From the magazine, Screen Stories.
He’d said it once to tease her : in five years, he’d said, he might even have forgotten the color of her eyes. She’d laughed, he remembered; they’d both laughed. They were grown-up people, after all. They understood about Love in Wartime, which was a thing, like Life, impermanent, and expendable. But underneath the laughter, he’d known better ; known that, however long he lived, he would not forget—not the color of her eyes, nor the sound of her
voice, nor any part of their time together. And they were luckier than most: they’d had two years.
They met, Brad Parker and Valerie Russell, in the spring of 1942—the first spring of his war, the third of hers. He was Captain Brad Parker then, reporting for duty in Grosvenor Square : Headquarters, European Theater of Operations, United States Army. He was thirty-three
that spring, and the time and the war fitted his life like a glove. Back home in Malton,
Connecticut, he had a pretty wife, a prosperous father-in-law, and a stake in a news-
paper that would in due course be his. When the war was over, he would go back to all
of them and be properly grateful. But in the meantime he was in London—unattached,
unendangered, all expenses paid He’d been on the job two weeks when the mission to Barkstow fell his way. It fell as an envelope of target tracings to be delivered to U. S. Army Major Alan Mills, Adjutant, Six Hundred Thirty-Second Bombardment Group, Barkstow, Lincolnshire.
When Brad reported, he found Major Mills preoccupied with the Six Hundred Thirty-Second’s private war with the British. A veteran English brigadier had been routed in the latest local skirmish; Major Mills was on his way to make peace, if he could. Ill-humoredly, he dragged Brad along. “It’s time you guys in London knew exactly what we have to go through here,”
the Major grumbled, and braked the jeep in front of the brigadier’s house.
Brigadier Russell was a proud, mettlesome old soldier who’d had the misfortune to outlive his usefulness. To Brad, he was a joke, a caricature, a scrawny-shanked Colonel Blimp. But the old martinet still had a back as straight as a carbine, and a tongue as deadly; and it was immediately clear that he had no use whatever for the American Army, the American fighting man, nor the apologies of the American Major.
Brad was seething as he trailed Mills back to the jeep. “Who do these limeys think they are ?” he hissed in the Major’s ear. “They were licked in ‘forty and they’re still taking a walloping.
They won’t admit they’re dead pigeons. That’s the trouble with them.”
“Hold it !” the Major muttered; a girl was running down the path after them. she said
“My name is Valerie Russell,” when she caught up with them. “My father isn’t well, Major,” she apologized. “Changes frighten him. Americans mean changes. He’s wrong, but try to understand him.”
“Believe me—” began Major Mills. “No, please,” Valerie cut him off. “You see, at Dunkirk, where he was wounded, he got the idea that the England he loved had gone forever. Of course it hadn’t, but he’s quite afraid, now, of lots of things. He’s been through two wars—quite badly, really—Abruptly, she broke off ; she had no idea, suddenly, if they understood a word she was
saying. “I do love my father,” she went on presently. “I don’t know Americans. But you are here and fighting the war, and most of us want to help and make you feel welcome.” She smiled wryly. “We haven’t had occasion to be grateful to anyone, except possibly God, for several hundred years. But we’ll try; you’ll see.” And without another word she turned and ran back toward the house.
It was, Brad often thought later, an odd beginning for a love affair. It wouldn’t, of course, have been the beginning of anything if Brad had not run into Valerie on the train back to London,
next morning. She was in uniform this time, the grim khaki of the British Army’s women’s auxiliary. But even in uniform, she was vivid, unmistakable, rather dazzlingly lovely.
“Good morning, Miss Russell,” said Brad. She looked up, mystified. “In the jeep yesterday,” he reminded her. “Major Mills and I sure appreciated what you said. It was like a breath of fresh air.”
Valerie smiled. “You must have been absolutely dying for fresh air then,” she said. “All I really said was I didn’t know Americans.”
Brad bowed, as well as he could in the crowded, rocking corridor, and grinned. “From a Britisher,” he said, “that comes mighty close to being a compliment these days.”
“I’m sorry,” said Valerie, still smiling. “You really must think we have the foulest manners in the world.”
“Let’s say ‘effective.’ They’re designed to make strangers feel stranger. They work.” Valerie laughed out loud and made room for him on the suitcase she was perched on; he took the seat gratefully. “Mr. Parker—she began, after a moment.
