It starts in Detroit, Michigan. It comes together at the hands of women who swapped pots and ovens for spanners and hammers, and wield them without mercy for the war effort. Crickitycrack, down the assembly line it goes, until it starts to look more promising, menacing, more like the blueprints, and soon a mother of four lowers the detonator into its crib and screws the metal shell shut. It is then driven eastward, flown over an ocean filled with enemy submarines, until it hovers above Vire, Normandy, and drops from a height of 15,000 feet. After which we forget about it.
Another way into these events is the following: Antoine, ten, on his punitive jaunt through the fields. Deprived of his PlayStation rights, and forced outdoors, he soon starts enjoying himself. He crouches, crab-walks under an electric fence, jumps atop tree stumps and surveys his fiefdom from there, or prods the crust off cowpats with his stick to air their steamy hearts. He aims rocks at tall weeds by the ditch. He throws, throws, throws, until one of the stones rings, tingggg… Antoine approaches, investigates, and finds a metal plate sticking out. He pushes his foot onto it but it doesn’t move. It rings, ting, when he beats his stick onto it. He beats the buried bell harder, until the stick breaks, then goes home.
Men in padded armour like made-to-measure loony cells, holding shovels and screwdrivers, crowd the field. The roadblock leads to increased traffic behind the barriers: two dozen phones are held above heads, filming, taking pictures, click-click, the sound of virtual shutters convulsing. Sergent Lupanard kneels alone by the bomb and works his hands into it; his hands are minute, as if manufactured for the specific purpose of tweezing tangled wires apart. Finally it is defused, unearthed, and lifted by means of a small crane-like contraption, and slid into the back of a van. Sergent Lupanard sheds his protective gear, hops onto the driver’s seat and starts on. At the first pothole, a tremendous ball of fire lifts the van into the air, making it perform a perfect backflip before the burning carcass lands back on its wheels. The gawkers feel the heat of the explosion, and some waver in their directorial effort and put their phones away. The door of the van opens, and the man comes out, staggering like a drunk chimney-sweep, but otherwise unharmed.
Later, the combination of insurance pay-out and newfound YouTube fame encourages Sergent Lupanard to quit demining, a stressful job at which he’d never been all that good anyway.
Antoine’s PlayStation rights are reinstated, and for a while his parents, gnawed by the guilt of having forced their child into bomb-ridden fields, cannot refuse him anything.
The women of Detroit, Michigan eventually win the war.