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ANDREW ELIOT’S DIARY. I saw my former roommate’s picture in The New York Times today.
November 3, 1975
I saw my former roommate’s picture in The New York Times today.
George Keller’s been appointed to succeed Kissinger as the head of the National Security Council. He’s moving back into the West Wing of the White House, where he’ll be able to knock on the President’s door anytime he wants and really get to turn the steering wheel of government.
On the seven-o’clock news tonight some pundits were speculating that George is being groomed for something even bigger.
Rumor has it that Gerry Ford would be more comfortable with someone he himself selected as Secretary of State. They say if he’s reelected — which looks likely — he’ll bring in a fresh new team, starring George. What a coup! He’s really got the world by the tail. Fame, power — and a terrific wife. Some guys have all the luck.
Something occurred to me. If I phoned George at the White House, would he still take my call?
Telegrams and letters poured into the White House congratulating George on his appointment. At the end of the day, his secretary handed him two overflowing shopping bags so that he could read them with Cathy.
“I’ll look silly walking in the White House parking lot like this,” he protested mildly.
And then he thought, Hell, I’ll enjoy every minute of it. My car is parked inside the presidential compound now.
Cathy greeted him on the doorstep. “I’ve prepared a celebration feast,” she said, hugging him.
“Who’s coming?” he inquired. “Nobody. Now, are you ready for a drink?”
As she pulled him toward the living room, she whispered, “I’ve got a surprise for you. It’s something I’ve been saving for a long time. Look.”
She pointed to the coffee table, where she had placed two glasses and a bottle of—
“Hungarian champagne!” George gaped. “Where did you get that stuff?”
“It wasn’t easy, let me tell you.”
They got a little drunk, picked at the food, made love in the living room, and then got drunker still.
“Hey,” Cathy murmured, “you certainly brought home a load of telegrams.”
“I didn’t know I had so many friends.”
“Don’t worry, love. Now that you’re one step from the Oval Office, you’ll discover a lot of brand-new pals. Ah, come on, let’s open some and see who wants to get in good with you.”
They giggled and then started reading.
Naturally, the governor of every state had cabled. Likewise the mayors of important cities. Democrats no less than Republicans. In fact, anyone who harbored aspirations of a diplomatic or political nature.
And even several major personalities from Hollywood.
“Well, one thing’s sure,” Cathy grinned, “I won’t let you travel on your own from now on. Some of these are pretty close to propositions.”
George was savoring it all. Because he knew this was only the beginning. The best was yet to come.
“Hey,” she hailed him boozily. “This one’s a little screwy. Who the hell is ‘Michael Saunders from the good old days’?”
George was puzzled. “Let me see it.”
He studied the telegram and gradually the message became clear.
QUITE A LONG ROAD FROM THE WIENER KELLER EH OLD BOY? YOUR FIRST ENGLISH TEACHER MIKI WISHES YOU SUCCESS. IF YOU’RE EVER IN CHICAGO LOOK ME UP.
MICHAEL SAUNDERS FROM THE GOOD OLD DAYS
“Does that mean anything to you?” his wife inquired.
“Not anymore,” he answered, crumpling the paper and tossing it into the fire.
Such was that happy Garden-state
While man there walked without a mate:
After a place so pure and sweet,
What other help could yet be meet!
But ’twas beyond a mortal’s share
To wander solitary there:
Two paradises ’twere in one,
To live in Paradise alone.
In the third year of his rebachelored life, Ted Lambros thought of himself as the embodiment of Andrew Marvell’s famous lines. Indeed, he told himself, the poet was unconsciously setting forth the formula for academic success. A professor on his own can really get a lot of work done.
Immediately upon his return to Canterbury, Ted had sold the home on Barrington Road and moved into an apartment at the top of Marlborough House, the best faculty accommodation available.
His triennium as chairman of the Classics Department had been singularly impressive. Enrollments had increased, the number of majors had doubled, and he had even managed to goad his colleagues into publishing a word or two. He had also succeeded in winning tenure for his former student Robbie Walton, the young man who had gotten him to Canterbury in the first place. Lambros always paid his professional debts.
It is arguable whether Ted had been an angry young man, but it was beyond doubt that he was a furious middle-aged one. He was fueled by rage to toil night and day, serenas noctes vigilare , as Lucretius put it.
As soon as he could free himself from paperwork, he would go back to Marlborough House, wolf down a defrosted dinner of dubious nutritional value, and immediately head for his desk.
After the initial hours of intense concentration, he would pour himself a little retsina. Gradually the ingestion of modern Greece’s national drink began to illuminate ancient Greece’s greatest playwright. Ted’s research on Euripides took on a Dionysian cast. And he was determined to uncover all the enigmatic author’s secrets.
He had no social life to speak of. In fact, he refused all invitations, except if he was fairly certain that a high administrator might attend. For the rumor had it that when Tony Thatcher’s term was up, Ted Lambros would be his successor.
In his persistent anger, he still avoided women. That is, emotionally. There were the biological necessities — which now were easier to satisfy at Canterbury. In addition to the usual supply of cast-off first wives, and the young, attractive Europeans whom the college brought over to teach elementary languages, the seventies saw a new influx of mature women.
The government was making a lot of noise about Affirmative Action hiring at senior-faculty levels. And so the administration diligently searched for such rare females lest they risk losing federal subsidies.
Among the bevy of these new profs were several who were not loath to engage in a liaison without sentiment. Especially with Ted Lambros. And not merely because he was attractive. No, these women were just as ambitious as their male counterparts. And just as eager to advance their careers.
Lambros was important. Lambros sat on many a committee. And, one fine spring day — as predicted — Theodore Lambros was named Dean of Canterbury College.
When Ted got back home after receiving the big news, a voice within him suddenly wanted to call out, “Hey, Sara, I’m the goddamn Dean!”
But, of course, no one was there. He lived alone. Determinedly alone. And thought he had convinced himself that he liked it better that way.
Yet, he now had a strangely hollow feeling. Sara had always been there when things were bad, to help him share the hurt. Now he realized that he needed her to share the joy as well. For otherwise it had no meaning in this empty room.
The Dean of Canterbury College is saluted everywhere on campus. But once at home, he loses both his scepter and his crown and becomes an ordinary human being. With ordinary needs.
He’d been a husband and a father once. And now, in this moment of triumph, he realized how he missed the flesh-and-blood dimensions of his life.
One Saturday, two or three weeks earlier, Rob and his wife had forced Ted to go ice skating with them, hoping that the exercise would lift his mood. They had not imagined it would have the opposite effect.
For all Ted saw around him at the rink were fathers and their skating children. Fathers and their children holding hands. Fathers picking up and comforting little ones who’d fallen on the ice.
