“Something here smells so good,” says Eliab. “Brings to mind the old, gnarled olive tree in the garden, just outside our window... Doesn’t it?”
I untie my satchel from the saddle, lift the flap, remove my lyre from the top so he can take a good look inside.
“Here,” I say, “take a sniff.”
Eliab seems to swoon at the sight of food, and at once his eyes tear up. It must be more than a simple hunger.
Perhaps it is the memory of the warmth of our kitchen back home, when steam puffs up the dough, just before it cools down to create the air pocket in the center of the bread. Or else, it is the touch he remembers, the touch of my mother’s hand as she sprinkles some sesame seeds all over the top.
I let the flap fall back and at once, the smell of our olive tree is cut off. Eliab grabs the satchel from my hand. I snatch it right back.
“Hand it over,” growls my brother. “Right now, I said, or else.”
“Is it true,” I ask, teasingly, “that the most important qualification of a soldier is endurance?”
“What the hell is that,” his nostrils flare wide. “What d’you mean, endurance?”
“I mean, holding out as best you can, under fatigue and privation.”
“Don’t you play with me now. Hand the thing over!”
“I’ve heard,” I go on, “that the most important wish of a soldier is to die with honor. Is it true? I mean, we’re all destined to die, right? Can a few days of life equal the glory, I mean, the glory of dying for your country?”
“Enough!” he bellows. “I’ve had it with this nonsense! Hell, I’ll die of hunger way before glory comes.”
“Oh, I see! If not for craving a morsel of food, you’re a regular hero,” say I. “Wouldn’t a medal be grand? Or a bit of colored ribbon, perhaps?”
“Enough already,” his voice bursts to an exasperated rasp. “You be careful, or I’ll tell mom about you! If somehow you manage to come out of here alive, I’ll make damn sure she kills you.”
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