on an apple core
Great Crusade Part 4
later, I was still brooding over my exit from Afghanistan. The teenage
editors of a satirical fortnightly, The Chaser, which had sponsored
my expedition to Afghanistan, had withdrawn my press credentials and
abandoned me in Kabul without warning or explanation.
was, I felt, the most treacherous betrayal of a working journalist in
a war zone since Jan Wenner stranded Hunter S. Thompson in Saigon in
April '75, but Joadja was more sanguine.
the breaks", she said. "Remember that you too were a callow
young possum once. Anyway, I was glad to have you back. If they hadn't
pulled your credentials you might still be in Kabul, or even a shallow
stared out the window of the Brushtail Café and grunted into
my cider. All that was true enough, but I still felt I had been cheated
of my quarry. Maybe, just maybe, given another week in Kabul, I might
have cornered my old business partner, Bruce Possum, and got some satisfaction
out of him, but I was the one who got cornered.
had confirmed, before the Northern Alliance arrived, that Bruce was
selling the Afghan opium crop on the international market for a shadowy
coalition of NA warlords. That much the Taliban apparatchik told me
before he departed for the mountains, or Pakistan, or Chechenya or maybe
even Yemen, leaving me with his box of old Cat Stevens tapes and a promise
to post me his Bruce Possum file if he made it out alive.
few days later a couple of NA secret police and a squad of British troops
arrived at the seedy backpackers hostel where I was holed up. They told
me they had orders to put me on the first plane to Pakistan. I explained
I was a fully accredited journalist for an important Australian newspaper
which was read avidly by many influential people.
it for the judge, laddie", the sergeant said, "Your embassy
in Pakistan says the paper sacked you a couple of weeks ago. You can
come with us or you can explain it to the Yanks at Guantanamo Bay".
started ransacking my room, throwing everything into a big garbage bag.
I explained there must be a mistake and insisted on seeing a representative
of the Australian diplomatic service. One of the squaddies twisted my
arm behind my back, threw me to the ground and dragged me out into the
street by my tail.
be hearing from my Sydney lawyers ... they've got Cherie Blair on a
retainer", I screeched.
don't we dip the furry little cunt in honey and throw him to the lesbians?"
one of them asked. He had the fat florid face of a soccer hooligan.
His mates snickered. They pulled a black bag over my head, tied my paws
and thrust me face-down in the back of a jeep.
a long bumpy ride we stopped. They dragged me out and frog-marched me
somewhere, pushed me into a wall. I heard a steel door clang shut. A
couple of hours passed. I could hear aircraft nearby.
I heard the door open and the sound of feet and voices. Somebody untied
my paws and pulled the bag off my head.
was in a bare little cell with no windows and a barred door. A spectral
figure in a burqa loomed in front of me, silhouetted like a black ghost.
She was flanked by a couple of General Dostum's soldiers. I stayed where
I was, rubbing my wrists, blinking. The figure behind the burqa looked
at me for perhaps thirty seconds. I was too shocked to speak, and none
of them said a word.
she muttered something, turned and shuffled out of the cell, followed
by the soldiers. I could have sworn she said "loser". The
door slammed shut, the dust on the floor stirred in the weak light,
their footsteps scuffled away and then there was silence. There on the
floor, where the burqa-clad figure had stood, lay an apple core. I picked
it up and turned it over in my paw. On it were the unmistakable teeth
marks of a possum.