An excerpt from

The Long November
by James Benson Nablo with an introduction by Brian Busby

[World War II has ended, and Joe returns from Europe after heís demobilized from the Canadian Army.]

So you went to find your girl, eh, Joe? You knew it had to be then or never. A dream can go on being a dream just so long and then it becomes an ache, like the ache in your face when youíve smiled too long at an old gag. But I had to see Steffie, to whether Iíd be nursing a kid dream or whether she was still the slim, blond goddess who held my life in her hands. Five years is a hell of long time, and if Steffie hadnít continued writing to Betty, long time, and if Steffie hadnít continued writing to Betty, continued the contact, however vague, the dream might have died of malnutrition. That was November, too, Joe. Yes, and I as I walked along the street in Rosedale and saw the leaves piled near the curb, saw where some had been burned and smelled their faint traces in the air, I wondered about the five years, I wondered if Iíd know her again. If we would be able to talk about the same things and laugh, as we once did, at the same things. Or cry. The houses along the street looked naked, but there was a warmth shining out of the windows that seemed to offset the smell of winter coming. It was sad, damned sad, and the excitement I always thought Iíd feel at that moment was missing. I thought, I guess, that Iíd been gone too long.

. . .

I knew why I liked Nancy Benton. She was so much like Steffie. I could close my eyes and slide into a warm shadowy place where she became Steffie. Iíd built a cold security of spiked beer to keep Steffie from my thoughts, but that was gone, and in the oneness of these wonderfully similar women Steffie walked freely back into my life; into my days, into my nights, and into my dreams. It was as if Iíd pushed aside a thick growth of junglegreen, and stepped out of its unhealthy dampness into the warm cleanliness of a sunny beach. And with Nancy Benton in my arms, I dreamed of Steffie.
        Yes my darling, you came back. And you stayed and youíre here with me now. Youíve been with me in every waking and sleeping moment since. Even as I held Nancy almost savagely, I was holding you Ö and I knew, Steffie, that she was pretending, too. Lonely people can pretend now and then, and Iíve been so damned lonely, my darling. She was lovely as a shoot of heather, and soothing as a soft, cool pillow. She had to be like you, Steffie, before I could not know how lovely she was.