Excerpt from Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Waiting for Eden

by Elliot Ackerman

Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman X
Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman
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    Sep 2018, 192 pages

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Kim Kovacs
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Excerpt
Waiting for Eden

I want you to understand Mary and what she did. But I don't know if you will. You've got to wonder if in the end you'd make the same choice, circumstances being similar, or even the same, God help you. Back when I first met her and Eden times were better. They were trying to start a family then. And months later, on that night in the Hamrin Valley, I was sitting next to Eden and luckier than him when our Humvee hit a pressure plate, killing me and everybody else, him barely surviving.

Ever since then I've been around too, just on that other side, seeing all there is, and waiting.

Three years have gone by and my friend's spent every day of it laid out in that burn center in San Antonio. I could give you the catalogue of his injuries, but I won't. Not because I don't think you could stomach it, but because I don't think it'd really tell you much about what type of a way he's in. So I'll tell you this: he used to weigh two hundred and twenty pounds and some mornings, when we'd workout together, he'd press well over one-fifty above his head, sweat pouring from beneath his black hair. Before we deployed, he and I both went to SERE school, that's the one up in Maine where they teach you what to do in case you become a prisoner. For a couple of weeks the instructors starved us and roughed us up pretty bad. Then the course ended and those same instructors had a graduation party with us. That night at the party, I watched him pound five pints of Guinness in almost as many minutes. He held it all down, too. But I'll also tell you that if you ever went to his house for dinner he wouldn't serve Guinness, he'd likely do all the cooking and serve you a bottle of wine he'd chosen specially for your visit. He could tell you all about the wine: the viticulture considerations in the soil of the vineyard, and when you were done with that and the main course, he'd serve chocolate with hot pepper or sea salt, or some other fancy thing mixed in. He said that stuff brought out the flavor. I still don't know if that's true, but I liked that he said it. I'll tell you that every guy in the platoon had a nickname. One pervy guy was called Hand Job because he had all sorts of weird porn on his computer. And another guy, a kind of dumb guy, was called Wedge because a wedge is the world's simplest tool. But Eden's nickname was Slam Dance. That's how he treated the whole world, like it was a mosh pit and he was slam dancing along in it. At least before the pressure plate. But now I don't know what to call him. The seventy pounds that's left of him in the bed—he's had a lot of infections, and they've cut all of him off up to the torso—isn't Slam Dance and it isn't the name he was born with. I don't think anyone really knows what to call him, except for Mary. She calls him her husband.

* * *

Mary was pregnant the day he touched down at the airbase in San Antonio and she's been there every day since. After the pressure plate, they almost didn't fly him out of Balad. The docs there were sure he was about to go, and they were doubly sure the trip would kill him. Still they were obligated to at least try and get him home.

On the C-17 back two nurses stayed within arms length of him the whole ride. Also on the flight was a kid from the 82nd Airborne, a private first class. The kid had been shot in the ass. Had the bullet gone half an inch higher, it would've nicked off some of his spine, instead it nicked off some of his lower intestine, a bit of good luck. Another bit of good luck for the kid was Eden. My friend's emergency flight to San Antonio got the kid a direct flight to his hometown, otherwise he would've been sent back on the bi-weekly rotator through Bethesda.

Excerpted from Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman. Copyright © 2018 by Elliot Ackerman. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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