[Another short story of fiction from Israel that my sons published for me. It never happened of course - but could have. I would love to hear your comments!]
Shannon sat at her corner table, alone, as usual. Rap music, a heavy bass line, and the vodka tonic she sipped gave her a good feeling, a feeling of control, and anticipation. Each man, mostly young, who passed through the bar could be Him. The One. The Father, but he didn’t know it, and would never know it.
Invariably, Shannon never sat alone for very long. This was a large pub, very trendy, and she had seen probably hundreds of guys walking in, about, and out. Each one was checked. If he looked good, she watched him. Checked to see how he sat, how he held himself, how he spoke and laughed. Did his friends listen to him? Did they laugh? Did they take him seriously? Was he intelligent, a leader, someone who had his own ideas?
Those that passed this ordeal, and they were a select few, went on to the main test: seduction. Would he feel her eyes on him?
Would he know that she wanted him?
Would he come over to her table?
The two or three that did, didn’t make it any further. They would start out ok, but didn’t know how to hold down a conversation. Maybe it was her age; she was older than 90% of the men that came to this pub, or maybe it was her dark demeanor, her cool way of eyeing each one, something only a man would do in that calculating way.
Naturally, there were those who tried their luck and approached her. Holding on to a drink, they would start with lines: "Hi there, all alone?" or "Can I join you?" nothing really original. Many times, they would come in two’s, each one supporting the other. These she would shoo away quickly like the little children they were.
Shannon checked her watch, and got up to leave. She paid her bill and said good night to the bar girl, Ateret. Someone else might have thought this night to be a waste of time. Shannon was not like that. She had patience. She knew what she wanted and was in no real hurry. It was still hot outside in Tel Aviv, the breeze from the sea came with the taste of salt, and Shannon flagged down a taxi.
Shmuel walked down the path leading from the kibbutz store to his home. As always, he looked at the small, aging one-story house in disdain. You could find the same in just about any kibbutz in the country, the dwellings that the younger generation of kibbutz members had stuck their parents in. They got the new, modern apartments. Of course, they had all the right arguments, but also knew that they "old folks" didn’t really care that their own children screwed them.
"Friars!", Shmuel spat, saying that most demeaning Israeli curse. A Friar was a pushover, a dupe, a patsy. Nothing could be worse than someone who didn’t stand up for himself, who meekly caved in when he was entitled to something better, who did more than his share.
Shmuel had done his best to teach his only son that he must never be a Friar. He would tell the young boy how everyone had taken advantage of him. The country, the kibbutz, and especially that wife of his, who last he heard, was with her latest lover in Indonesia, laying in the Balinese sun, dressed like a 18 year old.
Shmuel couldn’t understand it – he never allowed himself to be a Friar, but he got screwed all the same. It didn’t fit!
Entering his small home, built with the most basic of materials, which consisted of a small kitchen, a sitting room, and two small bedrooms, Shmuel felt even worse. All those years of work and health he had put into the kibbutz, and look what he had to show for it. Hadn’t he stayed while he was sick with malaria and the doctor pleaded with him to leave? Hadn’t he been loyal to the work ethic, the ideology, the politics? Even when Shoshana told him: "Either the kibbutz or me" - he stayed while she left him.
He entered his son’s room, putting the fruit he had brought next to his small bed in a wooden bowl.
What was going to be with that boy? He should have his own room. The kibbutz offered him a nice room, but he wanted to stay with his father when he came home from the army. Although Shmuel had pleaded with him, cursed him, cried, his son had gone into the army, had joined a very elite unit, and was now an officer.
“Dad, I want to give! I have a talent for this. I have energy. I will be a good officer. I want to give what I can to my country!” the boy had told him. Shmuel could not understand.
“Why be a Friar?” he asked the boy, “Nobody cares about you! They will milk you for everything you have and throw you away when finished! Look at your mother! Did she care for you when she left?” he cried.
And now the boy was an officer. His unit was so special, he couldn’t even tell Shmuel where he was, or what he did.
His son was coming home for the weekend. Shmuel would try to reason with him, to make him somehow get out of this unit, a safer place at least, but he knew it would be futile.
How could this happen, his own son such a Friar?
Tali, Shannon’s secretary poked her head into the office. "Shannon, it’s 2 o’clock. Thursday".
Shannon checked her watch and moved to get up. "Thanks Tali".
Closing her laptop, she briskly gathered her bag, the cellphone and a few papers.
"I’m going home afterwards. Be back in the early morning".
"You don’t really have to", Tali told her, "we are way ahead of schedule".
"I know" She told Tali. ‘Of course I know’, she thought to herself. ‘I run things here, don’t I?’
Heading down the tower in the elevator, she sighed and did some deep breathing. This was never easy, and she found herself torn in two. She even had deep, inner thoughts that bordered on evil that she kept to herself, and tried to keep even from herself.
Her father had been ill with Alzheimer’s for some time now. Her mother had taken care of him, but when she died, there was no option but to put him in a home. Her brothers complained, and the youngest was willing to have him with his family, but it proved too difficult, even with the best intentions.
“I told you so”, Shannon told him, and her brother could not think of a reply. That’s how she always was. Shannon was never wrong, and she never let you forget it. No wonder she never got married, she never would.
Both her brothers knew that Shannon would visit her father every Thursday. They also knew she did that so they wouldn’t be there when she was. They all preferred it that way. Her brothers, one older, one younger, had turned out, unfortunately, like her father and mother. Each in his own way. One, the CEO of the Israeli branch for "Journalists for Freedom", the other, becoming religious, a leader of the Settler movement. It all bored her. She was sick of hearing the two of them arguing some stupid ideology, each one hoping to get her father to support one of them over the other.
Not for her. She knew who number one was, and hell if she would turn out like the rest of them. Her "mother" had been gone so much, healing Blacks, Browns, Whites, Yellows and Reds before coming down with some virus nobody knew the name to. So much that Shannon didn’t really remember her.
Her father, at least, while he was all about "serving his people", at least dotted on his only daughter and took her with him wherever he went. She had met them all. She shook hands with Nixon when she was just 3 years old, had met with Carter, Thatcher, Reagan, Arab diplomats and leaders who never allowed pictures to be taken – even Mick Jagger and Bono.
