Three Days to Never

Three Days to Never by Tim Powers Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: Three Days to Never by Tim Powers Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tim Powers
hands in the air while Israeli soldiers scrutinized their identity papers to see if any were soldiers who had changed into civilian clothing; dead bodies were already being carried out on stretchers, with handkerchiefs over the faces so that medics would not mistake them for the many wounded.
    Lepidopt had fought his way through the Moghrabi Quarter, and he was one of the first to reach the Kotel ha-Maaravi, the Western Wall of the Temple Mount.
    At first he didn’t realize what it was—just a very high ancient wall along the left side of an alley; clumps of weeds, far too high to be pulled out, patched its rows of weathered stones. It wasn’t until he noticed other Israeli soldiers hesitantly touching the uneven old masonry that it dawned on him what it must be.
    This wall was all that remained of the Second Temple, built on the site of Solomon’s Temple, its construction completed by Herod at around the time of Jesus and then destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. This was the place of the Shekinah , the presence of God, to which Jewish pilgrims had come for nearly two thousand years until Jordan’s borders had enclosed it and excluded them in 1948.
    Soldiers were on their knees, weeping, oblivious to the sniper fire; and Lepidopt shuffled up to the craggy, eroded white masonry, absently unstrapping his helmet and feeling the breeze in his wet hair as he pulled it off. He wiped one shaky hand down the front of his camouflage jacket and then reached out and touched the wall.
    He pulled his hand back—and powerfully in his mind had come the conviction that he would never touch the wall again.
    He had stepped back in confusion at this sudden, intrusive certainty; and then, defiantly, had reached his hand out toward the wall again—and a blow that seemed to come from nowhere punched his hand away and spun him around to kneel on the street, staring at blood jetting from the ragged edge of his right hand where his little finger and knuckle had been.
    Several of the other soldiers were firing short bursts at the source of the shot, and a couple more of them dragged Lepidopt away. His wound was a minor one on that day, but within an hour he had been taken to the Hadassah Hospital, and for him the Six-Day War was over.
    Four days later it was over for Israel too—Israel had beaten the hostile nations to the north, east, and south, and had taken the Golan Heights, the West Bank of the Jordan River, and the Sinai desert.
    And eleven times—twelve times now, thank you, Bert!—in the twenty years since then, Lepidopt had again experienced that certainty about something he had just done: You will never do this again. In 1970, three years after he had touched the Western Wall for the first and last time, he had attended a performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade at the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv, and as the last notes of the Allegro Molto echoed away, he had suddenly been positive that he would not ever hear Scheherazade again.
    Two years after that he had visited Paris for the last time; not long afterward he had discovered that he would never again swim in the ocean. After having part of his hand shot off in testing the premonition about the Western Wall, he was reluctant to test any of these subsequent ones.
    Just during this last year he had, for the last time, changed a tire, eaten a tuna sandwich, petted a cat, and seen a movie in a theater—and now he knew that he would never again hear the name John Wayne spoken. How soon, he wondered bleakly, until I’ve started a car for the last time, closed a door, brushed my teeth, coughed?
    Lepidopt had gone to the Anshe Emet Synagogue on Robertson at dawn today for recitation of the Sh’ma and the Shachrit prayer, as usual, but clearly he was not going to be able to get there for the afternoon prayers, nor probably the evening ones either. He might as well say the afternoon Mincha prayer alone, here; he stood up to go into the other

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