“Brad,” he said. “I said ‘Brad.’ Brad Parker. My name. Call me Brad.” Valerie tried it. “Brad,” she said experimentally, rolling it on her tongue like some exotic foreign food. “Brad,” she said
again, then shrugged, resigning herself. “My name’s Valerie. But please don’t call me Val. Somebody else calls me it, and—She stopped short, her cheeks suddenly very pink.
Her confusion was intensely becoming ; for an instant Brad felt something rather like a pang of envy for the man who inspired it. “You don’t like him ?” Brad teased. “I like him,” she said, looking down, her cheeks pinker than ever. “Very, very much.”
There was a pause. Brad felt the pang again. “In London ?” he asked. “Africa.”
There was another pause, a longer one.
“I have a love, too,” Brad said finally. “My wife, Janie.” Valerie looked up at him quickly, then
back to her ringless hands. “You’re lucky,” she said. Brad nodded, and felt oddly guilty.
Swaying, rattling, the overcrowded train hurtled on; another few minutes, and they would be pulling into the station. “I suppose,” said Brad, “you’ve got quite a few friends in London.”
“I used to,” Valerie said. “before the war. Brad could feel the color rising in his own cheeks now. “I was going to say,” he stammered, shy as a schoolboy, “perhaps you’d share an occasional meal with a man who seems due to be pretty lonely.” Valerie looked at him in surprise. “You’re awfully nice,” she said. Brad flinched. “Which is British for ‘no’ ?”
She laughed and got to her feet; the train was now slowing down. “It’s British for ‘Wouldn’t you rather share it with a girl who could give you a better time than I Brad stood up, too. “I’d rather spend it with you,” he said. Impulsively, Valerie put out her hand. “Then I’d love to,” She said.
They went, the first time, to an Italian restaurant in the West End; a garish, noisy place, where the prices were shocking and the food atrocious. They enjoyed themselves immensely.
“Thank you, Brad,” Valerie said after wards, when he took her to her door. “I did love tonight.”
Brad grinned. “Bad meal, too ?” “Bad meal, impertinent violinist, insulting intruder; I honestly adored every instant.
“Only what ?” Slowly, she withdrew her hands from his. Very slowly she said, “You dance too well.” “Only with you,” he said. “Please don’t,” she begged. For a moment they stood awkwardly there in the street, unspeaking. She is much too beautiful, Brad told himself. I must not see her again.”
is much too much fun, Valerie thought. I must not see him again.” “How about Friday night?” said Brad finally.
“If you’d really like to,” said Valerie, “I would too.” So there was that Friday night and then
other Friday nights and Saturdays and Sundays, and eventually Mondays, Tuesdays,
Wednesdays and Thursdays, too. It was a lovely spring, the spring of 1942. It never looked lovelier than the evening they looked out at it from a broad balcony overhanging the, Thames. The balcony belonged to one of the waterfront pubs where Americans and Londoners congregated; but Brad and Valerie had found themselves an isolated bench. There, sipping their beer, they gazed out at the ships, listened to a single sad accordion, and watched the lilac colored light fade from the sky.
The bench was not so isolated, it turned out, that an enterprising newsboy could not find it. He strode boldly toward them, now, hawking the late edition ; in the dusk Valerie could just make out the headline: Commandos in Action in Desert. She had a coin out while Brad was still
fumbling in his pocket. She snatched a paper away from the boy. “It says,” she read
shakily, “The Ninth Commando—”
She nodded and read on. ” ‘Berlin says the bodies of twenty-seven men including eight offcers—’ ” Her whole body began to tremble; she put the paper down.
Brad gripped her arms. “Listen,” he said, “he mightn’t even have been on that raid.
And even if he was, the odds are still against his being hurt.” Brad hesitated, wishing she
would speak, would weep, would cry out even ; but she said nothing. “He’ll be back,”
Brad insisted. “You bet he’ll be back. In a couple of years at most, the war’ll be over
Abruptly, Valerie stood up. “Brad,” she said, in a queer pinched voice, “would you
mind if I just went home now? Suddenly” she swayed a little—”suddenly everything’s
frightening and rather awful.”