‘I use people’, her father had told her, ‘But I never exploit them’.
Shannon didn’t see the difference. Especially now. Her father, in his discrepancy, had been all but been forgotten and left alone by all his "wonderful friends". ‘Who has exploited who’? she wondered each time she saw him.
Inevitably thinking these thought, Shannon walked briskly into the office floor, past the secretary who welcomed her, and into her father’s room. She smiled, looking at him. He was watching TV, and looked up with a puzzled look on his weathered face. He didn’t recognize her, but this didn’t worry her at all. She knew what would happen. She walked over to him and engulfed in a warm hug.
"Aba", she said, and after a few tense moments, felt him relax.
"My Rina", he mumbled, and, as usual, Shannon began to shake; hot, slow tears on her cheek.
Lior checked his gear again, frowning. It still made noise. He jumped up and down a few times, and then left and then right. Taking off the vest, he opened up his grenade pouch, moved the grenade around and made sure it was just right. He was about to put the vest on when Hanan came in the room.
"Shit Lior. Will you put that away. The jeep is ready and waiting for us. The babes are waiting, and they won’t stay forever!"
"Hanan”, Lior retorted, “You get caught with your pants down – not me! What happens if there is an emergency?"
"Emergency? What the fuck are you talking about? We are off to Tel Aviv. We have three babes waiting for us, and unit b is here. Even if there is an emergency, they will take care of it!"
Asa, the third officer in the unit, walked in.
"That’s just what Lior is worried about. That something will finally happen, while he is getting laid! He’ll never forgive himself!"
Hanan gave Lior a smack. "Laid? This kibbutznik? Who will screw him while he still stinks of cow shit? Let’s go! I, for one, am going to fuck like a stallion!" Bantering back and forth, the three young officers left the building and made their way to their jeep.
A soldier walked by, saluted them and asked permission to speak to Lior. When he saw the look on the soldier’s face, he took him off to the side, motioning to the others that this was important, and he would be just a minute.
"What’s up, Dan?", he prodded the soldier, who was reluctant to speak.
"Sir, It’s just that the others in my group are bothering me. It’s starting to bring me down, and I don’t know what to do. They call me a Friar all the time. I tend to take things seriously, and I’m a bit innocent, you know, and they bait me for it.".
"Dan. I don’t have a lot of time right now, so I will tell you straight. You have nothing to worry about. Men always like to find someone to laugh at. I had the same thing, and more. But remember, when the chips are down, you will find that those guys will respect you. You have a lot of talent in you, and you are one of the most intelligent soldiers in the unit. Don’t take it to your heart. You and I will probably be together for a long time here. I know you will make it, and I am counting on you to get through this tough period. You’ll see."
Hanan shouted from the jeep for Lior to hurry up. Dan looked at him with respect and hope.
"Listen Dan. You will pull through, and if you need to, you can always come to me to talk things over. You got that?"
"Yes,sir! Thank you!" and he saluted once again. Lior hit him lightly in the arm and told him to move on.
A hour later, the jeep was going down Iben Gvirol street in a trendy part of Tel Aviv. Lior watched out of the small window in the back seat of the army jeep, still a bit dazed to tell the truth, by the city and it’s lights.
"Just one hour it took to get from one end of this country to the center", he remarked, more to himself than to the others.
Hanan and Asa looked back at him, looked at themselves and laughed. "Always the same!" Hanan joked, "Man, Asa, did you see this woman killer back here in jeans? Damn, does he look great or what?"
Pulling the jeep over, Lior asked if they had to buy a parking ticket. Asa and Hanan nearly died laughing.
Inside, the pub was almost full, and the music was loud. Some were dancing, and the trio had to weave their way to get to the table where three girls waited for them. Hanan made the introductions and the three sat down. The usual chatter started up, the waitress took their orders and they all laughed when Lior asked for a coke.
"Don’t mind him" Asa told them, "he’s our designated driver!"
The drinks came and after a while, Asa got up with his girl to dance.
"So", the girl sitting next to Lior began, smiling, "Hanan tells me you are a kibbutznik?" Lior had a minor panic attack until he remembered her name, Eden.
"Enough of a kibbutznik” he blushed, “To be a bit out of place here."
"Here? In this tiny place? A cute guy like you? I can’t believe that", She laughed and put her hand on his thigh. Lior smiled back and decided to enjoy himself.
"Do you dance?" he asked, and helped her up.
Lior was still dancing a few songs later, when he first noticed her. Months later, when he finally told the story to Hanan, he explained it like this:
"She was sitting in a corner table, all by herself. Dark hair, red lips, dressed up in a skirt with heals and a lot of leg. I all of the sudden stopped dancing and I think I felt my heart jump. I swear! Not only that… But looking at her, the whole place turned black and white, you know, like old pictures? – but she was in color. I thought I was going to faint!"
After seeing her, Lior found himself in a daze. He had to force himself to concentrate when Eden spoke with him. He knew she wanted him, he wasn’t a rock, but he couldn’t stop looking towards that corner table, hoping it wasn’t too obvious. He started sweating and was thinking in questions. How he could explain getting up and going over to her, and when he got there, what would he say? Why was she alone? Why was she looking at him that way? Why was his heart beating so hard? What did Eden say? How could he take her hand off his shoulder without being rude? Did she just smile at him? Were his palms really etching? Was this love?
The phone ringing shocked him out of his illness.
All of the sudden, nothing else existed, and the trio looked at each other. Asa got up and they all watched him leave the pub.
"What is going on?" the girl with Hanan asked. Hanan and Lior looked at each other.
"Looks like we are going to have to leave you". He told them in a tone the girls hadn’t heard from him all night. Asa came back in and motioned them to join him. The girls looked at each other, with embarrassed smiles.
Asa put his head close to his mates. "A soldier was kidnapped on the north border and taken alive into Lebanon. We don’t have to, but I think we should go back". Hanan and Lior frowned but nodded their approval.
They said their goodbyes, getting laid the last thing on their minds and walked out. As he did, Lior took one last looked at the corner and saw her again, looking at him with a question on her lips.
The next few days, Shannon could not shake off the uncomfortable feeling she had since that night in the pub.
