Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1025
Hammad has a Visa card, a frequent-flyer number, and the use of a Mitsubishi. He and the others are living in a pink cottage on the gulf coast, and it is hot. One day they sit at the table and pledge their allegiance to their duty, in “blood trust,” to kill Americans. He shops in the supermarket and he is invisible to them, just as they are becoming invisible to him. Occasionally he looks at women, but he knows things most of them will not imagine in ten lifetimes.
His flight training is not going well; most of the others are doing better. Amir is an excellent pilot, logging extra hours in the Boeing 767 simulators, sometimes paying in cash wired from Dubai. They are all afraid the government is monitoring their e-mails and checking the airline databases for certain transactions, but Amir is not convinced and receives money wired to him at his Florida bank in his real name, Mohamed Atta, because he is “basically a nobody from nowhere.” They are all clean-shaven now, wear t-shirts and cotton slacks, and do a good job of going unnoticed. Men come in and out of the cottage, but not as many and not with the intensity of the days in Marienstrasse. Now they are beyond the burning desire and in “full and determined preparation.” Amir still burns, though, “dripping fire from the eyes.” Hammad lost weight in the training camp in Afghanistan, a place which is beautiful and entirely Islam to him. God’s name is spoken by everyone, and when he wears his bomb vest he knows he is a man ready to close the gap between him and God.
One day he drives his borrowed Mitsubishi down a suburban street and sees a car with six or seven people crammed into it. They are laughing and smoking; perhaps they are college students. Hammad wonders how easy it would be to open the door of his car and slip into theirs. Amir says in Arabic, “Never have we destroyed a nation whose term of life was not ordained beforehand.” Hammad knows this world with lawns to water and stacks of hardware on shelves is only an illusion. He orders takeout sometimes, but his reality is firing weapons, setting off explosives, making blood flow. Sometimes he watches television in a bar near flight school and imagines himself on the screen, walking through the security gate on his way to the plane. He will never get that far, though, for the government is vigilant and watching all of them, monitoring cell phone signals, and using undercover agents. Amir’s talk is no longer about crusades and Jews but plane schedules and fuel loads and the logistics of getting all the men in the right places at the proper times.
Now it is time for Hammad to cut off all communication with his parents. He tells them he is working for an engineering firm, that he will be traveling and will soon be promoted. He writes that he misses them, and then he rips the letter into small pieces and lets them drift away. In camp he had been given a long knife that once belonged to a Saudi prince. An older man brought a camel to its knees, and Hammad slit the animal’s throat; he felt a deep joy when the camel toppled in death. He kissed the bloody knife and raised it in triumph and respect for the older men assembled around him. In Florida, one man came on a visit and could not remember the name of the town they were in, somewhere near another town called Venice. Nokomis is the name, but Hammad thinks it does not matter, as this is just a place to sleep and eat, prepare and wait.
Other men come and are tempted by the worldly things that are accessible here. Hammad is not interested in such things, for he wants to do this one thing right. He and the others have been chosen; it...
(The entire section contains 1025 words.)
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