Man, woman, and child

By:Erich Segal

I

HAVE AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FOR YOU, Dr.
Beckwith."
^Tm tied up right now. Can I get back to you?''
''Actually, Professor, Fd prefer to speak to you in person/'
An "urgent" phone call had summoned Robert Beckwith from the final departmental meeting
of the term. It was the French consulate.
"Can you get to Boston before five?" the undersecretary asked.
"It's almost four-thirty now," said Bob.
*'I will wait for you."
''Is it that important?"
"Yes, I believe so."
Totally mystified, Bob walked back across the hall to where the five other senior members of
the MIT Statistics Department were waiting. Citing the unimportance of their agenda when
compared to the excellence of the weather, he moved that they adjourn until the fall. As
usual, there was one objection.
"I must say, Beckwith, this is rather unprofessional," huffed P. Herbert Harrison.
"'Let's put it to a vote, Herb/' Bob replied. The score was five to one in favor of vacation.
Bob hurried to his car and began threading his way across the Charles River through the
heavy rush hour traffic. Moving slower than the passing joggers, he had plenty of time to
speculate on what could possibly be so urgent. And the more he thought, the more the odds
seemed to suggest one thing: They're giving me the Legion of Honor.
It's not so impossible, he told himself. After all, I've lectured lots of times in France—twice at
the Sorbonne. Hell, I even drive a Peugeot.
That must be it. I'm going to get one of those little red anchovies for my lapel. I may even
have to start wearing jackets. Who cares? It'll be worth it to see the jealousy on certain
faculty faces. God, Sheila and the girls will be proud.
"This message came to us by telex," said M. Ber-trand Pelletier the moment Bob sat down in
his elegant high-ceilinged office. He held a narrow slip of paper.
Here it comes, thought Bob. The award. He tried not to smile too soon.
''It requests that Dr. Beckwith of MIT contact a Monsieur Venargu^s in Sete immediately."
He handed Bob the paper.
"Sete?" repeated Bob. And thought. Oh no, it can't be.
"Charming little village, if a bit gaucho" said Pelletier. "Do you know the south of France?"
**Uh—yes." Bob grew even more uneasy when he noticed that the consular official wore a
rather solemn expression.
"Monsieur Pelletier, what's this all about?"
"I was only informed that it concerns the late Nicole Guerin/'
My God, Nicole. So long ago, so well suppressed he almost had convinced himself it never
happened. The single infidelity in all his years of marriage.

Why now? Why after all this time? And hadn't she herself insisted they would never meet
again, never contact one another?
Wait a minute.
^'Monsieur Pelletier, did you say the late Nicole Guerin? She's dead?"
The undersecretary nodded.
'1 regret that I have no details. I am sorry, Dr. Beckwith."
Did this man know any more?
*'And who's this person I'm supposed to call?"
The undersecretary shrugged. Which, translated from the French, meant that he didn't
know—and didn't care to.
"May I offer my condoleances, Dr. Beckwith?"
This, translated from the French, meant it was getting late. And M. Pelletier no doubt had
plans for other things. It was, after all, a balmy evening in the month of June.
Bob took the hint. He stood up.
"Thank you. Monsieur Pelletier."
"Not at all."
They shook hands.
A bit unsteadily. Bob walked out onto Commonwealth Avenue. He was parked diagonally
across, right near the Ritz. Should he get a quick shot of courage at the bar? No. Better make
that phone call first. And somewhere private.
The entire corridor was silent. Everyone seemed to have left for the summer. Bob closed the
office door, sat at his desk and dialed France.
''WuyT' croaked a sleepy voice with a thick Provengal accent.
''Uh—this is Robert Beckwith. May I speak v^th Monsieur Venargu^s?"
^'Bobbie—it is me, Louis! At last Fve found you. What a task... "
Even after all these years, that voice was unmistakable. The rasp created by the smoke of fifty
million Gauloises.
'Touis the mayor?"
"Ex-mayor. Can you imagine? They put me out to pasture like some ancient dinosaur. The
Council-"
Bob was much too tense for lengthy anecdotes.
'Touis, what is this about Nicole?''
"Oh, Bobbie, what a tragedy. Five days ago. Head-on collision. She was coming from a
cardiac emergency. The whole town is in mourning. . . ."
"Oh. Fm sorry-''
"Can you imagine? She was so young. A saint, unselfish. All the Faculty of Medicine from
Mont-pellier came to the service. You know she hated religion, Bobbie, but we had to."
He paused to sigh. Bob seized the opportunity.

"Louis, this is terrible news. But I don't see why you wanted me to call you. I mean, it's been
ten years since I last saw her."
Suddenly a silence on the line. Then Louis answered almost in a whisper: "Because of the
child."

"Child? Was Nicole married?"
"No, no. Of course not. She was an 'independent mother,' so to speak. She raised the boy
herself."
"But I still don't see what this has to do with me," said Bob.
"'Uh—Bobbie, I do not know how to say this... /'
"Say iti"
"He is your child too/' said Louis Venargu^s.
For a moment there was silence on both sides of the Atlantic. Bob was stunned beyond
speech.
"Bobbie, are you still there? Alio?''
"What?"
"I know you are perhaps shocked by this news/'
"No, Louis. Fm not shocked. I simply don't believe it," Bob replied, as anger helped him to
regain his powers of speech.
"But it's true. I was her confidant in everything."
"But what the hell makes you so sure that rm the father?"
"Bobbie," Louis answered gently, "you were here in May. The demonstrations, you recall?
The little boy came—so to speak—on schedule. There was no one else in her life at the time.
She would have told me. Of course, she never wanted you to know."
Jesus Christ, thought Bob, this is incredible.
"Dammit, Louis, even if it's true, I'm not responsible for—"
"Bobbie, tranquilize yourself. No one's saying that you have responsibility. Jean-Claude is
well provided for. Believe me—I am the executor." He paused and added, "There is only one
small problem."
Bob trembled at the possibilities.
"What?" he asked.
"The boy has absolutely no one. Nicole had no other family. He's all alone."
Bob did not reply. He was still trying to gauge the direction of this conversation.
"Ordinarily, we would take him in, Marie-Ther^se and L . . ." Louis paused. "We are his
guardians. But she is ill. Bob, gravely ill. She doesn't have much time."
"Fm sorry/' Bob interjected softly.
"What can I say? We had a honeymoon of forty years. But now you see why it's impossible.
Unless we can find some alternative—and quickly—the authorities will take the boy away."
At last Bob sensed where this was leading. He grew angrier with every breath. And
frightened.
"The child is inconsolable," Louis continued. "He is sad beyond tears. His grief is so great he
cannot even cry. He just sits there—'
"Get to the point," said Bob.
Louis hesitated.
"I want to tell him."
"Tell him what?"
"That you exist."

He sat frozen. How's yer statistics?" ''Oh. I'll be rollin' on. You gotta trust your gut. Bobbie." "Well. you ain't run across some likely numbers. on her daily rounds of tidying the offices. as they say." She left and softly closed the door. I will not hurt my family. back in his life.' Anyway. "Fll trouble you no more. good. He had placed his whole existence in jeopardy. Trust your gut. Fm truly sorry about Nicole." "Ah. Perfesser." said Louis at last. that's my philosophy. what should I do? "Evenin'. Mrs. Look. Perfesser. "All right."No I Are you crazy? How could that possibly help?" "I just want him to know that somewhere in this world he has a father. "Hello~if s me." "Listen. But something she had said stuck with him. "Well. "Goodbye. I need time to think. All he felt for her now was enormous rage. Even as he dialed he wasn't sure what he would say. Have a good summer. Coleman?" ''Not too bad. He felt a desperate inward struggle. have ya? Rent's due an' my luck's been pretty lousy lately. 'if you don't feel it. Quite unprofessional. But very human. long after Mrs. I knew that you would reconsider." She emptied his wastebasket and whisked a cloth across his desk." Yet another pause (for Bob to reconsider)." "Say. heart and mind at war. Nothing's worth it. Who knows if it's even true? Forget it. and then at last capitulation. Forget it?An impulse he could not control made him pick up the phone. Louis. He was panicked and . A little boy he'd never met?He walked like a zombie to the parking lot." "Louis. Coleman's footsteps faded down the corridor. Louis/' They hung up. An rest that brilliant brain o' yours. Now Bob was terrified. pretty good. It would be somethings Bobbie. staring at the telephone. Don't be crazy. Bob. Or at least ten seconds of nonverbal static. for God's sake! Fm a married man with two young daughters. don't play it."Too damn bad. Bob. I don't feel too lucky myself." he mumbled. Nicole Guerin. But I do confess Fm very disappointed. Louis. Perfesser. Fll call you back tomorrow. What made him call again?Affection for Nicole? No. And could their brief affair really have produced a child? A son?Oh. Coleman. Fm sorry about the boy. God." Bob looked up. Don't risk your marriage." "Sorry. But I refuse to get involved in this. He is a lovely boy. I can't I wont That's final. But do ring a bit earlier. and hung up. Bob put down the receiver and buried his head in his hands. eh?" "Good night." "Good. startled. This was too difficult to take in all at once. After so many years. *'How are you. Mrs. It was Lilah Coleman. good. "Good night." There was another silence on the line.

but I'm not old enough. Jess. Father. "Oh." retorted Bob. "Kindly spare me all your academic double-talk." "Jessica. "Well. "Really. deliberately ignoring her unlicensed use of his first name. creeps. For example." said Sheila. Daddy. you are hopelessly obtuse. and slouched disdainfully from the kitchen. they'd evolved a kind of code. Bob. He had really needed more time. He was determined to act naturally. "Oh. To gain control of himself. you people are hopeless. how punctilious you are. enjoying this interlude from his anxieties." sighed Jessica." Sheila cast an indulgent smile at Bob." "Then get a job. it was you who brought the subject up. All of Massachusetts is the boonies. wonks and nerds. ''Mom knows/' said Jessica. "Oh." "Daddy. Why does she have to look so beautiful tonight? thought Bob. *'How come you're late? More memorable orations from the Colleague?" *Teah. a pompous ass with lengthy and dissenting views on everything. The Beckwiths' friends had also been given nicknames. But in the entire world he had only one close friend." Bob replied. was discoursing with her mother. one person who really understood him. Beckwith. you have plenty of time to see the Louvre before we get zapped." "But you're also young enough to wait a year. Bob?''Paula. what is your solution?" asked Bob. was in constant training to take over as his wife. twelve and a half going on twenty-five." "Jessie." "Daddy. In the kitchen Jessica Beckwith. Jjy now Route 2 was fairly empty and he reached Lexington too quickly." said Sheila. What am I going to say? How the hell am I even going to face her? "How come you're home so late.E.confused." "But she's not actually a teen-ager yet. ''Departmental meeting.His wife.D. Mom." "What's all this?" asked Bob as he entered and kissed the two older women in his family. Ergo. teasing her. Ms." "Then maybe you should transfer." said Sheila. going to her husband for the daily evening hug she had looked forward to since breakfast. don't be ghoulish." After so many years of talking to each other. I refuse to spend another summer with my bourgeois family on tedious Cape Cod. Bob had interrupted her very subtle sales pitch. Organize his thoughts.They were alone. Ms. Jessie blushed. "Your daughter wants to take a Garber teen-age tour this summer." said Bob. It's a province in search of a city. Bob's department had three men." "Q. "Jessie's lamenting the quality of the opposite sex at school—or actually the lack of it. will you? Wliat if there's a nuclear war? I could die without seeing the Louvre. two women and a ''colleague"—P. ^'Europe. Sheila. She put her arms around him. Subject: fruits. Herbert Harrison. "Fm old enough to go. "I have it on good authority that there won't be a nuclear war for at least three years. He was in rare stupefying form. Beckwith. his nine-year-old." sighed Jessica Beckwith once again." he said. there's not one decent male in the whole upper school." Bob replied with satisfaction." "I would. He had to talk to someone. a seasoned referee for father-daughter sparring matches.. . "I wish they'd outlaw puberty.

"What's on?" said Bob. Whafd you have in mind?" Her green eyes were shining." said Sheila. how much television could you watch?" Paula glanced at Bob seductively. even Mom knows that." Jessie said with much exasperation. "Fascinating. that sounds vaguely educational. let's neither of us work tonight. I'm still wading through that Russo-Chinese diplomatic thing. Daddy. And she had flawless antennae when it came to sensing his emotions. We aren't with it anymore. "When I was your age. for a university professor. huh?" ''Daddy. glossing Bob's hyperbole." 'Tine. On PBS?" "Oh. if you don't mind. "What makes you ask?" "You look a little pale. "don't you know anything?" "Listen." "Okay. Reinhardt's prose has more starch than a laundry." said Bob. "Well." ''Scott and Zelda is a series." ''Alone? What happened to the Ape of Chestnut Hilir "He went back to his wife. We poor benighted souls. Two days on the Cape and I'll be absolutely golden. "Oh. But in the meanwhile set the table." said Paula. there was no TV." Sheila looked at him with love.''The Owl and the Pussycat invited us for dinner Saturday with Carole Kupersmith. His heart ached at the thought of what she would have to hear." "Honey. ." "We read books in school. dutifully taking an interest in his offsprings' cultural activities. (As if he would be able to concentrate on anything. Which is which?" said Bob. you'd be unemployed. I've read every book Scott wrote." Paula said disgustedly. when you were my age. if all authors wrote like Churchill. ''Scott and Zeldd/' Jessica replied.** They had a marriage very much in sync. she thought. promise me you won't do any work tonight." Jessie added. "I love you/' he said. "was he knew that reading books was more rewarding. But anyway. Daddy." "Are you that old?" "What your father means." said Sheila. "Can I watch the tube now?" "If all your homework's done." "Just academic pallor. "About a dog from Mars and a girl from California.) "Have you got any pages from the Press?" "Nothing urgent. ''Good. I tell you. "Are you okay?" "Uh—sure." "Still." said Bob.

" He lowered his head. Jean-Pierre Rampal was playing Vivaldi. sort of." Sheila Beckwith felt a sudden shortening of breath." "Please. Have I done anything?" ''No. "Coming. was about to say. remember when you were pregnant with Paula?" "Yes?" "I had to fly to Europe—Montpellier—to give that paper." said Bob. she feared that he... Sheila's face went ashen. "Want a drink.."Honey. Robert. You go watch Scott the Wonder Dog. and Bob was pretending to read The New Republic. hon?" "No. "I wouldn't miss it for anything. "Bob. too. Mom?" said Jessie. '*It isn't working anymore. thanks. "Honey. And from the grim expression on Bob's face. looking up. . ?" A pause." she said with candor. Is something wrong?" "Well. and dashed off to the living room. I gotta talk to you about something. "Sheila." He said it as quickly as he could. he thought." Paula frowned. "You won't believe how they do it in this chapter." "No." "Dad. God. how can I do this? "Hey—can we talk for a second?" He was now sitting a few feet from her. "FU clear it. She put her book down and sat upright. the suspense is killing me. "I had an affair. How many of her friends had heard their husbands open conversations with preambles just hke this? We have to talk. Robert" "Yeah. "Incredible. he thought. "See you later. Zelda is the dog. Right in the middle of Rodeo Drive.." "And ." said Sheila as she watched her tired husband piling up the dinner dishes. "something in your voice scares me." He waited until he was sure the girls were fast asleep." Oh. Jesus. Sheila was curled up on the couch with a "ridiculously filthy" Hollywood novel." ''Bob. an unusually tall Scotch in his hand. Yes." "What?" "Oh. Sheila was suddenly frightened. Tne tension was unbearable. you don't know how hard this is to say. I've done it. Til clear the table. . About our marriage. "Sure. you aren't sick. "Mind if I do?" "Since when do you have to ask permission?" She went back to her novel. Like ripping off a bandage fast. to cause less pain. It's me. go and view with them." she murmured. But shook his head." Bob took a breath. are you?" No. He was shaking." said Sheila. no. I just feel that way.

It was the only time. ''And how long did it last?" "'Two. but it was true. "No doubt you thought it would be easier. why are you telling me all this? Am I supposed to write someone a letter of condolence? Have you lost your mind?" I only wish. "it isn't consolation. dammit. It's true. "Nobody. ''She's dead." he said. Robert?" "Her—her name was Nicole Gu6rin. Then she looked at him and asked: "And you kept quiet all these years?" He nodded. that's the only time. that was so damn long ago. shaking her head violently as if to drive out what she had just heard." he replied." she added." To Sheila's shock and hurt was added consternation. ''No." "Who?" she asked." she said.. I mean—" And then he blurted out. I had to tell you now because—" "—you're going off with her?" She couldn't help it. "And ten years was the right moment?" she said sardonically. "For God's salce." "W/io." He watched her fight to keep control. thought Bob. And he had more to say." he said."No." Why does she want to hear these details? he wondered." "Three days. Sheila." She looked at him for reassurance." she answered softly. I haven't seen her for ten years. "Sheila. knowing any answer would be futile. Half a dozen friends had lived (or rather died) through this scenario. "Sheila. She was a doctor. "Nobody special." "No." She bit her lip to hold back tears. . On whom?" "I—I didn't want to hurt you. ""And three nights. three days. And then he added." he said weakly. Once is more than never. Why the hell didn't you tell me?" "I was going to. I swear. "I—I'm sorry.?" "I—I was waiting for the right moment" He knew it sounded absurd. Bob. "Isn't it?" "No." he said tonelessly. and then said to herself. if it's any consolation." he said. "This is some terrible joke." "Which—two days or three days? I want to Icnow. But not like this. "Why didn't you ever tell me? I thought our marriage was based on total honesty. "Yes. "Jesus. This was worse than he had even imagined." Sheila answered. "Does all this matter?" "Everything matters. He had really wanted to tell her.. no. "But.

In the awful silence that ensued.'* *'And what if ifs another girl?'' *'Well. which was a requiem for trust. listen-" ''No. That he would like to be the father of a boy.'' . The call from Louis. "J wouldnt mind a little quarterback. it's true. And the operation at her birth made further children impossible. Bob suddenly remembered what he'd long ago confessed to her— so unimportant then. no. The "quarterback. Isnt that the best partr At the time they laughed. The strike in France. Then this afternoon. The problem with the boy. And the boy. Please believe me. "He's mine. "I really didn't know about it." "And we have two—so goddamn what?" Bob hesitated. And then he told her everything. But Bob kept reassuring her. I've heard enough. Now everything was a potential source of pain. then well keep trying. "Sheila. it can't be true." "Why? Why should I believe anything you tell me now?" He couldn't answer that." She stared in disbelief. Until tonight. The meeting with Nicole. till gradually she once again believed that what they shared was far too strong for anything to change. "Oh. The boy is mine." Her eyes were pleading for denial. was Paula. I am telling you because she had a child. And then whispered. Sheila. Sheila felt "un- lovable" for many months. Bob nodded sadly: Yes. Their brief affair. They healed into an even tighter bond."Sheila." of course. barely audibly.

" He wanted her to talk. He sat down across the table and looked at her." And because I somehow thought you'd help. sobbing. ''Can I get you anything to drink?" "No." she said. please. . But he was afraid. I trusted—" She broke down again. then went after her. "Sheila." She looked at him and gave a tiny wistful smile. He longed to embrace her.She rose and fled into the kitchen. "Sheila. Bob hesitated for a moment. "Please. She moved away. And I'm a selfish bastard. . . "But that's just it. She was seated at the table." You can t. God." She hesitated. . "I've just discovered that they weren't happy. He was scared by the finality of her statement. no!" "You lied to me!" she shouted. . Go to hell. ." He reached out to stroke her blond hair. "You don't mean that you want to split. "You can't forget so many happy years." "Bob." she said. . please ." "Sheila. I'll do anything to make it right. "You can't know how it hurts. make it better. . . I trusted you. why'd you have to tell me. "Oh. Why?" "Because I don't know what to do. honey. Say anything to end the ache of silence.

" Paula answered. *'He wants to be world renowned." she said. "Sleep in your study.''Robert. Mom? Isn't Dad already famous everywhere?" "Yes." he answered. trying to feign normalcy." Jessie interposed. and commenting on the familial ambience. "absolutely everywhere. You could do me a big favor. dieting." She rose from the table. please. hoping that his junior wife would not detect that he had spent a sleepless night in his study. Who died last night. half water). "Fm gonna take a pill. 'Tou work much too hard. taking Jessie's bait "The Nobel Prize." said Paula. for heaven's sake?" For once the gloomy philosopher Jessica had been wiser than she knew. you idiot." "Except in Stockholm. "What's there?" asked Paula. Dad/' said Paula with solicitude. "But he is already." said Jessie to her sister. For anything." said Sheila. I don't have the strength right now. Jessie/' Sheila ordered. She was ingesting Special K and half-and-half (half skim milk. "You look awful. They were in the kitchen eating—or in Jessie's case. "Right. short-circuiting the flow of flattery. Bob. then turning to Sheila for affirmation. ''I worked late. ''Eat your breakfast. Your father wants a 19 ." ''Anything/' he said with desperate eagerness.

" "Do you mind?" said Bob to Jessica." "Want this peanut butter in your face?" asked Paula. Jessie." "Children. losing patience. she likes to dump on you. Paula. "I beg your pardon. "There is only one child in this house." said Paula. "Dad.free trip to Sweden and a better table at the faculty club. "You drop his name to all the jockos on the football team. "The Nobel committee takes family manners into consideration. Dig now. But when you're not around she brags like anything. Just to impress the boys. "I'm not. please." retorted Jessica. pointing an accusatory finger at her sister. her face now crimson with embarrassed indignation. more than a bit discomfited. ''Really. "I was just being sociological. not noticing her mother's irritated mood." said Bob. "don't insult your sister. "American men are absolutely driven by ambition. to shield him from the verbal bullets of his hostile elder daughter. American men. I'm just as thin as you are. both of you." sighed Jessica." ''Mother. birdbrain?" ''Jessie/' Sheila remonstrated. They withdrew their smiles—and hoped the children didn't notice. her existence is an insult to any person of normal intelligence. somewhat out of the blue. ." "I don't!" objected Jessica. It's what makes them so provincial. For a moment sibling rivalry allowed Bob and Sheila to forget their marital abrasions." Sheila said." snapped Sheila. you are fatuous." "Oh." Paula stepped in front of Bob. Jessie. "Stop it. They smiled at one another. Then they both remembered that this wasn't quite a normal morning. Father." said Jessica.

Someday." interrupted Bob. "Are you leaving?" "No. he said: "Sheila." "But Jessie. **I don't know." When he returned from ferrying the girls." said Bob. after a long silence. so. *Tou mean we're gonna bust up over this?" he asked. "Okay. She wouldn't start the conversation. I called the Press and said Fd work at home. staring at her own reflection in a coffee cup.." "No." said Paula. "I don't know anything." ''What?" . He sat down across from her. It was clear he hated her. She was still there. "Fm against forced busing." she answered. He hovered by the door while the girls got ready. scurrying to get her books. Sheila would confide to her that she and Sartre . to work. Indeed.." "I mean. I did this to her." Jessie Beckwith stated. how can I make it up to you?" She slowly raised her head and looked at him. "this is to your own school. "Fm driving both of you to catch the bus.." He gave a worried glance at Sheila." Jessica looked at him. Had no respect for her convictions. I just. and was filled with self-loathing. hurry up I" But right now Sheila was still on his side. he told himself. hopefully. "Fd like to go on record. ''I don't think you can." she said. she had lately come to suspect that he wasn't even her real father.." she said. "I don't know. "Uh—will you still be here when I get back?" he asked Sheila uneasily. she was still seated at the kitchen table. Immediately. "Jessie."Ladies.

Bob?" She said it like an accusation. ." He was afraid to ask himself if she was right." So do I. It struck him with a force that frightened him. You didn't want it. ''Well?'' She was waiting for an answer."I just wish I had it in me to really hurt you back for this." "You do. But she was absolutely certain. Because she knew now what he wanted from her. he interpreted her "we" as a sign that she had not totally sunendered hope for them. I wish I could at least express my anger. be honest with yourself. "I—I'm not sure. "Do you really." Her voice trailed off. "I don't know. I wish I hadn't told you. . "It's the child. in love with him. you didn't plan it. Christ. She had almost let slip that she was still. "I know how you must feel. but since you have it. It's something that we simply have to face. At last he mustered the courage to confront his feelings and admitted: . "Look. But that at least she would withhold. Bob?" "Well." he said." he said." she said. Damn him. I have a notion. for heaven's sake. despite it all. you feel responsible. Bob. "Why did you tell me. goddammit." Clutching at straws. "Bob. I know you inside out. You do/" Her fury was erupting. she thought. "I don't know." he said. Bob. .

No. but he suspected she was right. "He's all alone. "I don't know. Robert. "Isn't that really why you told me?" He wasn't sure. I don't. But maybe if I flew there . . .'Teah. actually. but I feel I should do something. of course he knew . objectively. "How exactly do you think you'd help?" she asked him. sending him away. . "Maybe I could help to straighten out his life. Find some alternative to—you know. I can't explain it." You're not his parent just because you screwed his mother." "Then what's the point of flying over?" He could not defend his impulse. He could barely fathom it. I do. but did not say anything. You know that. Again. "I guess there's only one solution." "To do what? Do you know anyone who'd take him in? Do you even have a plan?" "No.. "Could you bear it?" She smiled sadly.. Bring "him here." He stared at her in disbelief. "Do you know what you're saying?'' She nodded yes. Sheila. And then she staggered him." said Bob. don't you?'' Yes. relieved that he could now confess his thoughts. Sheila shouted to herself." "You owe him nothing.

"I have to, Bob. It isn't generosity—ifs self-defense. If I don't let you try to help him now,
you'll someday blame me for allowing your—your child to be put in an orphanage."

"I wouldn't...."

*Tes, you would. So do it, Bob, before I change my mind."

He looked at her. All he could manage as an answer was:

''Thank you, Sheila."

And so he let his lovely wife ignore the outrage and the imposition of it all as they discussed
the visit of his son from France. The boy could join them when they moved down to the
Cape.

''But just a month," she said. "Not one day more. That should give this Louis person ample
time to make some permanent arrangement."

He looked at her.

"Do you realize what you're saying?"

"Yes."

He still could not believe it.

"What would we tell the girls?"

"We'll manufacture something."

God, how could she be so generous?

"You're incredible," he said.

She shook her head.

"No, Robert. I'm just thirty-nine years old."
1 WO WEEKS LATER, HE WAS PACING BACK AND FORTH in the corridor of the
International Arrivals Building at Logan Airport.

In the strained and anxious days before, there had been many conversations with Louis
Venargues. To make arrangements, establish the parameters for the boy's brief visit to
America. A month, not one day more. And Louis would have to use this grace period to find

some alternative to a state orphanage.

Louis had to tell Jean-Claude that he had been invited by old friends of his mother's. The idea
was not totally implausible, since Nicole would surely have spoken to him about her year of
residency in Boston.But under no circumstances could Louis tell the boy that Robert
Beckwith was his father.
''Of course, Bobbie. Anything you say. I know this is not easy for you. I understand."
Do you? Bob wondered.

Then there was the not inconsiderable matter of telling the girls. After much agonizing, Bob
convoked a family meeting.

''A friend of ours has died,'' he said.

25

26 Erich Segal

"Who?" asked Paula apprehensively. ^*Is it Grandma?''

''No/' said Bob. "It's nobody you've met. Someone in France. A lady."

"A French lady?" Paula asked again,

"Yes/'Bob replied.

Then Jessie said, "How come you're telling us if we don't know her?"

'She had a son .. /' Bob answered.

'How old?" Jessie quickly asked.

'Uh—roughly Paula's age/'

'Oh wow/' said Paula.

Jessica looked stilettos at her younger sister, and then turned to Bob. "And?" she inquired
further.

"And he's an orphan/' Sheila added with an emphasis that only Bob appreciated.

"Oh gee/' said Paula sympathetically.

"That's why—" said Bob, "since he's alone— we'd like to ask him over for a while. Maybe a
month. When we're in the big house at the Cape. That is, if neither of you minds."

"Oh wow," chirped Paula once again. Her vote was clearly yes.

"Jessie?"

"Well, there's justice in the world."

"What?"

"If I can't visit France, at least I'll have a native to discuss it with."

"He's only nine years old," said Bob, "and he'll be sort of sad. At least at first."

"But, Father, surely he can talk."

"Of course."

"Which means I'll hear a better French than Mademoiselle O'Shaughnessy's. Q.E.D. on you.
Dad."

"He's my age, Jessie, not yours," Paula interrupted.

"My dear," said Jessie with hauteur, "he won't give you the temps du jour J'

"The whatr

"Go study French. Vous etes une twerp."