She had gone home not long after the young man had left so abruptly with his friends. Before she did, she had asked Ateret if she or anyone else working there had known who he was, but they all said that they had never seen him or his friends before. She had already left, actually on to the street, but then returned and approached the girls who had sat with them. They looked at her strangely, with no little suspicion, but told her that his name was Lior, he was an officer in the army, but that it was a date they had made through one of the other guys with him, and they really didn’t know much about him. "He lives on a kibbutz", one told her. Shannon didn’t ask which kibbutz.
‘Would they be seeing him again?’ She asked. She briefly thought to give some sort of excuse, but didn’t think it important. The girls looked at each other, but told her that they really didn’t know.
Lior. For days she said his name and thought the whole thing over and over to no conclusion. She had seen him way before he noticed her. That was new in itself. But she couldn’t have mistaken his reaction when he saw her. Not lust, like many showed. No, it was more of a sort of recognition. It made all of her senses tingle, something she had never felt in her search before. Was he the one?
"Is there something wrong?" Tali asked her.
She looked up and saw that Tali was standing in front of her desk. For how long? Shannon blushed, and that made her angry. Tali’s left eyebrow shot up.
"Did you just blush?", she asked.
"Tali. You are my secretary. Not my drinking partner!", and tried to look busy.
Thursday had come again, as it always did, and she sat with her father, holding his hand, her mind still going over what had happened. Then her body jerked as she realized that she had not been back to the pub since that night. Maybe he would come again? What was she thinking? Walking along the sea and dreaming instead of taking steps! What was she, in love? That was not part of her plan! She gave her father one last kiss on the forehead and left, going home to get dressed.
After the first few days of tension in "The Unit", things began to go back to normal. Commander S. stood in front of the soldiers and staff, explaining that no overt action would be taken regarding the kidnapped soldier in the near future, and that the political leadership would be taking things in hand.
"This does not imply that we will take no action in the future, and our intelligence staff have been given the job to monitor the situation as it evolves. In the meantime, I want all of us to return to normal activity, while some of you may take action in the field for surveillance."
Lior sat with his soldiers and listened, but, even now, he could not help but replay over and over again the black and white picture of the bar, with the woman in full color sitting, watching him. Those red lips would not leave him, as much as he tried.
Two weeks later, Lior received special permission during the week to go home to visit his father. His commanding officer told him to be back the next day by noon. He was given a jeep, made sure his soldiers were being taken care of, and left – but for Tel Aviv, and not the kibbutz.
He felt bad even with this small lie, it was against his nature, but he couldn’t explain – not even to his close friends – what he was doing.
During his two and a half years in the army, he had seen his share of action. He had taken part in very top secret missions across the border. He was privy to information that top politicians had no idea of. Even so, he had never felt such tension as he took the jeep through Tel Aviv and parked close to the bar.
Shannon felt her patience near the end. For close to two weeks, she had continued to come to the bar, take her seat, order her drink, and wait. By now, she already knew that the men coming to this bar were not the one she was looking for. They all seemed like babies. She saw them laugh and drink, dance, flirt, wave and wink and joke, and to her it all was so immature, she felt embarrassed to even be there. She could not find in them not one worthy feature that she needed for her plan.
Lately, she had begun to feel anxiety. The strict control she had held over her emotions was not as strong as it had been. She felt scorn for this anxiety, but it was so new to her, that she didn’t really know how to deal with it. Maybe she should give up? Leave? Decide on a different path, one which she may regret her whole life? Could it be that she had come to this?
Shannon took a deep breath. She closed her eyes. She had to keep cool. Everything depended on that. When she opened her eyes, she saw Lior walk into the bar, alone.
Shannon had the advantage of several seconds to look at him. He looked lost. This was not his place in life. She liked that. He walked up to the bar and ordered a drink, and then looked around. She waited for the eye contact, as he scanned the room as if in slow motion. His eyes locked on hers. He smiled, and it was not the smile of a young boy, but of a man, and she couldn’t help but smile back.
He took his drink and walked over to her table. She looked at him and knew she was back in control. Nothing would keep her from what she had planned.
"Mind if I sit down with you?" he asked, and sat down without her answering. He smiled, but did not blush as she had expected. Interesting.
"My name is Lior", he told her, "and you?"
"Shannon? Why Shannon?"
"Why? It’s my name, what do you mean?"
"Well… Shannon is not an Israeli name, though you have no accent."
"It’s my name. You don’t like it?"
"Yes. I do, it’s beautiful, but it doesn’t seem to fit you somehow."
She laughed. "So, the name is beautiful, but it doesn’t fit me… so… I am not beautiful?"
"No… no! you are!", he smiled, "Very much, actually."
An hour later, Ateret, the waitress looked over and saw Shannon and the young man talking animatedly. Interesting. For months she had watched Shannon, fighting off men who came up to her, sending them away, one after another, with their tails between their legs.
She walked over to the table.
"Excuse me, but my boss sent me over to send you a drink on the house. What would you like?"
"On the house? What did we do for that?" Shannon asked.
"Just for fun. Unless you don’t want?”
“No! Of course. I will take a margarita, and please bring my lover here another… coke? Is that really what you are drinking?" And the girls laughed.
"…you saw me last time I was here, a few weeks ago, right?" He asked her. "Well, I know I am not supposed to tell you this, but, when I saw you that night, something happened to me. I haven’t been able to get you from my thoughts. You, you’re older than me, right?"
She laughed. "I guess so, unless you are a very young looking guy for 39". She paused and let him take this in. "Shocked?"
"39? I thought maybe 32, but if you said 30, I would believe you…. And I am 22, that’s not so terrible is it? 39? You can’t be 39."
Shannon laughed again and put her hand on his. "It’s not like we are getting married, is it?"
The next day, Lior barely noticed his way back to the base. He couldn’t stop reliving each second. The meeting at the bar. The talking. The flirting. What had come over him? The drive to her house, how she loved going in the jeep. The apartment, the corridor, the first kisses, the gasping for breath, her body smashed against his. The heat, it was so hot he almost tore his clothes off!
He shook his head and tried to think of something else - driving, the cars next to him, his father, the soldier being held 50 meters below ground in Baal Bek, anything, but he couldn’t. Her mouth, her breasts, her skin, her passion. He was not a virgin, as much as Hanan and Asa would joke about him, but this was not the same. He loved her. He knew that before she had touched him.
