Excess saliva. You swallow. Your stomach grumbles.
Every time you catch a whiff of that home-baked joy, you fall in love again. You’ve always craved gluten, from the fat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches Dad made for Saturday lunches, launching them through the air to splat loudly on the dining room table and miraculously slide to a perfect stop in front of your once-a-year treat of a glass of 2% milk, to the sweet King’s Hawaiian rolls you’d insist be a part of every Thanksgiving dinner. Recently, you’d tried your hand at baking, opening 100 Great Bread Recipes you’d gotten for Christmas or a birthday or some other important date and attempting the beginner’s loaf. It was barely edible.
This is different. The smells are the same – delightful, homey, peaceful – but you’re not back home.
You’re in Afghanistan.
Fighting the Taliban.
Chaplain Jenn has wild red hair, curly and boisterous, and her excitable voice compliments her trusses. She’s a fellow Minnesotan so you immediately like her. Your first meeting was your unit predeployment brief. Something about combat services and taking care of your Marines and maybe even marital counseling. You’re not super religious, but you were impressed. There aren’t many femal Navy Chaplains in the Corps. Like female Cobra pilots. And she’s deploying with you as your religious support. Your Chaps.
She waltzes into the Tactical Air Command Center. Who wants some? The promise of a slice of home in bread form is too tempting. You imagine the warmth: glorious, delicious. Yes, please.
But how does she do it? Bribing the dining facility Third Country Nationals? Black market? Magic?
A breadmaker. In the desert of Helmand Province. In a plywood office surrounded by concrete t-walls and razor wire. Filled with Marines intent on scoring a chunk. You can have anything shipped out here, including baking essentials; this is war in the 21st century.
You take a bite.
This post is supported using public funding by Arts Council England.