One thing I’ve never tolerated, even as a child, is drama. If you have an issue, find a solution. If you can’t find a solution, then you’re not trying hard enough. While our little Asian friend marched us towards the dig, Shimon kept asking him, “What’s the problem?” Every time he did, the young man ignored him completely. Within five minutes we’d arrived. While we stood on the perimeter waiting for someone (my own preference was someone other than Ronnie or Colin), to let us know what this huge emergency was, I noticed Andrew standing nearby making some kind of cutting movement with his hand across his throat.
“Oh shit,” I thought. “We’re fucked.” Just as my mind went into overdrive, Ronnie came running through a cloud of dust that seemed to have formed as a brief gust of wind passed over the excavation. He looked like the second coming of Jesus, or one of the ten biblical plagues, depending on how vivid your imagination is. He and Shimon proceeded to have what appeared to be a very frank and animated discussion in rapid-fire Hebrew.
“Shimon, what’s going on?”
He turned to me, his eyes animated with a look I’d come to recognize from Colin and the other archaeologists. “We believe that the team has uncovered something very special today. This could be momentous!”
Without missing a beat and with my heart going boom-boom-boom, and with Andrew in the near distance trying his best not to laugh, I said, “Exciting, what did you find?”
“Come Eli, come,” was all he could say.
Ronnie led the way and we all followed, carefully tip-toeing through the dirt and into that very same corner where our crazy, tight-lipped, Gang of Five had surreptitiously planted that penis at one o’clock that very morning. In the corner were a group of three archeologists—one from Jerusalem, the other two from France. They were standing in silence, tools at the ready, but motionless.
Ronnie spoke. “We began to excavate this, the northwest corner of the dig yesterday, and when we arrived about an hour ago, Christophe,” Ronnie pointed to one of the archeologists as if he stood accused of something terrible, “thought the site had changed slightly from yesterday.”
Fucking right it had, I thought while trying hard not to smirk while looking as serious as I’d ever done at any time in my life.
“We decided to look closely at the way the earth had moved,” said Ronnie, “and we noticed what we thought was a silk sheath. We stopped, took a deep breath and slowly brushed aside the dirt, uncovering something quite spectacular.”
It was as if someone was about to reveal the punch line at a comedy show. The tension was unbearable. These guys were so engrossed in their “find” that they couldn’t see that their own seriousness had blinded them to what should have been an obvious fraud. I wished for a camera at that moment, because this kibbutz was about to get hit by the biggest, baddest April fool of them all. Then things got better.
“We called the experts in Jerusalem at the archives office,” Ronnie continued, “and we were told not to touch another thing. They are sending Dan Herzioni, the best man in this field, to come here right now to assist.”
Holy shit, I thought. By now Andrew had vanished into the haze on the other side of the dig site.
Shimon spoke. “Clear the dig, Ronnie. This could be very special. No point in having anyone do anything they shouldn’t, right? Also, let me know when Dan arrives and we can call everyone back to watch when he gives us his esteemed opinion.”
I wanted to puke. I also wanted to tell everyone that all this was a prank, but everything, inside me shouted “Shut it, Alan!” This bugger Dan was coming three hours from Jerusalem to tell us that we were a laughingstock and fraud! As Ronnie called the dig to a halt, I went to find Andrew and Gideon. We needed to make a choice, and I wasn’t going to be the one to do this alone.
By now, Andrew was well on his way to a place that was as far from the dig as possible. News was spreading fast, as it does on in a place with only 800 residents, and everything else on the kibbutz was grinding to a halt as every man, woman and child made their way to the edge of the excavation site to see what all the madness was about. Everyone wanted to see what the team had found. What I found really intriguing was that no one on the kibbutz had ever cared about that dig since I’d been there, and now they were all converging like Jesus had just been resurrected!
Clearly someone had to confess. We couldn’t just leave these people in limbo and let poor Dan ruin not only his day but everyone else’s day with his certain discovery of fraud.
You might think it’s easy for an expert in a field to determine whether something is real or fake. Well, it’s not. Experts move at a brisk pace and with much care in order to accomplish their task in the most efficient and credible manner possible. In this case, the expert, Dan Herzioni from Jerusalem, a foremost authority on ancient relics, arrived just after lunch, accompanied by his driver, his assistant and a woman who looked like his mother. After a brief discussion in Shimon’s office, none of which I was privy to, the team made its way towards the dig. That was the last I saw of them until they emerged some five hours later.