Paula pouted. Someday she'd get revenge on Jessie. And their foreign visitor would soon see
what was what and pay attention to the true in heart.

Curiously, neither of them asked why the boy was crossing the Atlantic instead of staying
with seme friend who lived a little closer. But girls of nine are overjoyed to have a visit from
a boy their age. And girls of twelve are anxious to gain worldliness through international
experience.

At other times. but flesh and blood. Bob craned his neck and tried to glimpse inside. could see behind this fagade of industry. finding Bob almost immediately. As she grew more distant he felt increasingly helpless. She worked furiously. "Jean-Claude?" . he would hate the boy." She turned to the boy. And Bob suddenly was very scared. He was so distracted he began to smoke. This time a stewardess emerged. and actually completed the editing of Reinhardt's book. who seemed to sense nothing awry. Bob glanced down at the little boy. Not a theoretical dilemma he'd discussed by telephone. A crowd began to form around the double-doored exit from the customs area. "Have a good time now. carrying a green leather valise and leading a tousle-haired little boy who was clutching a TWA flight bag close to his chest. jabbering about the fantastic roast beef at Durgin-Park. he put it back into his pocket. he would hate himself. It pacified him somewhat. since he had given up in high school. "Professor Beckwith?'' "Yes. all waiting for inspection. The stewardess glanced swiftly at the crowd. Actually. The Arrivals board announced that TWA 811 from Paris had just landed. But no little boy. he was puffing on his pen. .Sheila made herself go through the motions of a normal day. Her act worked well enough for the girls. Bob. Guess I don't have to introduce you two. They had never been estranged like this. Embarrassed. suddenly." "Hi. /' said the captain. Does he look anything like me? he thought. as they walked away. the two of them were on their own. In the instant when the open doors revealed the customs area. Say nothing. Out came the flight crew. The doors now opened once again. And could they catch the Red Sox afterward? **I know this disco . said. A living child. During the past weeks all the arrangements had occupied his mind to the exclusion of emotion. The double doors now parted. He saw the lines of passengers. He'd been too distracted to allow himself to think what he might feel when those metal doors would open and a son of his would walk into his life. till he realized what he was doing. of course." and slipped off. At times when he was yearning for her smile. but could do nothing. Now.

Did that mean yes or no? . sir." said Bob. half a step behind. "Look. where the bright sun was now dimming into the afternoon. huh?" Bob asked once again. clutching his red canvas sack even tighter. a Peugeot. Jean-Claude. The humid Boston heat was still intense." "Uh—how was the film?" Another question Bob had carefully prepared. *'Bonjour monsieur/* the child said politely. "Are you sure you have everything?" "Yes. Through the doors and into the parking area.The boy nodded and held out his hand. They now had reached his car. "So the trip was okay. ''Est-ce que tu as fait un bon voyage^ Jean-Claude?'* *Tes. Bob reached down and shook it." said Bob. I have taken private lessons since I was small/' ^*Oh. Doesn't that make you feel at home?" The boy glanced up at him and gave a tiny smile. I was reading a book/' "Oh." They began to walk. Though his French was reasonably fluent. I hope to practice. ''Of course. "Yes. good/'said Bob. I thank you for inviting me. Bob had prepared some remarks in advance. The little boy followed silently. He picked up the green leather suitcase. but I speak English. "I didn't watch it. "My car's just outside.'* Bob sensed the boy's remarks had also been rehearsed. but nice. Quite long. ''Can I take your flight bag?'' "No. thank you/' said the boy.

"Would you like to sleep in back?" Bob asked. Jean-Claude. My son is real. He looked at the sleeping child and thought." "Please don't be formal. Did he know what to say? Well. Mr. Just call me Bob. Nine. And he seems to have such poise for a nine-year-old. Hell. five . it's only natural. Bob thought as he drove into the growing darkness. Was he afraid when he boarded the connecting flight to Paris that morning? Had he ever been outside the south of France? (That was a nice safe topic they might talk about tomorrow. he thought. After all. In a matter of minutes they were driving through the Sumner Tunnel and Jean-Claude was fast asleep. But he wanted as much time as possible to look at the boy." "I feel awake. As he fumbled with it. he brushed him with the side of his hand. My God. Bob." "I'll help you/' Bob reached over and toolc hold of the belt. drawing it across Jean- Claude's chest. The boy was curled up. he had woken up some twenty hours earlier in the sunny security of his native village. You are a stranger in a foreign land. I would prefer to see the sights. Once they were inside the car.) Did someone from TWA meet him in Paris as promised? He had worried about that—a little boy changing planes all by himself. As they headed south on Route 93. obviously. Bob kept the car under the speed limit. Beckwith. "Do you know how to fasten your seat belt?" "No. "No. Bob wondered what Nicole had told him of his father. Simply look. He's real. The trip normally would take at least an hour and a half." Jean-Claude said. He had been alive for almost a decade without Bob's knowing he existed. But then he still doesn't know that J exist. leaning his head against the car door. He looks a little frightened. Bob asked him.

Jean-Claude?" "Yes. they passed another significant road sign. end it would. And your wife is very kind." said Bob. Did I miss not knowing you? The boy awakened just as they were passing Plymouth. We'll visit all the famous places while you're here. Louis said you have two daughters. the ice is broken. "Orleans.thousand miles from home and unaware that I." Bob smiled. Good. And Sandwich." said Jean-Claude. Well visit it sometime. Some minutes later. And the boy laughed again. What would you say if you knew? Did you miss not knowing me? He looked at him again. 'Tes. The boy laughed. sitting right beside you. "Now that is a reasonable name. I guess. thought Bob. He saw the road sign. WELLFLEET." . grinning mischievously. yet in a few short minutes." Then the Cape Cod Canal. "Do you know about my children. ''There's even an East Sandwich. 6 MILES. '*Is that where the rock is?" he asked." said Bob. *'There is a place called Sandwich?" "Yes. am your father." "Who made up such a funny name?" "Somebody hungry." "Can we go sometime?" he asked. "Our Joan of Arcs all wear bikinis here. 'Tes. His wife and family were waiting." Bob chuckled with him. Bob didn't want the trip to end.

Her husband's child." he answered. Jesus. And then quickly realized he should add. The impact far exceeded everything she had imagined. Her heart was his. Jean-Claude. The little boy now standing in her living room was his." he answered with a smile." That was the most that she could manage. Jean-Claude." "Yes/' the boy said softly. don't ask Sheila that." *'Yes/' Bob answered. she realized now. "I liked her very much. "Uh—yes. ''Hello. We're glad to have you. But she was not prepared. She thought she had prepared herself for this. Proof was standing there before her." "Very glad. four feet tall. Sheila felt an inward tremor. In sixty seconds they'd be home." said Bob. Then you were her closer friend."She is. I'm Paula." "Hi. J 1 HEY ALL STARED AT HIM WITH DIFFERING EMO- tions. Because. "Did she know my mother too?" he asked. But there was no escape now. "I am very grateful for your invitation. . a part of her had been refusing to accept the truth. Would he notice that she couldn't smile? ''Thank you." "Oh. Just then they had reached the corner of Pilgrim Spring Road. Every syllable took painful effort. madame. But distantly.

. ''His English is terrific. "Is it—uh—handmade?" "Yes. "Jean-Claude. . My God. Avez vous fait un bon voyage?'' "Ouz." Bob replied. Reaching into his flight bag. Voire frangais est eblouis-sant" "What?" Jessie had prepared herself to talk French. clay? It looked like a heavy wad of ossified chewing gum. ''Terrible is slang in French." said Jean-Claude diplomatically. "Madame?" Jean-Claude had now approached Sheila. "Oh—thank you. . In fact." "I take ceramics too. "It also means terrific. mademoiselle." Sheila repeated. and sent her sister to the guillotine with filthy looks. but could not find the word. they're all my children.At last the one aristocrat among them spoke." said the boy. it seemed tiiat everyone in Sete had smoked. He thought. Jean-Claude searched his vocabulary. *'and your French is terrible. not to understand it. He offered it to her." Sheila said. "Thank you." 'Taula!" Jessie snarled. and suddenly recalled that Nicole smoked." said Paula to her sister. He turned to Bob. to let him know how much they had in common. je suis Jessica." Paula said. "How do you say cendrier?'' "Ashtray. "In our ceramics class. "What is it?" Paula asked." Jessica was reassured. And Bob watched as the youngsters spoke. This would be a splendid continental summer. he withdrew a chunk of .

"Oh," said Jean-Claude.

Golly, Paula thought, he's really handsome.

Sheila took the gift and looked at it. He'd meant well, after all. It was a touching gesture. A
ceramic ashtray, signed by the craftsman who had made it: Guerin 16.6.78.

''Voulez-yous boire quelque chose?*' asked Jessica,ready to sprint for the cognac or mineral
water or whatever beverage the Frenchman would fancy.

"Non, merci, Jessica. Je rCai pas soij."

*'Je comprends/' she proudly said. This time she'd actually understood. Mademoiselle
O'Shaughnessy, you'd flip your wig.

''How're things in France, Jean-Claude?" asked Paula, anxious to preserve her share of the
guest's attention.

Bob thought it prudent to abridge this conversation.

''We'll have lots of time to discuss things, girls. But I think Jean-Claude's pretty tired. Aren't
you, Jean-Claude?"

"A bit," the boy conceded.

'Tour room's right across from m.ine," said Paula.

Jessie fumed. If Paula continued this inept vamping, she'd absolutely die of mortification.
What would he think, for heaven's sake?

"I'll take his baggage up," said Bob to Sheila.

"No, I will," she replied, picked up the green valise (did it belong to her?) and said, "This
way, Jean-Claude." She started up the stairs.

"Good night," he said shyly, and turned to follow her.

As soon as they were out of sight, Bob went to the liquor cabinet.

"Wow, he's cute!" gushed Paula.

"You are an acute embarrassment, Mademoiselle Beckwith," snarled Jessie. "You haven't got
the foggiest notion how to address Europeans."

"Drop dead," said Paula.

"Come on, girls," said Bob, who had now fortified himself with Johnnie Walker. "Let's act
our age."

For Jessie, act your age was the unkindest cut of all.

"Father, if you hate me, have the guts to say it like a man."

''Jessie, I love you." He put his arm around her, pulled her close and kissed her on the
forehead.

"Your French is great, Jess. I had no idea you were so good."

"Do you really think so. Daddy?" Unbelievable. She sounded like a twelve-year-old, hungry
for paternal approbation.

"Yes," said Bob, "I really do." And kept on hugging her.

"His English is fantastic," Paula said, "and he's only my age."

"He's had a private tutor," Bob explained.

"How come?" asked Jessie hopefully. "Is he noble?"

"No," said Bob. "His mother was a country doctor."

"What about his father?"

"Fm not sure," said Bob evasively, "but I know he wasn't noble."

"He's very independent," Sheila said.

"In what way?"

They were now in their bedroom. The rest of the household was already fast asleep.

"He wouldn't let me help him unpack. He insisted on doing it by himself," she said, and then
added, "Was I cold to him?"

"No. How did you feel?"

"How do you think?"

"You were wonderful," said Bob, and reached out for her hand. She moved away.

"He took that little airline bag to bed with him.

Must have all his earthly treasures in it." There was distance in her voice.

''Guess so/' said Bob, and wondered what a little boy of nine might carry with him as his
consolation.

His eyes followed her as she went into the bathroom to brush her teeth. She emerged a few
minutes later in her nightgown and bathrobe. Bob had lately gotten the disconcerting feeling
that she was uneasy about undressing in front of him.

She sat down on the bed and started to adjust the alarm clock. (What for—wasn't this
vacation?) He wanted to reach over and embrace her, but the gap of sheets and pillows
separating them seemed much too wide to bridge.

''Sheila, I love you."

Her back to him, she kept playing with the clock.

"Sheila?"

Now she turned.

"He's got your mouth," she said.

"Does he?"

"I'm surprised you didn't notice.*'

Sheila slipped her robe off and burrowed under the covers. She lay silent for a moment, and
then turned and said:

"She must have had brown eyes."

"I really don't remember."

Sheila looked at him, and with a melancholy smile said, "Come on, Bob."

"What exactly did I do—or rather not do?" "Huh?" "I mean." He said the last words with as much hope as conviction. . And then he realized that he himself was the author. . We are. thought Bob. he thought. I thought we were happy. He leaned across and kissed her on the cheek. He put his arm around her. and thought. And yet somehow she looked younger and so vulnerable. honey?" He turned toward her. She did not stir." she said. He idly leafed through a particularly unoriginal piece on stochastic processes. She did not respond. He now saw that they were much too far apart for that." "We were. It's still boring. He had vaguely hoped if they made love it would somehow make things better. "Good night. Better than a sleeping pill. Why doesn't she understand that it was—what? Weakness? Chance? What could he say to mollify her? "Sheila. . but wanted to buy time. Christ. nothing was wrong with you. . I should've asked Sheila to tighten it up. There was such pain on her face. ''Bob?" Her voice startled him. He turned over on his side and picked up the American Journal of Statistics. "Yes. then. you never really told me why you did "What?" He knew damn well. "What exactly was wrong with me that you had to have an affair?" Damn." "With us. I've said this stuff a million times.Then she took her pillow and curled herself around it in the comer of the bed.

. thought Bob. you're batting zero." Bernie eved his roommate. Beckwith. JLiEY." ''So does everybody. this isn't fair. . this mixer's free of charge. Oh. I lack your amazing charm and wit. Bernie. That's why you need a piece of ass to loosen up. . You get an E for Effort—and a V for Virgin." ''In other words. I know myself. I'm not competitive. put his math book down on the table and sat up on the moth- eaten couch of the Branford College suite he shared with Bernie Ackerman. Beckavith. I'm shy. I can't even remember why it happened. And I am too. At least you'll grant me that." "But." "At least I take my swings. "Listen. I came to Yale to get an education. Bern. "Bernie. you're pathetic. you talk like you get laid every weekend."We were. 39 Doesn't that imply that Yale considers getting laid to be a part of the educational experience?" "Bernie. you're scared." she said. God. Besides. Ackerman." Robert Alan Beckwith. To sleep. But at least I don't make an asshole of myself." "Sure." 'Tm studying. there's some fantastic stuff at the mixer. schmuck. and turned away again. Bob." . I try to score. Yale '59." "I'm trying." ''On a Saturday night with two hundred Vassar lovehes gracing our campus?" "I've got midterms next week.

"No, Bern. In those very words. I am scared."

And he buried himself once again in numerical analysis. Bemie simply stood there.

"Beckwith ..."

"Bernie, go back to the mixer. Go get yourself blue balls. Just let me grind in ignoble peace."

"Beckwith, I'm gonna help you."

''Come on. You can't even help yourself."

*'I have a secret weapon. Bob."

*'Then you use it."

"I can't. I'm too short."

Bob looked up. Bemie had snared his interest.

"Willya come if I lend you my secret weapon? Willy a, willy a, willya?"

Bob once again sat up.

"What is it, Bern?"

"Willya come? Willya?"

"Okay, okay. The evening's shot anyway. I might as well get a free beer."

Bernie did not argue. The important thing was that he had persuaded Bob to drop his
customary reticence and make the social scene. Who knows— with the secret weapon he
might even score.

"I'll take a shower/' Bob said, growing steadily more nervous.

"You took one after dinner, schmuck. Come on— we've only got an hour before the stuff is
trucked back to Poughkeepsie."

"Can I at least shave?"

"Beckwith, you got about as much hair as a canned peach. Just put on the weapon and we'll
enter the fray."

Bob sighed. "All right. Where is it?"

Bernie's eyes flashed with excitement.

"It's hanging in my closet. But shake ass."

Now he was hopping up and down.

Bob got his college blazer, combed his hair and washed his face. Then, after spilling Old
Spice in every conceivable place, he reentered the living room, where Bemie stood like a
midget colossus on the coffee table, holding ... an article of apparel.

"That's it?" Bob frowned.

"Do you know what this is, Beckwith? Do you know, do you know?"

"Yeah. A goddamn tie"

"—which signifies that the wearer has won a varsity Y in footbdir

"But I haven't," Bob protested.

"I have," Bernie said.

"You're the manager, Bern."

"Does it say that anywhere on the tie? Does it, does it, does it?"

"Bernie, I am a hundred-and-forty-five-pound weakling."

"But you're six one, Beckwith. Put two or three sweaters on under your jacket and you could
be a tight end. Believe me, the girls know a football tie when they see one. It turns them on.
They almost drop their pants right there."

"Bemie, forget it."

"Come on, Beckwith. This is your big chance."

"You ain't nothin' but a hound dog . . ." It was pitch black, and the deafening sounds of

Rumple and the Stiltskins shook the wooden panels of the Branford College dining hall.
Bodies rocked and rolled. From either side, crowds of the opposing sexes glanced across at
one another while pretending not to.

''Bemie, I feel like a total asshole."

"It's just nerves, Bob. Tlie guys get 'em before every game. Christ, you look like Hercules."

'Tm roasting in these sweaters."

''Oh, Beckwith, lookit all the talent," said Bernie, surveying the populous scene. "God, I'm
dying from the pulchritude. If we don't score tonight, we're goddam eunuchs."

''Speak for yourself, Bern."

"Hey! I see my beloved."

"Where?"

"There. The short and cute one. I've gotta make my move."

And for the final time he fixed Bob's tie and sprinted off.

Bob was now on his own. Too self-conscious to just stand there on the dance floor, he took
one or two steps toward the female side. His eye now chanced upon a tall and slender girl
with long blond hair. Boy, thought Bob, I wish I had the guts.

But three Yalies were already paying court to her. No chance, thought Bob. Besides, I'm
really boiling. Maybe I should head back to the room.

"Beckwith!" someone bellowed.

It was one of the trio romancing the young lady.

"Yes?"

''What the hell is that around your scrawny neck?"

To his horror. Bob now realized that the voice belonged to mountainous Terry Dexter,
captain of the undefeated football team.

"Where'd you get that tie?" he bellowed, then turning to the Vassar girl, "He shouldn't be

she's beautiful. And you won't get your goddam tie back. Don't make an asshole of yourself 'cause he's an asshole." '*Why not?" she asked. he heard a muffled: "Excuse me. Sweating profusely. "Thank you. either." Bob sensed that this was one demand Terry would not be talked out of." "Terry/' interposed one of his sycophants. And in her left hand she held out the football tie. Bob casually tossed a "Nice meeting you" in the direction of the lovely Vassar girl who had witnessed this horror show." "Not much difference/' Bob replied. Terry. Thank you. "the guy was only kidding. "It's the football team. "What IS it?" "The Morons' Club. And then. Bob tore off his jacket. "I think it was the sweaters that made you look a little weird/' . Dexter would doubtless never forget it. Beckwith." he said. "Like hell/' said Terry. then turned to Bob." He smiled." He peered out. making swift retreat." she said. He whipped the sweater back down. God." "Yeah. "You forgot something. The Vassar girl laughed. Bernie.wearing that tie. too surprised to be nervous. if you weren't such a fruit cake. "Yes?" said Bob. "Beckwith." snarled Terry. "See you. It was the girl. "but at least take off that tie. The moment he escaped into the coatroom area. I guess I looked pretty stupid wear-ingit" "No. for this mortification. he pulled it off and handed it over. This enraged the football captain. As Bob was pulling the first of his sweaters over his head. I'd destroy you for that stupid witticism." she said gently.

they introduced themselves." "Sheila—Sheila Goodhart. I hope she doesn't think I want to lure her to the room." 'Me either/' she said. Is that okay?" . "It's incredibly stuffy in there. "Then why'd you come?" A stupid question." she answered. "I'm Bob Beckwith. "Uh—would you like to take a walk?" God. I'm a math major." "Are you always so self-deprecating?" "Only with girls. And as you probably can tell. And then." she answered. can you imagine how depressing it is trying to study on a Saturday night in an all-girls' school?" Say something. 'Tm just getting over a cold/' "Oh." she said. 'Why d you leave?" "I don't function well in mobs. 'You were doing okay." As they descended the stone stairway and strolled out into the chilly autumn evening. Bob instantly regretted asking it." "Well. "Uh—I mean in the courtyard. perhaps beheving him." "Good idea/' she said.<^1 44 Erkh Segal "Oh/' he said. Beckwith! She asked you a question. "I was going stir crazy up in Poughkeepsie." 'Really? I felt like a piece of meat in a butcher's window. I didn't catch your name. And I haven't picked a major yet. "Besides. mixers are always like that/' "I know.

sat down and looked out at him. Like—er— maybe Wednesday at eight-fifteen. Bernie." she said and then. where the buses were waiting. 'cause I'm a grind and I've got midterms too. ignoring his non sequitur." ." His heart was pirouetting. Sheila. that was the question. Uh—but I'll call you around the middle of the week. Half an hour later. He watched her walk toward the back of the bus. where the hell'veyou been?" "Out. How about the week after?" "How about if I came up to Vassar next week and we studied together? I really mean study. "Beckwith." she said. To kiss or not to kiss." Bob replied."It's terrific." She turned and darted up the steps. Sheila. "are you busy next weekend?" "Yes. It shows intellectual independence. She found a seat on his side. Fve got to cram." She smiled. At length he concluded that it would be best to play it safe. I'd like that. then down the street and into the New Haven night." he said as she was about to board the bus. He stood transfixed as the bus moved away from the curb. ''It's like another century. "Oh. "So long." "Which reminds me." "Okay. Bob was in turmoil. He was crushed. lliey walked slowly around tlie courtyard. "This college is so beautiful/' she said. The band was barely audible. Bob. he walked her to Chapel Street. "I look forward to next weekend. Why risk grossing her out? "Well." "Great." "I mean with midterms. Okay?" "Okay. She was gorgeous even through a dirty windowpane.

Not just their books. They sat opposite one another in the library reading all afternoon. and returned to the library. Finally he smiled and said. Don t ask precisely how. To any casual observer." NA'HEN HE KISSED HER THE NEXT WEEKEND. Instead he very casually put his right arm around her shoulder. really studied. IT WAS all over. but each other. He could not. true to their words. Again and again he rubbed them against his sweater—to no avail. This accomplishment. what happened?" Bob waited. as they were walking from the Vassar canteen to her dorm. There were the inevitable biographical details. goddammit. was followed by a startling and unexpected development: she put her left arm around his waist. therefore. Not only had her parents never divorced. Did you duck the mixer?" *'No/' "Well?" "Well what?" "What happened. "Let's just put it this way. What does this mean? thought Bob. Her mother (''the only 47 Democrat in town"). it had been an ordinary college date. was second-string art critic for the Stamford Gazette. He just was absolutely sure. he made a final frantic attempt to dry his palms. mentally rehearsed all that previous week. Sheila was the youngest of three daughters of a Fairfield County physician. Bernie: The tie worked. In the few minutes preceding that fateful embrace."I was looking everywhere for you. Which is probably why both her sisters had . reach for her hand. went off campus for pasta at Francesco's. they didn't even want to. where they both. He knew for certain she would be the love of his life.

" he insisted. C'Oh. Bob's father had taught math at Penn for nearly forty years." he said. "You. No further mention of matrimony was made that evening. At the doorstep of Josselyn Hall there was the usual mob of couples. About you. I met my future wife/' Bob said to Sheila at dinner. looking away. "Sheila. But she really liked him. Lawrenceviile was less than an hour from Philly.married so young. though.*' This was over coffee and dessert." "Yes. Bob felt he had said it all.") Bob's mother had died when he was barely seven. Even then he was a total madman. ''Oh?" Her face was quizzical. when Bernie Ackerman arrived upon the scene. Fortunately. She laughed. that's where you get your sense of humor. by their third date. so they could spend all their weekends together. urgently getting in their final smooches." said Sheila." . "We've just met. Which is why she put her arm around him. "I'm not joking. ''Thanks to Bern. "You're never serious. until the first form. "I wish you didn't have the long trip back to Yale. '*Ask me to stay/' retorted Bob." she answered. And Sheila felt he'd just been teasing her. during which time he published two textbooks and assembled a vast collection of jokes. walking sports encyclopedia and fanatically loyal friend." "You're crazy. Romeo and Jiiliet were already dead. Weekdays were pretty dismal. and Dan Beckwith thought it best to send his son to boarding school.

don't make such a hero of yourself." "His name is Bob. Miss Goodhart." "And I said to myself." "Ah." "Robert." "—and my heart melted." . Who initiated that first kiss? ''I did/' Sheila steadfastly maintained." "So what?" "I might have accepted/' "All right. I've never been more serious. tell me everything." "Well. humming and hawing and blathering about exams.''That is where you're v^ong." "You make it sound like first aid.?" "I was cool.. I'm a doctor's daughter and I knew a basket case when I saw one. Besides. checking your watch every second—" "Lies. you were petrified/' "And you. But when I realized that you wouldn't sleep a wink that night." What happened next became the subject of debate for years to come." "About what?" "About the boy you were kissing." "Then why the hell didn't you say so?" "Because I was afraid you'd ask me to marry you again.. I put you out of your misery. If I don't kiss him now he may go catatonic. Sheila. Sheila. I was already in love with you. Sheila. ''Come on. I remember you just standing there.

"'Bob who. At a mixer. The Aspasia of Josselyn Hall. self- styled. I mean. what. it's passion for sure. don't be coy with your dearest friend." Margo's designation was.." she added. "I think it's love. I haven't been to one of those in years. purveyor of news and dispenser of worldly advice. Did he try anything?" "I don't know what you mean. "Oh. if you can believe it. Fm panting for the details. By the way. self-styled mistress of letters. Margo reluctantly gave in to this demand for full disclosure. Sheil. how tall is he?" . Sheil. femme fatale. you have no idea. Tell me all.") ''Well." she added. Sheila had been among those so honored in the days when she was going with Ken. her high school beau. Though actually I did meet Rex at one freshman year. "I had a fantastic weekend. Also the owner of a private telephone. Margo. come on. wit." Sheila insisted. (He had subsequently received a Fulbright to England and in Margo's words." It was rumored around the dorm that Margo was not a virgin. which she allowed certain campus divinities to make use of. "By the way. It was also rumored that she herself had started the rumor." ''He was an absolute volcano. "Last weekend at Yale. His name is Peter. he plays polo. "How did you meet him?" Margo asked. and he thinks Fm an absolute sex-bomb." "Margo—you haven't. ''dumped you like the rat-head I always knew he was.. "I mean. Sheila. as usual." "No comment. You remember Rex?" "I think so. how and since when?" The interrogator was Margo Fulton." "Oh?" said Sheila." "A mixerl Good Lord. suddenly changing the topic again.

A filthy-minded tiger-rat. Anyway. I couldn't see how tall he was.. "Time will tell. you know. for she well knew that she was about to hear. He's really redly nice. Actually." . Sheila answered with a question. "Oh. she answered simply." Sheila answered. you're a lucky woman if he's a basketball player. Do you think you'll. isn't he?" But Margo kept interrogating."Who. Anyway. Is he?'' *'I didn't ask him. Or so they tell me. "Just because he was Princeton's high scorer. Sheila thought. And do you remember what he did after that?" "What?" "He never called. your Yalie's quite attractive. He was bending over to. "He's cute. the Princeton star. he thought he could score with me on the first date." said Margo. "that sounds tres piquant." Sheila said." "'Well. /' None of your dirty-minded business. not wanting to betray a syllable of what they said to one another. Douglas was a bit of a disappointment." Sheila offered. I was so insulted I told him never to call me again. Not even to apologize. Rex?" ''No. "Is he sincere or jnst another rat-head sex maniac?" "He's nice. But since she'd always felt that Margo meant well underneath it all. "Well. he thought he was a star anyway. And thought to herself. Margo." Unwilling to provide Margo's rumor mill with the grist of Bob's vital statistics. kiss you. Do you remember Douglas?" "Yes. "He looks like a basketball player." Sheila did not bother to ask who Douglas was. They make the best lovers. Fink tiger-rat. your Yalie. what on earth did you talk about?" '"Things. He had jnore arms than an octopus.

Margo. "By the way. does he have a friend?" "I could ask. and yawned to give her friend a hint. Beckwith. I mean the back seat. You need the benefit of my experience. "Thanks for the car. Fll be going there. "Sweet dreams." "Yes." "Thanks. Peter was too juvenile to ask me straight out. I banged her twelve times. I wonder if he's serious. 'Teah." "You^re lying. she thought. schmuck." ." Sheila said."When are you seeing him again?" "Next weekend. Sheila." Bob had to satisfy his roommate's intellectual curiosity. yes." **Would you believe six?" ''Stop lying. Sheila lay back in her bed and smiled." said Margo." "Oh. but Fm doing this for you. You can use my phone tomorrow if you like. I drove to Vassar—" "I know you drove. is that you haven't got a date next weekend." "Did you use it?" "Obviously." said Margo." "What you're saying. Right?" "Well. Margo. "We'll chat tomor- row. Bern. as it happens. But I thought you were through with undergraduates. to visit someone else for yet another soul-to-soul encounter." At long last she left.

