The Tower and the River
A Novel by Harold Stephens
Astronaut Grant Thompson is destined to go far in the newly formed U.S. Space Program, but instead of being sent to the moon he is assigned as Naval Attache at the American Embassy in Paris. Only after he arrives does he learn the Pentagon’s true motive. He unwittingly becomes involved in a triangle of intrigue, romance and discovery.
Excerpts from The Tower and the River
“The Last Word”
When they had finished the coffee and put the tray by the bed she curled up in Grant’s arms. “Now,” she coaxed, “you must tell me what made you so sad last night. Is it your mama or your papa?”
“No, no,” he confessed. “Nothing like that.”
“Then I know what it must be,” she reasoned. “It is that they do not want you to go back. Those people in Washington, n’est-ce pas?” Grant arched his brow and nodded.
“Then they must know,” she continued; “they must know that Danielle needs you more than they do, or they would not let you stay. You see, I wrote to your President and said, ‘Danielle loves your Grant Thompson and it is not right for you to take him away,’ and the President understood. He must be a very good man. I think I love him, too.”
Grant smiled. How could anyone be be angry with this little girl? This girl who teased and joked and could make serious things trivial and minor.
“Who’s For a Party?”
… Nor was he ever short on inventing his own mixtures. Everyone who ever sampled his martinis mutually agreed his were the best found anyplace in the world, and if anyone asked him how he made them, he would reach behind the bar and hand them a recipe he wrote: How a Martini is Made,
The mixture is pure and given quick,
8.889 parts gin is the hidden trick;
Gin to a shaker with a bit of vermouth
Less than enough to fill a tooth.
Do not shake or you commit a crime
And’ may bruise the gin and ruin the rhyme.
North of the equator stir to the right
Eight revolutions it reaches its height,
South of the equator mark your course
With loving hands to the left I endorse.
Sex to some women is being perverse
Dilution to a martini is far, far worse.
Like marriage of souls it must be done,
But with a martini it’s much more fun.
When it’s ready to serve it’s the glass you chill,
And after a sip you’ve lost your will.
One is enough to make you gloat,
And two drinks it is and you begin to float.
After the third you’ve only begun,
With four too late, you’ve been undone –
The truth I say is all in the mixin’
But without the right touch Som’tins missin’.
Dog Days in June
The next morning, in their red and yellow jeep, Grant and Danielle drove to the nudist camp on the Marne River. It was the most difficult and trying thing Grant ever had to do, to take his clothes off and show himself in public. And when Danielle saw fim come from the locker room and appear on the beach in the flesh, she never laughed so hard in her life. He looked so miserable and uncomfortable as he kept searching for pockets to put his hands into. Then when he saw Danielle, he immediately rushed up to her nd quickly laid down on the sand beach, face down, without even bothering to take the time to strecth out a towel. He refused to turn over until he was so baked on one side he had no other choice.
Danielle broke into laughter again. “Why,” she asked, “why do you close your eyes so tightly?”
“It helps me think better,” he said, and then he told her a story about the time he was in jungle training in Central America. The natives had built open latrines for the officers. The exec explained to the natives that Americans do not like to look at one another while they are going to the toilet. The natives thought it over and after a brief conference told the exec they understood. At each seat in the latrine they hung a face mask. Now all an officer had to do when he sat down was put on his mask and he would not be able to see the others.
And that’s what Grant felt he was doing now. By keeping his eyes tightly closed, no one would see him.
… But later he made the mistake of opening his eyes just as Danielle was returning from a dip in the river. He saw the droplets of water clinging to her naked flesh and then came an uncontrollable desire for her. He quickly shut his eyes again, but the image remained — only now, it was worse. He saw himself making love to her right there on the beach as everyone watched in silence. He had to quickly turn over on his stomach to stop the image and save his pride.