I’d lost a brother and remember the headlines, newsreels, songs of bond-selling, gas-griping, and movies too true to hate, the settings of World War II. Those days found the whole Earth bent inwards, imploding bombs, bullets, blood, shrieking terrible bird cries in my ears only deepest sleep could lose if it ventured close.
When the German artillery finally ceased firing around sunset, Jack’s neck and shoulders slowly relaxed; he hadn’t realized he’d been tensing them all that time. The relentless shelling had forced his company to hunker in the trenches for over forty-eight hours. Now the silence unnerved him. The shelling could resume at any time, but the officers sent word that the men should rest as best they could.
The last time I saw M. Renoir, he was sitting beneath an umbrella at a sidewalk cafe in Paris, leisurely drinking coffee and glancing through a newspaper. M. Renoir, every inch the French gentleman with closely trimmed mustache and beard–gray streaking at his temples–was usually impeccably dressed, his hat and cane placed casually upon the seat of an adjacent chair. I say “usually” since, on this occasion, he appeared not altogether unlike a much poorer and less refined version of himself. I was, I confess it, rather taken aback at his appearance.