What else could that feeling be? The heat he felt. The shakes. Not being able to concentrate. The dreams at night.
‘Now, it would be much worse!’ He thought as he parked the jeep and couldn’t help but smile like a fool.
It was two days later when Asa and Hanan cornered him in his quarters.
"OK – what the fuck is going on?", Hanan asked him point blank, with Asa frowning behind him.
"What?”, he asked, looking at them innocently.
"You have been floating around for days now with a stupid grin on your face. Did you meet someone at the kibbutz?"
Lior sat down and motioned to his friends to do the same. "I didn’t go to the kibbutz", he smiled, “I went back to the pub in Tel Aviv."
Asa and Hanan looked at each other, and then back at Lior. "What do you mean? You met with Eden?"
"Eden? Ah, you mean the girl you set me up with? No…. you guys are so blind..." and in fact, he realized now, the tables had been turned, it was him seeing his friends as young boys. He laughed to himself, and the two stared at him as if he had lost his sanity.
He proceeded to tell them the whole story, leaving nothing out. The two officers, older than Lior, had been in several dangerous missions, nights behind enemy lines, things that nobody would ever hear about, but the territory Lior had infiltrated was completely unknown to them.
It was as if Lior was not only describing a different planet to them, but a whole different experience, one they sensed they would never really know.
He spoke for a long time, and now that he was hearing himself, he could hardly believe it all happened. Saying the words aloud gave him new insights to what had happened that his thoughts never could. He told them about how he felt when she first put her hand on his, how he shook on the way, driving them to her house. The smell of her hair, the taste of her lips, of how when he held her against him after sex had left him speechless. He tried to explain how it was to make love to a woman – not a girl. How it felt to be together with someone who knew what she wanted, and when, how it made him feel that much more a man. Without realizing it, he went on and on about the softness of her skin, how she touched him with fingers that inflamed, how her tongue told him what she wanted. After what seemed like hours, he suddenly awoke and saw his friends staring at him, waiting for more…
He blushed hotly, and lowered his face. Hanan and Asa looked at each other in astonishment.
"Shit!" Asa swore, and found himself at a loss for words. "No wonder you have been walking around like a phantom for days!"
"I don’t know how you can walk", Hanan added, "much less train!"
Lior looked up with that stupid smile on his face. "I think I’m in love!"
"Whoa boy!, in love – like remember! A 39 year old woman???"
"Love", Hanan laughed, "Don’t be stupid.
When are you going to see her again?"
Lior hesitated. "She said she was very busy. We traded phone numbers, and we are in touch. She’s very busy, and I can’t just leave here whenever I want". This was the second time he lied in connection with Shannon...
Shannon sat next to her father and looked out the window. She knew what she was feeling, but wasn’t sure she liked it. Her future did not include anything that involved such feelings. She refused to even gave a name to those feelings. It just couldn’t be.
She tore herself away, and looked at her father. I can’t end up like you, father. I can’t let the world use me. I know it’s sad, but I know what I want, and to get that, I will have to be strong, even if it hurts others. He will forget me. He’s young. He knows that I am much older. He will meet others. I will be for him just one more story. Everyone has them, and they all live through it.
She sighed and hugged her father. She didn’t like it, but that was life. She would sms him to come that Tuesday.
The truth was, Shannon had taken his cellphone number, but didn’t give him hers. He thought that was odd, but didn’t want to pressure her. She told him she would sms him, that she was very busy with work. His cellphone became the symbol of his obsession, the line that led him to her, that could tell him it wasn’t a dream.
Lior was not like most Israelis, who were addicted to their cellphone. His father had demanded he have one and purchased it for him. He did not usually carry it around. He didn’t even really know how to use it. Just enough to speak to his father once a day and to call an occasional friend. Now, the cell never left his side. He would check it every ten minutes or so. Maybe she had called? Maybe smsed? Each time he looked, his heart fell.
"Sir?" Dan asked.
"Excuse me", Lior told him, returning the cell to a pouch in his army vest, "where were we?"
"The MX25?" Dan reminded him, his excitement palpable.
"Right. Listen… you have to hold it just like this, turn it towards the side, and press down here. You realize this device costs over $5,000. I chose you since you are the one I trust most in the unit. This is the device that is going to bring our boy back home!"
The soldier and his officer smiled at each other. They both knew exactly what those words meant. Dan would remember them
all his life, telling them to himself time after time when life would become tough.
Lior was checking his soldiers, one by one, when the sms came through.
"That needs to be tighter", he told the soldier, and quickly moved to the side. He groped for the cell phone, and could not believe how quickly his blood rushed through his veins. Only seven words:
Come to the flat. This Tuesday 20:00.
He checked. The return number was hidden. He called over to his sergeant and told him to finish up, he had to go.
From there, he called Asa.
"Asa? I need to go out tomorrow evening… I know what is planned. I want you to take over my unit... I don’t care if Aryeh will be pissed... What? Yes. I am going to see her – what did you think? Great. Great. Thanks.
You are the best. Anything, just ask. Anytime! You’re my brother!”
That Tuesday night, Lior would meet a different Shannon. He didn’t know why. He never would.
He felt the same. Driving the jeep to Tel Aviv was pure torture. The machine wouldn’t move fast enough. The traffic was too congested. Each red light was his enemy. He felt elated, his head light. He checked his watch every two minutes.
But Shannon was different. She met him at the door, and kissed him warmly, but there was a sort of mechanical way she did it. It continued when she took him into her room, in the shower, in her bed. He was so excited, he almost didn’t notice it, but it was there. It almost felt as if he was being used in some fashion, but he shook away these thoughts and concentrated on the oblivion of love he was tumbling into.
Late in that night, laying together, the two lovers found time to speak. To Lior, it seemed as if he told her everything. He told her about his father, the kibbutz, his mother who he barely knew, and, of course, about the army. He could not tell her everything, as young as he was, he was privy to secrets he knew he would take with him to the grave, but he told her of his feeling of commitment. He could sense her disagreement, and, as he held her body in his, this was the last thing he wanted, but he wanted her to understand, to support him.
