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The story begins in the historical city of Samarra, where Zaid Mahir, the narrator, says goodbye to his 83-year-old father and heads to Baghdad, where he left his wife and daughter of 15 months. The familiar route inspires the narrators reminiscences and verse comforts he was used to in his constant travel between the two cities. But the succession of memories, cast against the backdrop of serene countryside, is interrupted, and the peace and safety of Zaid and his driver are challenged, when an American marine force intercepts and occupies the highway. Baghdad is still twenty kilometers away. Nearly taken captive by the new arrivals, he manages to communicate well enough in English to convince the soldiers he should be allowed to continue his journey. Though danger looms, the memory of his daughters recent birthday party, and her favorite teddy bear, gives him the drive he needs to keep trying to get home. By the time he is re-united with his family, Baghdad has turned into a ghostly city waiting for redemption in the dark.