The men on the hill have tried to bomb the brewery many times, but so far the basement of the building has protected the springs well enough that it is still a good source of water. A hundred of people are in line when Kenan arrives, and he is happy that it isn’t more crowded. A system of tubes and hoses brings the water up from the brewery’s basement so that about twenty people can get water at a time outside the brewery building.
The civilians of Sarajevo have put together a system for getting as much water as fast as possible, but their temporary riggings show how tenuous basic survival is in the city. One attack from the men on the hill could render the brewery useless and add even more difficulty to getting the fundamental elements of life in Sarajevo.
A man near the front of the water line has a medium dog with him. The man fills up a thermos for the dog before he starts to fill up his water containers. The dog drinks as if he will never see water again, which Kenan realizes could be true. The man finishes filling his containers, fills the dog’s thermos again, then loads his water containers onto a dolly. Kenan thinks that a dolly is an unnecessary risk when the wheels get so tangled in the debris of the street, but he envies how much water the man can transport.
Kenan, like Dragan, looks at a dog and sees the similarities between humans and animals. Like the dog at the brewery, Kenan does not know what might happen that would keep him from getting water again. The man’s ability to get a large quantity of water affords him the luxury of keeping a dog, when others can only worry about the survival of their human loved ones.
People chat in the water line, taking advantage of a rare opportunity to be around other people. Trucks roll up, presumably transporting water to the troops on the front lines, and the traffic noises allow Kenan to pretend it is a normal day if he closes his eyes. Then it is his turn to get water. Kenan fills his containers, trying not to waste any water as he switches out his different bottles, even though the water spills out endlessly because there are no valves on the hoses.
The brewery is one of the few places where people still feel comfortable enough to engage in casual interaction. Kenan, starved for this kind of normalcy tries to indulge in pretending that life is once again easy. But the pressures of survival bring him back to carefully watching each drop of water. The endless rush of water out of the hoses is a reminder that this lifestyle is unsustainable for both the civilians and the city itself.
As Kenan fills his water containers, the whistling of shells comes far too close. Kenan thinks of a time as a schoolboy when he knew he was going to get punched and he thinks now that he is going to die. The shell hits and knocks Kenan off his feet. All sound disappears from the world and Kenan is paralyzed. He watches other people running around, then finds he can stand. Kenan walks to where the shells hit, about thirty feet away from where Kenan was standing.
The conditions of the siege have raised every action to life and death stakes. While Kenan compares the foreboding sound of mortars falling to watching a punch come toward him, the consequences are far different. Kenan tries to keep the mindset of civilian concerns, but the circumstances of the siege make that impossible.
Kenan sees a woman holding her leg where her foot has been blown off. Two men rush to help the woman while other people gather the wounded and help them into cars to go to the hospital. Kenan watches all the people, thankful his family is nowhere near this scene. Kenan turns to find the man who had the dog, as the man clutches the dog’s leash and desperately calls the dog’s name. Kenan tries to convince the man to get medical attention for a gash on his leg, but the man runs off to find his dog.
The man with the dog prioritizes his dog above his physical health, as Galloway points out that relationships are what become truly important to people in times of crisis. The horror of the war reminds Kenan of his own family, and he he desperately wants to keep them safe.
Snipers fire at the ambulances that come to try and help the wounded at the brewery. The shelling continues and the crowds at the brewery all rush around trying to help the wounded, recover the bodies of the dead, and get themselves to safety. Kenan simply watches, finding that he can neither run to selfishly save himself or to altruistically help others in this crisis.
Kenan considers the “heroics” of other people during this time of crisis. Galloway uses Kenan’s stunned inaction to show the response of many ordinary people during such horrible times. Unaccustomed to violence and in shock at the degree of pain around him, Kenan can only watch and bear witness.
Water from the brewery washes the blood off the street. Kenan walks back to his water containers, then is consumed by a desire to stop the water from spilling uselessly onto the ground. He tries to block one hose but soon gives up. Kenan thinks that the water washes away all the atrocities of the men on the hill, making it easier for them to kill again and again because they never see the full consequences of their actions.
Kenan does what he can to stop the endless flow of water, but he is unable to accomplish much as one small person. Similarly, Galloway points out that no one person can stop the cycle of violence trapping the besieged city. Kenan feels like giving up, seeing no end to the flow of blood that the men on the hill cause in Sarajevo.
Kenan finishes filling up Mrs. Ristovski’s bottles as the last of the wounded are taken away. He slowly and deliberately picks up all his containers, then begins to walk home. He wonders which bridge will be safest after all the shelling. He eventually decides on the Cumurija Bridge, willing to risk walking over the steel frame to get to the relative safety of home. He starts walking again, realizing that he must look ridiculous as he waddles through the rubble with his heavy load of water. He hopes the snipers are not more likely to shoot at people who look funny.
In the chaos of the mortar attack, Kenan finds comfort in focusing on the one beneficial thing he can do for his family. Even though he has just witnessed horrible atrocities, his family still needs water and Kenan still needs to get home. The world does not stop in the face of violence, demoralizing Kenan even more about his long journey home.
Kenan makes it to the cover of the buildings on the street below the brewery. He is disgusted with his cowardly thoughts and actions after the shelling when people like Ismet are on the front lines. Kenan thinks he should go back and help the old man find his dog, but all he wants now is to get home and crawl into bed. Kenan keeps walking toward home, trying to keep his mind blank as he passes places in the city where he used to enjoy himself with his family on the weekend.
Kenan considers himself a coward because he has been unable to act like a traditional hero who saves others. He does not see the small heroism in his dedicated journey to get water for his family at great personal risk to himself.
Kenan arrives at Cumurija bridge and sees another man crossing from the other direction. Kenan waits for this other man to come across, wishing that Mrs. Ristovski’s bottles had handles so that he could carry all the water at once. As it is now, Kenan will have to make two trips so that he can keep his hands free to help clamber over the steel of the bombed bridge. Kenan hides Mrs. Ristovski’s bottles so no one else will take them, then heads out onto the bridge as the other man passes by and hurries away.
Kenan resents Mrs. Ristovski, regretting his promise to help her before he knew how much trouble the war would bring. In the pressure of war conditions, things that would otherwise be small annoyances – such as Mrs. Ristovski’s difficult bottles – become huge sources of stress for Kenan.
On the bridge, Kenan carefully balances his heavy bottles hanging from a rope that he has draped around his shoulders. He moves slowly so the bottles do not swing so much that Kenan falls. Another shell falls in the distance and Kenan stumbles. His knee hits the bridge hard and Kenan is filled with rage. He runs across the bridge recklessly and collapses on the other side. Kenan is desperately tired, wishing that he didn’t have to carry water through this horrible world, especially not for a neighbor who hates everyone. Kenan thinks that Mrs. Ristovski should get her own water, picks up his own containers, and starts toward home.
Right now, Kenan considers any action that does not directly help his family to be unnecessary. Instead of seeing the good that he is doing for another person, Kenan wishes that he could care only about himself and his family. Pushed to his limit by the recent mortar attack, Kenan cannot find the energy to help others. This, rather than his shock during the attack itself, is a true display of cowardice and a moral failure.