Chapter Seven

Hordes of Camels

Eli looks around Kessler’s. Everyone has resumed their own conversations so in a softer volume he complies, “Okay, give me a minute.” Eli thinks as he gazes around the drug store looking for something that will jog his brain into action. The calendar on the wall behind the soda jerk catches his attention. It has a picture of Mallards on it. “OK, you may think this is not any deep dark secret but it’s not something I would want those guys I’m with to know. I don’t want anyone to know because it may be construed as weakness. And it fits your condition because I have never told anyone, not even Jerry. I hope you won’t think I am a pansy but I love animals. My greatest enjoyment was watching the ducks dipping the heads down so their tails are straight up out of the water. My uncle lives in Minnesota so we would often go there. They live on a small lake where many ducks nest. I love watching the ducklings in the spring all follow their mother in a string swimming or waddling wherever she goes. I love watching the squirrels. They are so playful. I love the way they freeze at the end of every motion. I love the way they would nibble on nuts while they hold them in their tiny front feet as if they were hands. Sometimes one squirrel starts chasing another and it will go on for

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several minutes through the trees and on the ground then back to the trees again. I love deer. They look so serene when they are eating in a field. They are so graceful when the run and their speed is amazing.

“I don’t see anything wrong with loving animals, Eli. How is that a weakness?”

“It’s not that. I don’t want to kill animals. You may not know this but many boys and men find it exciting to just go out target shooting squirrels or birds. So this is not a trivial secret. If those guys I’m with knew that I don’t want to harm or kill animals the teasing would be endless to the point of persecution. My life in the Army would end. Many might take this as a sign of weakness on my part. I am trusting you with this fact.”

Mayme could see a paradox here. She presses Eli, “If you can’t kill an animal what are you going to do when you get overseas?” Then she points out, “You will probably have to shoot men.”

I can feel an expression of resolve on his face as he begins to declare, “If I was walking in my neighborhood and saw some child or a woman being attacked I would come to their defense and take whatever measures that would be required to protect them. If that meant killing the aggressor I would do that. We were attacked by Japan without provocation. Then a few days later Germany declared war on us. Germany has made their intentions of world domination obvious. Just as in my analogy my neighbors are now, in fact, being threatened. Because of my convictions I must take action. As far as animals are concerned I should have said I can’t wantonly harm animals. I have killed and butchered animals because it is required to live and I can do that. Of course killing a human would be much more difficult but the existence of our country and our freedom is at stake. The tyrannies of

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brutal men in the past have prevented people from living fulfilling lives. The remembrance of the lives sacrificed by the brave men who have given me the freedoms I have enjoyed has given me the determination to honor them. This is so important to me because I wouldn’t have been able to sit and enjoy watching the animals if I had to focus my attention on my most basic of life’s needs under some dictator. I want my children to have the privileges I have enjoyed in my life. These may seem like opposing convictions to you but my principles require me to always choose an honorable solution to any decision I must make.”

Mayme ponders Eli’s speech for a moment. As a glow comes over Mayme’s face she admits to Eli, “Those are noble beliefs indeed. I would expect nothing less from Lancelot. You could cherish the life of others and yet I believe you would protect me at any cost. You possess my requirement of unyielding rectitude. I have finally found you.” With this statement Mayme has made it clear that he is the Lancelot she has yearned for all her life.

Wanting to be as sure of her, Eli requests of Mayme, “You have told me what you want your man to be. Tell me what you think a wife should be to her husband.”

“Eli, more than that, I will tell you what I want to be for you. But first I want you to know I have never felt for anyone how I feel about you and I just met you. When I was dancing in your embrace I felt like I was home.” Then Mayme leans across the table, takes both of Eli’s hands in hers, and looking straight into Eli’s eyes says, “Elijah Dillon Bailey, I truly believe you were made for me. I want to be your best friend. I want to watch sunsets and sunrises with you. I want to enjoy the squirrels and ducks with you. I want us to be partners in the

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truest@ sense of the word. I don’t want to be subservient to you nor you to me. I want to share with you the only thing I truly own and that is my soul. I don’t want any long range plans. I want to allow fate to lead us by….” Mayme pauses. She has a look on her face as if she is mentally searching then proclaims, “….infinitesimal happenstance.” Excitedly she continues, “I have given a wonderful name to your father’s magnificent theory. I want our life together to be what we decide it to be as we go. I want all choices to be made by the two of us as one. I don’t know how this can be after only a couple of hours but I am sure you are the man I want for my husband.”