He longed to put his arms around his son again. And, painful to admit, he also longed for Sara.
Sometimes, late in the night, he’d wake with pangs of loneliness. His only cure was to get up, sit at his desk, and dull the ache with work. He was emotionally dead.
The only part of him he kept alive — by intravenous shots of research — was his intellect. He was close to finishing that goddamn book that would be his academic-passport to a brave new world.
So, if the price of this was solitude, then he would make the most of it.
Only once during this entire time did he succumb to emotion. One evening in the second term that he was dean, his brother, Alex, called to tell him that their father had just died.
He stood there in the cemetery, his arms around his mother and his sister, And he wept.
From across the grave, Alex whispered, “You made him very proud, Teddie. You were the glory of his life,”
Ted could only nod.
That night he returned to Canterbury, sat down at his desk, and started working again.
The telephone rang. It was Sara.
“Ted,” she said softly, “why didn’t you call me? I would have flown over for the funeral.”
“How did you find out?” he asked numbly.
“Someone from the Harvard Department rang me. I’m very sorry. He was a wonderful man.”
“He loved you, too,” Ted answered. And then, taking advantage of this moment, added, “It’s a pity he saw so little of his eldest grandchild.”
“He saw him just this Christmas,” Sara countered gently, “and you know I write your parents every month. And send them pictures. Anyway, if you’d only called I would have taken little Ted to the funeral. I think it would have been important for him.”
“How is he?”
“Pretty upset by the news, but otherwise okay. He’s top of the class in Latin.”
Ted felt a desperate need to keep her talking on the phone. “How’s your own work coming?”
“Not bad. I’ve had my first article accepted by HSCP .”
“Congratulations. What’s it on?”
“Apollonius. Sort of a distillation of my senior essay.”
“Good. I look forward to reading it. How’s your thesis coming?”
“Well, with any luck I’ll finish it by the end of spring. Cameron is reading the first chapter and Francis James the second.”
“You mean the new tutor at Balliol? Tell him I liked his book on Propertius. What are you writing on, anyway?”
“I really bit off more than I could chew.” Sara laughed. “My topic is nothing less than ‘Callimachus and Latin Poetry.’ ”
“Well,” Ted joked, “that’s sent many a strong man to an early grave. Uh — no antifeminism implied. I guess I should have said ‘person.’ I still have trouble getting used to the new terminology.”
He ransacked his mind for topics that would keep the conversation going.
“Then you think you’ll get your degree in June?”
“I hope so.”
“Then I guess you’ll be coming home, huh?”
“I’m not really sure, Ted. Anyway, I think this is something we should discuss face to face when you come over next month.”
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he replied.
“So is Teddie,” she replied softly. “If it fits my schedule, we’ll try to meet you at the airport.”
“Thanks for calling, Sara. It was really good to hear your voice.”
He hung up and thought, I only wish I could see your face.
“I can’t believe it,” Ted remarked, “the kid talks with an English accent.”
“What do you expect?” Sara asked. “He’s lived here most of his life.”
They were sitting in the (now redecorated) living room in Addison Crescent, drinking iced coffee.
“He also didn’t seem very friendly to me,” Ted commented. “I mean, all I got was a fleeting ‘hello, Daddy.’ And then he disappeared.”
“Your son has priorities.” Sara smiled. “And this afternoon is a crucial cricket match against Saint George’s School.”
Ted had to laugh. “The son of a Cambridge townie is playing cricket? The next thing I’ll hear is that he’s got a knighthood.”
“Oh, I doubt if that’ll be for a few years.”
He took a swig of coffee. “Have you decided when you’re moving back, yet?”
“Not for another year at least.”
“Please, Ted. I’ve got several good reasons, I assure you.”
“Give me one.”
“I want Teddie to finish his education here. He’s doing so well the headmaster is certain if we let him go the whole route here, he’ll breeze into any college in the world.”
“Come on, Sara. I thought the one thing we still agreed on was that he would go to Harvard.”
“That ought to be his decision — when the time comes. Anyway, you’ve still got quite a few years to give him a good sales pitch,”
They were both silent for a moment.
“You said you had other reasons for wanting to stay.”
“Well, I’ve been offered a classics tutorship at Somerville College.”
“Professional congratulations and personal objections,” he responded.
“Since when do you have the right to object to anything I do?” she asked, more bemused than angry.
He paused and then continued with great difficulty. “What I mean is — I miss you. I miss being married to you, and I was wondering if… if maybe you had any vestigial feelings of regret.”
“Of course I have regrets, Ted. The day our divorce became final was the bleakest of my life.”
“Then do you think there’s a chance that we might — you know — give it another try?”
She looked at him with sadness, and simply shook her head.
Perhaps he should have suspected that there was someone in her life when she offered to let him stay with young Ted in Addison Crescent for the month of July while she was on vacation. Especially since she was so vague about her plans.
All she would vouchsafe was that she was going to Greece to “visit the places I’ve been writing about.”
“Who with?” he had bravely asked.
“Oh,” she had replied evasively, “several million Greeks.”
But it did not take Ted long to discover who his ex-wife’s traveling companion was. For his son’s conversations were liberally sprinkled with references to “Francis.” And unless he was alluding to the famous talking mule from the movies of Ted’s childhood, it had to be Francis James, classics tutor at Balliol.
“I’d like to meet that guy someday,” Ted said, at the nth mention of his name.
“Oh, you’d really like him,” his son replied. “He’s an absolutely smashing chap.”
My God, he thought, my son really is an Englishman.
That July, Ted tried to be a father. He sat through countless cricket matches. Got a lot of theater tickets. And made numerous attempts at conversation over dinner.
But a gap as wide as the Atlantic separated them.
The young man was polite, good-natured, and friendly. Yet, the only thing they could discuss was distant plans for higher education. Ted tried to sell his son on Harvard.
“Teddie, there’s something I’ve gotta explain to you. Going to Harvard is an experience that changes your life. I mean, it certainly did mine.”
The young man looked at his father and said, “Frankly, I rather like my life the way it is.”
Ted Lambros had spent the month with someone who bore his name but in all other ways was someone else’s child.
At the end of July, a tanned Sara returned from Greece with an equally bronzed Francis James and announced that they had decided to get married.
To Ted’s chagrin, the first congratulation came in the form of a spontaneous “Super!” from his son, who rushed to throw his arms around the tall, bespectacled classics tutor.
Trying to mask his chagrin, Ted offered his hand and his congratulations to Francis.
“Thank you,” the Englishman responded. And added with warm sincerity, “I’ve always been one of your great admirers. If those articles you’ve been publishing are anything to go by, your Euripides book is going to be magnificent. How close are you to finishing?”