"I have a talent. I am a good officer. I want to give back, not just to take. I have a feeling of being in the center of history, of a unique time. A book of history is being written, and I want my name in that book; for my family, my children, to know that I didn’t stand by, that I was a part, that I did what I did because I knew how important it was, and not because of chance. I don’t mind those that stand to the side and let me work. They may even laugh at me. I just want to do what I believe in"
If support was what Lior was searching for, support was the last thing he would get. She told him that his wish to serve, to give something to others was a lost cause.
"Women understand what you men don’t. It is all a game, you go out there, playing soldiers. You see things as teams playing against each other, one big football game... but it isn’t... it is just life, living well and striving to enjoy."
She was willing to let him talk, even though she didn’t agree. His voice seemed to sooth her. His way of holding her felt good. She was sure he understood he was being exploited. He would always think of her as an older woman using him for sex. He would never know the real truth.
That next Tuesday, exactly one week later, Shannon had closed the door to her office and called her private doctor. She tapped her foot nervously as waited for him to be brought to the phone. It had to have worked out. She had her doctor do all the calculations. She convinced him to use his connections, to acquire and look over Lior's physical records, she followed his instructions to the T. You couldn’t be sure, and this doubt was driving her crazy. Her doctor was positive that this was the optimal time for her, but still, you could never tell.
"Yes?", she answered. "Are you sure? Absolutely? Thank you. Of course. Not a word. Thank you." Slowly, with a smile on her face, she replaced the phone on her desk, and put her hand on her stomach. After some time, she wiped a tear from her face and picked up the phone and paged her secretary.
"Tal? I need you to look for a new apartment for me. Where? Somewhere in the same vicinity. No. Somewhere else… No, I don’t care how much! I need to be moved within the week."
"I just don’t understand!" Lior told his friends for the hundredth time. Asa and Hanan looked at each other.
"Shit Lior", Asa told him, truth be, his patience running a bit thin, "You aren’t the first to get dumped. You’re just the last!"
Hanan laughed and covered his mouth when Lior turned and glared knives at him. "Lior, Bro, she was 39, for fuck’s sake. She could almost be your mother! And to tell the truth, you set yourself up. You didn’t have her phone, you didn’t get her email, hell, you didn’t even ask her for her last name! It was obvious she just wanted a hot young stud to have an adventure with!"
Lior stood up, wanting to punch someone.
"Then why did she leave her apartment?"
"Shit – I made love to her at her apartment, dick head. Think! I went back there two weeks after, and it was empty. Empty! She moved! I went to the pub, and asked the workers. No one had seen her there since she met me! They said she was there almost every night for months until then!"
"Damn", Asa said, "That is a bit harsh", and Hanan nodded. The three of them sat in silence for quite some time, trying to make sense out of it.
"Li, come here!" Shannon called out and picked up coffee. Soon laughter could be heard. A black cat ran into the room, with a five year old boy running after it, yelling. Shannon scooped him up, and sat him down on her lap, smiling at the elderly lady sitting on the couch.
"He is so precious! So sad that he didn’t know your parents!"
"Well, my father did see him. I am not sure he knew who he was, but that is all behind us."
"Yes, well, I miss your parents so much, and it hurts what happened, but that is life.
I can only hope that my end will be more peacefully."
Shannon Put out her hand and patted the woman’s hand fondly. "Thank you Ruth. You were always a very special friend to them, to us".
The telephone rang and Li squirmed, escaped his mother’s embrace and ran off. "Yes? the news? No? Really? Sure!"
She jumped up and ran to turn on the television.
"What has happened?" Ruth asked, alarmed.
"They rescued Roi!"
The two women sat across from the television as the breaking news came through.
"… Tuesday night, a secret unit carried out what could become one of the most courageous missions in IDF history, going deep into enemy territory, and bringing back the kidnapped IDF soldier, Roi Weiss, after close to six years in captivity. Up to this minute, no details are being made public, except for the fact that Roi has been brought back alive. He is now inside this army installation with his family. … We are waiting now for a public announcement by the Prime Minister and then the Chief of Staff... Hezi? Do you know any more details?"
The two women, like probably most of Israelis that moment, were embracing each other with tears in their eyes. After close to six years, they could only imagine what that family was going through at that moment.
"… No Emmanuel, we do not have many details except for those we have reported. A special unit, one which cannot even be named, has been training for this mission a long time. Once the general location of Roi was discovered… We are waiting… here we have the signal! The Prime minister and the Chief of Staff are about to begin this dramatic press conference".
The camera cut to the view of the two men, one in a well-cut suit, the other in uniform, sitting at a simple table. The Prime Minister stood up, made a small but correct speech about how all Israeli governments had worked day and night trying to come to a negotiated way to bring Roi home, but due to the new information received and the abilities of the IDF, he and his government decided to send a mission out to release him militarily.
"Let all our neighbors know, let all our foes know, that the might of the IDF can get to any point, and will take any measure, especially in order to return our soldiers and safeguard our people. I will allow the Chief of Staff to report what can be told at this moment."
There was applause, even among the press, as The Chief of Staff took his place by the microphone and shook hands with the Prime Minister.
"Li – come here to watch!" Shannon called out and then noticed that the boy was seated next to her on the floor.
The Chief of Staff proceeded to give out details of the mission without really telling anything new. He was full of praise for the special unit that had successfully carried out the raid:
"This unit, which was set up well before the abduction of Roi, has done things that no one unconnected really knows about. They sign up to serve long army terms, and none of them, in this mission also, will be publicly thanked. They know this, and serve us all, day in and day out, to safeguard the life we all believe in. I cannot say more, but this country owes them a huge debt many times over. Questions!"
"Shani from Channel one news! Can you tell us – was Roi being held in Lebanon?
"No, Roi was not being held in Lebanon. We will not release in which country he was being held. But we want both to distance Lebanon from this deed, and to send a dire message to that country, which knows it was implicit in the holding of Roi."
"Hezi from Channel 10. There are rumors that not all soldiers came back safely. Can you give us information on that."
The Chief of Staff glanced over at the Prime Minister briefly and then turned back to the microphone.
"We can release that a soldier was wounded seriously. Another, an officer, whose name cannot be given out at this time, was killed in action. His body has been returned, and the wounded officer is being cared for now, and said to be in stable condition. The name of the deceased cannot be given out, until his family can be found and notified first. We apologize for the delay, knowing that many parents are now listening to us in fear. We hope to be able to announce the identity of the slain officer as soon as possible."
