A screaming comes across the sky…

Here’s one of Alfie Day’s voiceovers.  We’re flying in the Lanc, a customary nighttime RAF mission–the US flew daytime missions.  It’s getting dicey as Alfie and his mates approach 30 missions.  Kennedy uses italics whenever Alfie is talking or muttering to himself, a handy tool.  These passages can be short one liners or long meditations.  Here’s Alfe losing it near the end of the novel, a chapter-ending, an absolute bravura performance by Kennedy, worth the price of admission.  Her prose becomes percussive, rhythmic, condensed language moving to the poetic:

Such a good job you did, such a perfect, perfect job—back over Hamburg and the target indicators had gone down so tight, backed up so tight, and then every stick of bombs—it didn’t seem that anyone could miss, did miss.

Its hand in your throat and pushing up, filling your mouth and the fist pressing on, cracking you, having your skull, fingers in your skull, digging this out of your brain to show you.

…and slowly as you arc there is the shape of what you’ve done—a twist of fire—a whole new kind of fire—one solid flame that sees you and gives you a name that is no name, no word—christens you outside words.

Imagining the war must be over tomorrow.  It must surely be done after this.  Who could stand this?

And the howl dogging you home: screaming beneath the Merlins, raging, and you think

This is death.

This is the edge of the real face of death, its size—we burned the sky open today and now death will come in.

Trip twenty-six.

Never knew another like it.

But twenty-seven was the worst.  It was our ruination.  When they ordered us back two days later and we went.

“Jesus, you can see it from here.”

“Shut up.”

“Still hot.”

“Shut up.”

“Still burning.”

“Poor fucking bastards.”

We went back and we bombed them again.”

Dresden 1945

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