Bern. "Fm getting the impression that you like her. Inside his tiny cubicle. You'd faint if she just looked at you with those green eyes. but nonetheless Bob sat and fed his friend a few well-chosen vague details. He rose and started toward his bedroom. "Where ya goin'?" "To sack out." "Now I know you're lying.) Sheila— I meant every word I said." "Well. no." (To say the least!) "Is she that great-looking?" Of course she is. you asshole. I mean." It was after three and this was midterm week. poker-faced. The honest truth is that I kissed her.' " "In other words she's fugly." Bob answered. Bern?" "Frankly. . Beckwith. Bob took out a leaf of Branford College stationery and wrote: 16 November 1958 (3:45 AM. Good night. I think I do." He closed the door. she has that 'inward beauty which no eyes can see.''Okay. But Fm not giving you specifics. So Bob hid behind a little erudition. "Remember Spenser's 'Epithalamion'? Well. Once. Bob 1 HE FXJNNY THING IS THAT THEY DID GET MARRIED. "Don't you think I could pick a winner. what would she see in you?" "I don't know. right?" Bob smiled.

I sometimes get bored after two or three dates. Bob merely groaned and said." "Then you just haven't met the right girl yet." "You're together all the time. "Owf he said." said Bernie once when he was up from Yale Law to visit. she once again posed the question of divine retribution for their premarital pleasures. "just super. but in June of 1960. it's worth it for a year of making love to you/' She smiled and kissed his shoulder. His bride became his nurse. "She's a super girl. "Gimme some more Noxzema. "I should have married you the day you first proposed. Bob asked his twenty-three-year-old wife if she had any regrets. "Yes. "What makes you ask?" "I." . Why not live a little first?" "I want to. On their second anniversary." They honeymooned in the Bahamas. "Maybe this is God's way of punishing us for not waiting till the wedding. almost half believing it." said the boihng lobster Bob. But I want to live with himr Dan Beckwith had no such hesitations. Everyone was happy. tried to convince her daughter not to hurry into matrimony." he told his son. ''even if the sunburn is a punishment. though at times during their long engagement Sheila's mother. huh?" As she gently rubbed his blazing back. where Bob. Mother." she answered." said Bob. mean. "Don't you ever—you know—get bored?" "No. unaccustomed to the tropics. 54 "Sheila. "You're both so young. got a serious case of sunstroke. who "thought the world" of Bob." Sheila said.Not as soon as either of them wanted. one week after Sheila's graduation.

like Bernie."Shit. Three months after that. I know it.'' she said. he got engaged to Nancy Gordon. Neither Bob nor Sheila could recall a time when they had been without each other. She quickly rose from typing letters to proofreading galleys and then to editing actual books.S. they walked hand in hand along the Charles. sixteen months later. Once or twice a month they'd have a bunch of friends for dinner. En v route from the trauma to the Continent. Not to be outdone. she stopped off to see the Beckwiths at their ''tres mi-gnon* Ellery Street apartment. He made a book of it while teaching in the fall and had it accepted by H. '*A11 you have to do is promise us your next book. Beckwith. ''My God/' she whispered when Bob left the room with all the coffee cups. Next book? He hadn't written any yet. And then in Cambridge. insisting that it go on her newly acquired expense account. Everybody crossed his fingers. And unlike their former classmates who were going on in lit or gov or even medicine. And with what Sheila earned they could even afford such luxuries as season tickets to the Symphony. while Bob worked on his doctorate at MIT and she was hired by the Harvard Press. Because she liked the place—and loved her job. before Sheila had to worry about their next anniversary dinner. They had walked hand in hand through what remained of college. But it worked. In fact. In fact. On their fourth anniversary. The lavishness of the wedding and the honeymoon was exceeded only by the lavishness of the divorce. The U. you're a really lucky bastard. Margo made the (self-styled) marriage of the year to Robbie Andrews of the Ridgefield Andrewses. they had a son within the year. Is he lifting weights?" . but Sheila wanted to spend the summers in Cambridge. Government was paying Bob's tuition and the U. radiating professional satisfaction. she took Bob to dinner at Chez Dreyfus. They all.U. They could have traveled. an abridged edition of the former Sheila Goodhart. they never had to scrounge. Army paid him every summer just for the fun of solving statistical puzzles. But he felt so indebted to the Press for that $27.P." "Yeah. he hadn't even completed his thesis.50 banquet that he flogged himself to finish it that summer.S. for all Bob had to take along was his head." Bernie was inspired. looked at Bob and Sheila and would yearn for a relationship like theirs. ''He's got so—I don't know—mature.

a slender athletic woman with a Dutch accent." And Margo blushed. you sit above them." Bob scribbled furiously. ladies.*' "Am I?" "Come on. this is good old Margo. Bob was already feeling uneasy about this avant-garde approach to parenthood. Gentlemen. TTie instructor. Tell me or I'll die right on your brand-new rug I" "Well. But Margo caught the scent. "Now. for God's sake." "He must be doing something. had now completed her introductory remarks.. He gazed at his lovely wife now rhythmically expanding and contracting at his feet and heard the subsequent instruction with intensifying anxiety. Sheila. "Sheil. he thought. Is he an animal? Is he absolutely insatiable?" "Let's change the subject. . "You don't have to write it all down. huh?" "Oh. "Shh—listen. Sheila." Bob replied.. take your pillows and get on the floor. You can tell me. and kept on scribbling. I guess we sort of both are."No. ^To respond to another person when you are in pain." A dozen pregnant women dutifully sat in a circle on the floor of the Cambridge Adult Education Center as Ritje Hermans told them how to breathe their way through childbirth." Sheila whispered." Sheila gave a little smile and shrugged. you're blushing. there must be a lot of trust between you. Sheila. What if I faint.

" "Don't forget." "You're crazy. really wanting reinforcement."And don't forget your husband is the coach. Bob was almost jealous at his lack of ''nhibition. You know that cocky guy in the brown tweed jacket you think is so confident?" "Yeah?" "He doesn't even think the child is his. They were grabbing a quick burger at Mr. The men shared the brotherhood of fear. There was no way he'd let his wife down. Bob glanced around the room. Only in Cambridge could there be such an odd assemblage: a cabby. several students. He looked at his watch more than he looked at his wife. you should have seen things from my angle. a nervous neurosurgeon and an East African prince." This was after that first session. what was the view from the floor?" "I could see how they looked down at their wives. Even an old geezer (must be over forty) with a youngish wife. Bartley's. he thought." "Trust me. "Come on." "Did you write that down. As he was practicing the sacrolumbar massage on Sheila's back. Now I'm really gonna pass out.'' she teased. "Yes. He regulates and controls your breathing. honey. He was so involved. Bob?*' Sheila smiled from the floor. The women shared a pride in their impending motherhood and the feeling that they looked like dancers in an elephants' ballet." "How did I do?" Bob asked. And he would've smoked if Ritje hadn't stopped him. Except for the old guy. Great. "Well. He even got down on the floor and did every exercise with his wife. because I won't do anything unless you tell me to. . Bob.

five hours later they were speeding down Route 2 toward Boston. he thought. and soon a tiny head appeared. Selzer told her to. half in the world. She was so brave. In the labor room he timed her contractions and wrote them down. "Breathe easy. Now I know we're gonna make it. it's really happening. and drive very carefully." Since they had long ago decided on the names. his stomach cramps were synchronized with her labor pains. She bore down when Dr. Naturally." Which was meant to tell her that he didn't think he'd faint. you're a great coach. Oh. Bob. "Bob. Blinking from the glaring lights. "Congratulations. "YouVe got a perfect little girl. but less than half the books were up. I would hate to go out in this stuff." she said. Selzer said." he said. Through every one of them he tightly held her hand. So calm down. They had their furniture. She squeezed his hand as he helped her from the car. my God. Bob looked at it. he thought." Dr. YouWe driving." He drove. but he could not calm down. honey. "This is the home stretch. Our baby's real. "I am breathing. half still cocooned in Sheila. New Year's Day 1966 was gusty with Arctic cold. honey. . "It's gonna be okay. Sometimes he stared up at the clock because he couldn't bear the sight of her in pain." He kissed her and got relish on his lips. Robert? You're the loveliest husband in the whole world. she whispered to her husband through her tears." Sheila whispered. By the time they reached the Lying In. As they wheeled her down the corridor he kept her hand in his. They had barely moved into the new house in Lexington."How can I judge you. Bob was staring out the window.

thank you. somewhat less impressed." He kissed the mother of his child." Sheila Beckwith said by way of definition." "She looks like you. Jean-Claude?" she asked." "'Really? Well. it's Jessica. You hardly ever make your own. . -E MADE HIS BED HIMSELF. "That's nice/' Sheila answered." "Don't be shy. "Are you still hungry?" Sheila asked. Bob." "I do too. ." He was looking wistfully into his chocolate milk. now that's unusual. ''but what exactly do you find so amaz-ing?" "I was gonna do it for him. That is . There were five of them at breakfast." said Sheila.*' An enchanted Paula was reporting to her mother the next morning." "Under duress." " Whaf s 'duress'?" "Under pressure. Sheila fought to suppress the anger that she felt "Did you sleep well."Oh." he said. 61 . Mrs. thank you. "Is there something more you'd like?" "No. "Yes. "She's beautiful. Beckwith.

" Paula added. "He represents a lot of big-league athletes. "All he ever talks about is sports." "It's like a cookout. "Do you know what McDonald's is?" Paula solicitously asked Jean-Claude. and the seaside home of Bernie Acker-man." ''Really?" Paula gasped." said Bob sternly." Jessie said sarcastically. Baseball. More strange new faces." "Jessica. he was doubtless thinking. in awe of this sophistication." She got up to get him some. ''Of course/' said Sheila. you sound like a commercial for McDonald's. football-" . "He's been my pal since we were just about your age. at whom he intermittently glanced through the rear-view mirror.*'Well." said Bob to Jean-Claude. ^'Oh. hockey. behave yourself. "Do you know what that is. "He's a crashing bore." said Jessie. "There'll be hot dogs and hamburgers and com on the cob with melted butter." The Peugeot was crowded as they all embarked for Truro. It is a restaurant in Paris. "He's a sportsman?" Jean-Claude asked." Bob explained. "Yes." "Paula." said Jean-Claude. He seemed intimidated at the prospect. He looked relieved and offered her his glass of chocolate milk in exchange. his interest piqued. "Bernie is a lawyer. I have eaten there. "I should have aslced. Jean-Claude?" "I think so. at home we would driak coffee in the morning. Paula continued enthusiastically. "Today we're going to a barbecue/' said Jessie.

" "Oh. laughing. grilling." "Oh. Davey. drinking. Bern?" The two old friends embraced." the boy replied politely. the Ackermans noticed an extra member of the Beckwith party. it suddenly occurred to him that his wife had not said a word during the entire ride. She once told Sheila she was looking marvelous while they were talking on the telephone. Sheila gazed at the kinetic patchwork quilt of T-shirts.*' Bob gave an exasperated sigh. everybody seemed preoccupied—sunning. **This is Jean-Claude Gu6rin. Bemie was the first to notice their arrival. ''Does he play ball?" Bemie asked Bob confidentially. I don't think Softball's big in France. and added. He held out his hand to Bernie.'Tootball?" Jean-Claude's eyes lit up. "Beckwith! Did you bring your catcher's mitt?" ^'I left it in your garage last summer. and then loudly and slowly told the visitor: "You see. you lucky thing. every year the fathers and the sons play Softball." Jessie said disdainfully. Held every year. jogging suits and summer dresses. "You're gonna love it." Nancy smiled." said Bemie. It's an annual event. Bob hastened to explain. He tapped Nancy on the shoulder and hurried toward them. ^'Sheila. As the salutations subsided. the sign for Bemie's place. "Is it overwork or the Scarsdale?" Thank God Nancy never really noticed. As they reached Home Plate. Fortunately." Jean-Claude said to them both. I'm your Uncle Bemie. Bern." "Very pleased to meet you. Probably she'd pull it off. Besides. *'The American version. It was not a day for psychic scrutinizing. a visitor from France. ^'The breaking of empty heads. "He's kind of tired from the plane trip. yelling at their children not to throw food. ^'Beckwith. you look terrific. this is Aunt Nancy —and the tall kid over there sinking hook shots is my son. ''He's very cute/' whispered Nancy Ackerman to Sheila. tossing Frisbees." "Hi. How are you. take your squad over to the ." said the host. and wondered if the friends she was obliged to greet with smiles would notice her unhappiness. At worst they'd think it was the lunar blues.

Or if only she'd recognize his many athletic virtues. Actually he's an orphan." "Where's his parents?" "None of your business. A visitor." said Paula. I'll see you guys in about an hour. of which I am a member. he might cure himself of the painful crush he had on her." "Who's he visiting—you?" "Well." "Wanna go to a movie sometime. and then. And Sheila was —or seemed—deep in conversation with Nancy Ackerman and the psychiatrist next door." "I'm not marrying anybody. back to the tube. And no. he was violently jealous of everything that caught her attention. Paula and Jean-Claude had waited loyally. "No shit." "Don't count on it. that he now fixed upon the presence of Jean-Claude Guerin.feeding station. Bob now turned to his "squad" to lead them to the barbecue pit. Or maybe pro soccer. this may be our last year. I can kick with both feet. After all. a computer . I wouldn't. creep. The Sox and Yankees are tied two-all. Parents and children had been split into two teams. Ice cream may be next." ***' "Play ball!" At last the annual Bemie Aclcerman Cape Cod Invitational Softball Game was under way. Besides. had the patience of a saint. Go marry a fish. But Jessica had already wafted off. led by Bemie and Jack Ever. "Come on." 'Tou think you're a hot shit but you're not. I don't go out with juveniles." said Jessica. "I'm sorry. the normally pugnacious Davey Ackerman." Bernie chugged into the house. "You guys gonna adopt him?" This had never occurred to Jessica. tugging at his arm. "What sport?" "I'm deciding between baseball and basketball. David/' Jessica retorted. even inanimate objects like books. If only Jessie weren't so darn good- looking." "Good. Give Jean-Claude a charbroiled burger. "Who's that foreign kid?" "He's from abroad. "The name is Jessica. Jess?" asked Davey Ackerman. let us just say the Beckwith family. The surgeon general says the damned stuff's carcinogenic." "I couldn't care less. You'll be sorry when I'm a superstar. Small wonder. Dad. I assume." "I'm fourteen months older than you. But as things stood." When it came to Jessica Beckwith. but Vm not at liberty to say. Jessie. there are lotsa fish in the sea. My dad says soccer's gonna be huge in the eighties. ^'Very funny. then." said Jessica." "Chronology's irrelevant." "Where you going?" "Inside. "Let's start having fun. who would slug at the drop of an epithet." said Davey." "Not at once. I'm gonna be a professional ball player.

unchanging and unchangeable. She didn't want to have to talk to him. The shore was empty. Ever since she'd seen that child. he was. my father's Robert BeckwithJ' ''Really? Robert Beckwith is my husband. whose little hoy are you?" "My mother is Nicole Guerin. Both teams were wilting from the heat. And now. who had been roasting in his catcher's . as Bernie had to tell him candidly. a pretty mediocre catcher. and waved. I know it isn't your fault. The signing up of Nancy Ackerman and Patsy Lord as short-center fielders made the contest nominally coed. Sheila forced herself to think. Tension was mounting. how smug I must have been. God. Paula Beckwith joined the senior citizens and toddlers seated on the first-base line." *'Ohr' *'That sort of complicates things. faithful Bob. Unchanged. she fantasized a conversation they might have if they were meeting for the first time here. *'Hello. she knew at once that things would never be the same. he selected Davey Ackerman. She slowed. He looks so sad. digging in the sand. she thought. Hardly in a sporting mood. alone on this deserted beach. But then it isn't my fault either. Though a distinguished academic. But from this vantage point she could observe him without being seen. Seeing all their friends and pseudo friends. Bemie won the toss and got first draft choice. We were different. All around us marriages were splitting or relationships eroding and Fd taken ours for granted. doesn*t it?** Just then the little boy looked up. Sheila went to walk along the beach. the one certainty that had defined her life had disappeared. to her dismay. she saw it was Jean-Claude. saw her. Not just because they all looked up to her and Bob. And numbed by melancholy. You know. Purely on ability and all-important killer instinct. dammit. She waved back. we have a lot in common. Was it hubris to feel so secure? Is that where I went wrong? She walked in the direction of the solitary child. But Bob was no longer funny. The score was 12-12 and they were into extra innings. Far up the beach. prepared to cheer her daddy. Sheila thought. But that was all. To hell with images. We both were happy once. She turned and walked along the shore away from him. Bob was chosen by Jack Ever on the seventh round. a solitary child was playing in the sand. Jessica sought solitude beneath a tree with Baudelaire (in English). loving.She had realized something in the moment that they reached the party. but no one more than Bob.scientist. sitting on his haunches.

Bob signaled for a low fast ball. alas. Davey Ackerman had lined a double to left field and now was dancing boldly from the base. Davey Ackerman was off and flying toward third base. Bob stopped." . He gritted his teeth. ''Knock his head off. They had won! ''No hard feelings." As the players all stampeded for the beer and Cokes. send me home!" called Davey. Jean-Claude looked concerned. sweetie. came in shoulder high and slow. Shit. but couldn't. But Davey rounded third and fearlessly charged homeward. That little bastard. Bob?" he asked. The other team was cheering. Bob fell backward on the ground. who had sprinted to her father's side. Davey was a cannonball aimed straight at Bob. but his arm was sore just from returning the ball to the pitcher. As he drew near. Bob lunged to tag him. my shins are aching. "Are you okay?" "Yeah. shrieking like a maniac.mask. Once or twice Bob thought he might rifle the ball to the second baseman and catch Davey off guard. Now Bemie was in the batter's box. "Don't worry. who had thrown off his mask and stood astride the base line. "No. Dad. which. Davey dodged. He wiped the dirt and sweat ofiE with his sleeve and walked away. See you in a sec. and slid right into him. And it was clear that he would try to score. The instant Patsy Lord caught it. The Softball trickled from his glove. "Come on." Bemie crowed at Bob. Daddy?" It was Paula. untied his sneakers and walked toward the beach. he saw the visitor from France perched on a dune. Patsy fired the ball to Bob. I'll just get some water on my legs. it's nothing. as he hopped up and down and whistled to encourage his father and distract the pitcher. Bemie's swing caught just a piece of it and popped a fly to shallow center. slowly getting up. Davey!" This parental counsel came from Bemie." Bob said. "Did he hurt you. blocking home plate. Just where grass ended and sand began. It was bottom of the tenth and Bemie's team was batting. "Are you all right.

"Is it permitted." said Jean-Claude. Bob grimaced when the water reached his shins." It was always in times of extreme emotion that she called him Robert. . And thought. I was too slow." He patted the boy on the head. huh?" said Bob. She was combing her hair as they both prepared for bed. "No. *'Do you want to get your feet wet in the ocean?'' "Yes. and when she was really angry.OW WAS YOUR DAY?" ''Not bad/' Sheila answered tonelessly. Me too." They walked together to the water's edge. Even in her faded bathrobe and with night cream on her face. applying ice in towels to his aching shins. she was very angry. she was beautiful. what he did?" *Tes. ''Not good. either. He waited for Jean-Claude to take his shoes off and they waded in. He wanted her so badly. Robert. I couldn't give a damn. In the midst of making love. "I would like to hit that boy. . looking away. certainly not good." Yeah. " Bob laughed. "Do you think anyone suspected?" he asked. He looked at her. H. "What?" "Did they—uh—wonder who he was?" "I don't think so. Anyway. I should have tagged him and gotten out of the way.

"I took a pill. ''Then maybe we should send him home?" He looked at her hopelessly. To keep her deep resentment from erupting into words. It's impossible to just pretend that this is some everyday occurrence. Robert." "You don't. "but. A good idea. is that I knew. he was the culprit. She was still wearing her bathrobe." she replied. In fact. Just a friendly touch. I only want to . still looking down." "I understand. it was an interrogatory gesture. She examined the ends of her long hair.." 70 He was about to remind her that she had volunteered." said Bob. Bob." "Oh. ''Look." "But what?" "Fm going to need a little relief."Sheila. "Tomorrow. without turning." she said very softly. After all. good. It ." What could she mean? Her words unsettled him. I want to go to Boston for the day. But that was not the truth and she would know it. Bob. her back to him. She put her hairbrush down on the night table. An activity to keep her mind off castigating him." She sat down on the bed and stared across at him." "Of course. and Fm going to have to get away now and then. I-" "What's important... turned out the light and climbed under the covers. "I can't take it. It's not.. he told himself. I said I would and I will. but stopped himself. relieved that she had not demanded even more time. You haven't any notion of how hard this is for me. he was going to say. He reached over and put his hand on her right shoulder.

and immersed himself in it. Perhaps it was the survey of good coffeehouses in the city. zipped it up and started down the stairs. he felt too restless to remain in bed. In a minute she was sleeping.would make things even worse. While it . He found a year-old issue of Boston. put on his slippers and left the room." Bob answered." He sat at the kitchen table as Bob poured some milk into a pan and started heating it. In the living room he saw the boy. somewhat startled. "Aren't you cold?" "A little. glancing over at his wife who was in deep if troubled sleep. He got out quietly. "Would you like a glass of milk?" "Yes." ^^Comeon. He was seated in pajamas on the sofa. But reading only made him more awake. I couldn't sleep. She had deserted him." said Jean-Claude." Bob removed his jacket. "Jean-Claude?" Bob said softly. He turned to his own night table and rummaged for a magazine. Vicarious caffeine. The boy turned quickly. In any case. wrapping it around the boy's shoulders." "That makes two of us. and at the top of the stairway he took his jogging jacket from the hook. It was cold in the house. *'Oui -yes?" "Are you all right?" "Yes. please. staring out the window at the ocean. "Thank you.

" Bob felt sorry for him. to France?" "Yes. Jean-Claude sipped his milk. Jean-Claude?" The little boy looked lost and sad.warmed. /' ". He sat on the sofa once again.. "It's a lovely village." ^*Do you know it?" asked Jean-Claude. . either. But he felt a need to talk." Silence. **What were you looking at when I came down? The sea?" Jean-Claude hesitated." Bob replied. I was wondering how far it was . and then answered. "As you could see. "Come on. and sat down v^th him." The next question. though inevitable. "Are you homesick?" "Well." Bob smiled. "many years ago."" "Too far to swim. When I look out at the water I imagine that I see my village. Then he gave Jean-Claude the milk. "I was there once.. Bob in the easy chair right near him. They could hear the ocean." The boy padded after Bob back to the living room. "I am sorry that I don't know baseball. Bob sensed this would be the first of many innocently probing questions. I don't know too much baseball.. "Did you enjoy today. and then. Sete. if only indirectly. a little. and added." "It's not important." he replied. Let's go back and look out at France. "Yes. he opened up a beer. It was very quiet in the house. still made Bob's heart beat faster.

. And wondered suddenly if these two syllables had not been too revealing. But the boy said nothing for a moment." the little boy added." said Bob. what should the story be—platonic friendship in the States or casual acquaintance on a trip to France? "Uh—just in Boston. What did the child know really? Had Nicole. but she preferred the south. "You can still take lessons/' "I don't want to now. Bob wondered what to say. ? . "Did you know my father?'' Though he knew it had to come.. Well. Something in the verb "to know" stirred deep emotions in him. just Maman and I. he stopped himself from saying... When she was a resident at Mass General.. "We could have lived in Paris. "She was a very good doctor. But he couldn't leave the boy alone. They sat in silence. had Louis ." Bob offered. Then finally: "We would go camping sometimes." The little boy's eyes brightened." Life goes on."Did you know my mother there. or just in Boston?" Bob hesitated. it nonetheless sent shivers up his spine." "I know. What an idiotic thing to tell a lonely child. We went to Switzerland at Easter and she promised next year I could have skiing lessons. We met at someone's house. "Did you like her?" How should he answer? "She was very nice. Bob had drained his beer and wanted to get another." His voice trailed off.

And his own words caused the child to burst into tears." "What?" "I think perhaps he was an Englishman. For in the early hours of morning. . But of course he could not stay in France. But now she's dead. "Uh—what did your mother tell you about him?" He braced himself to hear the answer.. "And?" Bob's heart was hammering.."Did you. Maman would . he had ex-phcitly refened to his mother's death." "Why do you say that?" "Because if he was Italian. "I always hoped that maybe when I was grown up. his guard was lowered and he told himself. choking sobs that shook his little body. And they loved each other and decided to have me. The boy continued wistfully. Silent. tell you all about him?" "Yes." For the first time since he arrived. How logical he is: sort of like me. "That she loved him. "That he was married to someone else." "Uh—did she ever tell you who he was?" "No." The boy lowered his head. . Bob?" He was still unsure how to answer. /' ". But I have my own idea." Bob's next thought embarrassed him. I think she would have made me learn Italian. So I could someday talk to him.

"I woke up and you were gone." "Oh. "I was just a little worried." Bob answered softly. "I know. "We'll all go to bed now. he let the boy slide onto his feet." she answered hoarsely. neither wanting to let go. standing sleepily on the first step." she said. "Sheila—are you okay?" She was slightly woozy from the pill. Slowly. Bob's eyes followed her as she disappeared. "Thaf s all right/' she answered blankly.Bob's heart was aching for the child. ^*I know. Jean-Claude was sitting here when I came down. The little boy responded instantly. "Mczmdn. He threw his arms around Bob's neck and clung to him. He longed to lift him up and take him in his arms. crying all the while. . To Bob. Until their intimate embrace was interrupted." They held each other tightly. His vacillating emotions were now fixed on what his wife might be thinking and feeling. rocking him." And she turned and walked back up the stairs." Bob said quickly." he murmured. "I couldn't sleep. For a moment he had forgotten the child. "Bob?" It was Sheila. He looked down. At last he did. Then something touched his hand. his wife's expression seemed to reflect betrayal.

In fact. He was too much in conflict to respond. ego-boosting is my middle name. I thought you'd be stuck on the Cape for the whole bloody month. That's why I married him. where she had a daily noontime table. And had told Bob nothing. "I mean." ''And how's the gallery?" ''Obscene. she had told the children she had business at the Press. No risk of surprises. You're the best thing that's happened to my ego this week." Well."Bob." ''Good. "How's Hal?" "Hal is Hal. "Is this mine?" asked Sheila. '^I think I will go to bed now. it gets more successful every week. how's Bob and the girls?" "Fine. and 77 he always will be." said Sheila." said Margo. the new restaurant behind the Brattle Theater. what a lovely surprise. Hal is flabbergasted. She was nursing a martini in the patio of Harvest." He nodded and went off for a jigger of vodka. to paraphrase Gertrude Stein." Bob bent down and once again the child embraced him. not exactly. He really thought it would just be a whim with me and I was too scatterbrained to be anything ." Margo grinned. "Yes." "Lovey. indicating the glass of tomato juice sitting before her. Oheila darling. please. and signaled Perry. "Well. Your usual." ''Thanks. Sheila's former college classmate was now Margo Fulton Andrews Bedford van Nostrand. "Un-virgin this." the little boy said. A good idea. They all send their love." Sheila answered." ^*I think I'd like it spiked today. "Good.

You look preoccupied. but youVe seen it half a dozen times. "Is that a new dress? It's very chic. taking a sip of her Bloody Mary. Her example had inspired Margo to relate to other people. you've probably noticed. I've ordered for you as well. has a teeny crush on me. she began redirecting her considerable analytical gifts to those around her." In the long-ago college days. Sheil. Sheila was to a great extent responsible for this evolution. Now he says I have a better business head than he does. ^'Come on. Is something wrong?" 'Tes. As she grew older. 'fess up." "It is. "Are the girls okay?" Margo asked. You already asked me. ." said Sheila. what brings you back to Cambridge? Isn't this your holiday?" "Yes." said Sheila. "What happened?" she asked apprehensively. Margo had always talked as if watching herself in a mirror." "Fine. once her all-embracing way of life. you know I always have their special. but I wasn't satisfied with the answer. Sheila. Margo could see she had been crying. Anyway. Saves small talk with Perry—who. "Of course." '^What? Tell me/' As Sheila removed her sunglasses and covered her face with her hand. was now merely an occasional indulgence. not bothering to inquire what she would be eating." "Yes. but I had some things to take care of. What's with you today?" "Nothing. Uh— shall we order before it gets impossibly crowded?" "Darling.but a pretty face. Narcissism." "Bob?" "Of course.