Again he looked towards the Prime Minister and then added:
"It can be told that the unit came under fire after Roi had been secured and being taken away. At this time, the wounded soldier was hit when the unit came under fire. The officer was killed carrying this soldier to safety. A grenade was shot at the two, in which the officer was killed. The soldier was thrown by the blast, which added to his previous wounds, but was able to be taken back by other soldiers, who secured the area and were able to bring the remains of the officer who was killed immediately. That is all at this time. Thank you.”
Shannon moved to the couch to hold Ruth who was crying. She was crying also.
"Why are you crying, mother?" Li asked, and held her legs with his small hands.
"… Hezi? No? We have lost contact with Hezi at the press conference, but can summarize it all into a few main points. One, that a unheard of unit has been operating secretly in the IDF for the aim of carrying out special secret missions. Two that this unit was brought – we do not know how – deep into an enemy country … Hezi?"
"Yes… we want to announce that the family of the officer that was killed has been notified, and that the name and picture can now be shown. He was Lt General Lior Shimhon, age 30, from Kibbutz Ein HaEmek. It was told to us that Lior had served for long...
Shannon didn’t hear the rest. She grabbed Li by the hand and her body began to shake. She looked at the picture of Lior on the screen and looked back to that so familiar face of the child who she now held in a tight embrace, and began to moan. The two were so alike, how could she have never noticed? Ruth looked at her in alarm. "Shannon! What is the matter! Shannon?"
Shannon could not answer. She felt her whole life had been tossed in the air.
Hanan and Asa walked off together and sat at the edge of the kibbutz graveyard. "The Three Musketeers", the name all who knew then in the unit called them, would no longer be. Closer than brothers, in a way no one could ever understand, they felt the hurt, the terrible void that Lior had left them with. These veterans of so many missions knew they had to cry their tears, and then dry them and go on. They didn’t have to mention what Lior would have said if it had been one of them to die in that God forsaken place.
They spoke about all the people who had been at the funeral. How it felt to carry his body, the two of them at the front, along with the commander of the unit, the Chief of Staff, and the other top officers of the IDF, passing by the parents who stood in the company of the prime minister, ministers, heads of parties, and all the press. All those people would soon go home, leaving the parents to grieve, while his brothers, the two of them, and his soldiers would have to carry the pain and just go on.
"Well", Asa concluded, "At least he knew love. More than most of us, more than all those assholes at the funeral."
Hanan put his arm over Asa’s shoulder and smiled. "Damn truth, Bro’".
The "Shiva" is the Jewish form of grieving. Meaning literally "seven" – that number which held cosmic meaning for Jews, it was the tradition of the family to join together for seven days in mourning. The family members, wearing the same torn clothing they had ripped at the funeral, would be seated on cushions on the floor, while the door was kept open for friends and acquaintances to come in, sit in chairs opposite them and give words of support, while listening to what the family had to say.
Shannon knew she had to go to the kibbutz. In some ways, she had a right to be there more than others. Li, their son, should go, but Shannon didn’t take him, knowing that he would give them away. She knew she couldn’t face that – not now, maybe never. Even so, she had to go. Something had broken inside her when she saw Lior on the TV screen, she was feeling things she had tucked away deep somewhere in her soul for so long, they seemed foreign to her, as if she had become someone else.
She was bordering on not going at all, but last night, she had dreamt of her father. He had held her like he always had, and called her, ‘Rina’.
When she woke up, it came to her the subtle but important difference between using and exploiting.
She stopped her car at the gate of the kibbutz. Two meticulously dressed soldiers checked her identify card and her car. "You can park over there", one told her, pointing. The Shimhon house is a short walk from there. You will see the signs."
Getting out of her car, she marveled at the peace that was felt outside, the only noises being from birds, and an occasional child. Everything was green and brown. She could see what must be the Shimhon house by the large number of people gathered, standing outside, moving in and out. She took a deep breath and walked towards them.
She noticed many known people outside the house who looked at her as she went in. She hoped the dark glasses would help and that no one would recognize her. Inside, she stood looking at the parents from behind someone’s shoulder. The two of them were sitting there, apart from each other, broken. Lior had told her stories about his parents, how his mother, for reasons he didn’t know, had left them when he was small. He had a picture of her that he had shown her, a 55 year old who looked much younger, smiling in the sun, with the lush jungle behind her. Shannon could recognize her, of course, though she now looked like an old lady.
It was the father she stared at. So, this was the old man who tried to convince Lior not to go to the army, much less to the elite unit he had served in. Lior had told her that he hated his father for that.
"Don’t be like him", he pleaded her, "It sucked away his whole life". She had smiled then, that knowing smile she had developed her whole like, a life of always being smarter than the rest of them.
Even so, she couldn’t help staring at the father. He and Lior could have been twins. Just like Li. The three of them could have been the same person.
The speaker of the Knesset walked in, people making way for him. He bent down to shake the parent’s hands. He motioned to a large picture of Lior on a table and started to tell them that he had met with Lior several times. He himself didn’t know exactly what the unit Lior served in… and so on and so on…
After some time, Shannon walked out and sat down on a plastic chair, one of the many put outside for the mourners. She was quite overwhelmed with it all, again, a feeling she rarely felt. She never liked these uncomfortable feelings. Her way to deal with them, by pushing them away, didn’t work in this instance. She knew she couldn’t just do that now. She didn’t even want to.
She looked up and noticed a well-groomed army officer standing in front of her. She seemed to recognize him. He stood just like Lior, but his face, where had she seen him?
"You’re Shannon!" he said. "You were the one he fell in love with!"
She looked at him and then realized that he had been with Lior, close to six years past. She briefly thought of running off, but realized that doing so would be ridiculous.
"Yes. I recognize you now." She felt a heaviness hit her, but also relief. She needed to talk.
"I’m Asa. Lior's brother. More than his brother. He was in love with you!"
Shannon smiled sadly.
"You bitch!" he yelled and some of the people looked over at them. He looked at her angrily, but took a deep breath. Shannon’s face was white. He motioned for her to follow him. She got up and walked after him.
