Hes a German spy, she announced.
A German spy?
Thats right. You see, its wartime1940, to be preciseand while the Battle of Britain rages in the skies above a small Hampshire village, an altogether different battle is about to unfold on the ground. As above
Were they really quoting Hermes Trismegistus at each other over this?
I think it was Kent, said Adam.
The Battle of BritainKent and a bit of Sussex, not Hampshire.
This news was clearly something of a blow to Gloria.
Well, maybe some of the planes, I dont know, went astray or something.
Adam looked doubtful.
Damn, said Gloria, I wanted dogfights in the sky.
Then move it to Kent.
It has to be Hampshire.
He regretted the question almost immediately.
Because its all about a secret submarine base in Portsmouth harbor.
Was this really where two years of English literature studies had led her, all that Beowulf and Chaucer, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: to a secret submarine base in Portsmouth harbor?
What? demanded Gloria warily.
I was just thinking, he lied, that your narrators a man. Unless shes a woman who happens to play cricket for the village team.
Its a challenge, I imagine, writing a male narrator.
You dont think Im up to it?
I didnt say that.
Four brothers, she said, holding up three fingers.
And its not as if youre the first chap Ive ever stepped out with.
This was a truth she liked to assert from time to time, dishing out unsavory details to drive home her point, although she was too angry for that right now.
She tossed the remainder of her wine away, the liquid crescent flopping into the tall grass. She got to her feet a little unsteadily. Im going.
Dont, he said, taking her hand. Stay.
You hate it.
Thats not true.
I know what youre thinking.
Youre wrong. I could be jailed for what Im thinking.
It was a crass play, but he knew her vulnerability to that kind of talk. Besides, this was the reason theyd skipped their lectures and come to the meadow, was it not?
Im sorry, he said, capitalizing on her faint smile, I suppose Im just jealous.
I couldnt do it, I know that. Its great. Really. It hooked me instantly. The drunken vicars a great touch.
You like him?
Gloria allowed herself to be drawn back down onto the blanket, into their sunken den, out of sight of the river towpath, where the stubby willows bristled.
His fingers charted a lazy yet determined course along the inside of her dove-white thigh, the flesh warm and yielding, like new dough.
She leaned toward him and kissed him, forcing her tongue between his lips.
He tasted the cheap white wine and felt himself stir under her touch. His hand moved to her breasts, his thumb brushing over her nipples, the way she liked it.
Sexual favors in return for blanket praise. Was it really that simple?
He checked his thoughts, guilty that his mind was straying from the matter in hand.
He neednt have worried.
You know, said Gloria, breaking free and drawing breath, Hampshire it is. Screw the Battle of Britain.
Excerpted from The Savage Garden by Mark Mills, © 2007 by Mark Mills. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Group USA. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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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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