It was dark outside when Doctor Melbourne Jackson entered the canvas tent that served as a temporary home for his little family. He pushed the flap back down into place behind him, securing it against prying eyes and looked with satisfaction at the interior scene. He stood up, stretching his six-foot frame and pushed his floppy brimmed canvas hat off of his uncombed long dark hair. "My God, it's still bloody hot out there. There's not a breeze to be found anywhere! I'll be glad when we can return to our house."
Claire was sitting in the golden glow of the kerosene lamp at the folding table that served as their desk, her white linen shirt was open, exposing a brightly colored halter-top; her long, light brown hair was caught up in a ponytail. She was cataloguing the finds of the day, carefully noting location found, depth and condition of the pieces they had discovered at the new dig. Her fountain pen made scratching noises on the thick pages of the leather bound volume. "Come over here, sweetheart, and sit down before you get heat stroke." She replied absentmindedly. "There's some cool water there in the thermos. I had taken it for Danny, but Missy had brought him a Coca-Cola from the village and he didn't want it." The young woman didn't look up from her journal until she finished the last annotation. That done, she greeted her husband with a warm smile.
Jackson looked over at the child lying half-asleep on his pallet on the tent floor and shook his head. "She spoils the boy, my dear." He didn't sound particularly worried. "How is the tyke doing in the heat? He looks a bit pink around the edges." The Professor removed his outer burnoose and lay it on the pile of outerwear stacked by the doorway. He went over and knelt down by his son's bed and stroked the four-year-old's soft, rosy cheek. The boy giggled up at him, his blue eyes blinking sleepily in the lamplight. His father had to smile at the infectiousness of the sound. "Were you a good boy for your mummy today, Daniel?"
The child nodded at his father's question. "Yes, Poppa. Mummy let me help her." He replied brightly. "I found an arty-fact all by myself."
"He certainly did, Mel." The young woman assured her husband. "He found it all by himself, uncovered it, brushed it and told me that it was a pot for olive oil." Claire looked at her son fondly. "He said that it must have belonged to a lady who liked to cook and he's probably right." She looked at her husband seriously. "It was a very good find and he handled it like a professional, brushed it out and then made sure I annotated its location in the room we were excavating."
"Excellent. Excellent, Daniel." Mel brushed his fingers through the thick white gold thatch of hair. "You're just a chip off of the old block, aren't you, my boy."
The boy nodded against the pillow and yawned hugely. "Yes, Poppa."
The Professor chuckled. "Well, it looks like my lad had a hard day." The boy nodded again. "So, close those eyes and go to sleep. You can dream of finding your heart's desire."
"Poppa, when I grow up," Daniel took a breath and yawned again. "When I grow up can I be an Archy-ologist like you and Mummy?"
"Danny-boy, I'd say you are just as good an Archaeologist as half the people out here." He glanced over at his wife who smiled back at him from her paperwork. He lowered his voice and continued. "And a good bit better than the other half. You're a natural, son. You've got the gift." He leaned over and kissed his son on his forehead. "Now, you go to sleep or you'll be too tired to work tomorrow." He glanced around the bedclothes. "Where's your camel?"
The boy scooched a bit in the bed and pulled the covers back to reveal a worn and much loved looking stuffed camel tucked under the blanket. "Here."
"Ah, there's Lumpy Camel. " Mel smiled agreeably. "He'll carry you safe on your dreams." He patted the boy's arm gently. " Good night now, Danny."
Melbourne got up and went over to sit by his wife at the folding table. When he got settled, he leaned over to kiss her, the camp chair squeaking alarmingly. She leaned into him smiling. "So, how did it go in the city today?"
"Fine, my lovely and talented wife. I have the tickets and our travel plans in my greedy palms." He placed his chin on her shoulder as he watched her graceful long-fingered hands hold the potshards beneficently. "We will leave for Cairo to meet up with your august father in two weeks. I just hope the old fool deigns to come...since he doesn't like children."
"Oh, he'll be there, never fear." Claire answered her husband. "He wants to come to deliver my inheritance from my Mother and to be seen with the greatest Egyptologist and Archaeologist since Howard Carter!"
"Then he can just bugger off! If that's the only reason he's coming, then we shant bother to disturb our Danny's sterling performance as my heir apparent." He smiled back towards the sleeping child. "The boy's got it my dear. I truly believe he's got it."
"Oh, no." Claire teased her husband. "Is there a shot for it?"
"God, I do hope not!" Melbourne laughed softly. "Darling, I think we're raising a bloody genius here. Do you know the other evening that he was speaking to Achmed in Egyptian one moment then Ferias in Iraqi the very next second? I've never seen anyone with such a facility for language."
The young woman nodded. "He was talking to Henri in French too," she smiled, "and he's got a better accent than you do."
"That's not hard, dearest, not hard at all. Spoken languages were never my forte." Mel chuckled. He glanced over at the white plastic radio that sat on the table. "What are you listening too?"