"What the fuck happened? You just disappeared! Do you know how long Lior looked for you? Do you have any idea what he went through?" Asa had tears in his eyes now. To see such a strong, tough man like this completely unnerved her and she began to cry. "For over a year he tried to track you. You left your apartment. You never called. He was sick... he died… he never forgot you!"
Shannon didn’t know what to say. "I never realized. He … he was just a fling… I never asked him to love me … I was 17 years older than him! ... He couldn’t… there was nothing!"
"Maybe for you, bitch… but he never got over it. He never went out with another girl. He didn’t take leaves. ‘For what?’, he said, ‘my soldiers are my life’. We tried to get him out. He never mentioned you again, but we knew it was you. You killed my brother and I want to know why!"
"I can’t… I don’t know what to tell you.
Please…. You have to understand!"
She started running towards her car, but Asa ran with her. At the car, she made her decision. She put her hand in her bag, and fumbling, she took out a card.
"Here’s my card. I can’t talk now, but I have to show... tell you something. I can’t now… call me. We will arrange to meet. I promise!"
And she got into her car, and drove off. In her rear-view mirror, she watched Asa, his face red, looking at her, with the card in his hand.
That next Tuesday, Asa and Hanan parked the car outside her house at 11:30, exactly the hour Shannon had asked them to come. ‘Please try to be on time’, she had needlessly asked these soldiers whose lives depended on correct timing.
The house, well packed away in Kfar
Shmeriayhu, was something Israelis heard existed, but never saw. It had its own road, through a private gate, was built on 4 dunams inside one of Israel’s more luxurious neighborhoods. The house was built with care and taste. Shannon greeted them at the door, and shyly asked them in.
A uniformed maid came in a brought them coffee and cake.
"I will go to bring Li from the kindergarten", the maid said, and walked out the front door.
"Li?" Hanan asked.
"Ah… my son." Shannon told them and smiled.
"I am sorry for my behavior at the Shiva", she told Asa. “I was already very worked up. I saw Lior on the television like everyone else. You cannot believe what I went through those first days, what I am still going through". Asa moved to talk, but she held up her hand. "I know I owe you an explanation. It will take more time… it is not so easy for me… but you will have to wait. Please do not be angry with me… Now, when I have thought it over. Indeed, it is about the only thing I have done since he was killed… I am not sure I understand myself…. But please, wait... first, I want to hear you talk about Lior. I need that first."
Asa and Hanan talked in tandem, one would start, and the other would finish. They told so many stories. How they had signed up, how Lior had always been the strongest, especially in the beginning. How the top officers in the army trained them, how hard it was to learn how to be secretive, even to those closest to you. They talked and talked, and laughed and cried. They stopped when they heard a car pull up, and Shannon rose.
"And now, for better or for worse, my story will begin. Please let me talk and try to explain". The door opened and a feisty young boy ran in and hugged his mother’s legs.
"Mama!" He yelled, "I’m home!"
Shannon bent down and hugged and kissed the boy, and then brought him over to Asa and Hanan.
"Li, we have a couple of friends here. Army officers! Say hello to them"
Li looked at them and, very seriously, shook their hands, saying hello, and then took a cake and bit into it.
Hanan and Asa couldn’t speak, and couldn’t stop looking at Lior, age 5.
A couple of hours later, Asa and Hanan got up to leave. The child was laughing and playing with Hanan's beret, but the other three felt as if they had been tied and whipped. They had all gone on a long trip to places they had never visited. The anger and frustration and a myriad of feelings had left them all with a strange calm.
Shannon felt empty. She felt so guilty, that she felt beyond guilt. She had left nothing untouched. Hanan and Asa listened, and that was most important. She came to understand the closeness between them and Lior, and told them that people, women, didn’t realize what the friendship between men could be. "We tend to laugh at them, you know… they don’t really know how to share, to show feelings, and men who are too friendly, well, are gay, right?" It was a revelation for her.
Standing at the door, Asa bent down to hug the boy. He didn’t want to let him go. He later told Hanan that he had never felt anything like that in his life. They promised to come back and visit and take him to visit their base. It won’t be easy, he told Shannon, but they would work it out.
Before they left, they stood and looked at each other. The two of them were in the prime of their lives. She marveled at how they were able to understand her, to go past all that anger, and she loved them for that.
"Shannon. Now you have the hardest job.
We expect you to do it. No excuses!"
"I will. I promise. I will go tomorrow."
This time, she knew the way to the house on the Kibbutz. This time, nobody was there. The politicians, the officers, the curious were absent. This time, Shannon walked with Li, hand in hand.
As she walked in the silence of a Kibbutz afternoon, Shannon had one last cynical thought, this time aimed at herself, that for the first time in her life, Shannon was doing something her parents would have done. She was scared, plain scared. She didn’t want to do this, but instead of her usual indulgence, she knew she had to. She had to!
Li walked with her, looking all around him, in silence. He kicked at a small mound of colorful leaves, and watched them lift upwards, and then fall.
Shannon stopped at the door, and without hesitating, knocked clearly.
"Yes?” came a thin voice from inside.
Shannon opened the door, and entered. Lior's father stood before them in shorts and an undershirt. Wrinkled, he looked older than when Shannon had seen him just a few weeks before.
"Shalom. My name is Rina. Rina Shilon. I am sorry to bother you, but I have something I need to talk to you about. Can we come in?" Shmuel looked at this striking woman, and for a minute didn’t know what to do. He was utterly confused, but quickly caught himself.
"Yes, by all means, please come in. Can I get you something to drink? Who is this handsome young man? Would he like some juice?" And his eyes settled on the boy, just a bit more than would be right. Shmuel entered his small kitchen to fetch some refreshments. "Please, sit down in the salon!" he called.
When he came back, Rina and Li were seated together on the couch, her knees pulled together severely. Shmuel smiled at her, but his expression changed to distress when he noticed the tears in Rina’s eyes.
"Whatever is the matter?", he asked completely perplexed.
Although Rina had gone over the script she had made up several times, it faded when she looked into Shmuel's eyes, and saw Lior looking at her.
"It’s about your son, Lior…" and Shmuel moved his chair closer.
"I… I knew your son" She started but didn’t know how to continue.
