The setting is the Irish Civil War in 1922. A Republican sniper, a young man, sits on a rooftop in Dublin, trying to locate any enemy soldiers. An enemy sniper fires from another rooftop when the Republican sniper lights a cigarette. Knowing he has been spotted by the enemy, the sniper devises a plan to escape before morning. Before he does this, he spots an enemy car on the ground. An old woman tells one of the enemy soldiers in the armored car where the sniper is. When the enemy soldier peaks out of the turret, the sniper fires and kills him. The woman (informant) starts to run away. To prevent her from telling other enemy soldiers where he is, the sniper fires and kills her as well.
Then the enemy sniper from the other rooftop fires, hitting the Republican sniper in the arm. He bandages his arm and makes a plan. He places his cap on top of his rifle and raises it. The enemy sniper fires and the sniper drops his rifle. The enemy thinks he's killed the sniper, so he stands up. The sniper kills the now standing enemy sniper who then falls off the roof.
The sniper feels remorse, throws his revolver to the ground, and a misfire from the revolver as it hits the ground makes the sniper come back to his sense of being an objective soldier. He descends and is curious, intending to get a look at his enemy. The sniper sees his enemy's face and it is the face of his brother.
The sniper darted across the street. A machine gun tore up the ground around him with a hail of bullets, but he escaped. He threw himself face downward beside the corpse. The machine gun stopped. Then the sniper turned over the dead body and looked into his brother’s face.
The story illustrates the tragedies of war and of young men being forced to become ruthless killers. In particular, the story shows how a civil war, a war of "brother against brother" or "countryman against countryman" makes one think about the nature of a "civil war" and that other international wars are equally as tragic.