hornets from escaping. Standing back to admire his work he hears the sound of anger growing, the buzzing becoming furious. Pressure builds inside the sack, the walls bulge and suddenly a small part of the cloth tears and a stream of angry, frightened hornets stream out to attack the first person they see.

A few weeks later the man is lying in his garden recovering from the terrible stings and from the mocking scorn of his wife and children when he realises that the hornets are going about their daily business and ignoring him completely.

It was a good story, I could see that my uncle was pleased with himself, but I had to ask: ‘Why didn't the man use poison or set fire to the nest and kill it completely?’ My uncle looked sad and without answering went back to join the other adults.

The building work and security restrictions make it hard for me to reach the city on most days now. It will probably be impossible when the wall is complete. There is very little chance of me getting a job on this side of the new wall. The people here are growing poorer and more angry every day. I know that things will get much worse before they get better and this thought makes me feel cold.

I try to switch on my television but the electricity has been cut off again so I lie back instead and sleep. In my dreams I see myself standing on top of the new wall. Reaching down I pull up a young soldier from the other side and we dance together on the ugly concrete, feeling through the souls of our feet the rumble of approaching bulldozers.
When I wake the electricity is back on, the television is flickering with grey snow and the sun outside is setting. The distant rumble of machinery is real and my mouth is full of dust.

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More from this writer:

The Game
The Big 'C'
Short Stories
Remnants Found in Ruins
Hiding From the Sun

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