Why would he tell you such a wounding thing if it weren't the truth? Sheil.'' . I don't believe it. he told me he was seeing someone in New Jersey—which was a total fabrication. I'd know the vibes." "Oh?" Sheila raised her head. "He told me. ''Of course. Believe me. Bob is simply not the type. "This is really upsetting. New Jersey?*' And then. he must be telling the truth. God. "Listen. He wouldn't." Margo temporized (she was "midthir-ties" and intended to remain so for some time to come). A fictive tat for my very real tit." said Sheila.*'Bob had an affair. "Our age" Sheila interrupted with a little smile. "women near their forties have this kind of lapse in confidence. Bob is more mature than Frederic." Margo looked at her former roommate and. He thinks he's Adam and you're Eve. "Come on. she added. Can you imagine. They start to imagine—" "It's not my imagination. Sheila." Sheila said almost inaudibly. "Well. When I told Frederic I was having an affair with Hal. who had hoped Margo might be a little less emotional and more dispassionately comforting. He's straight as an arrow. I read about this syndrome in Psychology Today—01 was it Passages? It's common at your age. added." Sheila said it quietly and quickly and then lowered her head. with genuine shock in her voice. upon further reflection. ''Oh." "Oh." "I know." "He did." "He is. darling. Bob wouldn't. Sheil. they sometimes lie.

not knowing how to respond. what's the French creature's excuse?" "I don't know." "Well. From the beginning." said Margo." Margo looked at Sheila's weary face. Christ. It was a reflex. implying that the news was also shattering her few remaining illusions. Very. "I'm really sorry. Sheila. too upset to notice Sheila's use of the past tense." Then Sheila gave voice to her greatest agony. "Sheila."But why? YouVe always been so happy. She had regressed to the state of copy editor." "Oh." "What?" Now Margo was totally confused. I might have known." "Do you believe him?" "Yes. "Who the hell did he fall for?" "She was French. Margo sat silent for a moment. "They had a child. and then. At last she said. "You'd better tell me everything." Margo said as quietly as she could manage. "She's dead. I think I do." . Margo. "But why?'' "Bob claims he didn't know. Are you sure?" "Yes." "That's impossible." Sheila mumbled." said Margo." "Ah. this is absolutely shattering. "The honeymoon is over. "It would have to be a frangaiSy wouldn't it?" *'Frangaise/' Sheila quietly emended." She could not help sounding bitter.

Margo. Bob wanted to see the boy. There was a pause. "Sheila. Sheila. A lot of women did in those days. you are stark. "God." Margo was offended. When Sheila got to Nicole's death and Bob's confession. Sheila. "What the hell did you do?" She told Margo the rest of the story. This is so monstrous." "On the contrary. I hope you put your foot down. this beats everything Fve ever heard. her eyes widening. men are pathetic. "at least you don't have to worry about losing Bob. desperately trying to find a bright side. maybe you could pretend it's World War Two and Bob was a GI in Europe and—" "And?" "And let the matter drop. raving mad. I thought Bob was perfect. Margo could no longer suffer in silence. They really get off on the idea of boy children. One month and the . If I made him choose." said Margt)." Margo eyed Sheila with mounting anxiety. I'm stark. raving realistic. What am I doing in this nightmare? Margo took it all in." "That's precisely what I didn't want. Sheila grew more and more angry." said Sheila sadly. "God." "But in your own home. This was an unconscionable breach of propriety." "I can't. Neither woman knew quite what to say. Where can it lead?" "Look. Did she call the child Beckwith?" "No. we made a bargain. *'Well.As she recited the events in sequence. Sheil. there'd always be a chance Fd lose him. Him or you. I have the girls to think about." "Well." ''So did I.

But in her heart she feared that Margo might be right. I feel such rage that I could kill him—" ''Maybe you should. "And do you really believe that it'll be all wrapped up neatly at the end of the month?" "Yes. That was our agreement. She was no longer sure of anything." "But how the hell can you stand it?" Sheila shrugged. "—and yet there are other times when I feel I need him more than ever. Sometimes I can't. Sometimes when we're sitting there at night pretending to listen to Bach and pretending to read and pretending that everything is the way it always was. "But love and hate don't seem to cancel each other out. Margo?" ." "Don't you look at him?" "As little as possible." Margo shook her head again and sighed." she replied." Margo looked at her and shook her head. And when I do. Better thirty days of suffering than a hfetime of uncertainty. Sheil. isn't it? Even after what he's done." "Neither can I." "Is he?" "I don't know. They can coexist and drive you mad. frankly. he's still the only one who can really comfort me." Margo interrupted sardonically. They think he's cute. "I don't know. "What do the girls think?" "We didn't tell them who he was. my only reaction is 'What did she look like?' Am I crazy. Strange. There are some people trying to make arrangements for him." said Sheila.boy goes back to France. "I can't understand you.

" said Margo."No. you'll shame Bob into line with your generosity. "Hello. "You're the wisest woman I know. Now. The httle boy was sitting by himself." He looked up. Or both. "I wish I could love a man as much as you love Bob. "Hi." she answered. Margo. a book in his hands. God knows you've seen me through enough crises. It was Paula Beckwith. "Why. for heaven's sake?" she asked. peering at his book." "Do you? Can't you stay a few days with Hal and me?" She shook her head. can I help?" "How?" "However you want. the only thing I could do is go out and have an affair or shop. but knowing you. It's a gamble." u i HE SUN WAS SOFT AND WARM." "Thanks. you're a friend. It was hardly the conclusion Sheila had expected. I envy you. GenTLE WAVES nuzzled the shore of Cape Cod Bay. I'll come down—" "No. one of Bob's baseball caps on his head. Thanks for understanding. . Jean-Claude. If Hal ever did that to me. reaching across the table and touching Sheila's hand affectionately. it's bad enough I have to go back." "Whatcha reading?" she asked. But Fve got to face it. "Margo." "God. darling. I'd never have the strength to face it the way you have.

"We take hygiene next year/' she said." he replied.''Histoire Generate—"woild history. I mean?" Jean-Claude shrugged. "Would you like to sit down?" Paula plopped onto the sand as she answered." "Ugh. "Wowl You must be very intellectual. Vm sorry. He led a revolt against Julius Caesar." "Is there one of the strangling?" "Uh-no. "Sure. "What is that?" "Do you know what 'sexual education' is?" "I think so." He wasn't quite certain and didn't want to admit it. ''Are there pictures in that book?'' "Yes." "Not really." "I've heard about Julius Caesar. "Do they let you read that kind of stuff in France—gory. Caesar had him strangled. "I am reading about Vercingetorix." He smiled. "What's new in history?" she asked." Paula clutched her neck in empathy for the valiant dead man." "What's that?" "He was the first French hero. . I think." Paula pondered for a moment." She quickly settled in for a friendly chat. What happened after that?" "He ended badly.

" "Well. wondering why Bob's version should have contradicted what his mother had always told him. . "Uh-yes." "Thank you." he replied. How come your dad didn't tell you. Paula was preparing to probe deeper. "My father was not there. "What's your favorite color?" she asked. Meanwhile. Jean-Claude. "You mean he was dead already?" "What?" "My father said your father was dead. "But ifs not one color. You are also." said Jean-Claude. "thaf s what I like." "Oh." he answered." 'Teah. do you know where babies come from?" she asked. "The color of the sea. and hoped she'd change the subject." . though?" Paula had innocently trespassed onto Jean-Claude's most private anxiety." "Well." he said. "Well ." His voice trailed off." said Paula." "Cool." "WTio told you—your mom or your dad?" "My mother. enjoying the thrill of grown-up dialogue. She was a doctor. "You're a really fascinating person. Sometimes it's green and sometimes it's blue."Do you have that course in France?" "Fm not sure. . I know.

just then she bounded up as swiftly as she had plopped down."Really? Do you really think so? Hey—was that French you were speaking on the phone just now?" "Yes. an old friend of my mother's." said the boy. I gotta help Jessie cook." "That would be very nice. Jean-Claude laughed. He says he will call every week to ask me how I am. "What kind of stuff?" he inquired. Then Fll be able to visit you sometime. "What are you cooking?" "Stuff. happy to receive the invitation." "Wow. "Uh—were you talking to a friend?" "Yes. a trifle uneasy." "Your dog?" She was serious. Louis Venar-gues. He was mayor of our village for many years. You have parents." "Yeah. "What does he talk to you about?" "Oh." said Paula. Fm gonna start it in sixth grade." "Oh." the boy replied. I wish I had a friend like that." said Paula." said Paula. In fact. who now was not anxious to be left alone again. showing serious interest. "Hey. You wanna watch?" . "No. this and that. "It sounds terrific. "We're making dinner to surprise my mom when she gets home." "Boy or girl?" "Neither." "Gee. But Paula didn't notice." The boy looked wistful and his eyes were saying.

Seeing him. "That was nothing." Jessica sighed with exasperation. . their arms occasionally brushed. bottles. It's taken me hours. "What a mess in here! Whatcha doing." "Oh. "Hi. "Dammit. surrounded by open jars. boxes. Jessica was poring over it. what do you want me to do?" "Nothing. As they started toward the house. and leaped to his feet. "Jessie's studied cooking in school. "At least we'd be able to eat it. Paula turned to Jean-Claude and explained. and all you've done is criticize. Paula. "Our fanciest project was macaroni and cheese." "Wish you'd made that. Jessie restrained her anger. To prize forever. right now I'm working on the sauce veloute in this skillet. and piles of assorted vegetables. Julia Child was spread out on the kitchen table. with Jean-Claude a step behind.'Tes/' Jean-Claude rephed." said the visitor." "Well." Jessie sniffed. where've you been? Fve been killing myself all afternoon f Her little sister entered. interrupting. Jessie—cooking or finger painting?" "Paula. all steaming like a grade school production of Macbeth. Jean-Claude-" "Yuck. What's all that junk on the stove?" She pointed to the four pots. side by side." She was vigorously stirring some white viscous lumps with a wooden spoon. And Paula Beck-with inscribed the joy she felt upon a special page of memory. Jean-Claude obviously knows. "Well." said Paula." Paula murmured. but for your information. Bowls and spoons were scattered everywhere. I am trying to make a blanquette de veau.

" Jean-Claude replied. Instants later he was scientifically measuring ingredients into a bowl. Depending on the trafSc. he placed those that passed on a towel. "We haven't had that word yet. "WTien will they be home?" asked Paula. "Are you gonna be a French chef when you grow up?" "No." said Paula to Jean-Claude. Jessie. Couldn't you have made everything in one pot?" Jean-Claude sensed he was caught in a magnetic field between the two sisters. he reached on tiptoes for the olive oil and vinegar." . that's tres gentil. Dad is jogging on the high school track with birdbrain Bemie. Jessica?" he asked. "Well. After this. "May I help you. There were sounds of frantically ruffled pages and at last a triumphant shout of "Garlic!" "Wow. He then looked up at his enraptured audience and said: "I need—I do not know the English for de VaiV* "Jessie?" Paula asked her sister. Scrutinizing every leaf for imperfections. patting them with care. He'll be just in time to be too late to do his share." Jessie hurriedly reentered in search of garlic and a garlic press. To have the salad ready when my mother came home from the clinic. "That used to be my job at home. "A doctor. "Oh. I'll go look it up." It took some moments till the girls* attention fixed upon Jean-Claude's activity." the boy replied." And she sprinted toward the CasselVs in the living room.**But it's just a veal stew. But gradually they both stopped working and just stared. Do you know how to make a salad?" "Yes. He had meticulously separated the lettuce leaves and immersed them one by one in water. Mom should be here around seven.

"Mmm. after all." "Huh?" "If you started your girls on a program now. "very interesting. He's ambidextrous. Bern." the little boy replied." . ''He's pretty good. I hope so." Bob conceded. B lJ o you see that fantastic kid? Isn't he great I I can hardly believe he's my son!" As the two fathers circled the Nanuet High School track. Bernie glanced at his friend and understood. Jessica. I—uh—Jean-Claude. could I ask you to—uh—taste the sauce?" ''Of course." Bernie continued. women's sports are getting to be really big too.''She'll be real excited when she sees youVe made that blanket stew for her. *'The kid is everything I wasn't." ''Blanquette. not wanting to interrupt his friend's paternal fantasy." He walked over to the pot. Look at him slide by those fullbacks!" "Yeah. scrimmaging with some of the older soccer honchos. Davey Ackerman was on the infield. they'd have a chance for athletic scholarships. "Superb. "'Good? Beckwith. I could maybe even help. the kid's fantastic." Bob answered noncommittally. his legs still bore some bruises from that collision with Bernie's pride and joy." said Bob. At this moment. Bernie kept touting his son's athletic talents. He's got all the moves." "They hate sports. "You know. Besides. It was a triumph of international diplomacy. ''It's my business." "But is it good. he's really pro material. His tone of voice was sympathetic. dipped the wooden spoon in and brought it to his mouth. is it good?'' Jessica persisted. I mean. Don't you agree?" "Uh—sure." he said softly.

"Okay." Bob looked at him. Beckwith. He turned to Bob. Wanna sit on the stands?" "Yeah. "Well. "Sorry. "Good workout." "It's nothing." They jogged along for another half mile. too. okay. Bemie could concentrate on other things. wandered over to the flimsy wooden bleachers." said Bob. But I guess she's going through an anti-high-jump phase." ''What am I here for. Nothing's ever wrong with you two." "Actually. Beckwith?'' ''Got five minutes?" "Of course. I mean. Speak to her before it's too late." Bemie said when they reached the finish line and began to talk. The soccer game had now disbanded and only Davey Ackerman remained." They picked up their sweat clothes." said Bernie." "I worry a lot.''Whose fault is that?'' replied the advocate of athletes. to practice kicking goals. that's great prep for the high jump. She could be a great high jumper. And I think Jessie's gonna be tall. subtle accusation in his voice. when I think of it. "You should run during the year." Bob offered." "Why don't you tell her. Bern. "You seem down for some reason. Stupid question^ Bob. how the hell do you stay so thin? You don't even play squash. their increasingly labored breaths punctuated by Bemie's gasps of "Great" and "Fantastic" whenever Davey showed his style. For some reason she thinks I'm a clown. Beckwith. Sheila looked a little down yesterday too. I mean. everything's okay with you guys. "They take ballet. Bern. Bern?" "I don't know. Bob. isn't it?" Bob did not reply. climbed to the highest step and sat down. "What the hell's the matter?" . Doesn't she know I'm the top of my field?" "Yeah. Beckwith. and kept walking." "Sit her down. "I gotta talk to someone.

more like a fling." Bernie repeated." ''Have you got a picture?" Bob glared angrily at Bernie. Jean-Claude's very existence seemed to belie the most strenuous protestations of ignorance. Sheila will never forgive you. Beckvdth." It was at this moment that Bemie fully realized the significance of what Bob was telling him. "Look at the boy. I'd sure as hell remember what she looked like. "Will you be serious?" "It was a reasonable question." Bob turned to him and said quietly. no. "You know the French boy I brought over yesterday?" "Yeah—the exchange kid. It wasn't even an 'affair. but something visceral prevented him from understanding Bob's statement. 'cause it would kill her—it'd have to be with someone like Raquel Welch or better." "Holy shit." "What do you mean?" Bernie was normally far from obtuse." he mumbled. If I ever cheated on Nancy—which I'd never have the guts to. *'You. and then. The woman died last month. but she looked a lot like him." "Are you really sure he's yours?" "Yes.' I mean. "Was she good-looking?" "I suppose so. will she?" ." Bob repeated. Bemie's jaw dropped." he said. "Well?'' Bemie asked again. Nice-looking. Christ. This was ten years ago. "Hey— what was she like?" "I don't remember. Her hair was darker. "He's my son. That was the first I ever heard about the boy. if I had a kid with a woman. And the least I'd do is save a picture." Bob started to explain that he hadn't known what he was doing at the time. "Holy shit. "Holy shit. even to himself.Bob was too upset to start at the beginning. My goddam role model." "He's mine." "Christ. But this now sounded implausible. "You mean youVe been cheating on Sheila all this time?" "No.

What could he say? ''Bob." "I couldn't. Bernie was at a loss for words. Pronto. Put yourself in my place. and sunset cast long shadows on the field." "Any idiot could tell that. I mean." The track was silent now. Sheila agreed to it." he shot back. Bemie. "I don't believe you. he'd already be in a state orphanage." "What?" "Get rid of the kid." There was a pause. Why the hell did he have to say a stupid thing like that.Bob glared at his best friend. I never dreamed a guy like you would screw around." Bemie retorted. Fast. "What the hell is he doing here?'' "He's got no other family. It was ten years ago/' "In France?" "Yeah. Nancy would kick me and the kid out. A guy in France is trying to fix up something else. What the hell made you do it?" ''I don't know. you and Sheila were like those little figures on a wedding cake." "But I guess it's easier when you're not involved. "Of course not. The only sound was Davey Ackerman kicking his ball into the nets. dammit? And then something else dav^oied on Bernie. "Fm sorry. If we didn't take him." "I told you I don't remember." "Christ. Am I making sense?" "Yes. I don't believe a guy married to someone like Sheila would have an affair with a woman he didn't at least think he loved. I've talked it over a million times. "The important thing is I don't know what to do now." . huh?" "Yes. Amputate the relationship or your marriage will get gangrene." Bob said quietly. "Did you love her?'' Bob looked wounded. He slowly shook his head and Stared down through the wooden slats at the ground below. what a woman. Bob.

I wouldn't. When I told her I wasn't interested. here you are a professor of statistics." said Bob bitterly. And you know something? Fve never even confessed this part to Nancy—you know how I could hold out against those forty-inch boobs?" ^'How?" "I said to myself there's only one score in the marriage game." "So?" "So you have one lousy affair in your whole life. what are the odds of that happening to anybody?" "Oh. Like Bob and Sheila. "Hey.A. she started wiggling those unbelievable tits and calling me all kinds of uncomplimentary names. Dad!" It was Davey Ackerman. a client in Vegas once sent me up a fancy hooker." Bemie then tumed back to his friend. That's why you've gotta ship that kid off now. For a few lousy days. Bob. my kid looks up to me. Bob."With whom?" "With myself. Take two laps around first. I don't lack for opportunities. A thousand. The only thing I've ever brought up to my hotel room is a bottle of Scotch. Vegas." "What?" "I mean. I just thought of something ironic. Christ. you know." called Davey. "about a billion to one. "Okay. I think I was drooling when I said no for the last time. And you get a kid as evidence." "Hey. L. I was proud of myself. in a minute. either. I mean. You know how often I'm on the road—Miami. Hell. How's she taking it?" "I think it's getting to her. You've got too much to lose." . But Christ." "I'll bet. shouting from the infield. "I'm ready to knock it off. No errors ever. she was lust on wheels. Bob. I couldn't take the chance. And I'm not the only one of your friends who thinks so. But I know Nancy trusts me. "Yeah?" Bemie shouted back.

"Uh—actually Jean-Claude made it. her sister would. "What a nice surprise." said Sheila. cringing in retrospect. JeSSIE. . "Books are too scary/' Paula protested. At first there seemed no takers. Mom?" *'I think so too. For dessert she had prepared Black Forest Cake a la Sara Lee. Do you enjoy history.1 HE VEAL IS PERFECT." . "that's nice. every day." Sheila added. "Jean-Claude has a schoolbook about strangling." said Jessie." said Jean-Claude. "What's this?" Bob asked the boy." said Sheila." he answered shyly.*' Paula said. trying to seem pleased. Jean-Claude?" "Not when it's sad. but found it curiously indecipherable. "Uk—I would like some. That is how Julius Caesar disposed of Vercingetorix the revolutionary." She was doing her best. Jean-Claude. Hammond's Latin class." "Really?" Sheila said. annoyed. "That brings back memories of Mr. and Bob wasn't helping at all. unasked. Better to please one French palate than a dozen provincial know-nothings. dammit. I was hoping Vercingetorix would win. Provincial taste buds were suddenly reawakened. Then she realized that if she did not attribute authorship." "Oh. Jes- 96 sie was delighted." ''Do you really think so. But there was so much left. "What are you talking about?" asked Bob. he reassured himself. "I was reading the history of France." "Ah. "May we go watch television?" Paula asked her father. They'd talk later. Everybody's appetite was satisfied. ." said Bob. All during dinner he had been trying to read Sheila's face from across the table." Paula added. "Anyone care for more hlanquetteT' asked Jessica. "He used to do it for his mom." "Thank you. ''Did you make the salad dressing too?" "Well . "He can cook a lot of other stuff too. "It's very good. "Can't you ever read a book?'' said Bob.

The two girls scampered off. "Why don't you go with the girls. "You'll like what happens to him. "There is a picture. "See anyone?" Bob asked. An instant later.. Jean-Claude." **l know/' he answered with a smile. "How was Cambridge?" Bob inquired." said Paula. Jean-Claude? It'll take your mind off strangling. "Brutus and Cassius get revenge for Vercingetorix." "No new love?" "Just the gallery. "Margo. "The Square was swarming with summer-school kids. Not being miserable isn't exactly my definition of an ideal marriage. More history?" "Yes." "Of course." "If you don't mind. ." Sheila called. I want to finish Julius Caesar." "That's hardly cause for cheering." . But the French boy had not moved. "It's a good way to practice your English." "Give Margo time. Jean-Claude. "I would prefer to read.*' "God knows she's had enough practice. /' Their dialogue was strangely awkward. added. the sound of sitcoms past was wafting in from the next room. She's just learning.Bob smiled. wondering if Sheila had confided in her friend as he had in his." he said politely." "How is she?" Bob asked. Sheila said something that totally astonished Bob. "Go on. leaping from her chair." He got off his chair and started toward the stairway. Bob." "Come on. trying not to seem hostile. And I think she and Hal are not unhappy. "Yes/' she answered. "Hot and tiring/' she answered." said Bob." When he had left the room." "Don't be snide. ''He's very cute/' They lingered over coffee in the dining room. and then. "The same.

''don't you think?" "Yes. "Did you hear me." "I missed you today." And then it suddenly occurred to Bob. His door was open. She was tying her hair up. Sheila." Bob whispered. "I'll go down and get it. He just wanted to see if the boy was okay. "Nothing much. merely lobbing words over the net. all cooked out and viewed out. I jogged with Bernie."Sorry." "No. "I hope not. "WiU we?" he asked. She turned around. lights out was 10 p. "Want a drink?" Bob asked. her back to him." "In bed?" "Yes. "I—I don't want us to—grow distant. thanks." "No. Tliey spoke for at least ten minutes." And she left her husband alone with his uncertainties. He's still reading. darling?" "Yes. Even during vacation time. "Anything happen today?" Sheila asked. . Good kid/' he said tentatively. We are talking like unhappily married people. After Sheila tucked them in." she said. "I just want to check on the boy. Oh. for the Beckwith children.' And started for the door. were more than willing to go to bed." she answered. Then they began to talk again. she joined Bob in their room." They finished their coffee in silence. trying to anticipate her inclinations. a silent plea in his voice." she said without turning. Has he made any progress?" "Not yet. Not really communicating. Jessie and Paula. though." "Oh. don't you?'' ''Seems to have. "How're the kids?" he asked." "I think he's adjusted rather well." she answered. Bob was now pretty sure she had told Margo.m. yeah— Louis Venargu^s called. "considering." she said. tonelessly. "In the arms of Morpheus.

. His brown hair had fallen across his brow. She watched him sleep. But no longer could. A lovely raven-haired woman in a low-necked blouse. Almost accidentally. She wanted to believe it. Sheila turned away and left the light on. asleep. Whatever anger she might feel (and God. Taken several months ago at most. Now. he was just a nine-year-old child. And she was beautiful. Histoire Ge- nerale was still open across his chest. ''Sheila/' Bob said tenderly. It occurred to her to go and turn the light off next to him. Up to now." She didn't answer. Evidently Jean-Claude only took the picture out at night. The child was innocent. And her voice felt numb. It was Jean-Claude. Her tenderness congealed. she told him with her thoughts. I hope you haven't found me cold. Should she brush it back? No. Sheila tiptoed quietly down the hallway and stopped at his door. who was smiling back at him. it might wake him. she had become absolutely determined about one thing. There is nothing like a sleeping child to stir affection in the beholder. "Yes/' she answered." She could not respond. And then she froze. I really do. ''Was he asleep?'' asked Bob. Right by Jean-Claude's pillow was a picture in a silver frame. And he would be frightened suddenly to find himself in this strange environment so far from home. Very beautiful. sitting in an outdoor restaurant. was she entitled to it) should be restricted to her husband. Yes. Sheila. "I love you. I like you. Jean-Claude. A photograph. None of this was Jean-Claude's fault. And Sheila was by no means ill disposed toward him. Whom would he turn to? You could come to me. None. During the hours of inner dialogue on the drive back to the Cape. her eyes had been focused on the little form in bed. breathing peacefully beneath his blanket and his book. Nothing's more important in the whole damn world.A soft light was still emanating from Jean-Claude's room. It was she. her glance strayed to the night table. She looked down at him. What if he should have a nightmare? Might he not wake and cry for someone now inexorably lost to him. He had fallen asleep while reading. Fd comfort you. "we'll work it out between us. smiling at a woman.

It so happens that these are very chic in Europe. Still. and wafted ahead to study the psychedelic shopwindows. How can I make her smile? He went downstairs to the kitchen. "Wow. Right. Why don't we take a little trip to Province town?" "The two of us?" "Everybody. Later. thank you/' she said drowsily. you will. Bob had always thought) was teeming with tourists in loud summer shirts and even louder sunburns." Just then the leggy beauty—Sheila Beckwith— turned and smiled at them. Bob began to discourse like a Baedeker. "She looks like Dracula's daughter. pointing out the sights they passed. Had she heard Bob? He hoped so. Touched by this. Sheila. "but I do not think I have seen them before. they were at MacMillan Wharf. "Could I get a pair like tliat too?" 102 ''Absolutely not/' Bob insisted. At the first appropriate shop. By midaftemoon. Sunshine flooded the room." said Jessica. All the while he had been studying a contemporary attraction just ahead of them. "See that chick in the white shorts? She's got the nicest legs we've seen all day. Jessica insisted upon buying a pair of eminently garish pink sunglasses." "Well. Father. ''Ho ho. The two girls walked slightly ahead with Sheila. Jean-Claude remained at Bob's side. "you're really out of it. The instant he'd replied. Narrow Commercial Street (an apt name." ''I resent that." said Paula. brewed coffee and brought it up to her." said Jessica. his spirits again lifted. with a twinkle of humor in her voice. They all seemed happy to be there." the boy conceded. where they all ate quahogs. it's absolutely gorgeous out. stopping now and then to peer at antiques. Bob realized he had blown a unique opportunity. He looked over at his sleeping wife and wondered. looked briefly with the requisite reverence and started down again. ''Oh. ''Hey. Jean-Claude?" "They are interesting. It was a glorious day." Damn. (Almost smiling?) He sat on the edge of the bed. once they arrived in the quaint fishing village/artist colony/tourist trap.1 HE NEXT MORNING BOB WOKE UP BEFORE ShEILA. ." said Sheila. they all climbed up to the Pilgrim Monument.

''but I would like to watch you. But something puzzled him. always eager to expand her horizons. guys. "Well." was Jessie's immediate and dour reply. who was having difiBculty pronouncing the name of the clams he was eating. "Fve got a great idea. It was nearly five o'clock. "I don't need to jog away my menopause just yet. but even Sheila seemed to have enjoyed herself. He then addressed his ally. now resigned to the loneliness of the long-distance jogger. and they strolled out on the pier to watch the fishermen unload the day's catch." Bob sighed. Maybe tomorrow." Paula told the visitor. "Portuguese." "Okay. He glanced at his watch. his eyes constantly on the infield. Dad. "Sheila?" "I don't think so." he said." she said gently. where Davey was once again outclassing the high school soccer stars. please?" he asked. Bob was pleased. Somewhat timidly. They drove for several miles without further conversation. Fm kinda tired. "May I come. "Hey. For Jean-Claude this was the best part of the day." When they had walked back to the car and were climbing in. Bob. Bob was delighted. Paula?" "Gee. "but we could drop you off at the track and Bernie could give you a lift home." he said. I promised to meet Uncle Bernie at the track about now. It reminds me of my home. Jean-Claude remarked. Bernie was warming up. "Most of the fishermen here came from Portugal. they were cruising along the ocean on Route 6A." Two strikes. Then he noticed his friend appear in the distance. Bob then bought everybody soft ice cream. The excursion had been a success. "Want to come. Why don't we all go?" "Negative. Then Jean-Claude spoke. . "I like this place." "What?" asked Paula. "You mean you'd like to run?" ''No/' the boy replied. "Are they speaking Spanish?" he inquired." Minutes later. Why do I even try with her? he thought."We say it ko-hogs." said Sheila. Not only were the kids elated. he asked his wife.

