The Dying of Ariel Sharon

sub-‘junc-tive, adj. 1. The subjunctive mood, the form of a verb denoting an action or state not as fact, but only as a conception of the mind. It is therefore used to express a wish, a command, or a contingent or hypothetical event. 2. Characteristic of what is expressed by the subjunctive mood.

It was snowing lightly in Jerusalem (by which I really mean if it were to be snowing lightly in Jerusalem), a side-driven windy snow late in the day when Ariel Sharon left the Knesset with his bodyguard, if he were to do so, and traveled the short distance by armored car to his home, and after a light dinner with wine and television went to bed somewhat early in the darkness with snow still rushing outside, a snow so fine and spare it would be evaporated by morning. Yet Ariel Sharon was not to wake in the morning, for sometime during the night, doctors would say, the fat-streaked heart in his massive chest stopped ticking, clogged to a stop with one last difficult lurch.

Maybe he felt the heart lurching to a stop in his sleep, maybe he was dreaming of being on a train in a European country of flat and bare fields and the train suddenly stopped for no reason on the tracks with a lurch and a squeak of metal and the great engine ceased to throb through the metal plating and he, alone at a linen-covered table in the dining car, in the act of lifting a forkful of salmon to his mouth, froze and stared out over the bleak dark landscape like the one painted by the Dutch landscape painters in Holland, and as he stared out he noticed that his heart was no longer throbbing and he dropped the fork in alarm and heard it clatter on the plate and saw a waiter, a napkin folded carefully over his forearm, approach him with a questioning smile, and that was the last thing he saw because he died.

But what if Ariel Sharon were not to die–what does that word mean, die, it’s imprecise and it yields no image and does not satisfy the yearning part of the mind, not to mention the body–but instead of dying were to leave the train in a surge of anxiety and a rush like the wings of a descending angel (I am thinking here of the angel that streaks down from Heaven like a flaming arrow towards the tent-sleeping Constantine in Piero della Francesca’s fresco-cycle “The Legend of the True Cross“) and if his soul, Ariel Sharon’s pitying lost human scorched terror-faced soul, were to find itself translated, like a flash of wonderment, into the womb of a young woman in Bethlehem who happens to be (why not?) a Palestinian Arab.

And what if, about nine months later, this same young woman were to bleed to death in the agony of giving birth, because her taxi has not been permitted to pass through an Israeli checkpoint on the only road to the hospital–and what if the baby, a boy, were to survive his mother’s death only to die himself, ironically but quite plausibly, at the age of ten-and-a-half rushing down a Bethlehem street away from soldiers firing from beside a tank into a crowd of stone-throwers?

This, I believe, is where Sharon’s life really ends, or is at least where my subjunctive mood would end it: not on a train stopped in an obscure dream-landscape but on a light-drenched street where M-16 bullets are zipping and cracking against cement walls and Sharon, whose name is now Samir, whose face is dark, and whose fist holds a stone, is sprinting away from soldiers bulging in heavy equipment who are kneeling to take aim and then he feels a flash in his leg and goes sprawling and looks down to see his knee mangled by the spinning M-16 round and bits of flesh and a splash of arterial blood and he turns to face the soldiers who are still shooting and feels another flash, not of pain exactly but of amazement, as another bullet hits him in the chest and he is conscious of a high-pitched tone in his ears and his mouth tastes blood–nauseated, he spits a brilliant glob of it out onto the asphalt.

And now Samir remembers, with wonder, what he’d forgotten at birth or slightly before, namely that he is Ariel Sharon. In the seizure of this memory, the boy utters a cry–of longing, of horror, or perhaps of disgust. Then he leaps from the sprawled Arab body, leaps across miles and perhaps even across a span of continents to surge like lightning into the joyous womb of yet another young woman engulfed in the throes of love just seconds before the IDF soldier approaches and, with a shouted curse, squeezes off an entire clip of ammunition into his chest.

Andrew L. Wilson holds a G.E.D. from Memphis Adult Education Center, a B.A. in English literature from the University of Tennessee and a Ph.D. in English literature from Boston College. He has worked as a busboy, dishwasher, waiter, cook, bartender, dogwalker, lottery ticket seller, consigliere, art mover and installer, house repairs contractor, bookstore clerk, office temp, book appraiser, office manager, teacher, proofreader, manuscript consultant, writer, journalist, and editor. His fiction, essays and poetry have appeared in small literary magazines in the United States, Europe, and Japan, most recently in Rosebud, where his story shares a cover billing with Stephen King. Last year he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His interview with poet Derek Walcott appears in the Bedford/St. Martin’s anthology Stages of Drama. A story of his recently appeared in The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 2, and was singled out for praise in press reviews. He can be reached at:

“The Death of Ariel Sharon” previously appeared in NEO [print] and on