Mister, can I have some water please?”

The words played through my mind. The response never came. I stopped walking, stared down at the paved sidewalk between my boots. As I stared at it, the sidewalk became dusty. Dusty turned into a film of dirt until I was standing on hard packed earth. The wind whipped around my head and I looked up to see the little girl before me, hair dancing with the breeze. It was hot out and her face was red.

Thin arms reached towards me and she opened her mouth. “Mister, can I have some water please?”

My body moved forward, towards the little girl. She reminded me of my little sister, back home safe in bed, somewhere in America. I stepped past the little girl.

Mister!” she called after me.

I realized as I moved towards the soldiers on the other end of the street that those few words, those seven words, were probably the only English words the girl knew. I stopped in front of the troop. In the silence, I heard the little girl running forward until I felt her collide into the back of my legs. She was only as tall as my knees.

I whirled on the girl. “Back up!”

She didn’t.

Again. “Back up!” This time I drew the small handgun from my side.

Yet still she didn’t. The little girl reached up with her small hands cupped together. Those thin wrists together were probably the size of the handle on a shovel. “Mister, can I have some water please?”

I swallowed, stepped towards the girl. “Back up.” My voice was low and I brought the barrel of the gun up.

Mister,” she began again. The gun roared to life in my hand.

As the sound of the bullet impacting paper thin flesh recoiled against my ear drums, the sidewalk pavement returned to my vision. My boots—tennis shoes actually—cast small shadows against it. I brought my shaking hands up from my sides and stared down at the palm of my hands. City sounds swirled around me but the only thing I could hear was that small voice from many years ago.

Mister, can I have some water please?”

B. Valdez 3.21.14



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