"Radio America, out of Cairo. I'm surprised that I get reception out here, but it's pretty clear at night."
"It is indeed." He raised an eyebrow at the small device. "At least we can get some news here. What's going on in the colonies these days?"
She sighed. "Oh, the usual, Nixon's in the White House talking about Viet Nam, there's a Zodiac murderer loose in San Francisco and they're planning to put a man on the moon soon."
Mel snorted. "They can't keep the Homo sapiens from killing each other here on earth, but they're willing to spend billions to put a man on another planet. It doesn't make sense my dear." He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.
Claire sighed and leaned back against him. "I know, I'm afraid that when Danny is eighteen America will still be fighting in Viet Nam. I'm actually glad he can choose his citizenship."
'Those are pretty strong words from my peace-loving wife. Your father would be livid if he could hear you. He'll think I have corrupted you."
"Why? Danny's not British either...he's Egyptian as far as I'm concerned."
"My dear, I think our little Daniel will do and be whatever he wants to...he's your child after all," Melbourne said teasingly, "and you've certainly chosen your own path. Not many young woman, American or otherwise, could have accomplished what you have."
"What, falling in love with my Archaeology tutor? That was easy." She batted her eyes at him impishly.
"No, my dear. Not that...though you're right, it was devilishly easy to want you, woo you and win you in the best romantic sense of the word." He wrapped his arms around her shoulders. "I should have known that Doctor Nicholas Ballard's daughter wouldn't need coaching in the discipline." He smiled. "But you've taken the study to a whole new level."
"Well, you have to realize that I learned Meso-American studies not Egyptology...who would have know that they shared so many similar components." She looked thoughtful. "It's almost as if they were able to communicate their techniques across the thousands of miles, like a cross-fertilization of the cultures."
"Now, Claire, this is an old argument. There's no way in hell they had contact...now you're beginning to sound like Erich von DŠniken. Next you'll be saying ancient aliens..."
"No, Mel, now stop it." She slapped his hands where they clasped around her breasts. "They could have made contact by ship like Thor Heyerdah in the Kon Tiki experiment. You know that in forty-seven, Heyerdahl and five companions left Peru and crossed over four thousand miles in one hundred days to reach Tuamotu Archipelago. He proved the seaworthiness of the aboriginal raft and showed that the ancient Peruvians could have reached Polynesia on one."
Mel sighed. "Yes I know, and I hear that he's going to go a step farther his year and is going to try to sail from Morocco to Barbados in a papyrus reed ship. He's bought 12 tons of papyrus and worked with experts to construct an ancient-style vessel," He shook his head. "That's over two thousand five hundred miles."
"Why, Mel, that's fascinating! Do you think he'll make it?"
"I think it will waterlog and sink like a bloody stone...but you have to admire his spirit."
"If he makes it...that will help prove my theory." She looked thoughtful. "Can you imagine the implications..."?
"Yes, love, I can imagine you being laughed out of academia."
"Oh, Mel...this will be proof that all those stuffed shirts are wrong and it could help explain so much that we just can't know right now."
"Oh, like what?" He frowned at the enthusiasm of his wife.
"Like that dig in Giza that was hushed up so quickly in the forties...you know Professor Langford's."
He sighed and kissed his wife on the forehead. "Claire, that was because of the war...you know that. Besides he never published anything from that dig. No one's sure what he found, if anything. He's kept completely mum on the subject."
She turned and looked at him. "But Mel..."
"Darling, you've worked too hard to earn your reputation to allow these theories of your to...."
"To make me look like a foolish woman without out the common sense of a goose." She sighed. "Of course, you're right about that. And they certainly weren't kind to my father when he started to lose his grip after he found that crystal skull." she shook her head. "I guess I should wait before I start my own tempest in a teapot in the archaeological community," She glanced over at their sleeping son. "for Daniel's sake."
"Yes, love, I'm afraid so." Melbourne kissed her gently, then followed her gaze. "We have him to think of now. I'm sure one cracked pot in the family tree is enough for any genius to overcome."
Claire sighed. "So what are we doing tomorrow?"
"Well, I was thinking," Mel grinned, "it is Saturday. Let's take Daniel and go in to the city, rent an air-cooled room at a nice hotel and spend the weekend recovering from our last three weeks here in the desert. Then, we'll be ready to pack up, go home, and get ready to beard the Deutch-lion in Cairo."
"That would be lovely, darling, if you're sure we can manage the cost."
"Darling, you and Daniel are worth it." Mel smiled and kissed her seductively, then reached over and blew out the lamp. "Now, while our little one is sleeping, let me prove it to you."
"Why, Melbourne Jackson....I think..."
He pulled her to her feet. "Claire Ballard Jackson, I think you think too much...entirely."
And on his pallet, little Daniel dreamed.