Brad got up and put his arms around her ; together they crossed the balcony to the
door. Valerie only looked back once : at the moon rising in the night sky over London,
and over Libya, twenty-five hundred miles away. “Dear God,” she breathed, “let him be
looking at it.”
That night was the first time Brad saw Valerie’s flat. It was small, bright, and snug
behind the blackout curtains; Brad would, he thought, have known it for Valerie’s any-
where. She dropped her coat and bag on a chair. “I can’t offer you anything in the way of a
drink,” she said, her back to him.
“How’s if I pop round to the pub and try to get something ? ” Brad suggested. Valerie hesitated. “I know this is going” she said, with an to sound ungenerous,” she said with an
effort, “and stupid and ungrateful—
“You’d rather we called it off for tonight ? I understand,” he said, and reached for his cap.
Still, Valerie did not turn. “It’s more than that, Brad,” she said. “It’s more than tonight.”
For a moment, Brad stood and twisted his cap in his hands. “Listen,” he said at last,
“I hate to say this, but not seeing me isn’t going to help this guy in the desert. We’re still
two lonely people.”
Valerie whirled. Her face was white, her eyes big and brilliant with unshed tears. “You
she cried, think I’m pure and angel-like, “because I’m English and my voice is crisp
and my father’s a Brigadier. But I’m not pure and and angel like. She was trembling
I—again, as she had been in the pub, but she would not let him touch her. “I thought I
would be safe from you,” she went on, “because you were a stranger, remote from
John and his world and all that he stood for. Or so I thought.” She shook her head.
“Please,” she begged, “say goodbye.”
“Please go, Brad.” She covered her face with her hands. “Please go, Brad. You’re not
a stranger any more.” And then, at last, she began to weep.
Brad went away. And he stayed away. He stayed away for three weeks, and not one
day of the three weeks passed that he did not pick up the phone to dial her number ; that
he did not find an excuse to stroll past the Red Cross Club where she worked. One
night, even, he caught himself walking down the narrow out-of-the-way street she lived in,
and he saw a policeman eye him watchfully as he stared at the darkened windows of her
flat. What he would have done if he had seen a slit of light, he did not know; but, seeing.
none, he turned away, feeling obscurely cheated.
He was halfway to the corner when he heard a voice calling after him—so softly that he thought for an instant it was in his own mind. “Brad ?” the voice said. “Brad ? “
He swung round and saw her, a small raincoated figure underneath the street lamp.
“Hi,” he said. He shambled toward her, “I was just seeing grinning sheepishly.
if—” He looked down at his feet. “If you were the same,” he finished. Valerie -nodded. “I’ve missed you, too,” she said.
“You’ve had news ? ” “Three weeks ago.” John had cabled; he was not only safe, but he’d been promoted. He was Lieutenant Colonel John Wynter now, and a wearer of the Military Cross.
I nearly called you,” Valerie said. “I even kept thinking perhaps you’d come to the Club.”
She hesitated. “I decided you wouldn’t.” “That’s a nice compliment.” “It’s meant. And thank you.”
He touched his cap. “Now that we can trust ourselves not to, see each other—” He
stopped and took a deep breath. “Couldn’t we maybe—Valerie laughed. “See each other ?” she
suggested. “Tomorrow ?” Brad asked eagerly. “Seven o’clock?”
She nodded, but when she spoke there was a little thoughtful frown on her face. “If you
change your mind,” she said, very solemnly, “please don’t call me or anything. It’s better
like that, and I’ll understand why.”
Brad looked at her, just as solemnly. “I think you know I’ll be there,” he said. For a moment they looked at each other; then she turned and went into the house. But Brad was not there at seven o’clock—nor at eight, nor nine nor any other hour of that long, long night. Valerie got through the night somehow; somehow she even got through the next day at the Club; the ex-
citement of the morning’s news was enough to buoy up anyone.
At the end of the latest bulletin, one of Valerie’s American co-workers snapped off the radio. “Say,” she asked, “your boy friend isn’t on that, is he?” Valerie looked up, startled. “The Dieppe
raid ?” The radio had said only Canadians. “No, thank goodness. He’s an American.”
