Flowers from Afghanistan
My husband Chet provided me with research about camp life for the book. I worked on the outline as he served in Afghanistan, so during our Skype sessions I took notes and quizzed him on sights, sounds, and smells.
Whose boots are on the cover? The boots on the cover of Flowers from Afghanistan are my husband Chet’s boots. They are the actual boots he wore while training police officers in Afghanistan. I don’t want to give a spoiler, only to say something interesting happened concerning those boots.
- The characters are all fictional, some have characteristics of guys he served with, others just seemed to spring up organically.
- The plot is fiction, except for the attack scenes, which have been compressed, moved chronologically, and altered in other ways. The main attack scene in the book seems short, in reality, the men were under fire for 6 hours.
Mac McCann is named after whom? Mac is named after Brian McCann, the catcher for the Atlanta Braves during the time Flowers from Afghanistan was written. He was my favorite player that year.
When Mac’s son dies in a tragic accident, Mac tries to outrun his guilt by leaving to train locals as police officers in Afghanistan. He focuses on abandoning his guilt but fails to think about who else he left behind…
“By coming to Afghanistan, I’d closed a door. Only I hadn’t meant that door to be Sophie.”
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Read an excerpt
“Little Mac, where are you?”
Giggles came from behind an old sheet draped over our breakfast nook table, a makeshift tent. I pretended to look behind the sofa. “Are you behind the couch?”
“Are you under the coffee table?” I crawled on my belly, looking in the 3-inch space between the coffee table and floor. “Nope. I don’t see you.”
I crawled over to the table, slowly, slowly, calling his name until‒‚”Gotcha!” I threw the sheet back and grabbed him in my arms, tumbling and tickling him until his laughter bounced off the walls.
“I thought I heard my two favorite guys!” Sophie came in from the kitchen, pulling an oven glove off her hand and laying the mitt on the table. The yeasty smell of warm bread breezed in her wake. “I’m having photos made from your going away party. The sergeant’s words about you were very touching. I hadn’t heard stories about a few of those calls you were on. How was the office party today?”
“Good. Chief even came by to wish me luck.”
“Luck. I hope you have more than luck. I’m praying for God’s protection.”
I shook my head. “Don’t start in on me about God-stuff again.”
Sophie turned away. “Dinner’s ready.”
“I promised the guys I’d bring Little Mac by the barbershop to visit and get a haircut.”
“Wait until tomorrow. You’ll have more time,” Sophie said.
If I’d listened to her, things would be different.
I ignored her request and scooped him off the floor, dressed him in khaki shorts, a blue T-shirt, and red sneakers. My little man was going for a haircut at the same barbershop all my fellow police officers on first shift frequented. “We won’t be long,” I said.
“If you won’t listen to me, then at least take a picture of us before you go. I’ll miss these curls.” She wound her finger around a bit of his strawberry blond bangs and kissed his forehead. Sophie hugged Little Mac into her lap.
“Hand him his pinwheel. That always settles him down.”
I found my son’s favorite toy on the end table and handed it down to Sophie, trying to center their faces on my phone. “Say, Pumpernickel!” The name of that bread always made Little Mac laugh.
“Pump-a-ni-coo,” he repeated in his squeaky voice. Little Mac’s face spread into another of his infectious grins. The dimple on his left cheek deepened as he spun the pinwheel. The blue blades threw glints of light onto the floor and ceiling. He clutched the plastic toy to his chest like it was a treasure.
I bought it for him when Sophie was still carrying him in her womb. I was amazed it survived two years of his rough play. He graduated to toy cars and building sets, but the pinwheel was still his favorite. I snapped a picture, a light flashed, illuminating the room. They were frozen in time on my phone. I’d won the argument but wasted precious time. The barbershop was only four blocks away, but it closed in thirty minutes. I scooped Little Mac from Sophie’s lap.
I stopped mid-step at the door.
“Drive careful. It looks like a storm is on its way.”
”Will do,” I said, blowing Sophie an air kiss.
I hurried outside carrying Little Mac, letting the screen door slam behind me. Lightning flashed in the west. I pulled away in a cloud of dust.
Little Mac kicked his feet against the back of my double cab truck seat, in time to his favorite song.
I sang along, though Sophie wouldn’t have called it singing. I put on my turn signal and stopped at the red light. When I hit my brake, my cell phone slid across the front seat. I grabbed it, and as I did, a text message flashed. My breath caught. It was the name of a first shift dispatcher who’d sent me on most of my calls. I thought I’d made it clear when she approached me at my going-away party. I wasn’t interested in any relationship outside my marriage. I fumbled with the button to erase the message.
The light turned green.
I hit the gas. How did she have the guts to text‒ Out of the corner of my eye, a flash.
The loud bang of two vehicles colliding
reverberated in my head, then grinding metal on metal. Airbags deployed.
I coughed and blinked to clear my eyes of the white cloud that filled the truck.
Smoke? Are we on fire? No, it’s powder from air bags.
The truck stopped spinning. I tore myself from the seatbelt, grabbed my pocket knife and cut Little Mac free from his car seat harness. “Hold on, son!”
Red lights flashed. No siren. No traffic sounds. Only the fear-filled bass of my heart and my own ragged breaths. It seemed to take forever to reach the ambulance. I tucked Little Mac’s small body against my chest. Focus. A few more feet. I ran until I threatened to push my lungs and legs past their limit of endurance. I handed my two-year-old son off to the waiting paramedic and jumped in the back of the ambulance with them.
Later all l could recall was his hand, so tiny, grasping my sleeve as if he were trying to do his part, too.
Suzy Parish wrote as a Community Columnist for the Huntsville Times and has been published in Splickety Magazine. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).
Suzy discovered her love of books as a child in Richmond, Virginia when she took refuge from the summer heat in the local Bookmobile. She believes strongly in the power of literacy to improve the lives of individuals and stewards a Little Free Library in a local park.
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