“I sent off the manuscript to Harvard last week,” said Ted, feeling strangely hollow at announcing the accomplishment.
“Mummy says it’s absolutely brilliant,” young Ted interjected.
Ah, his father thought, at least the kid still respects me.
And then his son concluded, “I’m dying to hear what you think of it, Francis.”
Ted now realized that there was nothing to keep him in Oxford. He took the next morning’s plane to Boston and went up to Canterbury to await the verdict of the Harvard University Press.
It did not take long. In fact, that very weekend Cedric Whitman called him, bursting with enthusiasm. He had been designated First Reader for the Press and he could neither maintain his anonymity nor restrain his admiration.
“Cedric,” Ted inquired tactfully, “while we’re exchanging confidences, may I ask you who the other reader is?”
“Someone who admires you almost as much as I do — the newly emeritus Professor of Greek at Oxford.”
“Cameron Wylie?” Ted asked, his elation dissipating.
“The very same,” Whitman answered. “And I can’t imagine his report will be less favorable than mine.”
I can, thought Ted as he hung up.
He spent the next week playing dawn-to-dusk tennis with any professor, undergraduate, or groundskeeper he could lay his hands on. He could not bear the tension.
And then a hand-addressed envelope with an Oxford postmark at last arrived. He dared not open it in the presence of the department secretary. Instead, he rushed to the men’s room, locked himself in one of the booths, and tore it open.
He read it several times and then began to howl at the top of his voice.
A few moments later, Robbie Walton, summoned by the secretary, arrived to see what was wrong.
“Rob,” cried Ted, still in the confines of his narrow kingdom, “I’m made in the shade. Cameron Wylie still thinks I’m a bastard, but he loves my Euripides book!”
“Hey,” said Rob with amusement, “if you’ll come out of there, I’ll buy you a drink.”
Danny Rossi began to grow tired. Not of music. And certainly not of the applause that seemed to surround him quadraphonically both on and off stage. Nor was he weary of the unending parade of women who presented themselves for his sexual signature.
No, what he felt was fatigue in its most literal sense. His forty-year-old body was weary. He found himself growing short of breath at the mildest physical activity.
Danny had never been an athlete, but several times when he was in Hollywood homes and invited to take a dip, he found that he could barely swim one length of the pool. If he were still at Harvard, he joked to himself, he would not be able to last the requisite fifty yards. And he increasingly found himself going to bed merely to sleep.
He finally decided to consult a noted internist in Beverly Hills.
After a full workup, during which every inch of him was probed and every bodily fluid analyzed, he sat down across the glass-and-chrome desk in Dr. Standish Whitney’s office.
“Give it to me, Stan.” Danny smiled uneasily. “Am I going to die?”
“Yes,” the doctor replied poker-faced. Then immediately added, “But not for at least another thirty or forty years.”
“Then why am I always so goddamn tired?” Danny asked.
“For one thing, Danny, any guy with a love life as active as yours would be worn out. Although let me quickly say that no one ever died from too much sex. On the other hand, you do other things besides screw. You compose. You conduct. You play and — I presume — you must spend some time rehearsing. Also, if an airline pilot traveled as much as you, he’d be grounded. Are you reading me?”
“You’re giving your system a lot of wear and tear. Do you think you could cut down on any of your activities?”
“No,” Danny answered candidly. “I not only want to do all the things I do, I have to do them. I know that may sound strange —”
“Not at all,” the doctor interrupted. “This is L. A. — paradise for the compulsives. You’re not the first patient I’ve seen who wants to die young and leave a beautiful corpse.”
“Correction,” Danny retorted. “I don’t want to die young, I just want to keep on living young. Isn’t there anything you prescribe for your other ‘compulsives’? I mean, I assume they don’t slow down either.”
“No,” Dr. Whitney answered, “but they come to me at least once a week for a little booster shot.”
“What’s in it?”
“Oh, megavitamins mostly. Plus a little of this and a little of that to lift you up and mellow you out. If you’d like, we could try a series and see if it helps.”
Danny felt like Ponce de Léon when he caught sight of the Fountain of Youth. “Any reason why we can’t start right now?
“None at all,” Dr. Whitney said with a smile. And rose to go and mix his potion.
Danny was a born-again workaholic.
During the next month he felt like a teenager. He breezed through his frenetic schedule of work and play. He could once again go from conducting an evening concert to an amorous rendezvous. Then go back to his home in Bel-Air and practice the piano for several hours.
In fact, the only problem was that, on the few occasions when he actually wanted to sleep, he felt too stimulated. For this the good Dr. Whitney kindly prescribed some soothing phenothiazine.
During the past year or so, his relationship with Maria had gradually evolved from silent antagonism to a kind of entente cordiale. Whenever he was in Philadelphia they play-acted happy couple for the outside world and loving parents for their daughters. What went on his Hollywood Hills “bachelor pad” was, of course, never discussed.
Now that the girls were at school, Maria resolved to build a life for herself.
To find something real to do behind the facade of their cardboard marriage.
For a thirty-eight-year-old former dance teacher, the schoolhouse doors were bolted shut. There was no way to pick up where she had left off. And she was painfully aware that although she had brains and a good education, she had no particular skill to offer the job market. Some of her suburban friends worked for various charities. But that seemed to Maria to have too much of a social aspect to be genuinely satisfying.
She did agree to help out with the annual auction to raise money for the local PBS television station. After all, having spent so much time in studios with Danny, she felt she had absorbed some knowledge of how television worked. At least she might be able to contribute a suggestion or two.
Being the wife of the city’s symphony conductor, Maria was something of a minor celebrity. And the officials at the station tried to persuade her to appear on camera to attract contributions from viewers.
She was coaxed by Terence Moran, the charming, prematurely white-haired president of the station.
“I can’t,” she protested. “I’d be a nervous wreck.”
“Please, Mrs. Rossi,” he insisted. “All you’d have to do is stand in front of one of the tables and say a few words about the objects on it.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Moran. My voice would freeze. You’d either have to superimpose the dialogue or do a voice-over yourself.”
The youthful executive smiled. “I’ll accept that compromise,” he said.
“You will?” said Maria, slightly taken aback.
“Sure. You just stand there and point to the items and I’ll describe them from off-camera. Is it a deal?”
“No, not yet,” Maria replied anxiously. “I’d have to know your director’s shooting plans.”
“Mrs. Rossi,” Moran responded affably, “I’m so keen to get you on even for a split second that I’ll let you literally call the shots.”
