The Ultimate Practitioner

April 2015 - Short Story

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Two men separated by their implements. One wields a long military issue rifle with a 4-50x75mm scope bore into its topside. The other man cradles a black and white film camera with a 50-500m zoom lens. Both separated by distance but brothers in time, looking down the sites of their implements on opposite faces of the globe. The Camera stands on the face of a great mountain somewhere along the Pacific Coast Range, aiming at the peek some hundred meters away. His counterpart lies in wait near the foothills of Kashmir, clicking away at his sites, inhaling and exhaling, his tongue out. Two men are standing side by side exchanging information between his crosshairs. Snow from the peek blows across the other’s viewfinder swirling down lifting up and licking the landscape in rhythmic circles, zigzagging. He glances down at his F stop and ticks it up to 16. The Sniper licks his thumb and holds it to the wind. Sand obscures his view of the two men and his brow stays stiff, unfazed. The sand would move on and it did. The Camera loved the dancing snow and welcomed it into a few experimental shuts of the shutter. He adjusted the ISO, lifting his fingers gently off the lens, sliding his tips along the wheel. Visibility unlimited. His rifle stayed perfectly motionless as he twisted his own biblical adjustments.


In an apartment towering over London’s financial district, a tall dark haired woman holds a cup of coffee. Her hand shakes gently as she raises the cup to her lips. The city hums slowly beneath her, vibrating within her a deep awareness of her stomach. She struggles to focus on the physical substance of her vision and instead drifts to the two men. She knows where they both are. She knows the substance of their hearts and breaths deeply considering the absence of both.


The Camera steadies himself as he begins to move closer to the summit, one step in front of the next. His implement under his right arm, he glances at it and considers its purpose. He makes the photographs. They are but the essence and trace of places he has been despite the origins of their commission. Each moment he chooses to squeeze the shutter he is sucked to the bottom of a great wet embrace, the patterns of nature and life drawn into him, considered, altered, and living in his image.


The Sniper. He considers the two men not. This image is of his choosing and of his calling. He is drawn to what he and others believe to be the ultimate test of man. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. The bullet offers one moment; a truth divided. The reason he pulls the trigger or throws the punch is known by all men. War is his God and of this God he is a true follower. A dancer. This moment he is sharing with all men is as old as the coming of the lens; the lens through which he watches and the camera are the same. His art is the oldest art and the first art. And blood is the ink in the well when his body writes.


The Camera considers the path behind him. He abandoned one form of art when he was born and he knows it. This circumstance of abandonment is not his choice; this path was gifted. He was privileged to become the one who makes images. The images of his own truth – a World of Color.


His dance is messy and largely without history. He wages war with himself turning the fire inward largely because there was no need for it to face the other way. Old men are scared and impressed by his portraits and his dance. It consists of pouring buckets of paint into a lens, taking aim at the world, and covering everything in his own shades of light. He lets the colors run, drip, and layer over the parade of life. He will occasionally leave his world devoid of painting to reveal the work of The Sniper – considering his own inability to connect with man’s oldest practice. He knows that his lens could end him – he knows that if he were to take his portrait he would frame him in the dirt.


She would never be able to enter the narrative of the two men. She would always be independent of their war. She will not dance with them. She can only observe them from that tower and invite them into her own divine dance, which removes all men from their practices and implements.


He slides out his tongue positioning its tip on the bottom edge of his front two teeth and slides it wet up and down and up and side to side as she closes her eyes and places her hand on the glass window dividing her from the space above London and her bedroom. He exhales and grips the implement and she rolls her head to one side opening her eyes and inhaling deep like a great awesome wave rising over and above her and immense to both men.


And they are dancing. He steps to a colors the world. He clicks and breaths chest rising and dipping as the lens goes back and forth zooming in and out and in one two three images coming clearer to life. The mountain. The two men in the desert. The woman in London. They all inhale as a wave crests. Their shoulders slide back into each other and both men take a shot.


One man sees a great explosion of red – the beat of a drum. His heart the drums of war thunder two drums Boom Boom Red Red. Sprays of color whip into the air and blow away as two lifeless pulps lay twitching on the frame of The Snipe’s life.


The Camera looks up at the mountain as he lowers his lens. The sky is blue and white. The world is illuminated in warmth swirling and singing and crying.


The End

Blake Greene, 2016