“I didn’t think it was likely. Fellow was saying just now we don’t have but more
than a dozen or so guys down there,” the Red Cross worker said casually. A sudden dreadful thought darted across Valerie’s mind, was dismissed, but crept insidiously back. “Did you say,” Valerie repeated, “some Americans are at Dieppe ?” She held her breath, waiting for a reply.
“That’s right. Just a handful, though.” The girl’s voice trailed off as she watched Valerie half-run, half-stumble toward the doort “Gee, honey,” she called after Valerie, “I hope I didn’t put the wrong idea into your head.”
The idea, as it turned out, was partlywrong and partly right. Brad had not, in fact, gone along on the Dieppe raid, but his commanding officer had; Brad, as official observer, had kept vigil at the port of embarkation. It was dawn of the following day when he got back to London. His face, above his dusty, crumpled uniform, was gray with fatigue, old with new and terrible knowledge ; even at second-hand, Dieppe had been quite a party.
Valerie heard the taxi stop beneath her window before she heard the doorbell ring. She slipped on a robe, ran down the stairs, fumbled with the lock, flung open the door. “Hello, Brad,” she breathed. Brad stood there on the doorstep, a little unsteady and just short of thirty-six hours
late, but he was there. “Valerie,” he said, and again, “Valerie.”
In that one instant, Brad thought later, there might still have been time to turn back.
There might have; he wasn’t sure. But if had been one instant, only, before their eyes met, and their hands, and their lips, and then there was no time at all.
“Brad,” Valerie asked once, months afterwards, “are we really sinners, just by being in love ?” It was autumn then; they were walking through a cold drizzle and reveling in it. He grinned. “Why ask me ?” Her dark eyes twinkled. “You’re from New England,” she said. “You’re supposed to know.”
“Then I’ll tell you,” he said judicially. “You’re the most innocent and the most beautiful sinner in the whole wide war.” He kissed her, and thought he had settled the matter ; but after a time she came back to it. “People like to blame the war, always, don’t they?” Brad did not answer at once. “Sure,” he said, finally, “when there’s one to blame.” A gust of rain blew across their faces, and a sodden sheet of newspaper scudded across the sidewalk, Heavy North Africa Fighting, the headline said. New Allied Landings.
Valerie pressed his hand. “I’d die if you were there,” she said. Brad thought of John Wynter, who was there. They did not speak of John these days, just as they did not speak of Janie.
“All I did,” said Brad, frowning, “was wield a very valiant pencil.” “If I’d known about it, I’d have prayed every night for them not to send you.” Brad’s frown deepened. “You’d have been
wrong,” he said slowly. “Wonderful, beautiful, but wrong.” Valerie sighed. “I know,” she said, and perhaps because she was a Brigadier’s daughter, she said nothing more.
It was the next day that Brad was ordered to Algiers ; they did not even have a chance
to say goodbye. Brad had hoped at first that he could wangle a transfer back to England; he and Valerie lived on that for the first six months. Another spring came, and summer, and Italy
was out of the war, and Brad was confident of reassignment; but all that happened was
that summer turned to autumn and autumn to hard winter, and no reassignment came.
It was really quite by accident that Brad heard about Special Force Six i more than a combat outfit, a special force of volunteers—GI’s, Canadians, British—a mixed bunch, but hand-picked. There was still a string or two left that Brad could pull ; this time they were the right strings. The orders came through in the spring; the spring of 1944.
Valerie met him at the station, rushed into his arms, buried her face in his chest. “I wasn’t sure you’d be here,” Brad mumbled, his mouth on her hair. “I’d have crawled,” she whispered.
They kissed, a long desperate kiss, while the crowd swirled about them and tugged at
them and buffeted them, and they two neither knew nor cared.
“I’m home, darling !” Brad cried at last. “I’m home, I’m home! Ten days before I have to report ‘
—and they kissed again. And oddly, neither of them wondered that Captain Brad Parker from Connecticut should now call England ‘home.’ The first six days of Brad’s leave they hoarded, hugged to themselves, shared with no one. All that got them to Ray Boyce’s party, finally, was the fact that if it hadn’t been for Ray, who was Brad’s ex-roommate, Brad might never have made it back to England at all. The party gave every indication of being rowdy, rollicking fun, but it had barely gotten underway when a phone call came for Valerie.