“Okay,” she relented. “I guess I can’t get out of it now. If you must show me, let it be in a wide establishing shot in front of the table. But I want your word of honor that the minute you begin to describe the merchandise, you’ll zoom in close and get me out of frame.”
“It’s a deal,” Moran replied. “And I’m very impressed.”
“With what? My stubbornness?”
“No. You seem to have more camera expertise than my directors.”
“You don’t have to keep flattering me, Mr. Moran. I’ve already said I’d do it. Anyway, I’ve spent about a million hours with Danny in TV studios. To keep from overdosing on coffee and doughnuts, I locked myself in the control booth and sort of picked up what all those buttons meant by osmosis.”
“Well,” he quipped, “as Plato said, ‘Osmosis is the best teacher.’ Or was it Aristotle?”
“I think it was Terry Moran,” smiled Maria Rossi.
“You looked wonderful even in the millisecond-long shot, Mrs. Rossi. And we got good prices for everything on your table,” the station president commented as they drank sugary tea from paper cups in the Green Room.
“I’m still glad it’s over,” she said, sighing. “I absolutely loathe being on camera.”
“But you do enjoy the control board, don’t you?”
“Oh, that’s always fun. I love to look at the bank of monitors and try to imagine which camera I’d use if I were the director. It’s nice and safe when it’s only a game.”
“Have you ever thought of actually doing it?”
“Oh, I daydream sometimes. But then I also fantasize about doing a pas de deux with Nureyev. Anyway, thanks for accommodating my idiosyncrasies.”
She rose to put on her coat, but Moran motioned her to sit down. “Mrs. Rossi, I’m sorry I can’t speak for Rudolf — who I’m sure would be delighted to know you’re interested — but I can speak for this station. Would you like a job?”
“You mean, a real job?”
“That’s the only kind we have around here. I mean — nothing high-powered to start with. But we can always use an extra assistant director. And you already have enough know-how for that.”
Maria was tempted, but diffident. “I’m not in the union,” she protested meekly.
“Neither is this station.” Moran smiled. “Now, are you interested?”
“You’re doing this just because I’m Danny Rossi’s wife.”
“Frankly, that’s your only liability. Because if things don’t work out I’ll have to fire you. And then I’ll be in trouble, won’t I?”
“No,” Maria answered cheerfully. “But if I can get home in time to have dinner with the girls, I’ll give it a try.”
“No problem,” he replied. “Oh — I haven’t told you the bad news, though. The salary is pretty laughable.”
“That’s all right, Mr. Moran. I could use some laughs.”
Ted was awakened late one night by a call from Walter Hewlett, professor at Texas and best-informed gossip in the world of classics.
“Lambros, I’ve just heard something sensational and I wanted you to be the first to know.”
“Oh God, Walt, what could possibly be so important at two in the morning?”
“It’s Dieter Hartshorn —”
“What about that pedantic German?”
“Then you know—?”
“Yeah. The guy Harvard just hired for the Greek chair.”
“Then you don ’t know — listen. Rudi Richter just called from Munich. Hartshorn’s been killed in a crash on the Autobahn. I mean, this news hasn’t even reached the papers yet, baby.”
“Christ, Walt, you’re gloating like a ghoul.”
“Hey, Lambros, do I have to spell it out for you? Harvard now has no Eliot Professor of Greek. And the chances are — if you drive carefully — the job’s going to be yours . Sleep on that, amigo.”
As Ted hung up, he could not help but think, This is not good news at all.
It’s fantastic news.
A decent interval after the tragic death of Dieter Hartshorn, the Harvard Classics Department circulated a small announcement to the effect that applications were being solicited for the Eliot Professorship of Greek.
In earlier days they would simply have made a few phone calls, perhaps written some letters, and then sat down and voted a successor. But now federal legislation required all universities to advertise their available positions, offering Equal Opportunity for advancement to men and women of all races and creeds.
Naturally, with such a prestigious chair, the public notice was merely a formality to comply with the dictates of Washington. In practice, the system still worked in its time-honored way. The department met and made a short list of the most eminent Greek scholars in the world. And, since his book was causing a stir even in manuscript, Theodore Lambros’s name was among the leaders.
Again in compliance with the Equal-Opportunity directives, he would, like all other candidates, be required to visit Harvard and deliver a lecture.
“I know this is silly,” Cedric Whitman apologized on the phone. “After all, we’ve known you for years and heard you speak. But to follow the new rules an pied de la lettre you’ll have to give that obligatory ‘tryout’ talk.”
“That’s okay,” he responded, already mentally packing his bags for the triumphal return to Cambridge.
They then set a date for the lecture. Officially it would be an audition, but, at least in Ted’s mind, it would be his inaugural address.
“Among the many publications of tonight’s speaker, two stand out in particular: Tiemosyne , a brilliant study of the Sophoclean tragic hero, and The Poet of Paradox , his forthcoming analysis of Euripidean drama, which I have had the great pleasure of reading in manuscript.
“Tonight he will unravel the complexities of Euripides’ final play, Iphigenia at Aulis . It gives me enormous pleasure to present Professor Theodore Lambros.”
Ted rose, shook Whitman’s hand, and placed his notes on the lectern. As he adjusted the microphone, he glanced out at the spectators. And could not help thinking that he had never seen Boylston Hall so full.
Had his scholarly reputation preceded him? Or was it common knowledge that tonight’s audience would be getting a sneak preview of the next Eliot Professor of Greek?
He felt extraordinarily relaxed under what should have been extremely trying circumstances. For he had rehearsed this moment so many times in dreams it was already second nature.
The more he spoke, the less he had recourse to his notes. He began to look out into the audience, skillfully making eye contact with the more important people present, who included no less a dignitary than Derek Bok, the President of Harvard University.
He had just begun to discuss the bold visual symbolism in Clytemnestra’s entrance carrying the infant Orestes, when he suddenly lost his breath.
Perhaps the audience, enraptured by his dramatic presentation, did not notice. But Ted himself had seen a vision that shook him.
Could it be possible — or was he merely imagining that his former wife, Sara, was standing at the back, leaning against a post?
Though inwardly panicked, his powerful sense of survival enabled him to find his place in the manuscript and — albeit in a somewhat subdued voice — continue reading his lecture.
But he was keenly aware that his sudden shift of style and tone had broken the enchanted atmosphere.
And now he could not control a desperate urge to get the damn talk over with.
Maybe, he thought, if I reassure myself she isn’t really there, I can get back in gear. So, as he turned to his final page, he glanced beyond the farthest row.
Sara was right there. And looking more beautiful than ever.
But why? Why the hell is my ex-wife, who ought to be in Oxford, here in Boylston Hall?
And then with thoughts swifter than light, he exhorted himself like a Homeric hero. Get loose, goddammit, Lambros. Pull yourself together. This is your last chance to get everything you want in life.