"Hi. okay. kid? You gonna run with us?" "No." "Hello. climbed to the fourth tier. But—" "But what?" "Fd really like to tell Nance. I will just wait for Bob." ^'Sports are really crucial for growing boys."Ho. Sheila agreed to a month's visit. and then turned to indicate the action on the field. Just remember. . Bern. to put it simply. hoping to tire his partner into silence. See ya—uh—Jean-Claude." Bemie puffed. "So." "Maybe Jean-Claude doesn't want to swing from trees. "You know what youVe told me \s buried in the Fort Knox of my brain. Beckwith?" whispered Bernie as soon as they were on the curve. Mr." "Okay. let's get on the road. But the sight of Bob's ." said Jean-Claude. He was." "Okay. "That reminds me. Beckwith!'' he call without interrupting his jumping jacks. He's gonna grow up to be a regular Tarzan. Ackerman. problem actually walking toward him rendered him momentarily speechless. freaked out. "So what?" "So when's he leaving?" "I told you. Uh—how's it hanging. The boy walked to the stands. husbands and wives shouldn't have secrets from each other. and sat down." stated Bernie." Bob interposed. "Ho—uh—kid!" Not that Bernie had a feeble memory. "Hiya. I warned you that what a wife thinks and what she says don't always match. "C'mon." The men chugged off. where he had a good view of the entire track. . I mean. Bern. The whole Gestapo couldn't get it out of me. He could quote every major league batting average since the game began." Bob did not respond." "Lef s just run. Bern. huh?" Bob picked up the pace. . "Lookit Davey.

And so he began to trot around the perimeter of the field. I swear. nudging the ball before him with alternating feet. Nance'll be discreet." The high school soccer studs began to disband. He trapped the ball under his foot. Beckwith." Bob said wryly. Bern." "Yeah. and pivoted toward the stands." The pressure was too great. Bemie answered sheepishly."Beckwith. God knows what she'll think it is. "That's just the point. she'll notice I'm holding out on her. "but not too many details. he noticed Jessica Beckvvith's foreign guest seated by himself. "Last night. "Yes?" Jean-Claude replied. . I mean. Please. Just the essential wild fact—if you know what I mean. today he'd do a little work on dribbling." he sighed. bidding farewell to Davey Ackerman." "She'd never guess. "Okay. stopped short. Besides. "Hey!" he called. I swear on my clients' lives. When'll you tell her?" Three strides later. huh?" "Don't sweat. When he reached the stands. Since yesterday he'd practiced kicking goals. The epitome of discretion. Nancy's the soul of honor.

He vaguely sensed that he was being challenged to something. thumbing his expanded chest for emphasis. Davey inhaled and drew himself to his full height. He was growing uneasy. do you understand that? My girl." "How come you're always just sitting around. whose game plan was now . "What is wrong with that?" he asked. "Yeah? Well. "Gonna try something. Jean-Claude stood up. how many times I want—plus ten more. I'll call you whatever the hell I want. Frenchie. huh?" Davey's tone was now distinctly belligerent.^Tou the French kid staying at the Beckwiths?" "Yes. thought Davey.. his right foot on the soccer ball. "Uh—I am her guest." Davey was standing there. Ahh. whenever the hell I want." Jean-Claude was not quite sure how to respond." the boy said quietly. I've found a sore point. which was appreciably greater than the younger boy's. Jean-Claude slowly descended from the stands and approached Davey. Frenchie. Frenchie . "My name is not Frenchie. his right hand making a sophisticated gesture in conjunction with his nose. She is my friend. Frenchie. "She's my girl. "How come you're always v^th Jessica Beck-with. huh?" Jean-Claude shrugged." Davey insisted. Frenchie?" he taunted..

"Bravo. he thought. "You should have seen him. Davey could not get anywhere near the ball. "Holy shit!" he remarked. "And I say it's Frenchie. Jean-Claude deftly tapped it out of his reach. who backed up. Bernie was the first to notice." HOW WAS YOUR RUN?" ShEILA ASKED. My God. assuming it was yet another of Bernie's panegyrics to his son. Jean-Claude?" "Yes. Davey towered over him. but the ball beneath his foot. Now the French boy dribbled toward midfield. grinning. He's really very good. "Did you have a good time. "youVe gotta get rid of that kid before it's too late. And then Jean-Claude kicked. "My name is Jean-Claude Guerin. He started toward Jean-Claude. He felt a shiver. Jean-Claudel" he shouted." "He played some soccer. Davey fell back onto his behind.'' ''What the hell do you mean." the boy said quietly. his voice unable to conceal his pride." Bob added." he repeated. The hoots and jeers now became audible even to the tired joggers on the far side of the field. "Not bad/' said Bob. The team guys now began to whistle and applaud. Jean- Claude feinted and dodged.to stand as tall as possible. "The kid's an athlete!" At first Bob did not bother to look up. his departing soccer buddies caught sight of the young superstar's tumble and began to laugh." Davey repeated. 'too late'?" ^'Before you fall in love with him. And he saw Jean-Claude feinting as Davey Acker-man tackled for the ball—and this time landed face down in the dust. He sprinted and lunged." Bemie said quietly. "Frenchie Fruitcake. Not Davey. From far off. Then he did. They had never seen such ball handling by so young a kid. emanating strength. still walking slowly toward him. ''Bien joue. thus striking fear into his smaller opponent. bien joue!" ''Beckwith. still keeping the ball in control. infuriated." . my son's fantastic! He stopped running to watch. Davey lunged to kick the ball away." Jean-Claude was now less than a foot away. They hadn't learned in school that European children begin kicking as soon as they begin walking. Davey rose from the ground. Sissy Frenchie Fruitcake. Davey gave chase. He could not believe his eyes. thank you. "My name is Jean-Claude.

" "Which is why Evelyn wants me to meet with him. . Bob." "Can I help?" "Yes. Bob kissed Sheila on the cheek. "Dinner smells great. Only tomorrow. At this delicate moment she wanted some objective reafiErmation of her worth. "Evelyn called. The Harvard Press is not the New York Times.Jean-Claude beamed." He was happy to be doing something with her again—even if it was only KP. What couldn't possibly wait three weeks?" "Gavin Wilson. One potato later. Evelyn Unger is a workaholic and a slave driver. actually." "And for this you have to sacrifice a chunk of your vacation?" She looked at him and said quietly. "I'm flattered to be asked. He put on an apron and began to peel. What is it?" "Just odds and ends. Bob. And Evelyn wants to cash in on his new visibility and reissue his books." "Honey." ''She's got a lot of nerve." "Sure. Or at least thought he did. "Isn't he in Washington teaching the National Security Council how to attack Massachusetts?" "Yes." "What does that have to do with you?" "He's a big star on our backlist. I sure as hell hope you told her where to go." he said. Wilson's foreign policy stuff is old hat." "To inquire if you're having a good time?" 110 "No. Peel some potatoes. Besides. and skipped out of the kitchen." He understood. She wants to convince him to do some revisions and updating. He should be glad for her." *'She pleaded. "How about washing up for dinner. Jean-Claude?" "Okay." "I thought university presses weren't supposed to be venal. Bob saw him in the comer of his eye and felt a further joy that his words of praise had so pleased the boy. It's pretty important. To ask if I could come to Cambridge tomorrow." she replied. But he'll be in Cambridge tomorrow. Sheila mentioned.

Sheila/' called Maureen the reception-ist. Bob. isn't it? Well. I thought we might give ourselves a break and stay over at the Lexington house. you have your meeting. and whispered. then let's just go up. Sheila. Lucky you. "it is flattering. She mulled it over."Yeah. "Not this time" had an implicit corollary of perhaps another time." Then she kissed him lightly on the forehead and started to the stairs. "Well." he said after another potato." His eyes were saying." "Sleep over?" He had tipped his hand a bit. Come on. And before he could rise to join her. he was thinking. "I'd better get a good night's sleep. "Why don't we drive up to Cambridge together?" "What about the kids?" Ah. "Okay. at least it was a conditional rejection. "I've got an idea. she's not averse. I'll buy some records at the Coop." . "Thanks for asking. we can have an early dinner and come back. But it was the best thing that had happened to him in weeks. Well. Sheila. "We could get Susie Ryder to sleep over." she replied cheerfully." she said at last. listening to the music of the waves. put her arm near his head. thought Bob optimistically. ''Hey/' he said as spontaneously as possible. ''He's in Evelyn's office." she replied. haven't I always said you were the best damn editor they had? I say it's about time they acknowledged it. Just the two of us. ill. we both need this." Please." "And I say keep peeling. Bob had made a fire." she said. A small gesture. She stood up. "It's a bit impractical. she walked over to his chair. and they were sitting peacefully. "Not this time." "What's that?" she asked. Please see how badly I want to splice the broken wires of our relationship.

" smiled Sheila. Evelyn introduced them. this is Sheila Beckwith. And then I could plead Washington pressures for not being able to revamp the whole business. Via terribly sorry. ''Gavin. (At least the accent was still there." And then. asked. 'Preface to the second edition' sort of thing." "Oh. she saw him having coffee with Evelyn at her desk. they will. "and I don't think the Press would reissue your books with nothing but cosmetic changes. with graying hair and square tortoise-shell glasses. thought Sheila. if and when this administration's voted out. our number one editor. I do.Funny. I do hope I'll be asked back here." he said. but working at the White House. for she had prepared herself to meet a three-piece suit (the Washington influence) with a cultured English accent (the Oxford influence). I can see I'm being buttered up to do serious revisions." "Well. At Harvard one has one's share of glory. And may I call you Sheila?" "Of course. to break the ice.'* By the time he entered her office." "In any case. ." Sheila replied pleasantly but firmly. you don't need me.) "I understand you've had to interrupt your holiday on my account. I know you're on a tight schedule. Which I confess I quite enjoy. accustomed to the likes of Kissinger and Galbraith parading by. When she turned the corner. Would you like to come right to my office and begin?'' He smiled and turned to Evelyn." she said. please. no sugar. I'm happy to have the chance of working with you. He placed the containers of coffee on the corner of the desk and then sat down across from her." "On the contrary." 113 "Gavin. "White. as she started down the corridor toward the editorial department. "But to speak with that same candor you approve of. He was long and lanky. Wilson." "How do you do. I was really thinking along the lines of." "Well. "Do you miss Cambridge at all?" "Yes. Maureen's usually blase. If they'll welcome a prodigal son. took a sip of coffee and then looked at Sheila. turning to Sheila. in that case. He was very tall. you know." said Wilson." Wilson shifted a bit uneasily in his chair. "May I get you a coffee en route?" "Please. He was wearing jeans and a T-shirt reading GO BOSTON RED sox! She was somewhat startled. "Thank you. Sheila had already placed all three of his books on her desk and was spreading out some sheets of yellow paper. He stood up as she approached. "especially since your books will have been reissued and updated." "I admire your candor. Though Washington does have its compensations. "You didn't exaggerate—she's a harsh taskmaster. And then. there is that scintilla of power. Dr." said Sheila.

It's not your fault that it came out just before Brandt began his Ostpolitik. a real brain. Still. "Then my admiration for you knows no bounds." He smiled broadly. It was the best thing published in its time. Fm sorry. Especially since that one got me my Harvard appointment." He smiled." "Neither can Bob. but otherwise it's in fine shape." Sheila smiled. Tve only been able to skim the books since Evelyn called me. "so let's get on with it. considering the ice fairly well broken. either. I have a resilient ego. if I were you. "But your editor is willing to do her share. Besides. But there are a lot of things we'd have to go over in detail." "May I continue to be frank?" "By all means be brutal. How about my Common Market thing?" "Well. but if I understand your drift. these are only first impressions." "Oh. ''Anglo-American Ke-lotions needs an updated epilogue. Anything else?" *Tes. Fd take the time." he said. I'll try not to be too depressed. searching for tactful words. "even as we speak. But take The Re-Emergence of Postwar Germany." "Oh. "Uh—what sort of things did you have in mind?" ''Well. "That's my job at the end of every month. ''How do you know university politics so well?" "My husband's a professor at MIT. Fm always self-conscious when I meet that sort of mind." Sheila answered slowly." She nodded. 'Tm afraid you're right." "Really? What's his field?" "Statistics. Rather you than the critics. I can barely add a column of figures." "Bloody lucky.'* He affected a shght frown. you're asking for an enormous amount of work. some of your academic colleagues—which is to say everybody who didn't get appointed to the Security Council—will start trying to punch holes in your scholarship. Now that you're in the papers a little more than the average Harvard professor." And now his smile did not seem to be solely for Sheila's arithmetical abiUty." ''That's a genuine inducement/' said Wilson." Sheila continued. Sheila got back to business. "Mmm. that picture's . In any case. ''So you can see you've got even more at stake in these revisions than we do/' 'Tes." said Gavin Wilson.'Tou're not too bad in the candor department." "Well.

Quite grown up." "You must get over there for the State Department now and then. they restricted their luncheon conversation to small talk. "Uh—yes. When they got to the restaurant. It was July.changing. You?" "Two. don't you?" "Oh. Facing a long afternoon of editorial negotiations. But what the hell—this was business. wasn't it? Gavin dressed for lunch." "Dead wrong. nine and twelve. but they're always too busy with something or other. we are on extremely bad terms." she replied after a split second. Wish I could resist the furor scribendi. I call them. Which is to say he put a dungaree jacket over his Red Sox T-shirt. So they ordered iced tea instead of an aperitif. Yes. I think my wife's propaganda has done its work. Like there'd never be a European parliament and all that." "Are you on very bad terms—or shouldn't I ask?" "Not at all. shall we?" Margo would doubtless be at her daily comer table." "Yes?" "What do you hear about a restaurant called Harvest?" "Uh—it's quite good. Not too compulsive. "What is your husband working on at the moment?'' ''Nothing serious. and Cambridge was an oven. "Two girls. Do you have any children?" This most innocuous of social queries jolted her out of the temporary amnesia she was enjoying. you mean. But Fm still driven to pubhsh. My son's reading medicine at Oxford. Our month at the Cape is strictly for reading paperbacks. I don't think they miss their father much. She's never forgiven me for joining the British brain drain." "Let's go then. Not that she has anything against America— . wouldn't I?" He said it all with good humor. And you did make occasional predictions that have proved—well—somewhat off target. but Fm afraid I do them. "Now I have a rather serious question. a well-adjusted academic. But she'll be starting some sort of comparative literature thing at East Anglia this fall. Gemma's still at home with my ex- wife. I'd make a pretty bad clairvoyant. it was rather late. the odd forty-eight-hour whirlwind. and then added." "Ah. Most people were having coffee and dessert—and Margo seemed to have left.

I insist. "and it was impolite of me to ask. But she objects to it in principle. signaled the waiter and settled the bill.'' He looked at her. and send them on to you in Washington " . But Gavin was obviously trying to flatter her. She did not seem bored." ''No. You could tell before my monologue was halfway through that my pride was—shall we say—sprained. Vm still fond of her. if that counts for anything. All we did was talk about my domestic sorrows." she smiled back." he protested." she said quickly. but she was a very bright. ''This was Harvard Press business. he put his hand on hers. "Are you always this persuasive?" "Only when it comes to my job. Oh—but Vm repeating myself.she's never been here. After all. he had a reputation for suavity. of course not. Why else would I have told you when we could have been discussing things of interest to us both?" Sheila did not know what to say. make Xeroxes of the pages that need revision. found her credit card. having made me choose between her and Harvard—never expecting I would take the latter-she's been a bit ill-disposed towards me ever since. barely suppressing a yawn. And then she asked him. I like to use my expense account." "Not at all. I can go through the rest of the chapters." Now she was surprised. and he was anxious to make a good impression. So. attractive woman. "Just what do you think you're doing?" he asked. "but Fve got a long drive back to the Cape." she answered. "Are you bitter?" He seemed unprepared for her question. "I don't understand. "No. "You're perspicacious enough to have noticed without asking. "Paying the check/' she repHed. "It was just unnecessary." 'Tlease. By now Sheila was getting tired." she said. "You're not boring me at all. She was curiously flattered. Gavin. marking in the margins where revisions or at least rechecking would be necessary. Do forgive me for babbling on about boring domestic matters. Sheila. By five-thirty they had worked their way painstakingly through four chapters. genuinely happy to be discussing someone else's domestic problems. She had never considered herself perceptive about anyone except Bob and the children." she said. "You'll have to excuse me." She removed her hand. "Do I seem bitter?" he asked. And I miss the children. As she was reaching for the credit cards in her purse. "Thank you. It makes me feel important." he smiled.

we*d be able to discuss more revisions." .He looked up from his bifocals and asked. "Must you?" She nodded. You ring them from here. In fact. actually." "Then you definitely must stay. but his manner. FU chill some wine." She started to gather her papers and put them into her zipper case." Gavin said. I had to do some work at the Press. "I really should be getting back. looking down at her. Oh. and FU nip into Evelyn's ofiSce and book a table. that's wonderful. "What about the kids?" he asked plaintively. Shall we meet for dinner?" "Uh—no. I may call you later and ask if I can stay over. "They expect me. "Darling—are you in Cambridge again? Have things exploded at the Cape?" "No. Irony without cynicism. "Fve got a family waiting. "Sheila?" He was now standing. Anyway. What had increasingly impressed her all afternoon was not his good looks." She paused for a moment." "Couldn't you ring them? After all. All they probably catch is the tuna I packed for them." she replied. He did not conceal his disappointment." she protested in a way she hoped would not sound too definitive." "Oh." As soon as she was alone. rd like to reciprocate by asking you to din- ner. if you don't mind. the important thing is that we've met and agree on the changes. Patient and good-humored. She looked up at him. she dialed Margo at the gallery. I've got a few more hours of work." "Splendid. "They can manage without me for one night." "Yes. I might be able to stay over with a friend in Cambridge. "You're there. this'll be fun. What was her hurry to return to the minefield that she once called home? "Well. That means we can have a midnight party like the old days in Joss." Then she called Bob and told him. "Since the Press so graciously invited me to lunch. Hal's off fishing with his children. "I'm very glad we've met.

^Tou seem to enjoy your work/' Gavin remarked." she smiled." "Am I? I never read the things. really." she said. "You can read Jack Anderson for that. "Perhaps I need a new scriptwriter. Actually the present incumbent is more like that robot chap in Star Warsr 'Tou're being naughty. Tell me about your other authors." "You were that too. "Just an editor." "No. he told himself." He looked straight into her mischievous green eyes and said." Again she had deliberately shifted the topic back to him. ^*Well." ''No. They relaxed easily into friendly conversation." he said emphatically. it's a rare editor who doesn't hide behind coy euphemisms when they think a paragraph is total rubbish. "Oh. My life's pretty conventional compared to yours." And added. 'Tell me more about you. and added as quickly as possible. you're everything the columns say you are. Vm not that fascinating." Sheila replied. The place was dimly lit." "Tell me about Washington. In fact. Are they all as vain as I?" . the Oval Office is occupied by well-tailored actors who read scripts written for them by a team of writers—of whom I am one. she realized the embarrassing ambiguity."I can't manage without you. the checkered tables crowded with an insalata mista of young college couples and noisy Italian families. you're bloody good at it." Almost as she said it. *'Do you see the President much?" she asked." he countered. Still it was refreshing to encounter someone who could actually resist talking about themselves. "Touch6." she answered. ''I do. ^'There's no such person. With rare exceptions." he answered." said Sheila. "but my staff clip them and put them on my desk. I mean. "Fd love to hear more about our robot President. I thought I was being irreverently charming." "Neither do I. "Fve told you everything.

" His hotel. Gavin. when she was at the very nadir of her confidence as a woman." "No. I wouldn't be much fun. The ambiguity of his remark made her too shy to speak. I'm not playing the devious rou6. Most of our editing is done by mail. Sheila. convincing neither of them." she said. wondering why this lovely woman seemed— despite her playful outward manner—to emanate such sadness." "But really Fm exhausted. "You know. Gavin gazed at Sheila's face across the candles. She tried desperately to look happily married. /' 'Tine. "I'm glad." "I never thought so. "Some other time then." he said good-naturedly. What a linel Did he ever actually succeed with it? Of course he did." "Lucky me." he said warmly. "Do you think Tm just flattering you?" he asked." "The Sheraton Commander's midway between there and here. I can't.'' He could construe that in accordance with the subtext of his own intention. you're extremely attractive. Because in other circumstances he might well succeed in making her believe she was attractive and desirable. My friends are expecting me. ^Tes. How ironic that it hap- pened now. And so persistent. "Don't believe everything you read. "'Sheila?" Gavin repeated. was he predictable." he said." Sheila said.At least this was a topic that did not make her uneasy. really. God. still awaiting her response. and rose to help her from her chair." she replied. "Thank you.. They drove in silence (past the Commander) to the Harvard Press. . "Uh-I would love to . He waited while she got into her car. "I don't usually have much personal contact with them. "Good. That means you'll accept my invitation for a nightcap without any superfluous qualms." he said.

" Sheila would have preferred simply to chronicle the events. Margo/' *'I don t care if he was a trapeze artist. You had a date/' "I had dinner with an author. "May I have a glass of that wine. he does come from England. But Margo's radar was picking up the unspoken signals. Margo poured her some." Sheila answered noncommittally. Oh. that's a date. Gavin was only up in Cambridge for the day/' 124 "Gavin?*' Margo grinned. . He was a man and you were out with him." "That's rather on the ball for them/' offered Margo. "He's certainly a rising star. Sheila realized that this was the first time in her life that she actually 'wanted to share her intimate thoughts with Margo. "I can't tell you how much I look forward to working with you. . ''Now let's hear everything." "Of course. don't you think?" "They can be." Sheila began with the innocuous: ^'Evelyn asked me to come up today for a special rush project. are we?" "Come on." "English accents are seductive. . By my definition." A h! You weren't working overtime. But couldn't it have waited till the end of your holiday?" "Not really.And he replied. isn't this just like the Vassar days?" Was it? Things were much more frivolous then. "Is he as handsome as his photographs?" "I suppose so. Margo—it's just work. Now tell me everything^ As she sat down on the couch." she said. "Well . "We're already on a first-name basis. We're reissuing three of Gavin Wilson's books. "Does he have an English accent?" "Well. And much less married." she answered sarcastically.

" "Editor shmeditor." "Of course. Sheil." "Liar." "Silently? No dialogue?" Sheila paused. "And the world is round." . he's eligible. "Well. Where did he take you for dinner?" "La Groceria in Central Square." "Ah."Did he like you?" Sheila paused." "But I'm-" "And you're a very pretty lady. I don't think it was anything." Margo looked at her with eyebrow raised. Now tell me what he said and I'll tell you what he meant/' "The whole evening?'' "No." Margo's eyes widened. "Well. "none of which has anything to do with Gavin Wilson. and he's notorious. He drove me to my car. so Fm right." Sheila took another sip and said. And of course you only discussed revisions?" "Certainly. candlelight—very romantic. you idiot." said Margo. "A drink? Where?** "At his hotel." "There was none." "Ah. it's normal to chat about other things too. "And when did he make his pass?" "What?" "Come on. That's aU." "Well. He's gorgeous. *'This is good wine. Just the postprandial pitch." she stated. he thinks I'm a good editor. Now she had misgivings about saying any more to Margo. he did ask me for a drink." "I was about to say I'm married.

yes.. This was someone who was trying to tell a friend she really cared for that." ^'Then what the hell are you doing here?** ^'That sort of thing is hardly my lifestyle." "What makes you so sure your marriage would suffer?'' Sheila tried to read Margo's intention from her face." "Then I repeat my question—what on earth are you doing here?" "Margo. Because despite this wretched mess." she said quietly. "and he's really been making such an effort. nothing in life was perfect. Margo. Finally Margo asked.." Sheila conceded. The two women sat in silence for a moment. wouldn't you?" "Maybe. sadly." Margo continued. taking Sheila's hand. This was not the pseudo-sophisticate of Josselyn Hall. Margo got up and sat next to her on the couch. I don't have to be some English Casanova's little nocturnal distraction. I was sort of flattered. She did not really wish to think about the beauty of the late Nicole Guerin. She seemed genuinely concerned." Sheila murmured."I would say that was a pretty definitive pass. What more could she say without alienating her? One more thing." Sheila answered. I've been through enough humiliation." . "Look. "this has nothing to do with revenge or getting back at Bob. "I guess so." said Sheila. the advocate of Free Love who had remained a virgin till her wedding day. "Damn. "Listen lovey. A fact that Sheila evidently had been slow to learn. Doesn't it make you feel good to find out that a really super guy thinks you're terrific?" "I . I still love Bob and I don't want my marriage to suffer any more than it has. "you've always been the perfect wife and you've just had your ego flattened with a steam roller." "But he loves me." "Is that all you think he wants?" "It doesn't matter. ." Margo looked at her wounded friend. "How exactly did you leave it with Gavin?" "I just told him I was tired. Sheil. He doesn't ever have to know. "What about the gorgeous French doctor?" This really hurt. Her teeth were clenched in anger. . .

Sheila. There'll be plenty of time to—' "No." "What could I say? It's so embarrassing." Sheila wanted to end—or at least postpone—further discussion. call. did you?" "No is no. it's your life. where could it lead?" "Nowhere. . and handed it to Sheila." "Weren't you the slightest bit tempted?" What was the point of denying it now? "Margo. Be unhappy on your own terms. "call him now" "What?" "It's only 10:20. "I can't." she said." "Please." Sheila took a deep breath. Margo." She started to scrunch the paper into a ball. I don't want to play Mephistopheles." "Then I will. scratched it on a piece of paper. "The Sheraton Commander. you'll never know unless you follow it up." she said aloud to herself. probably. "This is wrong. At the worst you'll have kept the door open. Then Sheila blurted out. Let him make the next move. call him now." said Margo softly but firmly."Oh? So you didn't slam the door and bolt it. Before you lose your nerve. But it might just make you a little less unhappy." In an instant." "Just tell him you had a lovely evening. She found the number. "Where's he staying?" Margo asked. Anyway. ''Look/' she said. Margo was leafing through the phonebook. "Come on honey. "we'll be working on his books in the next couple of months." "All right.

"And I'd be grateful if you'd quit blocking my sun. "Whatcha doing. drunk a cup and left the rest for Bob. . Jess. Would you like to leave a message. thank you. The next moments seemed endless. . Wilson's room. "It couldn't be anything I could possibly want to hear. ''Reading. will you like me more?" 130 ." "Uh—" Sheila's voice was suddenly dry and slightly hoarse. Thank God. and walked to a dune far down the beach. made coffee." Sheila gave an anguished look at Margo. please?" "Ringin' Dr. Gavin Wilson." he said." "I got something to tell you." "What'll you do if I tell you a secret? If it's good. . Jess?" She looked up." she replied. Wilson's room. in Sheila's absence. Today studying Initiation a la Geographic. Then the operator returned to the line. . It was that philistine Davey Ackerman." Sheila let the receiver slide from her hand back onto the phone. carrying her paperback of Anna Karenina (with the new television-series cover). "Sheraton Commander. who nodded to assure her she was doing the right thing. J ean-Claude was seated in his usual spot on the beach. They sat like book-ends for two hundred yards of silent sand and driftwood."Wait. Buzz off. "Uh—may I speak to . I-I'U do it. Jessica appeared on the quiet seashore some time later. . having risen before the rest of the family and. Good evening. ''No answer in Dr." Her fingers trembled slightly as she pressed the buttons on the telephone. He had been there since early morning. dear?" "Uh—no. The sun was nearing its meridian when an unwelcome shadow cut off Jessie's reading light.

