The Soviet-Afghan War: Excerpt from Confessions of An Honest Man

My novel CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MAN is a book about psychological regeneration. The book’s major theme lies in the shattering of hero Aaron’s personality after he has achieved great success.  The courage it takes to rebuild one’s life after such experiences is the meat of the book.I admit that this is an autobiographical novel.  It travels from 1967 Haight Ashbury to the Afghan battlegrounds during the Soviet Invasion.  This excerpt is part of nearly a hundred pages that take place in Afghanistan. Chapter Forty TwoWar Inside and OutSeptember 1982: Konar Province, Afghanistan There is one vulture, sitting on a thermal as if it is a mattress of hot air. It is at eye level with Aaron, as he painfully negotiates switchbacks in his rented burnt-orange Land Cruiser. The bird circles towards him and lowers its head so that it can regard him with one eye. It seems a bored eye, floating at seven thousand feet between two mountains, watching a man in a vehicle. Aaron feels as if he is a tick crawling up the side of some gigantic creature with wrinkled brown hide. He has no idea whether or not he has crossed the border from Pakistan to Afghanistan. He is following the map, given to him by a man in Peshawar, that takes him around the border posts. There is just the trail, the mountain on which he drives, the mountain across the valley. Blue sky above, brown and grey everywhere else. He is glad for the company of the vulture. “So….how’s business?” He asks. The vulture tilts its left wing and soars away from the cliff, then slides back to its previous position. “You know, it’s all about location, location…… there doesn’t seem to be anything here. Of course, you might know something I don’t. Maybe there’s a good rush hour. I should think Afghanistan would be an excellent place to be in the vulture business.” He stops the car’s motor and wedges himself out the door on the mountain side of the trail. It is hot. He pulls his voluminous shirt out of his rope-tied pants and flaps it around, to cool himself. He is dressed in local clothes: they suit him, comfortable, inconspicuous. His hat, called a pakol, is shaped like a pancake on top with a cloth ridge that runs around its bottom, to grip his head and not blow away. A wind gusts up from below and the vulture suddenly rises twenty or thirty feet. Aaron pisses onto the rocks and then gently eases himself out toward the precipice. Way below, a polished-steel ribbon cuts its way around the mountain bulges: some river, a tributary of the Konar Darya. The vulture adjusts its height and comes within feet of Aaron’s outstretched hand. “I’m lost, “ Aaron tells the animal. “Do you know where I can find the village of Kamchi?” The scavenger’s head is smooth and iridescent blue. It blinks once, bends its wing and circles away. “This is the perfect symbolic situation for what my life has become,” Aaron states. The vulture turns back in his direction. There is some elemental attraction between the two living creatures in the midst of vast desolation. “You mind if I talk to you? I won’t anthropomorphize. You’re a vulture, I know. You’re only interested in finding something dead to munch. You see anything down there?” He pushes some gravel off the edge with his toe. It tumbles, gathers momentum, dislodges minor debris as it falls. “Rabbits? Mice? Dead Afghans? Dead Russians?” Aaron is talking because he doesn’t want to be scared. In the back of the Land Cruiser and lashed to the roof rack are forty green wooden boxes of ammunition and twenty five brown cardboard boxes of medical supplies. He is supposed to deliver them to a man named Murid in the village of Kamchi. In return, he will take sixty pounds of opium back to Peshawar, from where he will smuggle the drugs into the United States, packed into the tubing of Pakistani-made bicycles. He has it all figured out. Twelve hours ago it seemed a reasonable plan. He reaches into his pocket and takes out an object the size of a large Hershey bar wrapped in wax paper. Opium, otherwise known as Kandahar Kandy. He unwraps one end of the bar and pulls at its taffy-like surface until he has prized loose a ball the size of a small marble. He pops it into his mouth and lets it sit under his tongue. To Aaron the bitter red-black earthen taste of opium is like honey. He lets it dissolve in the heat of his mouth, feels its warm numbin

Source: The Soviet-Afghan War: Excerpt from Confessions of An Honest Man

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