Here we go.
'Your mother and I have given our blessing to whatever choices you've made. We welcomed Herb into the family... We supported your singing career. But Germany?' He shook his head vaguely. 'We send our athletes there and we will be condoning, lending respectability to the most iniquitous...'
'...the most unconscionable regime ever to - '
Exasperation flared in her eyes. 'Quit the speech. It's about competing. That's all.'
They held each other's gaze.
He said, 'I fought hard to stop Brundage winning that vote. I lost. And now I'm entrusting you to his care?'
'I can handle him.'
'Can you?' He sat slowly down at his desk, his shoulders slumped.
'Everything's a game, isn't it? A high school dare, a challenge. Rules are to be broken; advice to be ignored.' Thunder rolled and a splash of rain hit the windowsill with a thump. 'One day, my dear, you'll see the world for what it is. And that'll be the day you quit being a Park Avenue playgirl and grow up - '
His desk intercom buzzed.
'Senator Taylor, sir, I have the New York Times on the line.'
'Well, well,' he said, looking up at her. 'News travels fast in this town.'
HER CAB MADE a right at West Twentieth Street, and Eleanor braced herself for the barrage of flashbulbs. One enterprising reporter waiting on the corner had already spotted her and was running alongside her window, trying to jump onto the running board.
'Eleanor, how's it feel to be going to Berlin? How's it - '
She put her sunglasses on and ignored him.
'Hey, lady, don't be a snob.'
It was just after rush hour on a humid July morning. The ship wasn't sailing until eleven, but the boardwalk was already filling up with hundreds of well-wishers and passengers preparing to embark. Her cab inched past a sidewalk crowded with athletic teams in club sweatshirts, some laughing, some chanting a college yell, all heading towards the pier, holding Olympic flags and banners with good-luck messages. Hot dog vendors had set up stalls.
Directly ahead, the bow of the SS Manhattan towered above the crowd like a sheer rock promontory, shimmering in the haze of heat. Cranes lifted cargo to the top deck, where the United States Lines had painted the liner's two funnels red, white, and blue, and festooned the rails with bunting in honour of the team.
The cab pulled up as close to the boardwalk as it could get and was mobbed.
'Will you break the world record for backstroke again, Eleanor?'
'I'm going to Berlin with no other aim,' she said, stepping into the fray, long legs first, and posing briefly in the bias-cut skirt and tilted cream hat she'd chosen with this moment in mind. Flashbulbs popped.
'Is Senator Taylor mad at you for going?'
'My father wishes me well in whatever I do.'
'Will your husband be joining you?'
'No, my husband will be on tour with his orchestra.' She pointed in the direction she wished to go, and the reporters moved aside.
'Take it easy, boys.'
'Say, if you meet Hitler what're you going to say to him?'
'Change your barber.'
The reporters laughed, and scribbled.
She pushed her way into the crowd, swatting aside an autograph book. Will your husband be joining you? They sure knew how to ask a sore question. She was still raw from her fight with Herb last night. Since she'd qualified for the team he'd acted like he'd lost his top dog status in life, one minute spilling her the sob stuff, the next, a real asshole. Same story every time she achieved something. Then this morning he'd claimed some phoney engagement as an excuse not to wave her off. Hadn't her dad been enough to handle? What was it with men?
Excerpted from Flight from Berlin by David John. Copyright © 2012 by David John. Excerpted by permission of Harper. 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
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