. "What about my parents?" she asked. "Well." They walked till they had rounded a dune in the cove and were absolutely invisible save for the low-flying gulls. ''He's your father's kid. I could get killed if anyone found out. it was about the French kid. yeah?" "Yeah." "What?" "He's your father's." she said." Jessie grew slightly anxious. but had refused to ascribe any importance to it. They're happy. see?" "Yeah?" "They were whispering kind of loud. taking a deep breath to summon up his courage. Not them." . "Okay." The thought of a man risking his life just to impart something to her piqued Jessie's interest." "Oh. actually. "Walk with me to the cove. About your parents ." She closed her Anna Karenina and looked at Davey with her customary disdain. brushing the sand off her shorts. She had lately noticed a slight coolness between Bob and Sheila. Jess." he said. "This better be worth it. She stood up. she had told herself. frightened that she might have understood. Your father is his father." "Why?" "Because it's gotta be in private.^'If d have to be a really great secret/' *'This one'll really shake you up. listen." ''What are you talking about?" demanded Jessie." Davey blurted nervously. "Well?" asked Jessica impatiently. "I heard my parents talking last night. unconsciously biting her nail. Where no one can even see us. "What?" she said.. "Okay. "You get it?" "You're a filthy har.

piling Gavin Wilson's three books on her desk. I mean. "What did you have for dinner last night?" she asked. as Sheila unpacked her briefcase. "Actually I expected him to be a little conceited. anxious to participate in the family crisis. she thought. "Come back." she replied. they're so freaked you can't imagine. So Gavin's photograph would not stare up to remind her of what almost happened yesterday. her voice quavering. Her unexpected tantrum was upsetting him. It was fun." and then. "We had fun." "Thanks. I heard my parents. "What's the matter. "In here. hoping her daughter would not notice the blatant shift of subject." he pleaded. on the verge of tears. "Cool it. "What was he like. Mom?" Paula asked. Jessie. "Davey told me that Jean-Claude is Daddy's sonr ." "What's going on?" inquired Paula. "Then it is true. it woulda been better if you were there too. she added." he shouted. but he wasn't. honey?" Sheila asked." "Davey. He had hoped for something more like gratitude. where are you?" Jessie shouted. "Is it true?'' Jessie demanded." At least I hope I don't. you're a dirty little bastard I" Jessie shouted." Sheila laughed and kissed her on the forehead." "And what else?" "Dad took us out for pizza. "What?'' "Is it true about Daddy?" "Uh—I don't know. "Of course. I swear. Mom. Jess. But she turned away. She had started running down the beach. realizing her lapse in tact. "Mom. I just got back this instant—" Jessica entered the room." She was careful to place the volumes with the front covers facing upward. Jess. I can see it on your face."No. her face flushed and sweating. He is. Just then the front door slammed. "Nice. Jessie turned to Paula.

'walked into the room. "But no—" Jean-Claude protested. "How could you let him come here. To make him go away. They froze. "First admit it's true."What? You're crazy!" Paula was wide-eyed. wanting to hurt him." Jessie sobbed. "He's our daddy. "He went to bed with her and made a baby. "He's ours. "Don't you understand. "What do you mean." Paula exploded at him." said Sheila. "it's true." Jessie shouted. wanting desperately not to understand. book in hand. Paula looked helplessly at her mother. "No. And Jean-Claude. . "into our house?" Just then the front door slammed again." "What's an 'affair'?" said Paula. To rescind his very existence. "Yes." Now Paula began to cry. Sheila took the two frightened girls in her arms." he smiled." snarled Jessica. Tell me Dad is really Jean-Claude's—" She couldn't bring herself to say the word. you little idiot? He had an affair with Jean-Claude's mother." Sheila said quietly. he's ours!" Jean-Claude was confused. He's our daddy. "let me try to explain. frantically trying to preserve all of their sanity. She could not quite fathom what she was hearing but vaguely sensed that it was terrible." she murmured. "Good afternoon. "Is Daddy gonna leave us?'' she asked. "It's some big lie. hoping to make herself believe it. "Please. "I'll bet your goddam mother isn't even dead. "Our daddy is your father. Paula?" he asked. "It'll be all right. He's oursr Jessie exploded at her sister. ." Jessie turned angrily on her mother." She shook her head.. voicing her deepest fears." she screamed. He was especially happy to see Sheila again. . and you want to take him away.

And knew she sounded like a stranger. Did you tell Bernie?" He lowered his head. "Yeah. who turned and started quickly for the stairs. She sighed as she watched her husband stride closer and closer. guilty of a crime. As soon as they were disengaged. ''I don't know. ±HEY SAT FACING ONE ANOTHER. Just then a car pulled up outside." Sheila said.." she said quietly. They were innocent victims whose lives had just been permanently disfigured by the shrapnel of his infidelity. /' "What're we gonna do?'' he asked Sheila. he glanced fearfully at everyone and retreated. "Sheila honey?" "Fm in here." she said firmly. Sheila watched her husband leap out. leaving Sheila all alone. I made the wrong decision. "Fll never speak to him again!" cried Jessica. Now I see that I was only thinking of myself. She heard the door swing open. He did not raise a hand to defend himself from her blows. in some inexplicable way. "This is your problem. Robert.Paula rushed toward the boy and began to pummel him. then more swiftly. And I was wrong too. For he was beginning to feel that he was. up the stairs. In a moment they heard the sound of his bedroom door closing. This was all Bob's fault. stop hitting him this instant!" Sheila rushed to pull the two children apart. Jean-Claude was crying softly. As if they hadn't sensed it from her face. first tentatively. she thought with anguish. wave to his friend and start toward the house. Sheila looked at her traumatized daughters. following her sister." Paula added. dropping Bob off from their tennis match. It was Bemie." . "How did she find out?'' Bob as"ked. "It's Daddy." "Well.. "Paula. "Not we. "Me either. Davey must have overheard the two of them talking.

Robert." "You can make it if you hurry/' she said quietly. he waited for her to say something vaguely reassuring. ''Hello." He hung up and walked over to Sheila. Yes. Sheila?" "Yes. . I can tell you're busy. I'll be brief. Have I—um—caught you at an awkward time?" "Well. of course. huh?" She looked up. "Otherwise I'll take the girls and go. Not as a threat but as a simple statement of the alternative. Still." . I mean." Sheila added. Something that could help him face this harsh decision. we'll get there an hour before. "The name is Beckwith—uh—I mean Gu6rin. if you were free—that is. "Now. But she said nothing more. "Fll go up and help him pack. He turned. willing to keep forging ahead with the revisions. actually. but said nothing." "Gavin Wilson here." She still did not respond. not turning toward him." he murmured." she said curtly. "but it leaves at seven."What do you expect me to do?" he said. He rose. and up the stairs. . I just got in and—uh—could I call you back? Are you in Washington?" "No. "Okay." he re- 136 ported. went numbly to the phone and dialed." She was right. "I guess I'll have to tell him." she heard him tell the airline. "Send him home." he said. He was too preoccupied with what he had to say to notice that the phone was ringing. I'd come down to you. "They have one seat on tonight's flight. I was thinking that I might just postpone Washington. answering himself. not putting up a struggle. putting his hand over the receiver. Today. started out of the room. "Yeah. . unwilling to understand what she was making crystal clear. "Okay. that's just the point.

" she said. "Jessie really wouldn't want to hurt you." he persisted." Bob continued." He was nervous. "I can't tell you how sorry I am about the . It was just something Davey Ackerman said to make trouble. And for a split second almost laughed. ''Jean-Claude." She hung up. The boy looked up at him. Then the boy said: "When will I be leaving?" . fight with Jessie and Paula. ."Gavin. Jean-Claude?" Without looking up. don't you. may I come in?" **Yes/' he answered softly. "Uh-okay if I sit down?" Jean-Claude nodded. "Fm sorry about all this. wondering what the boy was thinking. And again glanced fleet-ingly at Bob. she thought. "you sound upset. "Yes. I'm sorry. Things are too confused. This can't be happening. He cast a shy and furtive glance at Bob. Bob slowly opened the door. ''Can we talk?" asked Bob. "Sheila. Is everything all right?" "Gavin. Bob knocked. "Would you like me to go home?" he asked. Bob was embarrassed by the child's perceptive-ness. Jean-Claude. The little boy was curled up on his bed. I can't. You know that. . "Uh—well. I think—we think it might be best for you." He paused. I can't talk now. Slightly. the boy nodded. He chose the chair farthest from the bed." He paused again.

There is no need. Go away. . back to the living room. gathering his courage. he's being so damn good about this. Down the stairs. "Leave Mom and us doner Heartsick." "I have no father. thought Bob. "Who is it?" Jessie snapped belligerently." Paula's voice retorted through the door. Fll be back in a while. open up. "but why don't I help you pack. He didn't want my help. He stood for a moment outside Jessica's door. Bob surrendered and began to walk away. "He's packing by himself.'' "Jess?" Bob again tried appealing to his eldest. Do you want me to be ready now?" Bob hesitated. Then he knocked." she said." Sheila still did not reply." "Please. "I have only a few things. "I hate you more than anything. "That would make it easier. . "Go away!" Paula shouted. "I love you—" "Go away and die. Is Paula there?" "No. "He'll be ready in a little while. being de-hberately vague to keep a rein on his own emotions. crossed the room." he said at last." "ril help you/' Bob insisted. that depends. "Me." Jean-Claude answered. "Well. I mean . But she had a selfish thought: I won't ever have to see that picture in the silver frame again.Oh. just so we'll be ready?" "That's all right. . touched the boy's shoulder and went out. Jess. Christ. I want to talk to you. ''No. "Yes." Bob said softly. She did not reply. Sheila was curled up in the easy chair. okay?" He got up. hugging her knees." Bob answered. Your father.

and spoke the commonplaces the occasion called for. For the preceding hours had been punctuated with their plangent imprecations. The house was wood. ''Can you try and speak to them while Fm gone?" She looked at him and asked simply. "Please say goodbye for me/' said Jean-Claude." His mouth was full. Sheila took it. but prettier. She watched the man and the boy eat their sandwiches. silent and unmoving. So he asked his wife a favor. in just three more hours? They had been riding for barely thirty minutes. It could not now get worse. He had packed and then dutifully waited in his room for Bob to come and get him. "Shit. . He now realized this was going to remain a monologue. comfortable cliches are always nice to fall back on. Jean- Claude his flight bag. *'It was nice having you. after all." 141 Bob was silent. The boy had been stoically silent during the last hours before departure. haven't I? I mean. While the girls remained hermetically sealed in Jessie's room." he added. Jean-Claude extended his hand. 'Tm sure Jessie and Paula are sorry for that . They walked down the stairs to the kitchen. "Of course. Bob had carried the green valise. madame. . Bob turned off onto 6A at Orleans. misunderstanding/' Everyone knew they were still upstairs. There was even a part of the summer left to try to make things better." Sheila sat there. Bob tried to make conversation."The girls won't talk to me. When words fail. where Sheila had prepared cheese sandwiches and coffee to fortify them for the journey to the airport. I've devastated them. . As Bob watched her. *'Thank you. he had his first coherent thought of the afternoon: Am I going to be doing that at the airport. and then leaned down to kiss him on the cheek. Tomorrow would be the first day of the rest of their lives. He swallowed and politely answered." When they were about to leave. exiled with his conflicts. Sheila had pulled herself together. The ^'Cranberry Highway/' with a view of the sea. Directly. "What could I say?'' Instead of taking Route 6 all the way across the Cape. Jean-Claude. what the hell can they believe in now? They'll never get over this. Slower.

abandoning you once again." All right. don't you even have the guts to use the singular? Speak for yourself." He glanced at the boy sitting next to him. back there. I am your father. until you made me. . curse me out. What am I babbling about? Bob wondered."You know. For not even telling you today." said the boy quietly. kid. "That makes me happy. clutching his flight bag in his lap. Coward. And funny. At last. And . Yet there was a tinge of sadness in his voice. to assuage your grief. it wasn't all that irrelevant. > For a long while. ''We'll miss you. dammit. Bob?'' "What?" "Are you really my father?'' Bob looked at him. 'Tve grown really fond of you/' he added. ." said the little boy. "Is it true. Did he understand? What was he thinking? They passed Sandwich and he did not comment on the funny name. That there was a history of direct communication between Cape Cod and France. That he was kind and good. when they were scarcely an hour from Logan Airport. when we passed Orleans. he spoke. I've expressed my own feelings. You were trying to tell him somehow that you'd still keep in touch. Bob. They crossed the Cape Cod Canal and did not speak." "Oh. . Bob glanced at him with an expression that asked: Why? "My mother used to talk about my father. There. "Yes. Some of them anyway. the boy did not reply. For not telling you the minute I first met you. "It's a curious fact"—Bob rambled like an awkward tour guide—"but that's where they built the very first cable station for telegrams to France. Jean-Claude. I deserve it. Cables? Yes. And now." . There weren't any phones in those days. knowingly this time. . I forgot to tell you something. He has a right to the truth. Jean-Claude/' said Bob. Fve done it. . he then realized. And they v^ere just passing Plymouth.

I'm so scared. The boy still tightly held his hand. "That's really up to Mom. "He's never gonna come back to this house. lying to himself that it was because he had to be a careful driver. ''Never." Jessie answered. She found Jessie with her arms around Paula. He reached over and touched the little boy. I can t let him go back. She sat down on the bed. He stared straight ahead. They both looked relieved to see her. kids from broken homes are always screwed up." Another silence while Paula tried to ponder the grown-up realities. Sheila could hear them talking to one another. V^HILDHOOD HAD ABRUPTLY ENDED FOR JeSSICA AND Paula. . leant let go."Yes?" "And when I met you. As she stood at the top of the stairway. even when I saw you for the first time at the airport. Everything's different/' "Don't worry. And Bob said to himself. "But who'll take care of Mom?" Sheila knocked. "I just hope they don't really—you know—split. love me^ imperfect as I am. Bob could not look at him. I mean. I hoped that maybe my father might be someone like you. I'll take care of you. never." This was my worst fear. There was a pause while Paula considered this. thought Bob. "I don't know." Yet another pause. Very tightly." she said." Paula insisted." Jessie's tone of voice sounded strangely less agitated. Jean-Claude took Bob's hand with both of his and held it tightly. Or was it my best hope? That I would meet my son and he would like me—no. "Oh. "How could she even talk to him after what he's done?" she asked. never. and opened the door. Jessie.

Happier than almost anyone. Sheila. agreeing with her incompleted thoughts. not knowing quite what to say next. It's just that when you called. darling." She hesitated and then let slip. Instead of just barging in. the children were . Sheila opened the door. "Life's crappy. He's trying to be considerate. She was speechless. "Of course we will. "What's gonna happen. "Nobody is. ." Sheila weighed this judgment for a moment." Just then the doorbell rang. 'Tes. "Well." "God." she replied. weVe been happy for nearly twenty years. "Jess. They were both a trifle awkward. "Aren't you supposed to be in Washington?" she asked. I must look a mess." "Are we ever gonna be happy again?" Paula asked. "Forgive me for intruding. don't you?" Sheila nodded. hasn't it?'' And she made an effort to smile." she said. "Yes. Quite/' he said. he rang to warn us. "and we'll start to pick up the pieces. Are you quite certain everything is all right?" *'Oh. . God. "I'll get it." he said. "but you sounded a bit strange on the phone. It was Gavin Wilson." She groped for a plausible excuse. "You still love Daddy. "Almost perfect. she thought as she started downstairs. standing there on the porch. the most painful part of growing up is discovering that nobody's perfect Not even your parents. Mom. Jessie looked at her mother's eyes. "Sometimes it is. Mom?" asked Paula anxiously." Sheila insisted. yes. Could it be Bob already? The girls were certainly not prepared to face him. if s been quite a day.145 "Well. thinking. . looking ill at ease." "You are. Nothing in her world seemed sure now. I was rather concerned." said Paula." Jessie said painfully. Look. She wasn't even sure she was. Daddy will be back soon." she acknowledged.

" Oh." . Going to all this trouble. Bob will be glad to meet you. How nice he is. On the other hand. nine-thirty or so?" "That would be splendid. thought Sheila. Uh—you know where to reach me. Fm afraid Fve been presumptuous in rushing down." "Fine. "Yes?" "Would you like to join us for a drink this evening—say." Shut up.''It can do without me for another day. And then added vaguely. If I can—you know —be of help in any way. I'm staying at the Inn. till then." Sheila called. Gavin." "Oh. He had to go to the airport. then." he answered shyly. Well. "I'm very touched by your thoughtfulness. just ring." "Yes. no. "Well." said Gavin again. Well. He stopped about ten yards from the porch. "Some sort of emergency?" "You might say so. don't feel obliged to." "Oh. Look. "My husband ought to be back soon. Just for me. turned and walked to his car. I think." said Sheila." "Oh?" said Gavin. But I'm glad everything's all right. We ran into an incredible traffic jam." He waved in a kind of half salute. He then turned and started back toward his rented car. But Gavin sensed that she really did not want him to. "Sheila?" "Bob—is everything okay?" "Uh—yes and no. Sheila and the girls were having dinner when the phone rang. Just come by. "Gavin. To which Sheila replied. We're still not at Logan and the flight's already taken off. you're burbling again. Should I call and check first?" *'No. "That's very kind of you. "Would you—uh—like to come in?" she asked.

as usual. Don't we matter anymore? Where the hell are his priorities? . They had earlier accepted the news of Bob's absence with apparent equanimity." "Okay." "I'd like to say something to them." "How are the girls?" "A bit calmer. Even when he had called the airline. picking at his fried clams (it was eat-all-you-want fish night). Will they talk to me?" "I doubt it. Or at least emotional exhaustion. He put the receiver on the hook and started back into the dining area of the Wellesley Howard Johnson's on Route 128." he said." he said quickly. He didn't even sound apologetic about staying away for the night." Bob said hastily." said the boy. He hoped she had heard him. "Ill call you again when I get to the house. "there's only one sensible solution." "All right. Because he had done a lot of rehearsing before making the call. that she would handle it. J70R ONCE THE GIRLS NEEDED NO CAJOLING TO GET them to bed. Bob sat down across from him. We should stay over in Lexington so he can take the flight tomorrow. Don't you agree?" She hesitated and then said: "I suppose it makes sense. "We could sleep over at our house in Lexington. Sheil. just as the phone went dead. But Sheila could not keep herself from feeling resentful." Just then a nasal voice intruded on the line.'^Listen." "I love you. "Deposit another forty cents for the next three minutes. Maybe he had deliberately missed the flight. yes. Bob seemed to be looking for excuses to stall. Listen. To steal another day with his son. What do you think?" "Oh. Jean-Claude was sitting in a comer booth. taking for granted. "How would you like to stay another day?'' he asked. She was also angry because he had left her alone to deal with the girls.

." He followed her inside." When they entered the living room. are you or are you not going to tell me what the matter is?" She could not move. Til get the drinks. and tried to sound as casual as possible. "Uh—Bob had to stay in Boston/' Sheila said. And then she realized: he was wearing a tie and jacket. for what it's worth.'' she said. Sheila." She gave a little laugh. please. leaned on it and began to cry. Suddenly she felt someone's arms around her. Suddenly the strain of all the pretense was too much for her." he answered gently. trapped by the crosswinds of emotion. "I've been checked for security by the FBI. Gavin. It was a relief. Softly. he glanced around uneasily. "If it will make it any easier. That means I can be trusted with the most vital secrets. She closed the door. he whispered. Fve been thoroughly Americanized. "Now. As he continued to hold her. "Oh? Any problem?" *'No. Gavin had come into the kitchen without her even hearing him. "Hello." It came upon her unawares as she was opening the fridge." "Oh. "Come in. "Can I get you something to drink?" "Please. She neither turned nor tried to move away. Sheila." "Please sit down. steadily. And for how long.Gavin Wilson arrived at the stroke of nine-thirty. "I don't know you." she said without turning. Now she realized just how much she'd wanted to break down. if that's convenient. His voice now trembled slightly as he said: "Anyway. He was still holding her." She did not reply. I think I'm falling in love with you. For some reason he looked slightly different." The tone of his voice matched the formality of his dress. Scotch and water. Of course not Just a last-minute delay. 150 "Ice?" Tes.

go back to the sitting room and ril fix us both that drink."Please answer me. you're extremely sensitive. I was so furious afterwards that I walked for nearly two hours along the Charles. "I came here not just to apologize but to try and comfort you." "If s all right. and." he continued. "'I know you've got every reason not to believe me. It was merely an affirmative statement of her feelings." she said. it was awful of me not to realize that something was troubling you. You're—how can I put it?—a kind of intellectual pinup." she replied. Sheila. Now then. not a precise reply to his remarks. Do you feel a littie better now?" "Yes. WeVe just met. You don't know how sorry I am. He was still holding her. You are not only intelligent and beautiful. "Well what?" "You did understand what I was saying to you just now?" She nodded. "Listen. I. "Well?" he said." "Good. Then maybe we can talk about what's bothering you. "Gavin." Is this man trying to say he really cares for me? "I mean. And then of course I made that ridiculously clumsy pass in the restaurant. I had to work up a lot of courage to say that. I must really have looked miserable—even the muggers avoided me." "What's FOBS?" . I don't fool myself. like myself a member of FOBS. on the other hand-" "Don't finish that sentence." "Don't be silly. You having Scotch as well?" She nodded yes. "And?" She looked down into her glass and then again at him. ^'Then oflF you go. dammit. Gavin. Sheila. if my instinct is correct." He handed her a glass and sat down in the chair opposite her.

." he added." He paused. Wilson is right/' Sheila added." Now his eyes betrayed the memory of unhappi-ness. "I'm sorry. 'Tou can't talk about it." Sheila responded." He took out his address book. "Is there someone else in your husband's life. Should I ask him to stay? "I'm going tq plan on spending a week in Cambridge right after Labor Day. I'll be up in a second. "Now I'm giving you my home number in Washington and my White House extension. After a while you begin to believe you might actually meet someone you trust. it's the right thing for both of us. and at last said. Gavin. this is Dr. I'm sorry I brought it up. "Look. "Oh." "Yes. Even to talk about the weather. Promise. And I'm warning you—if I don't hear from you by the end of the week. It's really none of my bloody business. when he added: "Really. 'Tes. When I left England and my wife didn't. "Oh." She could not even say thank you. I have to know you're all right. tore a page from it and began scribbling. I know I should really go now. I withdraw my question—with apologies. by way of elucidation. unable to find words. Or want to. I don't know what to say except that I think I know the feeling. . this is my daughter Paula." "Mommy." But she had to say something. Wilson/' Paula said. But in the meantime." "You don't seem at all wounded to me. "Gavin. "Hello. Wilson from Washington." ''The one who wrote the books who's not as conceited as you thought?'* Paula asked. . Paula. I mean—" She shook her head. "Some other time. Dr." She hesitated.''The Fellowship of Bruised Souls." Sheila smiled. Please. honey." she said. I'll call you. Sheila?" She was dumbfounded. How did you get over it?" "I really haven't. But time does help—regenerates one's capacity for hope. Uh—I'm the founder." He stood up." It was Paula. things aren't quite the way they look." ''Sheila. "when you feel you can." "I've just learned to hide it better. "I understand/' he said. so many things have happened to me all at once. "It's past my bedtime/' she added. it wasn't exactly Oxford she preferred as much as a certain Oxford don. "I didn't really tell you the whole story the other night at dinner." He took a breath and then asked gently. "I really don't know where I am." She was about to protest. So you see my being a 'pinup. "I mean." She thought." said Sheila. '1 mean I just couldn't explain it if I tried. actually. can't really compensate for the fact that my own wife didn't think so. *'How do you do/' said Gavin. . A little cynicism goes a long way. And Gavin laughed. "Thank you. "Then you must hurry back to bed/' "Dr. standing there in her pajamas. promise me you'll call. I can't sleep. ''Gavin. A very nice professor of philosophy. I'm not quite sure I ever will completely.' as you so flatteringly call it. And then introduced the stranger." He looked at her. I just want to hear your voice.

where he had put Jean-Claude to bed for the night."Will you tuck me in. "I am Professor Beckwith/' he pronounced in a kind of soprano-baritone." "Great. Winter on the Fourth of July. Bob had swept away the clutter before leaving in June. today preternaturally neat. Wilson. I hope you won't forget anything I've said. He padded down the hallway and peered into Jessie's room. In fact. Sheila. "She's a lovely little girl. He stopped and looked down at her. "Now are you sure you'll be all right on your own?" "Yes. Instead he drove to Cambridge and parked in the MIT faculty lot. What am I going to do? When Jean-Claude woke." The boy plopped onto Bob's chair and began to swivel from side to side. She went with him to the door. they shared some rolls and coffee. He seemed minuscule behind that desk. "You'll have to see me tomorrow about that. but this is not the time. God. Professor?" "Mmm." she answered. It smelled musty as they entered. Bob abandoned plans to tour the sights in Lexington and Concord. Their footsteps echoed as they marched down the corridor to Bob's door. I'll be waiting. Night. And since the energetic rain showed no signs of fatigue. And walked out into the night. Good night. him out. Oh." He gently touched her cheek." said Gavin. "What are the chances of this damn rain stopping today. At first glance it seemed like a winter day. all that was left besides the telephone was a picture of Sheila and the girls. A statistical impossibility—except in Boston." replied Bob." Bob smiled. "Is this where you do your mathematics?" the boy asked. The boy was still sleeping peacefully. ''Some of it." said Bob. Bob sat down opposite Jean-Claude. thought Bob as he stared at the tranquil face. I wonder what would have happened if he'd kissed me. "Would you like to ask me some statistics. and smiled at the boy. Bob unlocked the office. And sitting in his father's leather chair. ''May I sit at your desk?'' "Sure. Dr. Sheila watched his car drive off and thought. And felt like it. "I would like very much to kiss you. ''This is where I teach. The outside thermometer actually read 58 degrees. in the seat usually reserved for his student visitors. . as they splashed toward the entrance of his building. pondering earnestly." And then he giggled. sir?'' "Yes. enjoying his own joke. The events of the previous day had clearly worn. as he closed the window." And she was off to prepare for Sheila's visit. Mom?" asked Paula. gazing at the wall-to-ceiling shelves of books." said Jean-Claude. "Of course.JjOB AWAKENED SLOWTLY TO THE SOUND OF RAIN.

" Bob found an old semi-operative umbrella and together they went out to brave the elements. In the museum souvenir shop. "You can see all the sailboats on the river. "Isn't it a bitch. and started to walk off with Jean-Claude." "Why?" "Why not?" They then waited their turn so that Jean-Claude could explore the lunar surface and climb up into the Apollo landing module. we've got other plans. Bob was impressed with how much anatomy the boy already knew. ''Sorry. And Harlan's kids. We could never come to this. Look—there are even some out in the rain. To send to his friend Maurice in Montpellier. but his mother found out. "What do you mean. Interested in joining forces?'' Bob looked at Harlan. Bob bought him a Spooky T-shirt. They went up to the second floor." said Jean-Claude. catch you some Saturday in the fall.As Bob expected. "Maybe." Bob muttered without turning. I bet they're as sick of this museum as I am. "At least if it wasn't raining I could take 'em to a parade or the ball game. Now she's after my last option to entertain the kids." Bob smiled. can you believe it? I thought she'd already ripped off everything I had. you can fly too?" "Maurice says he built a spaceship in his cellar. the avian host of the place. It was almost 3 p." Bob did nothing to encourage dialogue. He was being addressed by a middle-aged man with a boy and a girl in tow. "Perhaps. Bob turned. these custody days?" he continued. who now stood several hundred thousand miles away. "My ex took 'em here last week. he told himself. He waved at Bob. and after that the little boy did not let go. ''Well. They seemed as miserable as their father. so he . Jean-Claude asked Bob to buy him a postcard of the lunar surface." A man's voice rudely dispelled their reverie. ''Salut from the moon. And then he thought of his daughters. the museum was paclced because of the bad weather. He dictated the message. Jean-Claude stood hypnotized by the gaze of Spooky the Owl." "Okay. ''On top of your other clothes?" "Yes. we could visit the Museum of Science." said Bob. Or maybe a professor."I like it here. which Bob dutifully transcribed: Tu vols. "Do you want to be a doctor when you grow up?" he asked." Bob was usually so wrapped up in work that he rarely glanced out of the window." he answered coolly. moi aussi je peux volerl Ton amiy Jean-Claude The message puzzled Bob. "How're you making out?" he asked. He offered Jean-Claude his hand to help him out of the spaceship. But the boy was right.m. Harlan and his lifestyle made him shudder. I think you might like it. His view was wonderful. "If you don't mind a little walk. Maurice. bought ice cream cones and engaged the plexiglass Transparent Woman in conversation. Which he immediately put on. By the way. "I have an idea. but his very silence seemed to inspire the bore. Tliey crossed Memorial Drive and walked along the river to Science Park. huh?" Harlan was undaunted. my name's Phil Harlan. He was going to fly to Sete to visit me.

