No Good Shepherd

Afghanistan. August 2007.

Question 1208: What movie or book ending really left you hanging to the point of anger?

Spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen that Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie movie, and you still want to, then don’t read …

We were in Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan, our fifth location in less than four weeks. It was August, and everything was hot and dusty as we schlepped all our gear, weapons, and armour from place to place, documenting Airmen as they went on convoys, destroyed weapons caches, and trained the Afghan police force.

I was sleeping in a room designated for distinguished visitors, since I obviously couldn’t sleep with my two male teammates in their room. The room had a bunkbed, a wardrobe without a door, and bars over the tiny window in the corner near the ceiling. Compared to a tent, it was nice.

But it sucked.

And I hadn’t had a bath in months. Sometimes I got a hot shower, but mostly they were quick, lukewarm affairs with low water pressure. My skin was a wreck. Painfully so.

And I was bored. There was nothing for me to do after crashing from the adrenaline of a mission. I was sick and tired of all the romance and sci-fi novels distributed around the airports and chapel/morale spots. By that point, I’d watched all my DVDs and movies downloaded onto my laptop. And there was no such thing as free, functioning Wi-Fi in that location, let alone something like Netflix or Amazon.

People repeated the same line to me: “You should pick up something at the haji market.”

The haji market wasn’t really a market. It was a middle-aged Afghan man who was allowed to come onto the American patrol base, set up a table underneath a tree near the laundry facility, and sell “name brand” handbags, sunglasses, and DVDs. The DVDs were usually brand new releases, sold in cracked plastic with copy-machine paper covers showcasing familiar Hollywood faces.

I approached the table several times, but couldn’t bring myself to buy anything … until I finally did.

One DVD.

After participating in extensive mental and ethical gymnastics, I concluded that I was out in the middle of nowhere, I was going to be out in the middle of nowhere for awhile, I deserved a few hours to enjoy a good movie, and it only cost the equivalent to two dollars. And war is hell.

So, after dinner and laundry, I settled in for a good movie about the origins of the CIA.

The movie begins with the suicide of the main character’s father. The main character (later played by Matt Damon) is the first to discover his father’s body, and before the adults arrive, he swipes the goodbye letter his father wrote, and keeps it to himself. He doesn’t tell anyone about the letter, and we see that he never actually opens and reads the letter, either.

So the movie goes on and we watch Matt Damon’s character grow to become a government workaholic while also becoming a cheating boyfriend, an asshole husband to Angelina Jolie, and a detached father while also laying the ground work for what would become the CIA.

Oh, I was entertained.

I was tracking.

I was invested.

I watched as Matt Damon grew older, and retired, and reflected on his life and all the mistakes he made. And I held my breath as he walked to his keepsake chest (or was it a drawer?), and reached in to pull out a letter.

The letter.

The letter his dad wrote before he killed himself.

And as Matt Damon opened the envelope …

My screen went black.


I actually slapped the laptop. Did it run out of battery? Nope. Plugged in. Fully charged. I remember banging around on the keyboard. What happened?

And then I noticed the movie time … and the movie was over. The media file was complete. I frantically checked the cracked DVD case with the copied movie cover … was there a second DVD?


Whoever filmed the movie from inside the movie theater stopped just before the movie actually ended, cutting off the last five minutes, cutting off the words of wisdom and warning Matt’s father tried to share with him to prevent him from making the same mistakes.

BUT I CAN’T KNOW THAT FOR SURE because I bought it from a haji market against my better judgement, and that’s my punishment, and I can not bring myself to watch the movie again because the memory of that disappointment and rage is still too real.

Too real and too soon.

And that’s the story of the movie ending that really left me hanging to the point of anger.


This is a part of my Writing Prompt series. Read the rest of them HERE.