And heroically, he did. He took a breath, slowed himself, ignored the final written paragraphs, and raised his head to paraphrase them. His concluding words were greeted with admiring applause.
Before they left, the President and deans came over to shake his hand. Then, while the senior members of the Classics Department waited discreetly in the back of the room, Sara approached the podium to greet her former husband.
“That was great, Ted,” she said warmly. “You’ve done a lot of terrific work on that last chapter.”
“Hey, I don’t get it,” he responded, trying to seem nonchalant. “Shouldn’t you be in England teaching?”
“Yes,” she answered. And then added with a curious admixture of timidity and pride, “But Harvard’s invited me to apply for the chair. I’m giving a seminar on Hellenistic poetry tomorrow morning.”
He was incredulous. “They’ve asked you to apply for the Eliot Professorship?”
She nodded. “I know it’s silly. Clearly it’ll go to you. I mean, just on your publications.”
“They flew you all the way over just on the basis of three articles?”
“Four, actually. And my book.”
“Yes, Oxford liked my thesis and the Press is bringing it out this spring. Apparently the Harvard Search Committee’s seen a copy.”
“Oh,” said Ted, the wind knocked from his sails, “congratulations.”
“You’d better go now,” she said gently. “All the bigwigs want to wine and dine you.”
“Yeah,” he said distractedly. “Uh — nice seeing you.”
The post-lecture reception for Ted was in a private room at the Faculty Club. He knew that it was a social gauntlet he had to run, both to remind his old friends and to convince those who had once rejected him that he was charming, learned, and collegial. That year at Oxford seemed to have enhanced his status — and improved his dinner conversation.
At a late point in the evening Norris Carpenter, the leading Latinist, thought he’d enjoy a bit of Schadenfreude at the candidate’s expense.
“Tell me, Professor Lambros,” he inquired with a Cheshire grin, “what do you think of Dr. James’s book?”
“You mean F.K. James on Propertius?”
“No, no. I mean the former Mrs. Lambros on Callimachus.”
“Well, I haven’t seen it yet, Professor Carpenter. I mean it’s just in galleys, isn’t it?”
“Oh yes,” the Latinist continued mischievously. “But such a penetrating work must have taken years of research. She must have, as it were, begun it under your principate. In any case, she sheds some fascinating new light on the relationship between Hellenistie Greek and early Latin poetry.”
“I’m looking forward to reading it,” Ted said politely, as he twisted inwardly from Carpenter’s sadistic verbal stilettos.
He spent the next day wandering aimlessly around Cambridge. The Square itself had been concreted beyond recognition since his college days. But the Yard had the same magical aura.
At four o’clock Cedric called him at the family home. He got to the point without delay.
“They’ve offered it to Sara.”
“Oh,” Ted gasped, as his blood ran cold. “Is her book really that good?”
“Yes,” Cedric acknowledged, “it’s a tremendous piece of work. But just as important, she was the right person at the right time.”
“You mean she’s a woman.”
“Look, Ted,” the senior professor explained, “I’ll grant that the Dean’s office is anxious to comply with the Fair-Employment legislation. But, frankly, it came down to weighing the merits of two equally gifted people —”
“Please, Cedric,” Ted implored, “you don’t have to explain. The bottom line is that she’s in and I’m out.”
“I’m sorry, Ted. I understand what a blow this is for you,” Whitman said softly as he hung up the phone.
Do you, Cedric? Do you understand what it’s like to work forty years of your goddamn life with only one goal? To give up everything, to resist any human involvements that might detract from your work? Do you understand what it means to sacrifice your youth for nothing ?
And can you possibly imagine what it means to have waited since childhood for the doors of Harvard to unlock for you? And now to know they never will.
For the moment, what Ted wanted most to do was get extremely drunk.
He sat alone at a corner table in the back of The Marathon and had one of the waiters make sure that his glass was perpetually filled.
Every now and then his brother, Alex, would come over and insist, “Come on, Teddie, you’ll be sick if you don’t eat something.”
“But that’s the point, Lexi. I’m trying to get sick. To get my body in the same condition as my soul.”
By nine, when he was becoming comfortably blotto, a voice interrupted his lachrymose inebriation.
“May I sit down, Ted?”
It was the last person he wanted to see at that moment — Sara.
“Oho, congratulations on your new appointment, Dr. James. I guess the best man won, huh?”
She sat down and chided softly, “Sober up enough to listen to me, Ted.” She paused briefly. “I’m not going to take it.”
“I just called the chairman and told him that, having thought it over, I can’t accept.”
“But why, Sara?” Ted asked, gesticulating broadly. “It’s the top of the academic world — the goddamn tippy-top.”
“For you,” she answered gently. “Ted, when I saw you up there on the podium last night, I knew you were in your own special heaven. I couldn’t deny you that.”
“You’re either crazy or just playing some cruel-revenge joke. I mean, nobody turns down the Eliot Professorship at Harvard.”
“I just did,” she responded, still not raising her voice.
“Why the hell did you let them go to all the trouble and expense if you weren’t serious about it?”
“To be frank, I’ve been asking myself the same thing all day.”
“I think it was to prove to myself that I was really worth something as a scholar. I have an ego and I wanted to see if I could really make it in the big leagues.”
“Well, you certainly did, baby — if you’ll pardon the pun — with a vengeance. I still don’t understand why you’re handing back the crown jewels.”
“Because after the initial excitement wore off, I realized I’d be doing the wrong thing. Look, my career isn’t the be-all and end-all of my life. I want to make my second shot at matrimony work. I mean, the libraries close at ten o’clock, but marriage goes on twenty-four hours a day. Especially a good one.”
He did not comment. At least not right away. He was trying, in his slightly woozy state, to piece out what all this meant.
“Hey, Lambros, cheer up,” she whispered kindly. “I’m sure they’ll offer it to you.”
He looked across the table at his ex-wife.
“You know, I actually believe you’d be happy if I got it. Considering what a shit I was, I don’t see how you can feel that way.”
“All I feel is a kind of residual sadness,” she said softly. “I mean, we had some very happy years together.”
Ted felt a knot in his stomach as he replied, “They were the happiest years of my life.”
She nodded in melancholy empathy. As if they were mourning a mutual friend.
They sat silently for several moments more. Then Sara, growing uneasy, rose to leave.
“It’s getting late. I should be going —”
“No, wait just one second,” he pleaded, motioning her to sit down.
He had something important to say. And if he didn’t tell her now, he would never have another chance.
“Sara, I’m really sorry for what I did to us. And if you can believe this, I’d give up anything — including Harvard — if we could still be together.”