“Valerie ? ” It was the girl on night duty at the Red Cross Club. There was an officer there, obviously not well, asking for Miss Russell. If Valerie would just hold on, she’d call him to the phone. There was a pause, then the girl’s voice came back on the line. “He was here a moment ago. An English colonel with a green beret—
Valerie’s face tightened. “I’ll be over at once,” she said, and set the receiver back on
its hook. She looked up at Brad. “John,” she said simply. rad’s heart contracted. “Where ?”
“Looking for me.” Valerie gathered up her bag and gloves. “The girl at the Club said—
Brad grabbed his raincoat. “I’ll take you.” Valerie shook her head. “I’ll try and telephone,” she said, and turned to go.
Brad followed her out into the corridor, “Try ?” he” asked, bewildered. “Yes,” she said, not looking at him. “Try.” He pressed the elevator button for her. They waited for it in troubled, miserable silence. “What are you going to tell him ?” Brad asked at last.
Her answer, when it came, had a terrible finality ; they had both known, really, that in the end there could only be one answer. “He’s here,” Valerie said. “He’s ill and he expects me to be with him. It’s just as simple as that. “
“I know. He needs you; he’s sick.” She took a deep breath. “I meant—always,” she said. The elevator creaked to a stop at their floor, and she stepped inside. ‘”I love you,” she whispered through swift, hot tears ; then the door closed, and she was gone. Brad reported for his new assignment four days early. It was a grueling assignment, Special Force Six—the training ex-
hausting, the ultimate execution perilous in the extreme. Brad was glad of it. Nothing
less grueling, less totally preoccupying could have carried him through the next few weeks.
And with the passing days, the taut wire of expectancy they were all treading tight-
ened perceptibly : that helped Brad, too. The last week of May, the Force was shifted up
to the marshaling area; after that, Brad knew—they all knew—it could only be a matter of days. Beyond D-Day, beyond invasion, Brad did not try to think. If he were lucky, he reflected, he might never have to.
The Force’s change in commanders came entirely by accident and on the yery eve of
embarkation. Sometimes command changes had been known to wreck operations. But there was something in the face of the young British colonel taking over Special Force Six that made Brad very sure, somehow, this would not be one of the times. This he felt before he knew the Colonel’s name, which was Wynter ; John Wynter.
“I’ve been ordered to take command of this operation,” Wynter told them all in the briefing room. “I’ll do my best, as I’m sure you will. You won’t see much of me until we board the ships. I’ve quite a bit of catching up to do, but please feel free to barge in on me at any time.” He turned to the American Major at his side. “And now, McEwen, if you’ll introduce me—”
Brad stood up with the other officers, conscious suddenly that the palms of his hands
were very damp. He studied John, walking down the line : the strength and authority in
the pleasant English face, the gentleness and kindness in it, too. He could not have wished
Valerie a better man.
John was level with him, now. “Captain Brad Parker,” Major McEwen said. They saluted each other. John held out his hand. “Brad Parker ?” he repeated. Brad took his hand, grasping it firmly. “Yes, sir,” he said. The handshake lasted just a fraction of a second longer than it
needed to ; then John smiled and walked on. He knows, Brad thought. And he knows I
know. And tomorrow or the next day, or the next, he and I are going into war together.
As it turned out, their war was a short war, Brad’s and John’s—the part of it that began on the sixth of June. For Brad it was a quick run up the Normandy beach, one wild assault on a German pillbox, one fierce blast of German mortar fire, and then—all over.
He came to, lying on the beach, his left leg shattered, one arm useless. John Wynter, his
own right arm in a sling, was kneeling by the stretcher. “Damned wonderful work, Parker,” he was saying. “Damned wonderful work.” Brad managed a smile. John looked at his watch. “You’ll be in England by lunchtime,” he said, grinning, straightening up. “Good luck.” That was the last thing Brad remembered : John’s kind voice wishing him luck, John’s good left hand raised in
When Brad opened his eyes again, he was on the dock at Southhampton—one stretcher among long lines of stretchers between which Red Cross workers walked up and down,
handing out candy, coffee, food. One of the girls gave Brad a cigarette and lit it; he drew the smoke in gratefully. “Do me a favor, will you ?” he asked her. “Call Miss Russell at the Red Cross Club in Mayfair.” He gave her the number. “Tell Miss Russell”—he smiled weakly—”tell her I’ll be at U.S. General Hospital Eleven. That I’ll be shipping home soon.”
