New beginnings come in many different forms. Aviv's started with a bomb in Gaza and a friendly American soldier who turned his life around. But pomegranate trees only bloom in the spring and aviv is a long way off. Can a chance meeting at a new year's party finally bring Aviv's new beginning into flower?
The child hid in the sparse brush alongside the road. He only intended to stay hidden so the American soldier walking towards him wouldn't notice until the right time. The boy had a mission, sent down from Allah, and the elders had equipped him to properly be sent on to reap his rewards in the afterlife.
The soldier walked closer, his solitary parade march timed in heel to toe perfection. This wasn't considered a dangerous road, so patrolling alone wasn't as stupid as it sounded. The American, Israeli, and Egyptian border stations were all within easy reach and all three probably had eyes on the road and the soldier at all times. The child had been told all this information as the bomb maker had carefully sewn until the miniature explosive device was hidden.
Army fatigues in the Negev desert were gold and brown colored, but the Americans hadn't changed the stark black color of their guns to match. The child stepped into the road, aware of the soldier's gun and his own bomb, and shivered when the soldier came to a stop a few feet away from where the boy stood.
"You don't belong here," the soldier said, first in accented Hebrew and then in even more accented Arabic.
The child shook his head no and took another tentative step forward. He had a god given task to accomplish and this soldier would save him from his earthly suffering with a trip directly to Allah's side in heaven.
"Why don't you stay right where you are," the soldier added in Arabic, his eyes fixed on the child's doll and the cord that led from inside the toy directly to the child's hand. He didn't reach for his gun, but the child could see the option flash across the soldier's face. "You should put your doll down before you get hurt."
The child shook his head no. The doll was all he had left of his life before his father died under Israeli rocket fire and his mother starved when she couldn't get a job because she was a female trying to survive in chauvinist Gaza. He was perfect cannon fodder for the radical Palestinians. Without family, there was no one who would protest his death in the name of Allah, and it was better that he be useful now rather than die messily in one of the Hamas funded hospitals built over their latest cache of weapons.
"How old are you?"
The child cocked his head to the side, trying to think. It had been about three months since his mother had died and at least a year prior to that his father had been killed. He held up four fingers: his best guess.
"Arba'a," the child mumbled.
"Well, I'm twenty-five, but I have a son about your age. Would you like to see a picture?" The soldier slowly reached inside his Kevlar vest and pulled out a wallet-sized photograph, which he turned so the child could see before gently handing the picture to the boy. "This is my Danny and he just turned five two weeks ago. It's a family name. I'm Sergeant Daniel. What's your name?" The picture showed a small boy smiling happily. His hair was jet black and his eyes a piercing blue. Daniel was wearing a protective helmet, so the child couldn't see his hair, but both father and son shared the same brilliant eye color.
The boy shrugged. He couldn't really remember his name. "They call me Fe'er," he grumbled. Rat.
"Well, that's not a very nice name," Daniel groused. "I get the feeling they're not very nice people. Did they even bother to ask before they wired up your doll and sent you to kill me?"
Fe'er shook his head again. The bomb maker had seen the doll he was carrying and decided it was a perfect prop.
"Do you want me to take the bomb out of your doll's stomach? I'm pretty good at sewing."
Fe'er bit his lip. He had a purpose here, and it wasn't living. He should be running at Daniel and flicking the switch, not standing and listening to his kind words.
"Do you have any family?" Daniel asked gently. "Is there someone I can bring you to where you'll be safe?"
Fe'er shook his head again. That was why he had been chosen.
"Then I could take you home with me! I would love to introduce you to Danny. I think you could be great friends."
He wouldn't have to go back to Gaza if he failed his mission? Fe'er couldn't help feeling wistful at the thought. Daniel was a nice man. Certainly he was much nicer than the fanatics who sent Fe'er here.
Slowly, ever so slowly, Fe'er held out his doll. Daniel took it gently from Fe'er's hands, the detonation cord hanging uselessly below.
It only took a few moments. Daniel was swift with his pocketknife as he carefully opened up the back of Fe'er's doll where the bulky bomb had been unceremoniously shoved. With even greater care, Daniel removed the mass of metal and wires. He put the doll down on the ground and walked a good twenty feet away where he could place the bomb on the ground. He returned and took a seat next to the doll.