He looked longingly at her, waiting for her response. At first she said nothing.
“Do you believe me?” he asked again.
“Yes,” she answered quietly. “But it’s a little late now.”
Sara rose again and whispered, “Good night, Ted.” Then she leaned over, kissed him on the forehead, and started out. Leaving him alone at the top of the world.
Jason Gilbert’s parents flew over to Israel in the spring of 1974. First they stayed a week on the kibbutz getting to know — and love — their grandchildren and daughter-in-law.
Then Jason and Eva showed them every inch of the country from the Golan Heights to Sharm El-Sheikh in the occupied Sinai. They spent their final five days in Jerusalem, 459 which Mrs. Gilbert pronounced the most beautiful city in the world.
“They’re lovely people,” said Eva after they had waved goodbye to his parents at Ben Gurion Airport.
“Do you think they enjoyed themselves?”
“I think if there’s a state beyond ecstasy, they’re in it,” she replied. “What pleased me most was this morning when your father kissed the boys, he didn’t say goodbye, he said shalom. I bet anything they’ll come back again next year.”
Eva was right. The Gilberts returned in the spring of 1975 and again in 1976. The third time, they even brought Julie-who, being “between husbands,” was keen to test the myth of Israeli machismo.
Jason was an instructor now. Not exactly a sedentary job in the most elite of the special units, but less dangerous than the work he had done in the past.
It was his task to go to the enlistment center outside Tel Aviv and determine which of the eager young recruits would be fit enough mentally and physically for the impossible demands of Sayaret Matkal . He was under the direct command of Yoni Netanyahu, who had been much decorated for his bravery in the Yom Kippur war.
Yoni had spent one year at Harvard and was trying to engineer the opportunity to complete his BA. He and Jason sat many a summer evening reminiscing about familiar Cambridge landmarks like the Square, Widener Library, Elsie’s, and running paths along the Charles River.
These conversations awakened in Jason a longing to visit the one place in his life where he had led an uncomplicated and happy existence.
He and Eva discussed it. What if they went to the States for a year after he completed his present army contract? If they’d accept him at the advanced age of thirty-nine, he could finish his law degree and then set up practice in Israel representing U.S. firms.
“What do you think, Eva?” he asked. “Would the kids enjoy it?”
“I know their father would.” She smiled indulgently. “And I’ve heard so much about Harvard all these years, I’m practically homesick for it myself. Go on, write the letters.”
Even after being AWOL for so many years, Jason had no trouble being readmitted to the Law School. Especially since the Assistant Dean of Admissions was now Tod Anderson, with whom, in his previous life, he had been a carefree jock.
As a postscript to his letter of acceptance, Tod added, “You may be a major over there, Gilbert, but to me you’re still my captain. Squash captain, that is.” To which he appended a P.P.S., “I’ve been working on my game a lot and I think I can finally whip you now.”
Jason was admitted as a third-year law student for the-1976-1977 academic year. He and Eva planned to take the boys over in mid-July and leave them with his parents while they searched for an apartment in Cambridge.
In May 1976 he left the Sayaret and active army service. Now all he owed Israel was a month of reserve duty every year until he was fifty-five.
When he said goodbye to his young commanding officer, Yoni could not help betraying a bit of envy.
“Think of me when you’re jogging on the Charles, saba , and send me a few postcards from Cambridge.”
The two laughed and parted.
Then, on the 27th of June, everything changed.
Air France flight 139 from Tel Aviv to Paris was hijacked after it stopped to take on passengers in Athens.
But this was not-even by Palestinian standards-a routine terrorist operation.
Landing once to refuel in — Libya, it then proceeded to Entebbe, in Uganda. There, the 256 passengers were herded into the old terminal at Kampala airport. And made hostages.
The following day, the captors made known their demands, They wanted fifty-three of their comrades-forty of whom were sitting in Israeli jails-handed over, along with several million dollars.
It had always been Israel’s policy not to negotiate with terrorists. But the families of the passengers besieged the cabinet offices in Jerusalem, pleading for an exchange that would save the lives of their loved ones. The government wavered. -
Under normal circumstances such a crisis would have been immediately handed over to the antiterrorist section. But this time the hostages were five thousand miles away. Unreachable by any military rescue operation. Or so it seemed.
Minutes after the first radio broadcast of the terrorists’ demands, Jason walked into the classroom where Eva was teaching the three-year-olds how to tell time. He motioned her to step outside.
“I’m going,” he said tersely.
“Back to the unit.”
“You’re crazy. They can’t do anything. And besides, you’re retired.”
“I can’t explain it, Eva,” he said urgently. “It’s just that I’ve spent half my life chasing some of those murderers who are sitting in jail. If we hand them back, that’ll destroy everything we’ve accomplished. The world will become a terrorist playground.”
Tears began to well up in her eyes.
“Jason, you’re the only thing I’ve loved that I haven’t lost. Haven’t you sacrificed enough of your life? Your children need a father, not a hero.…”
And then she paused, realizing that no words could stop him. Already feeling the ache of his absence even as he stood before her.
“Why, Jason?” she asked. “Why does it always have to be you?”
“It’s something I learned from you, Eva,” he replied softly. “The whole reason this country exists is to protect our people everywhere .”
Eva cried softly against his chest, realizing she’d made too good a Jew of him. His love for Israel now transcended even what he felt for his own family.
And so she let him go. Not even telling him that she was pregnant again.
“Get the hell out of here, saba . This is young men’s work.”
“C’mon, Yoni,” Jason insisted, “if there’s an operation, I want to be part of it.”
“Look, I’m not saying there is. So far, the government thinks it’s much too risky. To be perfectly frank, we haven’t been able to come up with a game plan that’ll have even a fifty-fifty chance of working.”
“Then why not at least let me in on the skull sessions? For God’s sake, I’m not too old to think.”
Their argument was interrupted by Major General Zvi Doron, former head of Sayaret , now chief of intelligence of the entire Defense Forces.
“Hey, guys,” he barked, “this is no time to bicker. What are you doing here, Gilbert?”
“I’m reporting for duty, Zvi.”
“Look,” Yoni said sternly, “we’re up against a wall and we’re wasting precious time. So I’m going to give you sixty seconds to convince me why the sentries shouldn’t throw you out. Now talk fast.”
“Okay,” he began, desperately searching for an argument. “When you picked a team to capture Adolf Eichmann, you deliberately chose concentration-camp survivors. Because there’s no one braver or less compromising than a victim with a chance for revenge.”
He paused and then added, “I’m a victim too. Those animals killed the first woman I ever loved. And there’s no one in this unit who would give more to spare others from living with that kind of pain.”
