This first-person POV story takes us to Afghanistan and inside SEAL Team Six. Although the narrator could be seen as the main character, I feel that Levi is the one who changes by the story's end. Early his attitude as seen by the narrator, "You put a normal man on the spot like that and he'll get this look. Levi did not get that look." By the end of the story he's become a father and spent two weeks with his newborn. When he rejoins the TOC he's put to a test, which he fails, "while Levi questioned, the magnetic pole upon which his bearing was anchored drifted ever so slightly; the breeze against which he'd applied his correction stiffened, and the men cradling the heavy shells of his next barrage cursed the unknown reasons for the holdup." Now Levi is a man who hesitates, "gets the look," because he is a father now.
There are a lot of embedded references to Dutch candies, Vlinders and the Stroopwafels and Kattekoppen and the sixteenth-century Dutch painter, Pieter Brueghel the Elder. A mere candy, shaped like a cat face, coming in handy during war for its odor and its reminding the narrator, "made me think of a bombing attack," is an unexpected trope. But what I like most is that a person changes during the story but is shown in an unexpected manner.
One of my favorite lines: "He just sat in his little chair, which was actually a normal chair dwarfed by his abnormal size, and with his wee M16 lying by his side, he drew circles."
"Kattekoppen" was first published in the New Yorker. Then it was included in the 2014 edition of Best American Short Stories.
An interview with the New Yorker, Deborah Treisman.
The story, "Kattekoppen" by Will Mackin.