Authors: Colleen McCullough
Tags: #Science Fiction, #Romance, #Modern, #Historical
Dr Chasen decided discretion might be the
better part of valour, so he changed the subject. 'Judith, I want to ask you something, because I
think I should have a yea or nay from you in your official capacity. I would
very much like to go up to Holloman to visit the Christians. But if you don't
think it's a good idea, I won't go.'
She frowned, thought the request over.
'Well, I can't say the idea turns me on, but I've no real grounds for objection.
I take it it's just a personal call?'
'Yes. I'd never met any of Joshua's
family until the funeral, and I can't think of a worse occasion to strike up a
friendship. But I really did take to Josh's mother. Such a gallant soul! And I
just feel I'd like to see for myself that she's okay.'
'Conscience bothering you,
'Yes — and no.'
'Don't ever blame yourself. It was him.
It was always, always him. Some people can't be moderate. You knew him! He was
the most immoderate man in the world. A superlative brain, yet he always ended
up thinking with his guts. I never understood that! A waste, Moshe.'
'Whatever he was, was what made him right
for your purpose, Judith. Can't you see that? Don't you sorrow for him at
She smiled, shook her head, but neither
unkindly. 'To grieve for Joshua Christian is an impossibility. He'll never die,
you know. He will outlive your remotest posterity.' She smiled again, a secret,
triumphant smile. 'I
have ensured it.'
He slapped his hands on his thighs. 'Ach!
Sometimes I think the world is too much for me.' He rose to his feet, looking at
his watch. 'Back to Section Four. I've got two conferences this afternoon. But
I'd much rather be making love to my computer!'
'Oh, come on, Moshe, be fair! I didn't
browbeat you into taking the job as head of Section Four.'
'I know, I know!' He drew himself up with
beautiful and endearing dignity; only then did his recent marked loss of weight show properly. 'I
am a Jew,' he said. 'I like to kvetch, it makes me feel better. You dealt with
Section Four with all your usual genius, Judith. Me on the think tank end, and
John Wayne on the administrative end. It works.'
'Moshe,' Dr Carriol said as he headed for
the door, 'are you well? Have you had a checkup?'
wife I haven't had a
'Everything is fine,' he said, and went
Dr Carriol sat for a moment before she
picked up the telephone. Perhaps Tibor's call had been fortunate; it had enabled
her to avoid telling Moshe why she had abandoned public for political service.
The answer had been on the tip of her tongue, and would have come out. Which
might have been a big mistake. Moshe was changed since the death of Joshua
Christian. And he didn't even know how Joshua Christian had died!
It was going to be
Eat your heart out, Joshua Christian,
wherever you are. No dogwood noose for me. Not that I hate you any more. I did
for a while, I admit it. I even let you harness me to serve you, instead of
keeping it the other way around. But if you had grown up in Pittsburgh the way I
did, nothing would ever burrow deep enough to undermine your underpinnings,
either. If I was not everything I am, I'd still be sitting there in Pittsburgh,
and I'd be drinking myself to death. Or shooting up if I could turn enough
tricks to support the habit.
He is a beautiful man, Tibor Reece. I
will make him exactly the right kind of wife. I will love him. I will make him
happy. I will care for his child. I will endow him with enough enthusiasm to run
for a fourth term. I will ensure that he is accounted an even greater President
than Augustus Rome. After all, I can't rest on my laurels! And where can I go from
Operation Messiah except to Operation Emperor?
Dr Chasen ended in staying overnight at
1047 Oak Street, Holloman. The Christians made him so welcome, and they spoke so
freely of Joshua with him, their eyes less teary and their throats less lumpy
than Moshe Chasen's. And they talked of. what they intended to do with all the
years they would have to live remembering Joshua.
'Miriam and I are off to Asia shortly,'
said James. 'I feel we have a lot of work to do there before Joshua's creed
assumes its proper importance in Asia.'
'And I'm off to South America again,'
said Andrew. He did not indicate that his wife would be accompanying
She, poor soul, didn't seem to Dr Chasen
to be quite right in the head. She wandered so aimlessly; she sang quietly to
herself; she leaned heavily on Mary, who cared for her with enormous patience
They, said Mary, meaning Martha and
herself, would keep Mama company in Holloman while the other three travelled in
their dead brother's cause.
used to think I would shrivel
and die if I didn't get the opportunity to travel,' Mary went on, and shivered,
and paled. 'But do you know, Moshe, Washington was too far?'
And after the excellent dinner Mama
cooked, they sat in the exquisite living room among the plants that kept on
growing and flowering in mindless luxuriance. The talk still revolved around the
'Mind you,' said Mama, pouring coffee,
'James and Miriam and Andrew can't leave Holloman quite yet. It isn't forty days
since Joshua died.'
'Forty days?' asked Dr Chasen stupidly,
because he was not stupid.
'That's right. Joshua hasn't appeared to
us yet. But he will! To us. Forty days after his death. At least that's what we
think, though we can't be sure. It might be three times forty. Or two times
forty. It's two thousand years, but this is the third millennium, so we don't
quite know. If it should turn out to be longer than forty days, then of course
James and Miriam and Andrew won't wait, because they won't be intended to be
here when Joshua comes. I imagine he will only show himself to the women, the
two Marys and Martha, but I might be wrong.'
She sounded so happy, so sure. And she
was calm. She was sane. He looked around at the others, trying vainly to learn
what they thought of Mama's theory, but he couldn't even begin to plumb what lay
behind their fair placid faces.
'Will you let me know when he appears?'
Dr Chasen asked respectfully.
'Of course I will!' cried Mama
The others said neither yea nor
Mary leaned forward abruptly, lips
'Yes?' prompted Dr Chasen
She smiled at him; she looked a great
deal more like her mother these days. 'Drink your coffee, Moshe,' she said
gently. 'It's getting cold.'