Both Eli and Mayme have fallen silent. They are still holding hands across the table. Eli is head down steadfastly looking at Mayme’s hands in his. I can’t see what Mayme is looking at. Eli is in deep reflection on these latest revelations as I assume Mayme is also. He had been looking forward to his new adventure in the Army but now has mixed emotions. After Mayme’s discourse he knows he has found the one. Also, he has had two friends whose parents have received the telegram from the Secretary of War. The chances that he might not return had crossed his mind when he signed up but a man in his early twenties believes he is invincible and dismissed the idea immediately. It would be someone else not him. The significance of the possibility that ‘it could be him’ hadn’t really struck home until this moment. Until this moment he had nothing to live for except defending his country. The desire to fight for his country has now taken on even more importance because, as Lancelot, he now has a maiden to champion. On the other hand, the desire to return home which had been almost negligible has immediately increased in galactic proportion. With thoughts racing through Eli’s mind a minute passes

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with his eyes glued to the clutched hands. He suddenly craves to hold Mayme but he can’t here in the drug store. Eli is thinking, Maybe if we return to the ballroom they will play more slow songs.

Just as that thought has entered his mind Mayme complains, “You know, Eli, the touch of your hands in my hands leaves me with an intense desire. I need more than holding your hands. I have endured dating so many jerks to find you. I feel like I have spent years walking the desert in search of an oasis. I have finally reached the ultimately refreshing oasis and tasted just enough water to know how good it could be. Then, a horde of camels show up and want to take all the water from me. You are leaving tomorrow and we have so little time to be together. I have just a few hours to drink all the water I can. I may have to go a couple years before I can quench my thirst again. I am certainly not going to go searching the desert for another oasis. This is the only one! I am trying to make clear to you the urgency I feel at this moment. The reason I want you to understand my compelling need is that I am going to propose something and I don’t want you to think less of me.” Eli opens his mouth but Mayme puts her finger to his lips and stops him with, “Don’t say anything yet. I have to finish what I want to say.” With resolve in her voice she emphasizes, “No, what I need to say! I want all this out on the table now. Know this: I am not an easy girl. All of my physical contacts with men have never been more than petting and even those were not at my behest. I have never cared for petting. I’ve never had a desire for that because I’ve never had a desire for the man I was with. I am going to pause here with this question. Do you believe that I am not a floozy?”

Eli concurs, “Yes, but wh….”

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Mayme raises her palm toward Eli. “Good. Now let me finish. I am not asking to have sex. I am not asking to pet. My apartment is right above this store. Although your hands are great they just aren’t cutting it. I am proposing we go there so I can hold you. I need to hold you without any surrounding noise, talking, music…” At that moment there is a loud crash behind the soda counter. Eli glances at the counter but Mayme remains focused and without missing a beat she continues, “…soda jerk clanking or other distractions. I really need to beat those camels to the water. In fact I have to be a camel and store up two years’ worth of water. I’ll say it again, I’m not looking for sex, but I actually have an ache in my soul that I need to mollify. Okay, now you can talk.”

“Mayme, when you started that whole speech I was thinking the same thing. I want to hold you too, and I agree, we certainly can’t do that here. I am ready to head back to the ballroom and just hope for enough slow dances that I would be able to hold you while we dance. I can settle for that if you want.”

“Okay, Eli,” Mayme agrees with a beautiful warm smile then without saying another word she slides out of the booth while still holding his right hand with her left hand. They both stand up together and Mayme leads Eli out the door of Kessler’s making an immediate right. Eli lets go of her hand to put on his cap and she places her hand on his arm. After another step she places the other hand on his arm too. The street is dark except for a few dim lights from across the street. Eli is glad she has taken him up on the suggestion to return to the ballroom and he is looking forward to holding her. As they reach the next doorway Mayme’s grip on his arm suddenly becomes very tight. She makes an abrupt right turn and pulls Eli by the arm. Mayme, in a

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quiet voice mutters sternly as if to herself but Eli can hear her, “I am parched and I’m not letting any camels get ahead of me!”

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