The brass decided they needed some intel, and I had the pleasure of leading my squad of cold, dirty and tired scouts into the snow covered forest.
I dropped to the frozen ground and so did my squad. Was that a human voice or was the wind playing tricks? I wasn’t about to stick my head up to find out. Crawling on my stomach, I crunched snow, and each movement made me grimace, until I reached an icicle covered shrub and peeped through a gap in the leaves.
No more than twenty yards away, a German patrol, frozen like us, huddled around a tiny field stove and was cooking lunch. Apparently they were not expecting us so deep in the forest.
One of the Germans scooped a spoonful of broth into his mouth and spat it out in disgust. Looked like the krauts used the same kitchen we did. That human reaction hit a button, and for a second there I saw him not as my enemy but another regular joe, just like me, trying to survive the cold and the war—and the slop that passes off as food.
Just then, he wiped his lips with the back of a gloved hand, turned and stopped—his gaze on me. Man, he was so close, I could have shit bricks.
I dared not move. Dared not even breathe. Not even a blink. But our eyes remained locked and it was the longest three seconds of my life.
Then, quite deliberately, I don’t know why but that’s what I thought, he looked away.
His eyes, sharp blue and quite flattering even in that light, was seared into my mind.
I downed my drink and was about to step out when I saw him. He was seated by the window and the light had caught his eyes.
With my hand on the knob, the door partially pulled open against the spring, I stood looking at him. It was not some macho-bullshit stare-down, but merely looking—with amazement. It can’t be. Not here, not now, in 1955 New York.
The features of the man at the window softened and he motioned for me to join him.
‘Have we met?’ I asked in a tentative tone, and clutched my hat.
‘Belgium, December forty-four,’ replied the man, in an accented voice. My heart missed a beat.
Speechless, but I slid into the seat opposite him behind the tight table and we sat looking at one another for several long seconds.
‘Jerry.’ He broke the silence and offered his hand.
‘Doug,’ I said instinctively, and took his hand, and after a few moments added, ‘You made it.’
‘Yah, we both made it, I tsink,’ he said, ‘and I am moving here after the var.’
‘Yah-yah, it was Gerhard but I switched to Jerry to blend in somesing, you know.’
‘To blend in?’
Then, ever so slowly our faces crunched into smiles and we exploded into guffaws.
*** Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2017 ***