In a good mood? Maybe I am. You know dear, I ran into Oli Hansen this morning. They’ve been back only three months. He says hello.


The Joneses? No, we don’t keep up with them any longer.

Say, Oli. Uh, you moved away before things changed. Maybe you don’t know. They didn’t make it. The Joneses.

You know, I always liked Jennifer. She was so much smarter than her husband, uh, Reginald—Reggie. I often wondered what kept them together. What brought them together. Our children were good friends. We would see them at the pool when they were younger. Tam and Jeff were in the scouts together! Remember that?

Oli. It’s really good to see you. I, uh— Do you want to hear something?

I’ve never told anyone this. We saw them, you know. The Joneses.

We knew they would fail. We watched—oh God. We could have helped but we didn’t. Maybe they would have succeeded if we had helped. Maybe. We didn’t help. We watched them and we knew what was going to happen and for some reason we accepted it. We believed it had nothing to do with ourselves. Rumors about potatoes ran rampant that winter. Rumors about coal, rumors about water, rumors about lice and rats and wood. There was even speculation about jelly beans. Every speck of color in the frozen ground became a potential jelly bean. I used a stick and a broken brick to investigate but never found a single one. They did fail, of course, just as we knew they would. If they would have waited as we did, things would be different. Did we want them to fail? How else to explain our inaction? Have you ever been in a war, Oli? Not necessarily as a soldier, but just as a civilian? Things happen. It’s not like we were trained to know how to act. We weren’t. It wasn’t our fault that they failed. Death was common in those days. It was everywhere. It was necessary. It was war, you see? Death is what war is. We couldn’t help everyone. The soldiers had it worse. We had no training. We didn’t foresee the situations we would experience. The soldiers had it worse. What do you do? What do you do if you kill your own man? Friendly fire happens. It’s a fact of war. They all say it is. It happens. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s inevitable. You kill your own man, well, that’s war. That’s what it is—Death. War without death would be something else. Peace? The own man was a casualty of war just as they were. You couldn’t know it was him just as we couldn’t know they would fail. Not for certain. The own man’s death is a fact of war. Not a fact of your own failure. You can’t save them all. Someone has to die. Some must die. That is war. That is what it is, Oli.

In a good mood? Maybe I am. You know dear, I ran into Oli Hansen this morning. They’ve been back only three months. He says hello.