This is an excerpt from the 2019 Macaron Prize finalist in the category of fiction, judged by Chantel Acevedo. Learn more about the prize winners and order the print issue at the Cagibi 2019 print issue page.
Pau’s widow requested I be at her briefing about how Pau had been killed in action. She knew I had known Pau, and that I had been wounded the night Pau died. The Air Force colonel sat across from me and Uyen Pau holding a white binder. She remembered me from the day that I came over to their apartment to pick up the DVD of Natasha Fable videos from Pau. She didn’t know about the DVD. She remembered having me over for dinner. I remembered the house smelling of sesame, soy, and cabbage. She had taken my hand and repositioned my chopsticks. Her children laughed. I let her daughter paint my nails.
The binder was full of page protectors containing colored pages of a PowerPoint presentation. The presentation started with slides of maps with red lines and symbols. Our journey from Kuwait to Iraq. The colonel used inflection to emphasize the importance of mission and danger. He flipped through the presentation like a professor teaching a class. I looked at the slides. Looked at Uyen as she stared at each slide, motionless. Her cheeks paling, the crow’s feet around her eyes becoming more defined. She had seemed impossibly small the first time I met her, that evening she and her oldest daughter cooked dinner. I remembered trying to figure out how that small body had produced all the children around her. There were four altogether. …
For the full story, order the Cagibi 2019 print issue.