One Perfect Night - Lisa Henry

A bright spot in all the darkness of war.

Tanner is an American soldier fighting in an island on what's today called Papua New Guinea where me meets an Australian youth, Nick, who serves as a coast-watcher. Nick has lived in the place his whole life, he knows it like the back of his hand. Nick is well-known for his radio broadcasts during his incursions, which gave him the nickname of Blue Sky Guy.

Tanner recognizes him instantly, and they both decide to have a perfect night together. Because the future is uncertain and the past doesn't matter.

In just a few pages, Lisa Henry manages to convey what she wants to convey.

So short and so many emotions.

Tanner couldn’t hate the war, not entirely. Maybe without it there would have been other men, other nights that almost reached the heights of this one, but Tanner couldn’t know for certain. It seemed a lot to take on faith. He only knew that the war had given him one perfect night with Nick. Out of the chaos and the madness and the horror, the war had given him Nick. And this place, this point in time, suffused everything that had gone before with meaning.

There were hundred of men, hundred of thousands, who would never find meaning in any of this.

Yesterday, Tanner was one of them.

Now, he wouldn’t change a thing.

Tanner raised himself up onto his elbow. He stared down at Nick, and Nick’s grin faded away. Tanner leaned down and kissed him gently. “You take care of yourself, Nick, okay?”

“Yeah, you too,” Nick whispered. He swallowed. “You’ll be listening out for me?”

“I will,” Tanner said. “I always listened for you, Blue Sky Guy. Always.”

“Good.” Nick closed his eyes briefly. When he opened the again, they shone. “Do you suppose we can get more than one perfect night?”

“Yes,” Tanner said. Warmth spread through him. “As many as you want.”

“That’s us,” Nick said. “Years before the war, Feldt came out to all the islands. Gave us radios and told us we were like Ferdinand the bull. That’s what we do. We sit under the trees and smell the flowers, and we watch the world go by. Until we get stung.”

Tanner inhaled slowly, savoring the smell of the ocean. “What happens when you get stung?” he asked at last.

“We fight back,” Nick said. He smiled, but it wavered. “But mostly we sit and smell the flowers.”


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