(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The unnamed narrator is an Israeli soldier who fought in the Six-Day War and hoped his days of war were over. This morning, however, his unit has been called up and is watching from a ridge as tanks maneuver in a small valley, waiting until nightfall when they will be ordered into a battle. Although their comrades below are outnumbered, the Israeli command has decided that the unit should not enter into the valley until dark, because they have only two old half-tracks that could accomplish little against the Syrian tanks in the light of day.

It can be more difficult to wait than to fight. The narrator notes the differences between the older men who have experienced war before and the young soldiers who are facing enemy fire for the first time. The young do not know what the reality of battle will prove to be, but the narrator believes that because they are young—approximately eighteen years of age—they have little to lose even if they lose their lives, for they are responsible only for themselves.

The narrator and the other older soldiers who have been in battle before know the maiming and death of warfare. Unlike in their youth, they now have something to lose: their families and loved ones. The soldier next to the narrator sniffs his wrist. When asked why, he responds, “I can still smell her perfume on my wrist, and I taste the taste of her mouth.” Another veteran soldier, about fifty years old, and with two sons fighting in the...

(The entire section is 574 words.)