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Chapter no 79

Spare

I LANDED ON MARCH 1, 2008. The obligatory press conference stood between me and a proper meal. I held my breath, went before the chosen reporter, answered his questions. He used the word hero, which I wouldn’t stand for. The heroes are the guys on the plane. Not to mention the guys still

back at Delhi and Dwyer and Edinburgh.

I walked out of the room, straight into Willy and Pa. I think Willy hugged me. I think I gave Pa a kiss on each cheek. He might also have… squeezed my shoulder? It would’ve appeared, to anyone at a distance, a normal family greeting and interaction, but for us it was a flamboyant, unprecedented demonstration of physical affection.

Then they both stared at me, wide-eyed. I looked exhausted. Haunted.

You look older, Pa said.

I am.

We piled into Pa’s Audi and zoomed off towards Highgrove. Along the way we spoke as if we were in a library. Very hushed.

How are you, Harold?

Oh, I dunno. How are you? Not bad.

How’s Kate?

Good.

I miss anything?

No. Same old.

I rolled down the window, watched the countryside fly by. My eyes couldn’t quite absorb all that color, all that green. I breathed in the fresh air and wondered which was the dream, the months in Afghanistan or this trip in the car? The guns of Dwyer, the beheaded goats, the boy in the wheelbarrow—was that reality? Or was reality these soft leather seats and Pa’s cologne?

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