Living in an apartment, Eran didn’t ordinarily have trick-or-treaters. If it were a warm October night and his windows were open, he might hear children barging through dead leaves to the houses across the street. Otherwise, he’d cue up a MST3k-worthy horror bomb and relax with a bowl of popcorn. But his parents, still making noises about his mental state, had asked him to help them hand out candy. “It’ll be good for you,” his mother had said, tentatively, as if suggesting a sponge bath to a lycanthrope. Ian and Cam would be there for conversation, and anyway it was Friday night. So he went.
“Does your department do anything? Like an office party?” Cam asked. They had Prom Night (the original JLC version) playing for background noise. As one, Cam, Ian, and Eran had vetoed the suggestion of Eran’s mother: Practical Magic.
“Most of the students are younger. Like Mildred, my new mentee? She and the other first-years were doing something at First Ave.”
“But didn’t you do something last year?”
“Yeah, with Kyle. But he’s either in rehab or on the psych ward. Stefan isn’t telling.”
“What about all your college friends?”
“What about them?” Cam was putting a salty finger on an open sore. Eran’s college friends had moved out of state, trending for DC, NYC, LA, San Fran, or (for the less ambitious among them) Chicago, Portland, or Austin. He was the only one of his Minnesota-bred circle who had stuck around. And, judging by his Facebook and LinkedIn connections, he was the only one of his circle who had been through unemployment or a euphemistic “career change.” They were buying homes and having children. He was borrowing his parents’ money for travel funding. So they had fallen out of touch. In turn, he had made friends at work, only to lose touch with them (save for an occasional “Found work yet?” text) when the org died.
“Sore subject? Sorry. You know my dad went through rounds of unemployment. He always said it sucked.” She paused, and caught his face. “I guess it’s not quite the same when you’re a CEO.”
“It’s all right.” It was, because the doorbell rang. He claimed it before his parents could. Grabbing the bowl of Snickers and Milky Ways, he opened the door and
All Hallows’ Eve. He (a Declan) remembered tying latches on this day as a boy. But there wasn’t going to be any of that.
In the line, they were talking about the flood to the north. Something about opening the weirs. “Now the Germans can’t get through,” someone was saying, and someone replied, “But now they don’t need all those soldiers up there.”
Eran remembered that First Ypres had lasted for weeks, erupting in fits. He seemed to be in the same place that he had visited last week. Everything was still sodden, and unbearably quiet. It was night. Nerves felt high – Declan’s were, at any rate.
Crash – bang – boom. (The title of a Roxette album – idiotic thought.) “We’re outnumbered!” someone shouted. There weren’t many of them – six hundred, Declan had heard, bringing to mind (unfortunately) the Tennyson. Waves of men around him left their positions, descending the ridge. They couldn’t hold. Declan, indecisive, wanted to hold his position and distinguish himself – wanted to join his comrades in arms – wanted, more than either, to hide and sleep. Eran wished he could make his host’s legs move. But no need: Declan joined the rush, fully intending, Eran thought, to regroup as soon as suitable ground appeared.
dropped handfuls of bars into bags held by commandos, ninjas, that princess from Frozen. “Merry Christmas,” he said without thinking, and closed the door.
Ian, seeing his face, took the bowl from him. “Another one?”
“Not so intense.”
“They haven’t gone away?”
“Are you okay?”
“I am for now,” he said. “Nobody died.”
Ian appraised him, then shrugged. “Then let’s go watch Jamie Lee Curtis live.”
October 31, 1914: First Ypres continues. Following the arrival of reinforcements from the north, where the flooding triggered by the Belgians prevented an advance, German cavalry begins another push by driving a light British force from Messines Ridge south of Ypres.