Jason unashamedly wiped his cheeks with his sleeve. And then concluded, “Besides, you still haven’t got a better soldier than me.”
Zvi and Yoni looked at each other, still uncertain.
Finally the commander spoke. “Listen, this whole operation is crazy. If they let us do it, maybe we need a lunatic like Gilbert.”
While the Sayaret was thrashing out a battle plan, the Israeli government was still trying to negotiate with the hijackers-at least to stall for time.
After another forty-eight hours, the non-Israeli passengers were released and flown to France, where they told a harrowing story. As in the Nazi concentration camps, there had been a “selection”-and the Israeli hostages had been placed in a room separated from the others.
The cabinet was under mounting public pressure to accede to the demands of the terrorists and save a hundred innocent lives. As they hovered on the brink of capitulation, they received a visit from Major General Zvi Doron, who informed them that his staff had come up with a plan for liberating the hostages by force. He explained it in detail and the ministers agreed to think it over.
Meanwhile, Doron went back to rehearse the landing at Entebbe.
Since Israeli architects had helped to build the old Ugandan air terminal, they had detailed blueprints and were able to build a full-scale mockup. And, based on the evidence gained from those released in Paris, they were able to pinpoint where the hostages were being kept.
As one of the veterans present, Jason joined in the discussion of logistics. They could not fly a large force so great a distance, therefore everything would depend on the element of surprise.
Their huge Hercules C-130 transport planes were slow but — at least had the range to get there. Still, how the hell could they free the hostages and get them on board before the entire country descended upon them?
In their thoroughness they watched home movies of Idi Amin, the Ugandan leader, riding around Kampala in his long black Mercedes.
“That’s what we need,” Jason urged. “If we can just make the guards think it might be Amin arriving, we can buy fifteen or twenty valuable seconds until they find out otherwise.”
“Good idea,” said Zvi. And then turning to his adjutant he said, “Find us a Mercedes.”
They planned on taking a two-hundred-man strike force, and a few jeeps and land rovers, divided among three transport planes. A fourth Hercules would serve as a flying hospital. For they estimated ten to fifty casualties-if they were successful.
Late that afternoon, the adjutant arrived with the only Mercedes he could find. It was a white diesel model that coughed and sputtered like an asthmatic horse.
“We can’t use that wreck,” Zvi said. “Even if we paint it, that damn knocking motor will give us away before we start.”
“Listen,” Yoni suggested, “why not let Gilbert try to give it an overhaul? He’s not too old to fix motors.”
“Thanks, sweetheart,” Jason said sardonically. “Get me some tools and I’ll make that thing as quiet as the fanciest limousine.”
He sweated all evening and through the night tuning the ancient vehicle. Then he supervised some of the other commandos spraying it black. But it still needed some spare parts, a list of which he gave to Yoni.
“Do you expect us to send to Germany for this stuff?” the younger officer asked.
“I expect quicker thinking than that from a Harvard man, Jason retorted. “Find some Mercedes taxis and steal the parts.”
Yoni smiled and went off to select the most likely car thieves among his men.
On Friday the unit held a full dress rehearsal in their model of the old terminal, it took sixty-seven minutes by the stopwatch, to go from imaginary touchdown to evacuation and takeoff.
“Not good enough,” Yoni said to his weary soldiers. “If we don’t get this down to under an hour, we don’t move.”
They took a break for a dinner of C-rations and ran through it again. This time it was 59:30.
After the exercise Yoni gathered his men and made a short announcement.
“The terrorists’ ultimatum expires tomorrow evening. That’s when they say they’ll start shooting the hostages. We’ve got to get there before it happens. The trouble is, the cabinet won’t be voting on our plan till tomorrow morning. So we’ve got to start the operation and hope they’ll radio us to go ahead. Obviously, nobody leaves the base. All the phone lines have been cut. Now try to get some sleep.”
The young soldiers disbanded and started toward the adjoining room where they had their sleeping bags. Only Jason remained to speak to Yoni.
“Thanks for your help,” Yoni said, “I’m really glad you came along.”
“But why aren’t you letting me onto the plane?”
“Look,” Yoni said quietly. “The — average age of these boys is about twenty-three. You’re almost forty. Even the greatest athletes slow down by then. They lose that crucial split second of reaction time.”
“But I can hold my own, Yoni. I know it. I want to go, even if it’s just to service the motors.”
“Look, saba , this is too serious to let emotions creep in. You’re staying here. And that’s final.”
Jason nodded silently and left the room. He walked out of the Sayaret building and, benefiting from years of experience at eluding detection, slipped by the guards and disappeared — into the night.
Operation Thunderbolt began just after noon on Saturday, July 3.
First the medical equipment was loaded. Then the military vehicles. Then the black Mercedes. Finally, the men clambered aboard for the five-thousand-mile rescue mission that could not afford to be less than perfect.
Four Hercules “Hippos” lumbered down the runway and into the air heading south. Their plan was to stop for final refueling at Sharm El-Sheikh, the southernmost point of Israeli territory. That would give them maximum possible range.
The pilots’ cardinal objectives were to avoid detection by Arab radar and take extraordinary measures to conserve fuel. For the latter purpose they flew so low that the gusts from the desert shook the planes ceaselessly. And when they landed in Sharm El-Sheikh, after only a half-hour in the air, some of the assault force were overwhelmed by air sickness. -One man had even fainted.
The minute they hit the airport runway and began to taxi, Yoni ordered the doctors to do something about the men whose stomachs had failed before their courage had been tested.
One of the medics shook his head and murmured, “We should have given out Dramamine pills. That was an oversight.”
Let’s hope it’s our only one, Yoni thought as he leapt from the aircraft onto the tarmac to confer with Zvi, who was riding in the second plane. At that very moment, the cabinet was meeting to decide whether to give them the green light.
Zvi also had sick men in his aircraft.
“I think we’re going to have to leave Yoav here in Sharm,” he said. “He’s much too ill.”
“What was his assignment?” Zvi asked.
“He was supposed to drive the Mercedes,” said a voice that belonged to neither of them.
And from behind the huge wheels of the C-130 Jason Gilbert appeared wearing a belt of hand grenades, his Kaletchnikov strapped to his shoulder.
“Saba , what the hell!” Zvi snapped.
“Listen,” Jason said with quiet urgency, “I’ve been driving all night. You shouldn’t have left me behind in the first place. Now you’ve got to take me.”
Yoni and Zvi exchanged glances. The older man made an instant decision.
“Take Yoav off. Get on board, Jason.”
At 1530 hours they took off from Sharm El-Sheikh, heading straight down the middle of the Red Sea between Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Below them they spied Russian naval vessels-doubtless equipped with radar. The four planes descended practically to sea level, acting more like flying fish than aircraft.
