Then she nods, a gesture intended to display confidence. She sits as he faces forward to lean into the gas pedal. The Land Rover jumps, leaving the woman in the trail of dust the driver had avoided the first time.
Rob speaks first. "Where the hell did that come from, Caddie?"
"This damned pressure-cooker," Marcus says. "Woman, you need a break too."
"As if we all dont," Sven says.
"Sunday brunch in the Village," Marcus goes on. "Mimosas and eEggs Benedict and a stack of frivolous glossy magazines. Well go windsurfing off Long Island. You can browse all the bookshops on the Upper West Side. And buy fresh bagels every day."
For a moment, she does miss New York. She misses blending in, not having to concentrate on the language. And street signsGod, how she misses street signs right now on this dusty, no-name road.
Marcus smiles. "I see it in your eyes. Youre ready. So come out with me, away from this madness."
"The paper wants me here," she says.
"Tell them how dead it is; then they wont. Point out that everyone in your country is preoccupied by the election right now. About the Middle East, no one gives."
Caddie shakes her head. "Its never dead here, Marcus. And didnt you see all those farm-fed American boys in the Intercon bar last night? They didnt make the trip to get laid. Spooks, for sure."
"Shes got a point," says Rob.
"CIAso what?" Marcus grimaces in mock despair. "All that means is no photo ops for sure. Cmon, Caddie."
Caddie shakes her head. "If I need a break, Ill take a couple days off in Jerusalem."
"Why?" he says. "Why do you have to stay?" When she doesnt answer, he exhales in loud frustration. "Okay, then," he says. "But not me. Thats the joy of being a freelancer." He puts his hands behind his head as though leaning back in an easy chair. "Poof. Im gone."
The driver slows again to about five miles an hour. Except for scrawny gray bushes hugging the roadside, the area seems forsaken. "Enough delays," Rob calls, bouncing his right leg. "Lets get the show rolling."
"Dont worry." Sven half-turns in his seat. "We must be almost there. Isnt that right?" he asks the driver in loud Arabic. "We are there?"
Their driver doesnt answerin fact, Caddie realizes shes never heard him speak. She has no idea what his voice sounds like, and that suddenly registers as odd.
Before she can ask another question and wait him out until hes forced to reply, she catches sight of a bush up ahead to the right, jerking in a way it shouldnt. The air hisses and loses pressure like a deflating balloon. "Hold it," Caddie says, but she doubts anyone hears because right then a passing shrub rises and makes an inexplicable ping. "Hey" Marcus exclaims, and he half-stands, faces her and raises his hands as though to block her from the bush. Then he leans on her, shoving her down, and Caddie is dimly aware of a crack and grayish smoke as she hears Sven in the front yelling, "Gas, hit the gas you idiot, go, go, go for Christs sake!" It occurs to her that their situation must be serious for cordial Sven to call someone an idiot, and Rob sinks to his knees on the floor of the jeep, pulling her toward him, saying, "Oh Jesus oh fuck oh Jesus," so shes sandwiched between the two of them, Rob and Marcus, and shes aware of a peppery scent, and then, at last, she feels the jeep plunge forward and she tastes the dust that has settled on the leather seats but she sees nothing since her head is near her knees and Marcus is slumped over, protecting her, and the air becomes too dense to breathe, as though shes underwater, and they seem to be turning because she falls to her left in slow motion and she realizes she should definitely be afraid right now, very afraid, yet she feels separate from it, in it but apart, like shes that dirt caked behind the drivers ear, and they spin to their right and Marcus, who is still covering her body with his ownGod, hes heavyhalf falls off and at that same moment she feels something sticky like tree sap on her cheek and she touches it and its blood. "I guess Ive been hit," she says, shifting her body toward Marcus, keeping her voice light because shes already been flighty today about the woman and her toddler so hysteria now is impermissible, and then she knows, she knows right away and without any doubt. The blood is his and hes gone.
From The Distance Between Us by Masha Hamilton. Copyright 2004. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Unbridled Books.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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