I am with two other tourists at a village market in Afghanistan, buying a slaughtered animal for a feast. I bring up the rear with my dad’s old deer rifle slung over my shoulder, imitating the other men. Everyone is twitchy about even the suggestion of an insult, but who knows what constitutes an insult? Fortunately, the sky doesn’t mind having guns pointed in its direction.
Our guide develops a sudden stammer. Oh great, I mutter. He leads us down alleys so narrow we each have to turn sideways — like cattle through a chute. The guy in front has the meat; we just need to get back to our vehicle. The vegetables that were thrown in for free as an incentive to buy mysteriously disappear, and I want to go find them, but the guide says no, forget it, keep moving. I meet each bearded glower with my own, trying to remember from high school how to say Don’t Fuck With Me in body language.
Night falls with appalling speed. We climb a steep bank to the road, and the guy with the meat trips and scatters it in the grass and dirt. We fumble for it in the dark, exclaiming over each little wet cube, ready for a gritty stew.