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Mary Bringle's novel, The Children's Bullet, chronicles an American woman, Mary Flynn, who is startled from a vaguely empty and dissatisfying life by a newspaper account of the death of a child, also named Mary Flynn, in Belfast. The child has been killed by a plastic bullet of the type used for riot control. So begins an Odyssey into her past and her Irish heritage and into an absorption with the violent social and political upheaval in Northern Ireland. Traveling to Belfast, she is befriended by a Catholic family. During her stay with them, Mary comes face to face with the ugliness and paranoia within an "occupied" city. In this excerpt, British troops cordon off the neighborhood in which she is living and subject it to a house-to-house search. Mary Bringle's two most recent published novels are Open Heart and Fortunes. FROM THE CHILDREN'S BULLET I Mary Bringle / /T A TAKE UP, wake up, they're in the street, ye'U need yer dressin' V V gown if they come here." Josie was shaking her out of sleep, hissing something about dressing gowns. Bathrobes. She could hear shouts, the banging of doors, or of something being banged against doors, and she understood the time had come. Roisin was already at the window, wrapped in her chenille robe. Mary sat up, stiff from sleeping in the cramped bed which had not been intended for two. The twins were still asleep. "What about Maeve and Maura?" she asked. But Josie had joined Roisin at the window. She was not so much afraid now as exhilirated in a dreadful kind of way; the waiting for some unknown savagery had been the worst. She thought she could deal with shouting soldiers more capably than with the idea of them. The uncarpeted floor boards were icy beneath her feet as she made her way across the shadowy attic. "There's three pigs," Josie whispered, referring to the armored cars. It was the children's name for the Saracens. Rhinos, really. She saw that it was so when she completed her long journey, arriving at the window. A pig blocked either end of the road, and a third was up near the James Connolly end. A high, cold moon cast enough light for her to determine that no human figure was distinguishable in the street below. The only sound for now was a chorus of barking. "Where are they?" "They've just gone into the Quilligans', at 119," said Josie. "There's more, though," said Roisin. "I counted twelve at first." Their speech accelerated, became incomprehensible to Mary as they tried to chart the course of the missing soldiers. They seemed to be chanting a litany of family names in the neighborhood—Moriarty? Ryan? O'Hare? Mitchell? Culligan? Carroll? Daugherty? Mulligan? As if in answer to their sorcerers' song, the door of a house down the road burst open and four soldiers ran out, full tilt, hurtling across to the Carrigans' side and then rebounding, as in some exuberant game, to the opposite side, not far from the crater-mouthed shell of the bakery. She watched them pounding on a door with the butts of their automatic rifles; they were like children crowding at the door, each wanting a chance to make a loud noise. These were not the ludicrously controlled soldiers she had seen that first day on the Falls Road, leaping in puppet-like movements around corners. These men were out of control. Not children, she corrected herself, but fraternity men drunk and vicious on too much grain alcohol, dangerously stimulated. "Yer dressin' gown," Josie commanded. "Go and put it on. Nigh, Mary." The Missouri Review · 252 She went down to her room and wrapped her bathrobe around her in the darkness. It was pale blue wool, the thin, seductive kind. She searched for her slippers but couldn't find them in the dark, and she didn't want to call attention to the house by illuminating the room. Her larger window commanded a better view. Someone in a nearby house flung a bottle down near the Saracen closest to them. Instantly, there was a volley of gunfire...


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pp. 150-158
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