ArmWrestlingThePLOIt started out with arm wrestling—and now the PLO proposed giving me a wife. In Bethlehem, beyond the 20-foot-tall fence from behind which the PLO and Hezbollah on the West Bank periodically launched rockets into Jerusalem, Donna Sue (my true one wife), the Reverends, and the rest of the church group with which she and I were touring the Holy Land watched in stunned silence. Down the street I was surrounded by Palestinian men. Donna Sue thought we were fighting.

I have a penchant for getting into odd situations. Like how curiosity kills the cat.

One of the five men who boxed me in, a big, good-looking kid of twenty, had wanted to arm wrestle an American. Arabs have a macho streak. That was what was occurring when Donna Sue and the others stepped out of the “beads ‘n trinkets” shop. I’m an old man, but the boy and I wrestled to a draw.

“You are most strong,” he conceded, obviously surprised.

“Allah’s will,” I said.

Middle Eastern men respect strength, courage and boldness. I suppose I’m nothing else if not bold. I suddenly had friends.

“Rahman, him have five wives,” said Abdul.

“Five! How does he live with so many jabbering females? How many do you have, Abdul?”

He shrugged, embarrassed. “I have one wife only.”

“Why does he have five wives and you only have one? That’s not fair.”

“He old man than me.”

Rahman said something in Palestinian; he didn’t speak English.

“Him want give you one his wife,” Abdul translated.

I thought about it. “Do I get to pick?”

Rahman and Abdul negotiated.

“Rahman pick,” Abdul said.

“He’ll give me the ugly one!” I protested.

“All wife pretty.”

I thought about it some more. “I’ll ask my wife if I can have her.”

I had to turn down Rahman’s generous offer.

“I will never forgive myself, Pollack,” said LCDR Pete Brauer, former U.S. Navy SEAL, before he died clutching the portrait of a beautiful French-Vietnamese girl that had hung on his wall for more than twenty years. “I don’t think God will forgive me either.”

“We’ve all done things,” Kazmarek replied. “Especially in Vietnam.”

“We haven’t all done what I did.”

From The Return by Charles W. Sasser. Available for the KindleNook, or Kobo.