Meanwhile, Andrew and I were deep in discussion with our co-conspirators about what exactly we should do, if anything. We were fighting amongst ourselves, not sure which way to turn. I could tell from everyone’s facial expressions that we all thought we were fucked. I kept saying that we would all be held responsible and probably taken to the police for our little transgression. No one else agreed. They all thought that if we came clean, everyone else would see the funny side of this prank. “Nonsense,” I said. “Do you think they’re stupid? Do you believe they will just let it all go in the interest of hilarity?”
It was like truth or dare; in the end, we opted for dare. There was no way anyone could pin this prank on any of us; so as long as we all kept our mouths shut no one would ever find out the truth. I lost out to a majority decision and we all parted ways, tight-lipped and suspicious.
My mood brightened when Rachelli came into lunch with a huge smile spread across her face. I thought I knew what she was going to say, but I resolved to act surprised.
“I have decided you will swim across the pool today!”
Taken completely off guard, I blurted out, “You going to get naked in daylight this time?” At this, half the kitchen staff and dining room stopped talking and stared at us. Rachelli went beetroot red, and I just wanted to hide under the nearest table.
Rachelli recovered. “I have a plan,” she said, leaning into me. “Sorry, we, as in all of my class, have a plan,” she whispered as her hair brushed across my ear lobe and my penis became instantly hard. Suddenly, my thoughts of impending doom at the dig vanished. “Come with me and you’ll be amazed,” she finished.
Well, why not? At least when Dan from Jerusalem revealed the fraud, I could jump into the water and inhale until it was all over.
We ate vegetables and fruit with hummus and then she grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the dining area towards the pool. I only hoped this plan would work out better than our plan for astonishing the world with our incredible archaeological-bovine-genital fabrication!
A thick grove of trees surrounded the pool, so before you actually reached the water’s edge you couldn’t tell if there were people swimming, lying in the sun or doing anything they shouldn’t. It was a perfect snogging spot for couples who sought privacy—one I’d tried to take advantage of several times already, always without success. Today, as we approached the water, I could see was the whole of Rachelli’s school class. They had formed a kind of honor guard at the edge of the water in anticipation of my arrival. I knew all of them, some not well, some more than others, but I had this strange foreboding of what was about to happen.
“Alan, today is your day!” Rachelli stripped off her clothing to reveal her bikini. My heart sank as I realized I was about to be coaxed into the water. Shit, what if I drown? But my girl wasn’t about to let that happen.
Without warning, and in synchronized perfection, her classmates descended into the water and formed two parallel lines stretching from one side of the pool to the other, each student about three feet from the next. They made a channel that I could swim through, keenly guarded by Hazorea’s finest. Clearly, I had no choice.
Rachelli approached me. “Alan,” she said softly, “get in, don’t be scared, and if anything happens, we are here for you. You can’t drown, you can’t go under, but you can and you will make it to the other side.” Clearly, in the face of this kind of planning, there was no way out. With my heart in overdrive, I took off my work shorts, which were on top of my running shorts, which substituted for a bathing suit, and tiptoed into the water, mouth dry, heart thudding.
“Come on, you can do this” said one of the other kids. And with that, a chant began, all of them in a synchronized beat. “Eli! Eli! Eli!” This noise caught the attention of many others: as I looked around with one foot in the water and one on the pool’s edge, I saw people arriving from out of nowhere. It seemed like the whole kibbutz was watching, and it was up to me perform and prove that once and for all, I would no longer be a laughingstock.
I went for it. I turned around, splashing everyone who was near me as my whole body submerged and my arms and legs worked in tandem, pushing me, with every stroke, ever closer to the other side. As I concentrated on my momentum, I was unaware that my “honor guard” had suddenly vanished, everyone retreating to the opposite end of the pool. It took perhaps 15 or 20 seconds and I was there, safe and clinging to concrete.
Before I had a chance to even appreciate what I’d done, there came a tumultuous round of applause and cheering from all around the pool. I felt a bit like a stupid little boy accepting cheers for doing something that five-year-olds did every summer, but I was also overcome with gratitude for all the help, coaching and coaxing Rachelli’s team had offered.
Now it was time to show off for my girl. I got up, turned around and swam back to the other side! Then I did it again and again and again, without fear. I probably crossed that pool 25 times. Rachelli was looking down at me like a proud partner, savoring this special moment. The whole class presented me with a bar of chocolate along with this handwritten note of congratulations, which I still have. Nothing could have ruined that moment…nothing except the thought of Dan, the expert, who by now was probably in the midst of telling the kibbutz if they had the find of the century or were the victims of a huge hoax.