After an ominous beginning,
Dublin lay enveloped in darkness but for the dim light of the moon that shone through the clouds
the reader is confronted with the sounds of battle, a succession of bullets emitted from machine guns and rifles, and rolling armored cars, the reader is immersed immediately into the combat of the Irish Civil War and senses the tension. There is an anonymity to the snipers, the old woman, and the driver of the armored car as no one is named. After all, war is unconcerned with the individual. There is also "a tight unity of place" in this story in which the action all takes place between two buildings.
The sniper of the Republican army, an ascetic with the "cold gleam of the fanatic," reveals his youth when he risks danger by smoking a cigarette, the light of which invites bullets and wounds him. But, ironically, he succeeds in tricking the sniper of the Free State into shooting, and he fakes his death by tossing hat and rifle over the parapet.
Then, the author employs suspense each sniper tries for the other. The Republican runs the gamut of joy at killing his enemy, then revulsion at the sight of the shattered mass of his dead enemy. Then, in a surprise ending, the sniper finds himself shot at by a machine gun; as he drops to the ground, he stares into the dead face of his own brother.