A quarter of an hour later, a simple message came through on their radio.
“All systems are go . We’re now cutting all radio contact. Call us when you’re on your way home.”
Yoni walked out of the cockpit and said quietly to the men, “The operation’s on. We’ve got seven hours to pass the time and then forty-five minutes to do the best we’ve ever done. Check your gear and try to get some sleep.”
One member of the assault force, dressed in an elaborate military costume to masquerade as Idi Amin, handed Jason a tube of deep brown stage makeup.
“Here, saba . If you’re supposed to be my driver you’ve got to look the part. Smear it in your hair, too. I don’t think there are any blond Ugandans.”
Jason nodded and took the greasepaint.
“This is the hardest part,” said his comrade, “the waiting, I mean.”
“I’m used to it. I once sat outdoors for three days and nights staking out a PLO big shot.”
“Yes, but how far were you from the Israeli border?” the young man asked.
“About eight miles.”
“This is a thousand times as far.”
“I didn’t say I wasn’t scared,” Jason said.
“Want a paperback?” the commando asked.
“What have you got?”
“I can lend you The Guns of Navarone .”
“You’re kidding.” He laughed. “At this point you’re better off reading the Bible.”
“No, saba , right now this is more inspirational.”
Jason sighed and reached into his breast pocket.
“What are you doing?” the young soldier asked.
“Just looking at some pictures.”
“Of the airport?”
“No. My family.”
Six and a half hours later they were over Kenya, flying in the darkness. In a few minutes more they would be over Lake Victoria and descending toward Entebbe airport. Zero hour was approaching.
Yoni walked around the plane, checking the readiness of his men. He stopped and peeked through the Mercedes window, where a blackfaced Jason was checking his pistol. He looked up as his friend approached. “I’m gonna make sure nobody takes my parking spot,” Jason smiled. “Are your boys nervous?”
“No more than you,” answered Yoni, “or me. Good luck, saba . Let’s do the job, huh?”
The timing thus far had been perfect. The first aircraft arrived just as a scheduled British cargo flight was radioing the Entebbe control tower for permission to land. The lead Hercules followed right on the limey’s tail and touched ground scarcely a hundred yards behind it. At first they headed toward the new terminal, then casually swung left, dropping mobile landing lights so the three other aircraft could easily follow. So far, no one had noticed them. They taxied to a dark corner of the field and began to disembark.
A dozen commandos jumped out and quickly set up a ramp for Jason’s Mercedes. It purred as he drove it down and started toward the building where the hostages were imprisoned.
A pair of land rovers with troops followed close behind, within sight of the control tower. Suddenly two Ugandan soldiers stepped into the road to identify the occupants of the car. Yoni and another commando dropped them both with silencer-pistols.
“We’d better go the rest of the way on foot,” Yoni whispered.
They got out of their cars and raced toward the terminal. Seconds later, they broke — into the hall where the hostages were lying on the floor trying to sleep. It was fully lit so that the guards could watch the captives. That also made it easier for the rescuers.
One of the terrorists realized what was happening and opened fire. He was killed instantly. Two others who had been on the opposite side rushed in, guns blazing.
Frightened by the sudden noise, some hostages jumped to their feet. A commando with a loudspeaker barked out instructions in Hebrew and English.
“We are the Israeli Army. Get down. Get down.”
At this point Jason appeared at the doorway, his gun drawn.
A frightened old woman looked at him and asked, “Are you really our boys?”
“Yes,” he snapped. “Get down.”
“God must have sent you,” she exclaimed and immediately obeyed.
Suddenly Jason noticed a suspicious-looking character trying to move behind the hostages.
He called out in Hebrew, “Is he one of us?”
A woman who was being used as a shield bravely cried out, “No, it’s one of them.” And broke away from her captor’s grip.
The terrorist quickly withdrew a grenade and unpinned it. Jason aimed his pistol and fired. As the man fell, the grenade rolled from his hand. Instinctively Jason was already rushing forward. In a single motion he scooped it up and lobbed it into a corner, where it exploded, harming no one.
Yoni was racing through the hall to see if every guard had been eliminated. From outside they could hear fierce gunfire as the other units were battling the Ugandan soldiers.
Yoni grabbed the loudspeaker and called out, “Everybody listen. We’ve got planes waiting. Start moving as quickly as you can. There are soldiers outside to protect you. We’ve got jeeps for anyone who can’t walk. Let’s go!”
The dazed captives obeyed meekly. Too numb to rejoice, too shocked to believe that they weren’t dreaming.
As the evacuation began, Ugandan soldiers were shooting wildly from atop the control tower. Through the wall of commandos who had formed to protect the hostages, Jason carried an aged victim who had been struck in the crossfire. He reached the plane and hoisted the man to the medics waiting at the door. Then he pulled himself aboard. Doctors were already working on other casualities.
As Jason was helping settle the old man on a mattress, he heard a soldier holding a walkie-talkie blurt out an anguished, “Oh no!”
“What’s the matter?” he shouted.
“It’s Yoni-Yoni’s been hit!”
Jason was electrified. He grabbed a rifle, rushed to the door of the plane, leapt onto the tarmac, and began to run back toward the terminal. In the distance he could see them lifting Yoni onto a stretcher. A hail of bullets was still coming from the control tower.
As soon as he was in range, he stopped and began to return their fire. His only thought was that whoever had shot Yoni had to pay for it.
From a distance he heard Zvi’s voice calling- urgently.
“Gilbert, everyone’s on board, we’re moving out!”
Heedless, Jason continued shooting. A figure stumbled from the tower. He had hit one of the snipers.
Zvi shouted again, “Gilbert, get back here. That’s an order!”
Still, Jason kept firing in wild anger until his ammunition was exhausted. The roar of the first Hercules taking off suddenly brought him to his senses. He hurled his rifle to the ground, turned, and began to sprint toward the nearest aircraft.
It was then that the bullet struck him, ripping through his right shoulder blade and into his chest.
He staggered but refused to fall. He would not let his fellow soldiers risk their lives to rescue him. He reached the door of the plane and they pulled him in. When one of the commandos gasped at the sight of his chest, he knew that he was hurt badly.
But he still didn’t feel anything.
As the doctor slashed his shirt, he heard the plane door slam and heard somebody call out, “We’ve done it. We’re going home.”
Jason looked at the doctor, whose face was ashen.
“Is it true?” he asked. “Did we really pull it off?”
Äàòà äîáàâëåíèÿ: 2015-08-05; ïðîñìîòðîâ: 6; Íàðóøåíèå àâòîðñêèõ ïðàâ