"Someone had been in here.
The sign was so subtle that at first he couldn't isolated it. He closed his eyes, then opened them and let them swing casually about his combination living-room/kitchenette, trying to take in everything. The books he'd been planning to leave behind hadn't been moved around on the shelves; the chairs were where they had been,one under the lamp and the other by the room's only window, with its scenic view of the alley outside; the coffee cup and the toast plate were still in the dish drainer beside the tiny sink.
Then it cliked home, as such thing usually did if you didn't push too hard. It was the rug. What he thought of as his Not Lindsay rug.
About five feet long and two wide, Not Lindsay was a repeating diamond pattern in blue, red, white, and brown. He had bought it in Baghdad, but had been assured by an Iraqi policeman he trusted it was of Kurdish manufacture. "Very old, very beautiful," the policeman has said. His name was Latif and al-Khaliq Hassan. A good troop. "Look Turkey, but no-no-no." Big grin. White teeth. A week after that day in the marketplace, a sniper's bullet had blown Latif abd al-Khaliq Hassan's brains right out through the back of his head. "Not Turkey, Iraqi !"
The rug-merchant wore a yellow tee-shirt that had said DON'T SHOOT ME, I'M ONLY THE PIANO PLAYER. Latif listened to him, nodding. They laughed together. Then the merchant had made a startlingly American jackoff gesture and they laughed even harder."What was about ?" Barbie has asked.
"He says American senator bought five like these. Lindsay Graham. Five rug, five hundred dollar. Five hundred out front, for press. More on the down-low. But all senator rug-fake. Yes-yes-yes. This one not fake, this one real. I, Latif Hassan, tell you this, Barbie. Not Lindsay Graham rug."
Latif has raised his hand and Barbie slapped him five. That had been a good day. Hot, but good. He had bought the rug for two hundred dollars American and an all-territories Coby DVD player. Not Lindsay was his one souvenir of Iraq, and he never stepped on it. He always stepped around it. He had planned to leave it behind when he left The Mill, but fat chance of that. Wherever you went, there you were. The great Zen truth of the age.
He hadn't stepped on it, he was superstitious about that, he always detoured around it, as if to step on it would activate some computer in Washington and he would find himself back in Baghdad or fucking Fallujah. But somebody had, because Not Lindsay was mussed. Wrinkled. And a little crooked. It had been perfectly straight when he left this morning, a thousand years ago."