Today's Reading

He took a big manila envelope out of Fred's briefcase and gave it to Jerry. Jerry undid the metal clasp. He pulled out a stack of photos. Very detailed, they showed the wreckage of most of a submarine on its side at the bottom of the ocean. It looked cruder, more squared-off, than modern American boats. All the same, the sub seemed amazingly intact. In one picture, a skeleton still in seaboots lay near the hull.

Jerry noticed that the photos began with number 79 and continued through 180. "What's on one through seventy-eight?" he asked.

"You don't need to know that," John said sharply.

"Yet," Steve added. John sent him a red-hot dirty look. Steve just smiled. A quarter of an inch at a time, John subsided.

"Okay, you found the sub, the, uh, K-129," Jerry said. "Now what, though? You said it's three miles down. Not like you can bring it up from there."

"That's what the Russians think, too," Fred said.

"You bet it is," John agreed. "But they're wrong. Or we hope they are. We built the Glomar Explorer to hook a giant lifting claw—Clementine, we call it—under that submarine and haul it back to the surface. Missiles to analyze, maybe codebooks to let us read Ivan's mail... Who knows what kind of goodies we'll find?"

"Wow. Oh, wow," Jerry said. The first thing that came to him was You're out of your fucking minds. But they obviously weren't. The CIA wouldn't have spent some large number of million dollars and cooked up this elaborate cover scheme if they didn't think they had at least a decent chance of raising the lost Soviet sub. But... "Where do I fit into all of this?"

"We want you to come along," Fred answered.

"This is supposed to be a research vessel," John amplified. "While most of the crew will be learning how to bring up manganese nodules, you'll be learning about whales out in the open ocean. You know, like what's-his-name on the Beagle."

"Darwin," Jerry said faintly.

"Yeah. Him." John P. nodded. It was somehow perfectly in character that he could call up the ship's name but not the scientist's. John went on, "You really will be able to bring on whatever you want and do as much research as you can. You'll make things look authentic, know what I mean?"

"You get paid, too," Steve put in.

"That would be nice," Jerry said. What he made as a teaching assistant barely covered rent, food, and gas. Any expensive emergency and he'd end up moving back in with his old man. They both wanted that like a hole in the head. Anna worked in advertising at a travel magazine. Her paycheck was a good bit bigger than this. When they got married, they'd merge their finances. In the meantime, he scuffled. Scuffling was a grad-school way of life. A beat slower than he might have, he found the right question: "Paid how much?"

Steve didn't answer. Neither did John. His eyes swung toward Fred. Fred said, "As marine biologist aboard the Glomar Explorer, your monthly salary would be two thousand nine hundred thirty-three dollars. Two months guaranteed, after that as necessitated by the project."

"Twenty-nine thirty-three?" Jerry wanted to make sure he'd heard right. That wasn't TA money. Two months of that would be more than he made all year as a TA. It wasn't junior-faculty money, either. It was full-professor money, maybe even department-head money.

But Fred just nodded and said, "Correct."
"When do I start?" Jerry asked. He was proud of himself for making it sound like an ordinary question. He wanted to yell and scream and whoop and bounce off the walls and ceiling as if he were in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

"We expect the Glomar Explorer to leave Long Beach harbor on or about June twentieth," John answered. "There's only a narrow window in the North Pacific when we hope sea conditions will be calm enough to let us do what we need to do. We want to make sure we can exploit it."

"June...twentieth." Jerry winced. He'd be done with spring quarter. That wasn't the problem. "Look, I know you guys will have me checked out nine ways from Sunday. And if you've checked me out, you'll know—

"That you and Miss Anna Elaine McGowan plan to get married on June thirtieth," John finished for him.

"No, we didn't know that at all," Steve said, and chuckled. Of the three of them, he was, if not the Good Cop, at least the Best Cop.

"We can't delay sailing for anyone's personal considerations. You have to understand that." John's tone said he could go to hell if he didn't understand it—go to hell and not go on the Glomar Explorer.

"We've already made arrangements, though," Jerry said helplessly. "We've spent money. We've rented the synagogue. We've got the food set up. We've booked our honeymoon. We've—" He gave up. If he went, Anna wouldn't want to marry him. She'd want to murder him. He didn't see how he could blame her, either.

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