Home, Brad thought, the U.S.A. He shut his eyes, riding out a sudden pain that was only partly physical. “Tell her,” he went on presently “in case I don’t see her again, I , love her.” He paused. “Her guy’s pretty wonderful,” he added, just before the darkness closed in again.
Valerie got the message. She got it minutes after the other, the one about John’s death. Her eyes were still red with weeping, but she wasted no time; she dried her tears and set off for U.S. General Hospital Eleven. Brad looked up at her, his eyes dazed but radiant. “They give you my message okay ?” he asked.
Valerie nodded, blinking back more tears. It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him about the other message ; she could not have said what stopped her. Impulsively, she bent and kissed him instead. “I’ll always love you, Brad,” she whispered. “I’ll always be grateful, whatever happens in my life.”
With the hand that wasn’t bandaged, Brad reached up to touch her hair. “It’s funny,” he
said. “That day you said it would have to end, I didn’t believe it, of course.” He swallowed
hard and tried to cover the swallow with a smile. “I’ll try and be happy without you,” he
said, after a moment. “And you will, too. You and John.”
Valerie looked down at her hands. “Yes,” she said. “Incidentally, that’s pretty terrific guy,
that John. A pretty wonderful guy. How is he?” Valerie did not lift her eyes. “He’s—he’s
still wonderful,” she murmured. “You know,” Brad said, “you haven’t seen him the way we did.”
“Shut up, Brad !” Valerie cried, sobs shaking her body. “Please shut up !” He held her close, not understanding the tears, but respecting them. Presently she was quiet. He lifted her face and looked at it for a long time. “One thing,” he breathed, before he let her go. “I will remember the color of your eyes.”
That much, he thought later, he had known from the beginning: known that, however long he lived, he would not forget—not the color of her eyes, nor the. sound of her voice, nor any part of their brief, beautiful, borrowed time together, that had ended on the sixth of June.
Cast of “The Sixth of June”
Capt. Brad Parker…Robert Taylor
Valerie Russell .Dana Wynter
L}. Col. John Wynter.. .Richard Todd
Brigadier Russell . John Williams
Maia. ..Rama Bai
Lt. Ray Boyce ..Jerry Paris
L}. Col. Alexander Timmer….. Edmond O’Brien
Maior Mills..Ross Elliott
Maior Dan Sfenick..Roberf Gist
Adapted from The 20th CENTURY-FOX CIN-
EMASCOPE Produc+ion—Copyrigh+ 1956 by
20th CENTURY-FOX FILM CORP.—Direcfed by
HENRY KOSTER—Produced by CHARLES
BRACKETT—Screenplay by HARRY BROWN
and IVAN MOFFAT—From novel by LIONEL
SHAPIRO—C010r by DE LUXE—Adap+ed for
SCREEN STORIES by MARCIA LAWRENCE
Thanks. Have seen this several times. Not my favorite of his, but sometimes I need my RT fix. There’s just not enough movies of his for me. BTW I have read all of Judith’s RT movie reviews on IMDB.
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Hi, Jen. Thanks for reading my movie reviews. I thought that RT looked incredible in D-Day. That will compensate for any of the film’s shortcomings. Love that last bit when he waves good-bye on his hospital bed. All the best. Judith
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I can’t find any of RT’s shortcomings…… other than the smoking. Yes…he looks good in this movie. Even the husband says he was a pretty man! Also, when you have time, you said there is some place that shows how the old movies did at the box office in the 40’s & 50’s. Take care.
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Hi, Jen. I can’t find the spreadsheet I made but I know someone I can ask. I’ll try him. Judith
Another gem from you Judith. I so agree with you that RT was at his most handsome best in it. Loved every moment of it in spite of the bittersweet ending. Lost count of how many times I have watched it since I first saw it in the cinemas all those years ago. Your work is truly, as you say, a labor of love.
Hope you are well and still improving from your fall. Had my vaccine first shot, more to come in 3 months time.
The world is so much different now and our movies take us back to such uncomplicated times which I fear we will never see again.
Take care, warm regards
I agree, June. It’s so good to watch a film and go back to a world that makes more sense than this one. My 2nd shot is on May 4. Judith