"I guess there is no easy way to tell you this" She stammered and took a deep breath of air. She looked at her son, Li, who through all this, sat like a perfect gentleman. She truly did not know what to say, when Li got up, walked over to the old man, and looked at his mother, and asked in that innocent way only children seem to be able to do:
"Is this my grandfather, Mama?" and there it was.
The two men, old and young, looked at each other, and Shmuel began to shake. He looked up at Rina, and she could see surprise, shock, anger, disbelief, love and hate within a heartbeat. He put his hand to his heart, but true to his nature, his skepticism took control first.
"What is the meaning of this?!" he cried and stood up and faced Rina. "What are you trying to say? What ...” But he then stopped in mid-sentence and looked again in shock at Li, and then again at Rina, and the tears came to him, tears he never thought he had. He bent down and embraced the little boy, but could not speak for some time. When his sobs retreated, he waited several moments longer and then dislodged the child from his arms and looked up. His face was furious.
"You had this boy and never told me! Who are you? How?" but tears came to him again and his throat choked up and left him coughing harshly.
"Please…", she begged, trying to help him, "Please... It is true I need to explain, and tell you how this happened. It will not be easy for me, but you need to know! Is there some place we could go, maybe a walk outside?"
Shmuel, still coughing, and wiping his eyes, got up and the two of them followed him outdoors.
They walked down the lonely, broken, path for some time without a word between them. Rina did not even try to speak. Soon, they came to a small park with benches and a playground.
"Go, boy. Go and play. Your mother and I would like to talk alone", he said and urged Li on with a pat on the back. Li looked once at his mother who smiled at him and ran off to play.
"I know how hard this is, but please, if you will listen, I will tell you everything. It will not make you feel better towards me, maybe, but you deserve to know it all".
"I would say so!", Shmuel panted harshly, but Rina held out her hand and begged.
"Please! This is not a good story, and I am not a saint. But I promise you that I will do everything I can to make amends, and to give you and my son, Li, what you both deserve, without regard to myself!"
At that, Shmuel calmed down a bit, and they sat facing each other on the bench.
The autumn air was a bit brisk, but this woke her, invigorated her, as she rolled out their story.
She began from the first, telling about her family. He knew her parents, from the news, of course, and was quite impressed, but she told him the other side of the coin. Her father and mother, she felt, had wasted their lives, giving of themselves, never asking anything in return.
She grew up being seeing and hearing people talk to and about her parents, and could feel the emptiness behind all the said. They all wanted only to use them, abuse them, and then to turn their backs on them. Her mother would travel the world, working for the good of the world, while others held top jobs in organizations that made money and prestige from her work. They allowed her some public praise, but only a little, never too much to put them in danger.
Her father was sent on secret missions which others took the credit for, always willing to go ahead, though he knew this to be the case.
Already, as a girl, she hated this in her parents and decided she would never, ever do anything that she personally didn’t profit from.
Marriage, like everything else, was not for her, but after some years, she decided, like many other modern women, to have the baby herself, without a parent, but, unlike them, decided she would have a baby from a man she would pick out, without him ever knowing.
Shmuel, for the most, sat like a statue and listened, but here he interrupted. ‘How could you do this? It was like stealing, it was corrupt, it was evil!’. His fists clenched and he would have liked to attack her, but her alarm, her sudden vulnerability, touched something in him and he regained his calm.
She went on to tell him that now, she had to agree with him. She had never foreseen this, in her silly egoism, she never really thought of anybody except herself.
But she wanted to tell him everything. She told how she had searched for this man, the dozens and even hundreds she has seen and discarded over the months. Until that night when she had seen Lior. She began to go into the smallest details about his son, what she had felt when she first saw him. The way he sat with his friends, how he had looked at her. So caught up in her telling, she began to lose the thread, and Shmuel had to help her continue.
"…they got up, the three officers, all of the sudden, while I was thinking of how to approach him, and left the bar in a rush. It was the night the Hizbullah abducted Roi".
She went on to tell how upset that made her feel, losing him, when she was sure that this is the man she was waiting for. Shmuel asked, shyly, how she knew, and she told him, without keeping anything back, like she might to her closet girlfriend, if indeed, she had such a one. She told him about Lior's eyes, the way he spoke to his friends, the intensity of his look. She was about to say that her son, Li, had that look, when she realized that the grandfather did also.
In fact, the three could have been a copy.
Rina, who was Shannon for so many years, began to cry. She felt her tears warm on her face and lips, but she went on. She told him how she brought Lior home to her, how they made love, how he was a lover much older than his age. Her son came to her alarmed, and she held him close. She told Shmuel how she had used Lior to make this child – for herself.
"I could only think of myself. I think I loved your son, Shmuel, but I never really knew until now since there was no one in my world except me, my own needs". And then she came very close to him and whispered in his ears with urgency, "That’s why I called the boy Li, because I wanted him to be only mine!"
"I know you must hate me. Lior was someone who didn’t believe in doing things for himself. He only thought about others. We argued about that. I am sure he learned this from you! Oh, how you must despise me! Your son was such a wonderful human being. I feel like what I did was so evil, so cynical. I cannot believe that I was that person".
Shmuel looked at her in shock. He wanted to tell her she was wrong, that Lior never learned that from him, but she stopped him. She needed to say the words that were pushing their way through her soul.
"I called myself Shannon. I chose my own name! Lior had asked me why I was called Shannon, and I lied to him. My parents called me Rina. They said I was a joy to them. But I hated the name. My father had Alzheimer’s. He couldn’t remember a thing, but sometimes, in the hospital, he would recognize me, and I would let him hold me, and he once even called me
She stood up, still crying and turned away. Her son clutched at her dress and looked up worried, seeing if there wasn’t something he could do to help.
His grandchild. When he was sure that his family would be blotted out. When he had cursed man and God for this, for leaving him alone, he had a grandchild. Yes, there was no doubt. He looked so much like his son. His son whom he never really knew. His son who turned out to be so much larger than himself, who gave without asking back, who loved and was loved back, who died for what he believed in… This was his grandson, and this was the woman he loved. This was his family.
He got up, and as he did, he felt as if something heavy, a part of his own self, was being left there on the bench. Something old, bad, and dark that he just didn’t want anymore, and walked over to Rina, and put his hand on her shoulder, and she turned into his embrace.