Chapter 1 - Wreck Beach University.
I hardly remembered those miserable summer days anymore, when the industrial dust gathered thickly on the porches. Living in Pittsburgh in those days had been no holiday. The air had been a dull choking haze that one didn't dare breathe.
Only on rare occasions now, usually only during the hot summer days when the air is still and the smog from the city makes the sky dull at noon, do those horrible days come back to mind. The day when I called Tony up was one of those days.
I needed to discuss something with Tony. He lived at the opposite side of the city, too far to just run over and speak with him in person. The telephone had to suffice. I wondered how people managed to get by in the age before the telephone.
Naturally, we talked about the weather and how lovely it had been at the coast, and how rotten the atmosphere can get in Pittsburgh.
"But it's a rotten day only by what we can see," I said to him. "In reality this is the brightest of all days!"
"Now what is that supposed to mean?" his voice came back over the telephone.
"It means that there are papers to be signed. My Realtor called today. And I mean, these are special papers indeed!"
"Oh, and I am supposed to know what you are talking about? You've lost me, my friend."
"It means that our California beach house has been sold."
"You never told me you had a beach house. Congratulations! Did you get a good price?"
"You still don't know what I'm getting at, do you Tony?"
There was silence for a moment.
"No!" his voice came back. Then, there was silence again. "My God, no, you haven't! You couldn't! You didn't sell your beach house for that crazy project we talked about?" He laughed moments later.
"Exactly so, Tony. The project is on!"
"You're nuts, man! What about all the memories you've got invested in your California place? You can't just throw all this out of the window for something that may never work."
"Our place has already been sold, Tony."
"Sold! That sounds so final, Pete."
"It is that, Tony."
"Tell me, what good are pleasant memories, Tony, compared to staying alive?"
There was silence for a while.
"Pete, the salvation of the world doesn't depend on you."
"Oh, doesn't it? Doesn't it depend on everyone?"
There was silence again.
"So the project is really on?"
"Of course! Are you still with me, Tony?"
"Good Lord, Pete, you can count on me. I had no idea you were really serious. Of course I'm with you. My ass is on fire too, you know."
"Never mind that. But what about your wife? How did you manage to get her interested in our crazy scheme?"
"Later Tony. First let me tell you that Craig, that's my Realtor, has located a 126-acre parcel of beachfront for us. And you won't believe this. It's in the exact area where we had figured it should be, about 20 miles north from the SandCastle. I have already secured an option on it. All I have to do is sign the papers."
"Hold it Pete, I'll be right over. I'll be at your place in twenty minutes. I want to witness this historic occasion."
"Don't rush, Tony. The option is valid for a week. Anyway, Craig wants us to look the place over before we sign. And listen to this, Tony, it includes a clean, sheltered, crescent-shaped beach!"
"Sounds perfect, Pete. But what's the catch? There must be a catch."
"Well, there's a slight catch. If we buy it, there won't be any money left over."
"Don't worry about money, Pete. If the idea is great and the location is as outstanding as you say, the money will come in somehow. I've got my pension, and you have a well-paying job."
"Would you like to drive out with us and have a look?"
"No Tony, tomorrow morning at six."
"At six! That's in the middle of the night, man! And this on a weekend! Are you crazy?"
"I thought you were..."
"I was just joking. We can leave at midnight if you want. It makes no difference... Still, I think you are nuts," he added before he hung up, "but you're wonderful, I love you my friend."
It was still dark when we picked Tony up. He wasn't ready. I half expected that. He had overslept. I went in and helped him pack.
"Now, tell me, how did you get Sylvia to go along with this scheme?" was practically the first thing he said when we were alone. "Also, tell me another thing; with a great wife like her, who goes along with that, what possessed you to be messing around with Heather?"
"Did you forget, Tony, Heather was key to the whole idea. Sylvia realized this the same way as we did."
"You mean you told your wife about Heather, too? You actually did?"
"It wasn't a matter of choice, Tony," I interrupted him. "And believe me, I'm glad that I told her. Out of it came a really close and intimate feeling for one-another that we never had before."
"And now you are going to tell me that if we did this on the political level the arms race would end immediately," Tony joked.
I nodded and grinned. "Don't worry, Tony, there is hope for us yet."
"At any rate, this crazy scheme of yours is still a hell of a lot better than sitting on our asses, spellbound and in fear, hoping for the nuclear threat to go away on its own."
"MY scheme?" I said. "I thought that was OUR idea."
"Actually we should blame it on Heather," he said. "If Heather hadn't left you that day out of sheer desperation..."
I raised my hand to stop him.
"Maybe it wasn't all because of her," said Tony.
"Sylvia believes it was. She said to me 'the world might be full of people who can't cope anymore, like Heather. They might look for a way to escape and be tempted to force matters..."
"You aren't talking about nuclear weapons sabotage," he interrupted.
"Or nuclear blackmail, or some submarine commander ordering his crew to fire, or some idiot pressing anyone of the thousands of buttons." I could come up with quite a long list. I assured him of that.
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