Zach Saterfield sat at the counter in the Jittery Goat Cafe.
Clem slid a plate of corned beef hash covered with two eggs over easy in front of him.
“Ya know how long I’ve wanted some of your corned beef hash?” Zach said shoving a fork full in his mouth.
Clem was about to answer, but Zach said, “Fifteen months.”
“Has it been that long?” Clem said.
“Three months in New Mexico and a year in Afghanistan,” Zach said.
“It’s sure good to see you home,” Clem said. “I bet that little girl of yours is glad too.”
Zach swallowed. “They don’t come sweeter or more precious.”
“Why aren’t you down at the school now,” Clem said. “Everybody was all hush, hush about the big surprise homecoming; they were going to tape it and show it on the evening news. They didn’t want Darla to find out; you know one of those big surprise coming home things you see all the time on TV.”
“My wife, Darla, her folks, and my folks met at the airport last night.”
“Were the cameras on hand?” Clem said.
“No,” Zach protested. “I ain’t no reality star. There are things that should only be shared with the people you love. The whole world doesn’t have to see ’em. When something like that happens a person feels like he has to play to the camera or else everybody will be disappointed. It’s like everybody has to out do everybody else; whose got the most tears, the biggest smile, the most surprised look. It’s become a competitive sport. Something like that shouldn’t be overdone or underdone. A TV news crew takes that away.”
“It sure would have been nice to be there and see it,” Clem said.
“Clem, you’ve been a friend of the family before I was born,” Zach said. “But I mean this with no disrespect; it was our moment and not yours and especially not the entire viewing audience.
“No offense takin’, Zach,” Clem said. “I know what you mean. It’s for family.”
“I didn’t join the Army to be treated special,” Zach said. “I joined because there weren’t any jobs. To me the only noble thing I did was provide for my family. That patriotic stuff about ‘fightin’ for your freedoms’ is political talk. We all know better; it’s about oil and the oil-producing region. If it were the Aborigines in Australia causing problems we would have gone over captured a few, killed a few, and converted a few. That is unless we all had an appetite for Kangaroo meat. Then we’d have to make the region democratic for the good of the Kangoroo consuming public.”
Clem shook his head, drew another coffee from the urn and said, “Zach, for years people have been thinking they been eating corned beef hash, but several years ago this guy form Australia comes through and…”