" "Okay. He looks like everybodys father." Bob assured him.couldn't come." "Don't worry. biting his lip to keep from smiling. About an hour later. but there's ." he said." ''He looks like F^re Noel/' said the boy." ''Tlianks. *'The man with all the white hair is a big celebrity. ''We might get a little wet. "My stomach hurts a little." said the boy. the hemispheric shelter for musicians in the rain. Does it matter?" "No. for he knew they left each evening at seven. and then turned to Jean-Claude. Bob and Jean-Claude spread their blankets as close as possible to the shell. having improvised tents. "there's supposed to be a great outdoor concert tonight. thinking it was probably nerves. ''Eat what you can. "Tou're right/' Bob answered. tepees. 1 HEY WALICED BACK ALONG THE RH^R TO Bob's car and he took out the ancient blanket he always kept in the trunk. ''Not this concert. ''but he doesn't just look like Father Christmas." Bob said." "Oh." Bob explained. I wonder if they've canceled it. Then after a detour to buy submarine sandwiches. but it could be fun. I've never really looked at Fiedler this close. The venerable conductor was striding to the podium." he sighed. just across the river. The crowd rose to its feet and shouted." "I won't. lean-tos and the like. ''If we're gonna have wet bottoms. Not to check on flights. ma'am. "But he made me promise not to tell anyone." said Bob. Several thousand diehard fans were camped in defiance of the elements. and began pecking away desultorily. and offered Jean- Claude an enormous sandwich. He bought a newspaper. He's even more important than the music. It's Mr." "Is it jazz?" "No. sir. I guess." Then Bob had a curious thought. feeling happy to be trusted." The friendly lady_at the souvenir desk overheard and answered. but to find something to do. That's his appeal. they crossed the Harvard Bridge and strolled to the Esplanade. Arthur." said Bob. ''We love you. "Hey." said Bob. a storm of applause drowned out the drizzle. "Must I?" asked the boy. the crescent of green grass which embraced Hatch Shell. Fiedler's golden anniversary with the Pops. let's at least get a good view.

green. By the time they reached the MIT parking lot. singing. He was clapping even before it ended. Just the two of them. Jean-Claude." said the boy. white. But every limb was blazing. '"Kegarde. "Would you like me to get you some tea from the machine?" Bob asked. "Yes. blue. yellow. he dried Jean-Claude with paper towels from the men's room." replied Jean-Claude. said Bob with some reluctance. . And he remembered the many happy excursions he had taken with his own father. Upstairs. "It's a surprise for you. As he did.*' Still carrying the boy. Jean-Claude's gaze remained transfixed by the multicolored bombs bursting in air. A glorious pandemonium. "Let's go up to my office and change you into some dry clothes. Saturday matinees with Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Bob began to walk toward the bridge. The Phillies games. shouting and marching in place. Eight-forty. The boy seemed suddenly so small and frail. all bony shoulders and skinny legs. so he could have a better view of the dazzling fireworks.something about him that reminds me of Dad. He glanced at his watch." As the music continued. ''Come on. "It's La Marseillaise/' he shouted. the boy was transported. The finale was the "1812 Overture. he could not help noticing that although the air was cold. I don't want anything." he said. ''Okay. leaping to his feet. Camping in the Poconos. Suddenly the sky exploded with lights—red. Jean-Claude was shivering. Bob put his hand to the boy's forehead. grabbed the green valise. sounding very subdued. please. the boy seemed strangely warm. especially when he recognized what melody the brasses were blaring against the swirl of strings. The opening number was "When Johnny Comes Marching Home.". It was very hot. no." said Bob. Suddenly he missed his father terribly. Fiedler raised his baton and the concert began. let's go back to the car. Too warm. Jean-Claude was ecstatic." said Bob. "I think we should go. Papa/' cried the boy. "Oh. Bob opened the trunk. "No. and the two of them hurried toward the entrance to his office. The plane for Paris was already over the Atlantic." During the next half hour the rains intensified. and continued to applaud as the orchestra segued into "Stars and Stripes Forever. "Les feux (Tarti-ficer Bob picked him up and put him on his shoulder." said the boy." Now tlie whole water-logged crowd rose to its feet." complete with pealing church bells and cannon shots from a little howitzer. "Okay.

I'm not sure. "Okay. r He put on WCRB. "Listen. He put his windbreaker around the boy and. The storm seemed to have discouraged even the state police. Being cooped up all day hasn't helped matters. . the angrier the heavens became. and speaking directly to the more important one: their marriage. we can't let a sick child travel. i HE ROAD WAS SLICK AND DARK. dialed Sheila at the Cape. He sat quietly. he's been soaked and I think he's got a fever. No one was on the highway. holding his stomach." There was a silence. ''and the fog is terrible. Anyway." Bob was enormously relieved. thought Bob. I don't know how to handle a sick child. "Yes. where are you? It's raining like hell here. ''Bob. now and then emitting a barely audible moan. The boy was dearly getting sicker by the minute. Great father. Avoiding one issue. I mean." She sighed. before he lost the nerve. desperately hoping that the music would somehow soothe the child. but—" "Is he that sick?" "No. Look—can I bring him back just for tonight?" There was another pause. ''Shall I play the radio?" Bob asked. He waited nervously. the girls are still very upset. And then added. it'll only be for a day or so. Sheil. . "Bob. I can't take him back to Lexington. I mean. And he continued to push the car along Route 6." she said blandly. The nearer he got. BOB DROVE TOO fast. "I suppose that's wise. I've given him cramps from junk food and now I've frozen him into a fever. . "I don't think you should stay away any longer. He reached the Cape Cod Canal in record time. Maybe I could take him to Mass General. And then he realized. "But I don't think it's good for you to stay away anymore." she repeated. It's beginning to look like you've left." ''Here too/' he replied. Don't you agree?" She hesitated.Damn." "Oh. I couldn't let him fly in this weather.

He glanced at the boy. Jean-Claude hadn't even noticed the near accident. stroking his hair. Okay?" "Okay. The boy was not behind him. the rain slapping his motionless body. "Do you feel well enough to walk—or should I carry you?" "I can walk. "Maybe he was too scared to come in. a few steps from the car. Then when I count to three. He was lying face down. You?" "Surviving. Jean-Claude/' he whispered. ''Are you okay?" Bob asked." "Let's get him. The boy nodded. He looked quickly across to the other side of the car. "Where's Jean-Claude?" "He's—" Bob turned. and then stepped out into the downpour. Though it had been just over twenty-four hours since they had seen one another. we each get out our own side and hurry into the house. he spun off into heavy mud and regained control almost immediately. She looked at her husband. "Good. He was oblivious to everything except his stomach pains. ''Jesus!" Bob gasped." he said slowly." Bob counted. briefly illuminating the driveway. Then a bolt of lightning sliced the sky. Sheila was waiting alone in the living room. "Where are the girls?" "I sent them to their room. Fortunately. ''It's gonna be all right now. He ran to the boy and turned him over. Rain pelted the windshield. Tliey had made it in one piece. He rushed to the porch and saw nothing but the ink-black storm. his head leaning against the door." She seemed to be glancing over his shoulder. He breathed a deep sigh of relief.He skidded as he turned onto Pilgrim Spring Road. He was not anywhere. His eyes were closed." she answered. "Are you okay?" she asked." she said. saw Jean-Claude's door open. "Yeah. "Is something wrong?" he asked. and then rushed for the shelter of the porch." The boy did not react. He looked over at the boy. T didn't think this was the time for confrontations. Bob braked sharply as he pulled up in front of the house. their awkwardness made it feel like years. He turned back to Sheila. "We're here. . soaked with rain and remorse.

"Don't be afraid of anything. The young man snapped an order to a hovering nurse: "Get an IV into him immediately. his breathing short and rapid." he said. Fll call a doctor!" she shouted back. Bob drove to Hyannis like a man possessed." "No." said the intern. He heard the physician mutter. Fm gonna take him right to the hospital. The intern took the thermometer from Jean-Claude's mouth. Sheila. She nodded and ran back toward the house." He was almost hysterical. looking at the child as the downpour drenched them both. holding Jean-Claude in his anns. touching his icy cheeks. 'Bring him right into the examining room. "He's absolutely boiling!" She opened the car door as Bob gently placed him inside." The boy nodded slightly. That's a great diagnosis. please. This kid must be a student or something. "Can you step outside. "Fll come with you." he told Jean-Claude. Prepare a nasogastric tube and have somebody get John Shelton fast. "Peritonitis. But as Bob. sir?" "Fll be right back. And his forehead began to grow disturbingly cold. Jessica and Paula wondered what new catastrophe had just entered their lives.'s of ampicillin and sixty m. a young harried-looking intern rushed out. I've got to get a real doctor." he shouted to Sheila. "Bring him in. Go in and warn the hospital.'s of gentamicin. squinted at it and again muttered to himself. From a lighted window on the second floor.m. The stormy holiday roads had yielded more than the statistical expectation of traffic accidents.g. Now and then his delirium abated and he would utter a single word: "Mdmcin.''He's unconscious. ''Oh." llie emergency room was a madhouse. Bob watched him check Jean-Claude's pulse and then immediately begin palpating the boy's abdomen. "There's purulent fluid all over his peritoneal cavity. who was standing on the porch. "Okay. "No—it looks bad. shit/' and thought to himself. two pairs of eyes watched Bob's car splash down the driveway onto the road." In an instant she was by his side. He looked terrified. announced himself." She rushed off." *'Are you sure?" *'Go on." . What?" Bob demanded the instant they had left the room. She felt his forehead as Bob lifted him. and put in two g. "What's wrong?" Bob asked impatiently.The boy was silent.

His fever's 105 degrees. He's just come in now. so Fm giving him intravenous fluid." "What do we do in tlie meanwhile?" "He's very dehydrated. . Thanks. Blue Shield or other medical plan. And a large dose of antibiotics. "Can't we do anything else while we're waiting for this big shot?" "We could be calm. Sorry." Bob said. was satisfactory. sir. "Dr." said the intern pointedly. Besides. Keith is already in the OR with a patient. Shelton. "I haven't gotten around to it. who ran up." "Yeah. "Perhaps you might want to register him while you're waiting. And they both charged down the hall. We've got to operate as soon as possible."What the hell does that mean. "Mr. calm and experienced. dammit?" "A burst appendix." That answer. The clerk looked displeased. "Uh—I suppose Catholic." Bob replied. ." said Bob sarcastically. praying that there was someone already on the grounds more competent than this nervous kid. . thank heavens." "And that's it?" Bob asked. spelling it for her slowly. and then gave the boy's age. "Okay. Less so was the fact that there was no Blue Cross. "What?" Bob asked. it seemed. breathless and sweating. Beckwith." Shelton turned to Bob. Bob's offer to pay was looked at askance. "Religion?" He didn't know. Our best bet is to wait for Dr.e?" He told the registering clerk." He turned away. he's an orthopedic surgeon. "Good news!" It was the intern. We think he's out on his boat—" "Isn't there anybody here?" Bob asked. Really bad car accident. "Address?" He gave the Wellfleet house. "Dr." he said." a voice called from down the corridor. "None. "Occupation?" "Child. Shelton was home on account of the weather. . He had streaks of gray in his hair and looked. His manner was in fact a bit too unemotional. "Have we the permission to operate?" Shelton asked the intern." "Great. She looked even more displeased. "Patient's nam. We're sending for our best general surgeon.

Bob and Shelton were alone. That's legal if there's a second person hstening. She'll verify it. "I can sign in loco parentis'' Bob feared this uptight martinet might think it was a dodge. "Tliey're . I haven't even got Louis's number with me. She died a month ago." No." Bob said angrily. "His mother is Dr. "We'll be using OR two. At about a quarter to three he caught sight of the intern. there isn't time. then he'll have to give us permission by telephone. "Well. "Doctor." "Then operate. He blamed himself for ever}/'thing. steeling himself. "May I speak to you alone?" said Bob. Bob sat on a plastic chair in the now empty waiting room and tried to control his feeling of frantic helplessness. may I tell you something in confidence?" "We've both taken the Hippocratic oath. must live by the rules. "Call my wife. "Uh—I'll check on Dr." said Bob. "You have no legal authority." "But you just told me—-" "Out of wedlock/' Bob said quickly. But surgeons. nodding in the direction of the intern. The child is very sick. "Why don't we get this Frenchman on the phone." The surgeon remained phlegmatic and persistent." "Well. It was impossible." said the fidgety young man. "Yes?'' said the surgeon. my French is fluent. dammit." Bob was desperate. . was. France. like everyone else. someone has to sign in loco parentis." And he dashed off. The irrelevant fact that the boy's mother had been a medical colleague made a curiously positive impression on Dr.. Shel-ton." "Don't worry about a malpractice suit." Bob's intuition was right. Are you his guardian?" ''No. The doctor was convinced. Nicole Guerin. I mean. ''What precisely is your relationship?" "I-Fm his father. The operation dragged on and on. "Uh-can't I sign?" Bob asked. Beckwith. It's a man named Venargues in France.''Where are the boy's parents?" he asked. thought Bob." said Shelton." Bob ordered. I can explain the entire situation to this Monsieur Venargues. It's somewhere in my desk. "I'll indemnify you." said Shelton. . Keith's progress. "Operate now*' "I can understand your concern. "Mr. Beckwith. "Is this really the truth?" he asked. She's on the medical faculty at Montpellier. Mr. dead/' Bob answered.

He sat down and put his head in his hands. Youve always been decent to me. been able to suppress for the past six hours." said Reae Moncourget of the Sorbonne. "Hello. for Robert Beckwith of MIT to reach southern France during the turbulent days of May 1968 had been a Herculean task. Beckwith?" "How serious is peritonitis?" "Well. Stay with the girls. we do have a commitment and it's likely with this ungodly French mess they havent even gotten our cable. by some miracle. sometimes in children . ^'Especially considering the hardships of your journey. They're operating right now. Beckwith. call me the instant you know. then rent an asthmatic car to drive across the Pyrennees all the way to Montpellier. Herb. Or more specifically." *'Bob—I've been so worried. why he disliked everyone in the profession. "May I see you for a moment?" His attitude toward the young physician had changed markedly. Shelton is really a fine surgeon. Don't you think we could take a half hour or so to look around? The cathedral is—" "I think we'd better press on. Bob." "Should I come over?" "No. Bob. I mean." "Yeah."Excuse me. . weWe going to pass right by Nar-bonne." "Will he be all right?" she asked. . Mr. trying to believe it." ''Still. Beckwith/' he said quietly. hearing the panic in his voice. I'll call as soon as there's news. For instead of marveling at the beauty of the Mediterranean or the splendors of the Cote Ver- meille. Harrison held forth incessantly on academic politics. of course. Tliere's no point. "Just to make your way here during all the strikes was nothing short of heroic. "Well." ' "Jesus!" "Dr. Is he all right?" ''He's got a burst appendix." added Daniel Moulton. Doctor/' he called out meekly. The girls are very upset too. after all. did the French invite to this congress? And do you know what that snide fool Jamison said to me just before we left?" '*Say. "Yes. Mr. And at last gave in to the terrible sorrow he had." "Meaning what? Can it be fatal?" "Well. of course. Bob. Please. Try not to worry. Herbert Harrison. ''Except you. in young children it can be a pretty dicey thing. Have I once complained that by seniority I should he chairman? No^ ifs just our wretched colleagues—boring mediocrities. Sheila. isn't there?'' *Tes. ''Comme d'habitude. chief of IBM in Montpellier. Ijrilliant lecture. there's a chance he could die. And naturally Vve been true blue to you." ." he replied. It was that the entire expedition was in the company of his colleague P." Bob hung up and walked back to his chair." said Robin Taylor of Oxford. Give them my love. so he could at least convince her." Indeed. Whom. Mr. honey. "Yes. But the hardest labor was not so much having to fly to Barcelona.

Still. Bob thought. but I'm really too keyed up." And he started down the cobblestone street. it's dangerous. Herb." (Harrison always cringed when he said "students. "Besides." Bob replied. Like tigers waiting to pounce. you know what Mrs." Harrison now sidled up to him. that Taylor is an absolute—" "Sorry. you can't leave me with Moncourget and those other characters. Their pants are too tight. he still dreaded their criticism. Everyone in the world of statistics. what did I ever do to deserve this? Why the hell couldn't Sheila have come? She seems to have a way of charming this asshole into silence. He could not help noticing police vans crouched in the tinier off- streets.After his own paper. He drew closer. ''Beckwith. Didn't you hear about the bomb they threw?" "That was last week. ''He toi—quest-ce que tu fous U?'^ ." the colleague pleaded. would you mind taking the wheel for a bit. you're deserting a colleague. If I can take a little walk I'll be fresher for your performance. stopping every so often to admire the elegant eighteenth-century town houses. ^'Aren't you coming to lunch with us. ^'Thanks. Harrison says about my driving." "No. so why stand on ceremony? Besides. ''Saldud! Putain de flic! Espkce de fachaudr Ahead of him in the narrow street. especially their hindquarters. And so he began to ease away from the group of well-wishers. Herb. Bob was therefore subjected to relentless carping after each day's meetings. Bob?" called Harrison. They can't be carr}dng weapons. thought Bob. Herb?" ''Equity bids no less. Bob thought. God. "Beckwith. "I've had rabies shots. Though he loathed his colleagues." Oh. it seemed. Bob. But Vd like to unwind a bit. His fat head was matched only by his thin skin. Herb. The Hotel M^tropole had placed the American professors Beckwith and Harrison in adjoining rooms. you seem to be enjoying yourself. several policemen had stopped two female students in jeans. Tough shit. Well. was second rate. As if the drive had not been sufficiently grueling.''Yeah. And prayed for the day he might actually shout it He headed toward the Place de la Comedie. The dialogue between the police and the women was growing steadily more acrimonious." "But there are bound to be reprisals. Thousands of rabid students in the streets. They had made them turn and place their hands against the wall. He stopped about ten feet away to watch the scene. No wonder Harrison had insisted on giving the final lecture on the final afternoon. What could they possibly be expecting? . the louder became the noise of the marching students.") "That's okay. I won't be sharp for my paper. The concierge told me there'd be some big march today. though Bob could not understand all they were saying. What kind of bust was this? he wondered. Bob was too relieved and euphoric even to care what Harrison might say about him. They're lightweights." called Harrison. Bob. I mean. The cops were frisking the girls. The closer he came to the center of town.

" '^Bullshit." "You're a doctor?" "Yes. took out an ophthalmoscope and began to peer into Bob's eyes. warning." Bob said." said Bob." Bob put his hand to his temple. again in French. “'How's your equilibrium?" *'I don't know. room 204. a bit unsteadily. And his tie and jacket were back in the lecture hall. They were standing head to head. And starting to throb. and slammed him against the house.S. her forehead close to his. Come on." he muttered." she replied. ignoring the women." "My what?" She pointed to his shirt pocket. It was swollen and bleeding. ''What exactly did you tell him?" "I just showed the pig you were wearing your hello card.A. They began to back off. *Tm an American. conard'' snarled the larger officer." called one of the two girls. Bob was now frightened and put up his hand to fend off a blow he sensed imminent. I've got my stuff in the trunk. "or he'll have Nixon bomb your prefecture/" This threat did not deter the officers. for he suddenly felt a sharp crack at his forehead. hoping that would solve matters. courtesy IBM: hello! my name is:Robert Beck with MIT U." "I'd better take a closer look. . "The bastard punched me. "That wasn't a fist he hit you with—it was his matraque. "Nothing. which stunned him." he said angrily. who were now crowding Bob against a wall. "You'd better let me take a look at it. "Where the hell are your papers?" they demanded. She was slender and raven-haired." said the girl." Once inside." said the cop. And he was right. "Smelling your aftershave lotion. "In my hotel. Simone opened the trunk and handed the doctor her kit." "His billy club? Jesus! What did I do?" "Watch him feel us up without a ticket. grabbing him by the shirt. He had never been struck in his life. One of the girls ran up and began a torrent of abuse which somehow made an impression on Bob's aggressors. I'll make a house call." "No need. she led him to a fairly dark comer.One of the policemen had noticed Bob and politely asked him what the fuck he thought he was doing." Bob walked." he said to the girl who had saved him. The two policemen were now upon him. "Ef dors?'' said the junior officer. "It's sexy. Can you walk okay?" "Yes." she replied." Bob gave a nervous laugh." Bob was shaking as they marched to their car and. ''Next time carry your papers." She smiled. He didn't look too professorial. ''It's fairly superficial/' she said as she placed several gauze sponges on the injured area and wrapped a pressure dressing around his forehead. "Metro-pole. Or you might say a street call. "Come into the cafe down there. to the red Dauphine convertible the girls were driving. She opened a bottle and began to dab Bob's wound. Pinned to it was his conference name tag. "Sorry about your head." "Leave him alone. "What are you doing?" he asked. ''Sure. dammit." he replied in his best Yale French. "Thanks. "Parle Frangais. His papers? Both his passport and his driver's license were back at the hotel. And Simone over there is a third-year student. ''Tes papiers/' ordered the one who had just addressed him. "Maybe I should go to the hospital. ''and my ass is ice cream." said the cop. But now both officers were moving toward him. 'Tm a professor. sped off.

"I've got to lie down now." "Thanks for dropping by. "I'm checking your pupillary reflexes. Guerin. '*No. if you don't feel better." he asked again. And take two aspirins. "I feel bad leaving you like this. Herb. you're not making any sense. He stood up and started slowly towards the noisy door. I ran into a little trouble." "I'm not a pupil. "Do you want a ride?" she asked." .iy^^ ^^^^^" ^^^^ ^^e colleague heroically. She called after him. Ask for Dr." he joked. ''What happened to your head?'' ''Two cops ." "Beckwith. I suggest you go back to your hotel and lie down with a cold compress. Herbert not lookmg at all remorseful." 'But how will you contact Sheila? They don't seem to be taking any calls. and I could fly on to Salzburg. . thanks. "You're not a comedian. if we drive to Milan you could get a plane to Boston. either." P. We've got to start driving immediately. seriously. you might be kind enough to phone her from Austria. "Am I okay?" he asked seriously. Not even overseas. Absolutely out of the question. be sure to come to the hospital before six. "Sorry." "Ah. We'll get a good night's sleep and leave first thing in the morn- "Impossible." It was Harrison. I think a walk would do me good. Come on. He reached into his pocket and handed over the keys. Where are the keys?" Though a bit surprised. "How will vou eet out?" ^ ^ ^]When the strike ends. This country's in chaos and the streets are full of wretched students." ''Then you'll have to drive yomselL Herb" (That'll call your bluflf. I've just been mugged. I have a professional duty to discharge and I won't jeopardize my good name. I'll fly through Paris." "Why six?" "Because that's when I get off." "That's all right. and opened it. ARE YOU IN THERE? Someone was pounding on Bob's head—or was it the door of his hotel room? Gradually he realized it was the latter. but the light in here isn't terribly good. And you can reimburse me when I see you in Cambridge. Beckwith. . I'm in no shape to drive anywhere." 'Well. ''Listen. still smiling. "I'm pretty sure."No. I'm a teacher." He finally noticed Bob's bandage." . Herbert remained single-minded.]Thanks. Bob was still willing to part with the car if it meant getring rid of Harrison. 'Tou missed my lecture." she replied. Don't be paranoid." BECKWITH.) u. "Bob." *'0h. Nicole Guerin." He started out of the caf6. We'd better get out of here." said Bob woozily." The blue-jeaned physician threw back her dark hair and laughed. okay? Don't mendon my head. Have you seen a doctor?" "Yeah. In the street." "Bob." said P. The hotel could be bombed at any moment/' ''Relax. Just say the IBM guys asked me to stay a few more days and 111 call her as soon as the phones work " "I'll be glad to. you forget I'm delivering my paper again in Salzburg day after tomorrow." "Herbert. Herb. aspirin—now I know you're a serious doctor.

Le Peyrou. the aqueduct . '1 capitulate to your smile. broken arms. "Are my brains intact?" he quipped. Basically. It's the perfect time of day." said Bob. He awoke to the tolling of bells. right?'' He was embarrassed. If you please. He decided he ought to go to the hospital. . Within minutes Nicole Guerin breezed into the emergency room. Five o'clock. After forty minutes he began to run out of patience. You might have a mild concussion. Inside it was extremely crowded." "What should I do?" he asked. "Paul. that's a medical order/' .Bob eyed this obnoxious pinhead and thought 1 a reimburse you with my foot. I need cranial x-rays on the patient—to check for possible fracture. measles." she said sarcastically. you selfish bastard." he sighed." she replied. crying babies." "Fascinating. Paul. but there's no way of determining that from these photographs. the sea air will do you good. But he couldn't actually say it. . then/' *Teah. Professor. he screamed inwardly. I think you're just 'shook up. "But I don't see any signs of fracture. Which he did. "Follow me. Maybe he should ask for that young doctor. to cover his anxiety. clad in a white coat. Do you know Sete?" "Doctor. In Sete." said the nurse in charge." Some fifteen minutes later. And then he slumped back onto the bed and fell asleep again." "Could you page her anyway? Say it's for Professor Beckwith." "Now? But Nicole I am just going off for dinner-" ''Now. if you like.) Her dark brown eyes fixed on him." (Tm not only engaged. ''Come on. Just make sure she knows I'm "See you around the campus. Bob's name was taken and he was told to sit and wait. ''Be frank—if I were a middle-aged man you would have accepted. "But she is in Pathology." "I'm only a specialist two days a week. . You know —Roman ruins." she said. Bob made polite conversation. I mean." she smiled. Look. "A previous engagement?" "Well. "And you'll return to MIT without seeing the lovely fishing village where the poet Valery was bom and died? I can't allow that. His head was throbbing. all I've seen is the inside of a lecture room and the chamber of commerce tour. A white-haired technician appeared to be in the process of closing shop. Nicole addressed him. "The rest of the time I'm a real doctor. sort of . . she was studying the inside of Bob's skull. I'm off duty—let me take you right now." I^Uh-I don't think I could." As she wrapped a new bandage around his head. since he needed this guy to call oheila. "For the moment sit down and I'll re-dress your wound. She spoke good-humoredly." She reluctantly complied.' as you say in America. 'Tm not a psychiatrist. Bon voyage/' As Bob closed the door. ^ saf'^^^^^' ^^rt). and led him briskly down a corridor. Guerin." she said to Bob. where I live. Monsieur will kindly be seated and await the appropriate physi- cian. She stopped by a door marked RADIOLOGIE. "Please step in here. I hope you drive off a goddam cliff. And. On a hard wooden bench. "I guess you don't do this sort of thing too often. being a pathologist. her dark hair tied back in a pony tail. after all. I'm married." *'Very well. You know. What was her name—Gu^rin? "We do have a Dr. The room was crammed with x-ray paraphernalia. The taxi rattled down Boulevard Henri Quatre and let him off just outside the emergency entrance of the H6pital General.

the day's catch. Anyway. Je m'apelle Louis." she replied softly. Also my clinic is right above the best bakery in France. after all." "America?" said Louis. ." he replied. And a very special feeling of being home." said Bob." she replied. And his mood. I can say I'm a very happy woman. I spent a year in your city.Before he knew it. sitting down uninvited. but only by mutual consent. It was absolutely wonderful. the revolution—or maybe just life. "But I don't steal husbands." "What about Montpellier?" "I just keep the affiliation in case I need to hospitalize my Setois. Boston. He then turned to Bob. "This calls for a drink. She ordered a bourride." "They struck him?" Louis asked Nicole." he said. the sea. "No." And he signaled the owner to bring out some of his usual muscat. She reached across the table and touched his hand. actually. an eyebrow raised. She looked at him with a smile. I had a clerkship in pathology at the Mass General. Besides.The restaurant reverberated with loud conversations in southern dialect." "Cambridge?" "Well. eh?" "Well." she corrected him. and seizing the opportunity. "Nicolel Salut. the old port was completely encircled by canals. But I was born here and I want to die here. Doctor?" "Nicole. some people think Vm crazy. Are you happy. "Oh. Maybe he should have left with Harrison." "Why didn't you stay on?" "Oh. They're all gone. "What are they celebrating?" Bob asked as they sat at an outdoor table. what do you think of our revolution." "Which is?" "Well. Bob?" *Tes. *'Ah/' Nicole whispered to Bob. Her bronzed face glowed in the setting sun. "So. "Fm very happily married. I have been involved with married men. they were in her red Dau-phine. Bob grew increasingly uneasy. The villagers are my family. This was getting more and more like a date. raucous laughter and song." said Bob. "Where'd you learn such fluent English. speeding south on the N 108." Somehow her hand did not have the reassuring effect it was ostensibly supposed to. Et toi?" "This is Bob. And I never will be. "Oh. the local fish stew. ma vielle. and the obbligato of clinking glasses. **Salut. the Mediterranean on their left." "You mean family?" "No. Bob." They flew along the highway. "Good. ^ETE WAS LIKE A LITTLE VeNICE. "Oh. added. ''a professor from America." **Et comment va ma petite genie. The breeze coming off the ocean did clear his head considerably. But since I live by my own definitions. I was tempted. He then lit a cigarette and turned back to Nicole's guest. and a white wine from Narbonne. "We are in the midst of the new French Revolution. I really haven't seen much more than the end of a cop's club." said the mayor. I actually turned down a post in Paris. Bobbie. ma jolie professeur de medeciner A voice more like the growl of a bear heralded the arrival of a red-faced old man wearing an open shirt. And she was right." said Nicole. Fm not a Circe. they could use a young doctor. And my department head was willing to pull the necessary strings. ExCEPT FOR THREE small bridges. "Are you married?" he asked. But in the end I decided that even the greatest medical facilities couldn't compensate for what I have in Sete. so everyone is on a first-name basis. ma jolie doctor esse?'' The old man threw his arms around Nicole and they kissed each other on both cheeks. ''We're about to be honored by a visit from the mayor himself." *Tou seem very happy. "Are you for or against the war?" "Against.

