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precious beyond all else.
We stopped on the culvert bridging it. 'Margrethe, how would you like to wade in that?'
'Darling, I'm going to do more than wade in it, I'm going to bathe in it.'
'Hmm - Yes, go under the fence, along the stream about fifty, seventy-five yards, and I don't think
anyone could see us from the road.'
'Sweetheart, they can line up and cheer if they want to; I'm going to have a bath. And - That water looks
clean. Would it be safe to drink?'
'The upstream side? Certainly. We've taken worse chances every day since the iceberg. Now if we had
something to eat - Say, your hot fudge sundae. Or would you prefer scrambled eggs?' I held up the
lower wire of the fence to let her crawl under. I
'Will you settle for an Oh Henry bar?'
'Make that a Milky Way,' I answered, 'if I have my druthers.'
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'I'm afraid you don't, dear. An Oh Henry bar is all there is.' She held the wire for me.
'Maybe we'd better stop talking about food we don't have,' I said, and crawled under - straightened up
and added, 'I'm ready to eat raw skunk.'
'Food we do have, dear man. I have an Oh Henry in my tote.'
I stopped abruptly. 'Woman, if you're joking, I'm going to beat you.'
'I'm not joking.'
'In Texas it is legal to correct a wife with a stick not ,thicker than one's thumb.' I held up my thumb. 'Do
you see one about this size?'
'I'll find one.'
'Where did you get a candy bar?'
'That roadside stop where Mr Facelli treated us to coffee and doughnuts.' I
Mr Facelli had been our middle-of-the-night ride just before the truck that had dropped us. Two small
cake doughnuts each and the sugar and cream for coffee had been our only calories for twenty-four
'The beating can wait. Woman, if you stole it, tell me about it later. You really do have a real live Oh
Henry? Or am I getting feverish?'
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'Alec, do you think I would steal a candy bar? I bought it from a coin machine while you and Mr Facelli
were in the men's room after we ate.'
'How? We don't have any money. Not from this world.'
'Yes, Alec. But there was a dime in my tote, from two changes back. Of course it was not a good dime,
strictly speaking. But I couldn't see any real harm if the machine would take it. And it did. But I put it out
of sight before you two got back... because I didn't have three dimes and could not offer a candy bar to
Mr Facelli.' She added anxiously, 'Do you think I cheated? Using that dime?'
'It's a technicality I won't go into... as long as I get to share in the proceeds of the crime. And that makes
me equally guilty. Uh... eat first, or bathe first?'
We ate first, a picnic banquet washed down by delicious creek water. Then we bathed, with much
splashing and laughing - I remember it as one of the happiest times of my life. Margrethe had soap in her
tote bag, too, and I supplied the towel, my shirt. First I wiped Margrethe with it, then I wiped me with it.
The dry, warm air finished the job.
What happened immediately after was inevitable. I had never in my life made love outdoors, much less in
bright daylight. If anyone had asked me, I would have said that for me it would be a psychological
impossibility; I would be too inhibited, too aware of the indecency involved.
I am amazed and happy to say that, while keenly aware of the circumstances, I was untroubled at the
time and quite able... perhaps because of Margrethe's bubbling, infectious enthusiasm.
I have never slept naked on grass before, either. I think we slept about an hour.
When we woke up, Margrethe insisted on shaving me. I could not shave myself very well as I had no
mirror, but she could and did, with her usual efficiency. We stood knee-deep in the water; I worked up
soapsuds with my hands and slathered my face. She shaved and I renewed the lather as needed.
'There,' she said at last, and gave me a sign-off kiss, 'you'll do. Rinse off now and don't forget your ears.
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I'll find the towel. Your shirt.' She climbed onto the bank while I leaned far over and splashed water on
my face.
'Alec -'
'I can't hear you; the water's running.'
'Please, dear!'
I straightened up, wiped the water out of my eyes, looked around.
Everything we owned was gone, everything but my razor.
Chapter 17
Behold, I go forward, but he is not there;
and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the
left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot
behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand,
that I cannot see him.
Job 23:8-10
MARGRETHE SAID, 'What did you do with the soap?'
I took a deep breath, sighed it out. 'Did I hear you correctly? You're asking what I did with the soap?'
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'What would you rather I said?'
'Uh - I don't know. But not that. A miracle takes place... and you ask me about a bar of soap.'
'Alec, a miracle that takes place again and again and again is no longer a miracle; it's just a nuisance. Too
many, too much. I want to scream or break into tears. So I asked about the soap.'
I had been halfway to hysteria myself when Margrethe's statement hit me like a dash of cold water.
Margrethe? She who took icebergs and earthquakes in her stride, she who never whimpered in
adversity... she wanted to scream?
'I'm sorry, dear. I had the soap in my hands when you were shaving me. I did not have it in my hands
when I rinsed my face. I suppose I laid it on the bank. But I don't recall. Does it matter?'
'Not really, I suppose. Although that cake of Camay, used just once, would be half our worldly goods if
I could find it, this razor being the other half. You may have placed it on the bank, but I don't see it.'
'Then it's gone. Marga, we've got urgent things to worry about before we'll be dirty enough to need soap
again. Food, Clothing, shelter.' I scrambled up onto the bank. 'Shoes. We don't even have shoes. What
do we do now? I'm stumped. If I had a wailing wall, I'd wail.' [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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