They sat in the sunshine on the steps of one of the old houses. One boy was pale and skinny, he looked as if he’d been ill and was just beginning to recover. The other one was shorter and looked healthier. Both wore the regulatory crew-cut in the fashion of these years, and short trousers.
“My dad says you’ve been lucky: flu is even worse for older people. He says a cousin of his who’s twenty something nearly died of it!…”
“Twenty? That’s old… D’ya think we’ll live that long?”
“My dad says that if the Soviets don’t nuke us we will live longer than ever! But he thinks it won’t happen, the nukes, they are too busy killing their own people, Siberia and all that…”
“Y’know my sis is engaged to that GI, they talk about war with China, in Korea they say. No idea where that is…”
At once both of them stood up and saluted:
“Good morning Sir, Mr Schneider!”
Mr Schneider smiled at them as he progressed on the pavement, his bad leg trailing somewhat behind…
“My dad says he lost his leg in Voronej, in 1942. He and his wife are Alsatian. He’s been teaching german here since he came back from a prisoner camp in the East. All drafted in the Waffen SS at seventeen, my dad says, then to the Russian front…”
Not so far away they could here the rumble and sharp guttural engine roar of a line of GMC’s crossing the little bridge. The US Army on the move.
“Have you done this math problem? I have not finished, it’s not easy…”
“Ha, you’re doing math, so you must be better then! Pop in this afternoon, also my sis has a new 45′ with Gene Vincent, a present from California! We’ll work it out, don’t worry. I am glad you look better.”
They shake hands and part company. The sun is already high over the little town. The year is 1953.