" ''FachaudsJ' Louis growled on. precipitously switching the subject. And we intend to make the fat boys in Paris sweat as long as possible. I think I v/ill. So you see there's nothing to do but drink and talk politics." She laughed. By the way. I just think I'm a little high. "someone as attractive as you—" He stopped himself. we're not some sleepy fishing village. And we also manufacture engraisJ' "What's engrais?'' Bob asked Nicole." she replied. I think I'm strong enough to be a parent on my own. "Nicole. That doesn't necessarily mean being lonely. At least not for me." "I just know I won't. "I have to go off and meet some of my enrages." Not that he was drunk. what do you think of Pompidou?" "I think he's got every right to be nervous. "That's—uh—original. "Not unless you grow wings. You know. "Fertilizer. For once the workers have made those big shots in Paris wake up." He took another sip of Louis's muscat and then looked inquisitively at Nicole." she said. I say the Crenelle accord will be just one step in the inevitable process. CiaOy Bobbie. avant-garde/' VYou mean 'unbourgeois. He vaguely recalled Harrison's mentioning a bombing.. And we'll do both tomorrow over lunch. "But whyr "Maybe I am crazy. And Sete is certainly not bourgeois." said Louis. "No. The congress at Montpellier. You two come by tomorrow for lunch with Marie-Therese and me. But in a way he felt himself losing control. no shit!' Fantastic. "They should have been out looking for the bastards who bombed the GCT. the workers are going to win this one." Bob interrupted. . "I've thought of it. They've got the government pissing in their pants." said Louis.S. Herbert Harrison. . "Quite a character. He struggled to keep the conversation abstract and innocuous.' don't you? Anyway. eh?" And he roared with self-appreciation.She nodded. "You've got a doctor in attendance." She shrugged. "Don't you ever want children?" he asked.'' He kissed Nicole and ambled off. "Can you imagine what France would be if he replaced de Caulle?" "Yes. but I don't think marriage is for everybody. Bobbie. *No money." she replied. "Nervous? He hasn't got a dry pair of pants." said the mayor. "It was early in the morning and they needed to warm up." "I-I'll be going back to the U." said Bob. eh?" said Nicole to Bob. Louis laughed heartily." "And you'd raise it yourself?" "Why not?" "That's pretty ." said Bob. Bon soir^ ma petite." Bob smiled. "It would be Italy." she replied." "I'm sure. I enjoy being independent too much. The book Sheila was editing. "You must love her very much/* said Nicole. "Listen." "WHiat's that?" Bob asked Nicole. We have industry all around. "You're funny. "A few days ago somebody tossed a Molotov cocktail at their office. He had not wanted to express it in a way that revealed how strongly he was affected by her beauty. He had intended a theoretical conversation between two acquaintances. Shall we have another drink?" "Thanks. If I find someone I like enough to make a child with." Bob replied. "did I tell you the fantastic slogan I conceived for the engrais workers? Listen. "You were just starting to explain why you would never marry. . P. I've had more than my share. "But I tell you. "The proletariat has got the country by the balls. They're building refineries in Frontignan." ''SalaudsJ' muttered Louis." "Go on—Fm driving. "Our big labor union . Should I be drinking this wine at all?'' "Don't worry.

Anyway." "Go ahead then. He looked up. Bob/' she said. Do I have to face temptation again in the light of day? He did not reply. to show him the tranquil shore before returning to Mont-pellier. just because tonight we both want to be with one another. The place was quieting down. It's either fatigue. *Tes/' she agreed. "Come back to Sete with me. Again softly. It was getting late. He's in room 400. He looks a lot worse than he feels." she said. she slipped off her clothing till it was all in a tiny pile at her feet." JjOB HEARD FOOTSTEPS COMING TOWARD HTVI. thousands of miles from all his values. All the time he was in the water." "I don't care. standing there . She had taken the Route de la Corniche out of Sete. **I should really be getting back/' said Bob. Bob/' she whispered. hoping his silence would discourage her from making plans for them. They're nice and white. They drank coffee." she said. ." "And deserted. "Yes.They stopped. her manner for the first time slightly wistful." "Can I see him?" "I'm not sure if he's awake. But her triply accurate diagnosis was irrefutable. Then they stood there. as he began to remove his shirt. "You're starting to look uncomfortable. ''The water's warm." Will I? thought Bob. Everything. his shoes. but Fm pretty optimistic.. He knew very v/ell what would happen. They got out and walked to the edge of the sea without speaking." And unself-conscioudy." Bob stood up. and stood up.. He could not answer yes. "Let's go. his heart pounding. "no strings. Doesn't the water look inviting?" "Yes. He followed her. you'll see. . "Yes?" "I think we were in time/' said Shelton. the ocean still swirling around their ankles." He thought he should protest. I suggest you go home and get a little rest." He was being polite. letting the gentle waves splash over him. and especially when she splashed him playfully. his socks. "Tliat would be too American. "You'll be in bed in twenty minutes/' The highway was lit only by the moon.She took his hand as they walked out of the water. He gazed at her beauty. He did not want to answer no.She put her face very close to his. still dressed in surgical greens. "Come on/' she said. "Yes. He simply let her pull the car onto a small dirt road above the long and silent beach. your bruise—or my personality. They're not quite the Grand Canyon. "Tomorrow I'll show you some wild forests and extraordinary limestone formations we call causses. "We'll know in about twelve hours. but they do have a certain savage beauty. She stood motionless in the moonlight. And now he felt strangely awkward." . "Tlien why don't we take a swim?" "Now?" "Not to exercise. And he wanted it. But don't be upset. "I envy you that faith/' said Nicole Guerin." She turned to smile at him. I just want to see him breathing. It was Dr. overdressed. his trousers. silhouetted against the sea and sand. starting into the sea. "Come on. And yet he knew. he wondered what would happen next. "Mr. It was inevitable now.''She's why I believe in marriage/' Bob replied. I mean just run ni the water and get wet." And he answered. They kissed. Shelton. "Can you see those beaches we're passing?" she asked. He was swimming in a starlit sea. ''Don't worry/' she whispered at last. Beckwith .

They had to operate. He wrapped his daughters in his arms and held them tight. "Bob." he said hoarsely. Don't be silly. *'Don't worry." He stroked his hair to reassure him. Jean-Claude looked at him and tried to smile. Daddy. thinking. "Do you still believe that?" "Yes. Never. It's nobody's fault but mine. Now go to sleep and Til see you in a few hours." he said. honey. He was almost numb. "It looks pretty good. I was the scaredest Fve ever been in my life." He nodded his head." Sheila said. "How is he?" she asked." he said." said Bob. The girls were sitting on the steps in their pajamas. despite the discomfort. Then. "Go on. "Always. he spoke. 192 '*You're gonna be okay." "Shh. and. He was out of breath when he reached the room. But he had heard. "When you were gone. girls. He could feel their fright and confusion. The boy turned his head. He could barely manage a thank you as he crawled under the covers and closed his eyes. turning the air conditioner full blast on his face to keep him awake. . "We're gonna be together." Yes." he said. ''Good. she was sitting on the edge of the bed with a cup of hot coffee. fishing for hers. She helped him off with his clothes and into warm pajamas. Nothing will ever change that. I am not afraid of hospitals. "Mom's right.Bob started to run. By the time he reached the house. but there were puddles everywhere." she answered. with Sheila just behind him." "Tlien I'll talk and you just nod your head. There were a million things he longed to tell her. ''You had a burst appendix. He sat down wearily. All he could feel was the emanations of their love. one tube in his nostril." He nodded. The doctor told me. He brought their enlaced fingers to his lips. almost shyly. Just nod your head. Sheila bent over and kissed his cheek. thinking he was already asleep." "Me too/' said Paula. "How is he?" Paula burst out." He felt a tender touch on the back of his neck." He squeezed the boy's hand." she said." He walked slowly toward him. "This is all my fault/' said Jessica. "How're the girls?" he asked. *Tou ought to get some sleep. They spoke almost simultaneously. but it'll be okay. And put her arm around him as they walked into the house. We were all so worried." she whispered. 'Tm sorry. "I love you." He looked at his wife. eyes still shut. She grasped it." "Thank God." For a minute the boy just looked at him. Sheila. another in his arm. "I missed you. Bob. I cause you so much trouble." said Jessica. His eyes were half closed. hugging them. "You're really exhausted." said Bob. "No. kissed them both and started up the stairs. Please don't let go. Sheila. When he woke some six hours later. The storm had ended. Tlie little boy was propped up in bed. Sheila came onto the porch when she heard the car. never. he could feel a hot humid day beginning." He drove back slowly. never. "Jean-Claude?" he whispered. "He'll be okay. "And stop talking. "You talk first. He opened the door as quietly as possible. reached up his hand. "it hurts when I speak.

" "Were you angry with him?" "Yes." she said. all three of them squeezed in the front seat of the car. Bob took Paula and Sheila that night. And he made frequent efforts at conciliation." "Then you must also have been angry with me. "Yes." Jessica no longer fought with Bob. Sheila drove to see Jean-Claude on her own. while Jean-Claude was gradually regaining strength. "Have you told Jessie?" 'Tes. "Fve brought the books you asked for. the nightmare had begun for him. "I suppose I was. I've got a previous engagement. He looked uneasy when he noticed she was by herself. Dad." Bob said. He says the signs are good." "Yes." "But you did?" Sheila hesitated for a moment. . *'Histoire Generate. I did not know . at first. She sensed that he was trying to convey something more. "Will you come too?" She thought a moment and then answered. "Of course not. still facing away. Oh. For there. Bob and Sheila came to visit every day. why don't we all go to the flicks tonight? I hear Silent Movie is hilarious. a gray bam with ancient wooden seats and walls so thin that you could hear the ocean even during the Westerns. "It's all right. walking side by side. **Say. Shelton thinks about another five days. "Yes. "What happens then?" she asked uneasily. I guess I should be pleased she's growing up. After the film. She could not tell if he believed her. A date." He had listened very carefully. he thought. His eyes were sad. "Oh. Spider-Man and The Incredible HulkJ* "You are very kind. Jean-Claude was pale and thin." said Sheila. two weeks ago." she said gently. "How much longer will Jean-Claude be in the hospital?" "Dr. 'What did she say?" ^'Nothing/' Sheila answered. "He's asking for you." Sheila answered softly. then decided honesty was better than awkward diplomacy. Bob preferred to think it was a stage of adolescence and assumed—at least he hoped—she would get over jt. Anyone I know?" "David Ackerman. "He told me. "Dr. Sheila. Did she notice him? He couldn't tell. . One morning when Bob had business to attend to." He turned and looked at her. actually." said Jessie." she smiled. You'll come and stay with us. At last he said: "You are very kind. She spent a lot of time out of the house. Bob wondered as he drove him if the boy was apprehensive about confronting ." he said." he said. She who had once been voluble and eloquent was now quiet and withdrawn." said Paula. who Bob was. Now we're friends." And then he said." And then she added. sitting near his bed. I know. "\Vhen I came here. Nice boy. "But now we laiow each other. to show she understood. sitting between them. "I'm very fond of you. It was difficult to tell how he felt about the prospect of returning to the Beckwith house. but othenvise looked healthy. His pulse is down and his fever is much lower. "As soon as I am well I will go back to France."I've got to call the hospital. In the next two weeks." How could she respond to this? She took his hand. he caught sight of Jessica and Davey. as they were buying ice cream cones. Shel-ton phoned while you were sleeping." "Oh. Jess." There was only one movie house in the vicinity." "Oh. "Your mother and I think he should come home and stay with us till he's stronger." he said. "Oh-Ddvey. As they were driving home." she said. He looked away." said Bob. Paula asked. with an arm around each. Anyway." ''Sorry.

Jessie added. from her hiding place. Sheila met them at the door and kissed Jean-Claude." he said. "She said I should have asked her years ago. Jessie answered. "Why don't I ask Evelyn for another month's holiday? Even if she says no." And Jessie added." "And what about our kids? We've got to get home by a reasonable hour. Best Wishes. I don't know what's going on. waiting for'her to emerge. He said nothing to Sheila. but I didn't believe you. "Well." "No I'm not. Pele was staring straight at him. *'But Evelyn's such a stickler." "Well.'' Sheila answered. Susie Ryder maybe. Sheila was due to return to work on the first Monday in August. "My friend's father happens to be his personal lawyer. but as usual. And meanwhile we'll buy sandwiches and picnic with the college kids along the Charles." "We can wait. you're a tiger. Now let's celebrate. ril be there to warm them at the last minute. He looked a little tired. even if you do. "Why don't you take a nap before lunch. "Well?" He had stood guard on the stone steps outside the Harvard Press. "It's personally autographed to you. For he knew this might raise hackles at the ofBce." he said. When she did she was beaming. Bob. Anyway. "To me?" He stepped closer and saw inscribed on the soccer ball Pele was kicking: 'To my pal Jean-Claude. "What would you say to a candlelight dinner?" "It's barely lunchtime. Do you think she'd put up with that kind of arrangement?" ''She'll just have to. Before he could respond. I'll give her an ultimatum. she might at least let me drive to Cambridge once or twice a week and bring work back here. That is. "I can't wait to show it to my friend Maurice/' The three children stood there for a moment. Then Paula said: "We—uh—really missed you."." She looked at him with a mischievous smile. do you know that?" she stated cheerfully." the boy exclaimed. taking her hand. "Where are the girls?'' Bob asked. I'll take care of it. The house seemed oddly empty. I'll be quaking when I actually get in the room." "What about the kids?" "We can get someone. She turned to the boy again. a huge life-size poster of the great Brazilian soccer star." He was touched by her offer. When he opened the door he was stunned. He had been living for that look. "It's fantastic.Jessica and Paula. glancing at Bob as if to say." He began slowly up the stairs and started to his room." She smiled at him. "Welcome home/' It was nearly the end of July when Jean-Claude arrived home from the hospital. Pele. jumping." ''Sheila." "How did you obtain such a thing?" he asked. They went inside. affecting panic." He was incredulous. "Do you like it?" asked Paula gaily." "Tomorrow morning's soon enough. she did not need words to know what he was thinking. his eyes full of wonder. "in what elevated language did she tell you to go to hell?" "Fm an idiot." "Then I'll drive vou up and be your second. Tean-Claude?" ^ "Okay. ''They've been upstairs all morning. "Susie can stay overnight. And Bob grew increasingly uncomfortable at the prospect of having the whole brood on his hands alone. "Haven't I always told you you were the best editor they had?" "Yes. What do you say we go tomorrow?" 199 ^'So soon?" she asked. ." he teased. **I don't want you to get cold feet. this ought to teach you to trust my judgment a little more.

As for the candles. He looked at her and murmured. I love you more than life. didn't we?" "Yes." So far anyway. She did not reply. Which he had. I memorized every manual—even the Kama Sutra" "In EngHsh?" "I know it didn't seem that way. And then answered. It was so difficult."How come you didn't tell me about this arrangement? Are there any other surprises in store?" "You'll see." ''Like hell. She's an infant! This Davey nonsense is sheer anti-me rebellion. He was desperate to make it right again." he said quietly. In the past he'd said such things and had been certain that she knew he meant them. "you're the only woman in the world whose soul is as beautiful as her body. But now. could you ever—" He stopped." "Years. "If I see Noah's ark/' said Bob. "I just want to turn it back. he had dashed to Mass Avenue and bought canned vichyssoise. Harvard Summer School consists of people not otherwise associated with Harvard." she said. 4c « « Almost by definition." "What? Come on. "I've missed our practice sessions." He realized as he said it that it might sound like a phony line to her." She took another sip of champagne. Years." She lay back." He grinned. They sat cross-legged in front of the fire and talked for a long time. "I don't want to stop time. frozen chicken divan. Sheila." "And I was so gauche. no one in Cambridge recognized them. "I think so. Hence as they walked along the riverbank. Fve hurt you so much. And he felt a surge of joy. They sat down on the grass. He looked down at her freckled face. She did not move away." "Bob." They laughed together. "I don't know why it went so badly." He put his arm around her and said firmly. We're young. ate lunch and watched the many pleasure boats go by. you'd better face up to the fact that your daughter is a blush away from womanhood. ''Do you think you might in time be able . His heart ached for her. "You believe it. While she was inside confronting Evelyn linger. "I mean it. He moved close to her. We both looked so utterly miserable. "Fll flag it over and we'll volunteer as passengers/' '1 somehow think they'd want two younger specimens. salad in a bag and two bottles of very good champagne." "But still. Sheila. after everything that had happened. Do you think your parents ever guessed what we were doing while we house-sat for them?" 'Trobably. Sheil. At least you are." he whispered. it was possible she'd never trust a word he said. *'l know. Every undergraduate we've passed today has given you the eye. plucked a blade of grass and began chewing it." Tears began to trickle slowly down her cheeks." he said with emphatic seriousness. With all his heart. "You know. They were alone in the summer crowd. She hadn't objected to any of his "arrangements. we're not as young as Jessica and Davey. Sheila. I know." Then both of them were silent. "Do you believe I'll always love you?" he asked softly. "Practice makes perfect." he whispered. She bent her head down." The candlelight dinner was not at any restaurant. He took that as a hopeful sign. He moved even closer. At one point he asked. Joy born of hope. ''Sheila. Take it as an article of faith. I was so scared. brushing back her hair and kissing her forehead. "Not even MIT professors can make time stop. "But we improved. there would be plenty in the house in Lexington. ''Do you remember when we first made love?'' "I try not to." she said." he answered.

"I couldn't bear the thought of losing you. releasing all the tenderness pent up so long. Bob went upstairs to kiss them good night. "Gosh. Uncle Bob?" "If it's okay with Nancy. "Terrific." said Bob. "Well. "May I?" Jean-Claude asked Bob. He wanted Sheila to know he had no qualms. Only Paula refused. "That's good luck. . It was the final week of August. seemingly determined to keep her father always within view. "Too bad. As she leaned back she spilled her champagne. The girls went to bed about nine-thirty. Sheila was putting on a sweater. The casual soccer sessions on the Nanuet High School field had gradually become serious scrimmages." said Bernie. a step behind." "Yeah. Please." He kissed her everywhere." said Bob quietly. Her cheeks. practicing corner kicks." said Bob." He said it as matter-of-factly as he could." he said." He took her in his arms." "Yeah. Oh. 'Til try. Won't he be. let him know she was getting too old for this sort of thing. And they always contrived to be on the same team. he and Davey had worked out together. Bem. The Beckwiths and the Ackermans had come to watch the two kids match their skills against the bigger boys. QuiCK. gang. you have the soul of a soccer ball. thinking. Let's hit the road. "Come on." shouted Bernie as they scored their second goal." said Paula. God. Tm free—pass me the ball!" In late summer a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of autumn sports."No one had removed the place mat set for Jean-Claude. After the game. Bob. "Come on. There is a touch of sadness at the close of summer. I love her so. Robert. the summer was concluding with a certain harmony. evolving a terrific give-and-go which would always get one of them past the defense into a clear shot at the goal. "Too bad the kid*s gotta go." They jogged side by side to the edge of the track. But Davey Ackerman and his new friend." "Can he sleep over too. guys. Jessica sat motionless until her gallant knight waved at her as if to dedicate the goal. And despite its tumultuous beginning. ''What a combo. But I'll try. She acknowledged with a little wave. better start getting used to it/' said Jessie to her sister. Dad?'' 'Tes. "I can't promise more. it's time for chow." repeated Bemie. Bob and Bemie jogged around the track. When he came back downstairs. . Afternoon shadows were growing longer. Sheila offered to drive Nancy and the girls home. Johnny. "He's got great potential. were still allowed to play with the varsity boys. Jessica. At last she responded." she whispered. "She won't mind. ''Jo^^^Y" Guerin. "Sure. Her lips. Sheila and Nancy were busy discussing books and failed to notice the heroics. Then she looked up. And prayed that someday all the pain he knew that she still felt would disappear. "it feels funny not having him here. ''He'll be gone for good soon.'' said Bemie as they chugged around the far curve. "Can Johnny eat at our house?" Davey asked. Their teamwork made Bernie ecstatic and Jessie sullen. "I've missed you terribly. Dinner conversation seemed a bit subdued. embracing him. Ever since Jean-Claude was well enough to kick a ball again. "In seven years those two coulda made Yale invincible. "Feel like a little walk?" she asked." she said. huh?" Paula clapped. . "any day now. He slapped Bob on the back. when the trees begin to hint it will soon end. even while accepting his embrace." Paula followed them. kissing her eyes. Ten minutes later. Jean-Claude and Davey stayed on the field." said Bob. Bemie summoned the two players with a shout.to forget the way Fve hurt you?" Silence once again.

He felt close to her." They walked for a few steps before he answered."Sure. he's your child. And thought." she answered. she's so obsessed with losing you she won't let you out of her sight. Though they were standing very close. It was silent except for the sea behind the house. "And he'd be thinking of you. "Bob?" "Yes?" 'Tou want him to stay. don't you?" "Of course not. "But if he did stay . Haven't you noticed that every morning. He took her hand. I mean"—he hoped this admission wouldn't hurt her—"I do like him a lot. "Oh. the most important thing in my life is you and the girls." He reflected for a moment. 'Took. I wanted to know how you feel." "Yes." . I've really put them in a no-win situation." he said. "There would always be a part of you that would be wondering how he was." she said softly." he said very quickly. for some reason. ?" "Bob. we'd have a better chance if he were here instead of somewhere in the corner of everyone's imagination. Now." "And Paula?" "She seems to be taking it better." Bob was silent. Nothing. with its forced stoic expression. "There's one more thing. what had become of him " "Yes." Bob got a flashlight and they went out to stroll beneath the trees. "He adores you. "Especially Jessie with that whole not- caring act. Peaceful. But hell. They'd always be afraid that you might go away. I know. Honestly. "It's out of the question." They sat down on an ancient tree trunk lying in the darkened forest. We can all see that. "Yeah." he said. "He doesn't have to go. It will take years for the scars to really heal " ^ She paused. he realized how desperately Paula had been clinging to him. "Honey. "Let's talk about them for a moment." he replied. it's a fact of life." "Bob." Then she continued his thoughts for him. thinking. She stopped and looked at his face." Tliey had reached a small clearing in the woods. We agreed—" "That isn't what I asked." he said quietly. "They're both in pretty fragile shape." Bob refused to let himself surrender to the impulse of the moment. and I mean every morning. . I'm not overjoyed at his leaving. "But it has nothing to do with him. . "something terrible happened to us. "Yes?" "You love him. Besides. I mean yours and mine—and especially the girls'. Do you think you'd ever forget him if he went away?" He hesitated." she continued. "No. Bob/' she said. she peeks into our room and looks at your side of the bed. he wasn't certain he had actually heard her. "I mean me too." "We all do." Sheila said gently. Christ. This is her way of consoling me. She's petrified/' Bob took a deep breath. Bob. I guess not. "Well. Bob. retrospectively.

"I have no objection. "Tliey'd probably make him take a test. Did he understand what he was saying? "Is that really what you want—to be alone?'' Please change your mind. "Uh—how would you feel about staying on with us?" The boy stopped. All of us want you to stay. "It would be neat to have Jean-Claude around to help. i HERE WAS NOTHING MORE TO SAY." she said uneasily. "I mean sort of joining the family. "Oh. And I have studied hard. Jean-Claude carried his red flight bag and they walked to TWA. "Bob. "Bob." the boy rephed.." Which was her way of saying yes." Bob looked across at Sheila." The boy looked up at him. Establish their relationship. ." said Bob. Toward the sea." she said tonelessly. Mom?" Jessie asked. I must go ." he answered. But how would you feel about it?" Paula pondered for another moment. To be with other boys. Wouldn't you like that?" Jean-Claude did not know how to answer. But Louis has been speaking to the director. "Jessie and Paula. It is where my mother wanted me to go when I was eleven. They still had some . I cannot. .. REALLY. Besides. BOB booked a flight for three days later. "It isn't just his idea?" "I suggested it. your mother and I were considering asking Jean-Claude to ." said Bob. Jean-Claude. And yet they barely spoke during the journey. "Yes. I like him quite a lot. Yet each had the vague sensation that the others would. "But we want you to live with us/' said Bob. "Gee. Sheila. Thank you. We'd like to know what you two think." Bob continued. To clarify his feelings. Very shyly. And then added. Malo. School—Zci rentree—starts in fifteen days. He broached it the next morning while Jean-Claude was still at Bernie's. They smiled at one another. love you. At last he spoke." "Is this true. He parked the car and took the green valise out of the trunk. "Would he be in my grade?" "I suppose so. where the boy was checked in for flight 810 and the suitcase sent via Paris on to Montpellier." she said. He says I can start now if I pass certain examinations." "That's just what I wanted to talk to you about." So that explains all his reading. For the moment Jessie withheld comment." "But you could go to school here. where would you live in France?" "At St. I know what you're thinking. Express his love. "That is impossible. TTie smile on Jean-Claude's face suggested not only that he was happy to see Bob. "I must be leaving soon. "Summer's almost over." Bob looked down at his son."Yes. It was only six-thirty. I must go to St. "Jessie?" Bob inquired. Jean-Claude. Bob wanted the ride to Logan to last forever. stay on with us. "I know." said the boy. Bob asked the boy to take a walk with him along the beach. . . Jean-Claude?" The boy seemed at the limit of his strength. and turned his gaze away. Bob walked him to the gate. No one cried. "We start French this year. But everyone is sorry for what happened. Jean-Claude. It is what my mother planned. The leave- taking was subdued. There was so much he wanted to tell the boy. "What's that?" "A school." "Are you positive." the boy replied. "Actually. eventually. Sheila and the girls stood on the porch and watched the car go off. Bob drove to Bemie's about noon." said Sheila. a surprised look on his face. but that he had heard more than enough of Bernie's pep talks on the future of world sport.." Bob said as they surveyed the empty shore. "Bob. Malo. And thought. "We . Bob turned to Paula. And it is the right thing. for many reasons." he said softly.

The boy hesitated slightly. Now Jean-Claude held out his hand and. "So maybe you'll come next summer." "TWA announces its final call for flight 8JO. Bob watched him hand his ticket to the hostess. He put the httle boy dovm. non-stop 747 service to Paris. Very likely not. Bob. Please don't forget me. No. watched her tear a page off. and without another word. anticipating nightfall. but was scared of breaking down.*' Bob could hold out no longer." . wanting never to let go. spoke his final words in French. Since it 211 was the end of summer. thought Bob." "You'll be sure and let me know how it turns out?" "Yes." he whispered hoarsely. . They sat side by side in white plastic chairs. Not yet. Immediate boarding Gate Yir They stood up without a word and started slowly toward the gangway door. Papa. "Uh—if you like. not many people'were flying to Europe. His throat was tight. The gate closed. of course. . Good luck on the exams. The big white 747 was crouched like a friendly elephant. unable to say more. then said." *'Oh. The woman calling flights had no emotion in her voice. He longed to say I love you. Bob stood there for a long while. Not yet." Or maybe not. Watched him walk straight-backed. But there was . Jean-Claude?" '*I have my books. the white jumbo slowly backed away. turned toward the gate." "And we'll stay in touch. I mean anytime. Not yet." "Thank you.time. down the gangway onto the plane. The lady taking tickets seemed to be signaling. He swept the little boy into his arms and hugged him. "Au revoir. please. although the airport lights were beginning to come on. Jean-Claude. They spoke no words.still something important Bob had to say. carrying his flight bag. The boy looked up at him for a split second. . He could feel the boy's chest breathing rapidly against his own. ''Go on. you could visit us again next summer. . Now and then a flight was called. And took a final look at him. yes. waiting to take on passengers. The departure lounge was quiet." he said. huh?" "Maybe. someone said the doors were going to close. Uh —are you nervous?" "A little. I love you. And disappear. thought Bob. "Yes. as if preparing for the life awaiting him across the ocean.On the periphery of his awareness. Not his. So he simply held his son.A few minutes later." said the little boy.At last he turned and started walking slowly down the now deserted corridor. And hugged him. "I should go. Or even Christmas. ''Do you have enough to read. then headed toward the runway into the growing darkness. The sky outside was not yet dark.