How Huge the Night - By Heather Munn

Chapter 1

Not in Paris Anymore

“Isn’t that beautiful, Julien?”


Even without looking, he knew he had hurt his father. He shoved his hands in his pockets and stood there at the top of the hill, looking at the so-called view. A few hills with trees on them and cow pastures in between and, tumbled down the hillside like blocks some giant kid had spilled, the houses of Papa’s hometown.

Papa thought he’d given Julien a great present. Taken all his happy boyhood memories and wrapped them in a brown paper package and tied it up with string. Papa. I know where I’m not wanted. While Mama and Magali unpacked the boxes, he’d gone down into town and seen the flat, cold eyes of the guys his age. The stares that told him not to come closer. Not to say hi. He’d lost his way and wandered narrow dirt and cobblestone streets, not daring to speak to anyone. He passed old men in cloth caps, cigarette stubs in their dirty fingers, laughing; he heard one say something about “les estivants,” and his friend reply, “At least they’ll leave.” Les estivants. The summer people. No, see, I live here. Unfortunately.

“I know you miss Paris, Julien. But Tanieux is a very special town.”

There was a tightness in Julien’s chest. I tried so hard to lie to you, Papa. I can’t do it anymore.

“I hate it here.”

“Julien.” His father’s voice was sharp. “You know nothing about this town. Do you know what it’s called when you hate something you know nothing about? It’s called prejudice.”

“I know something. I know they hate me.”

“Julien, what basis can you possibly have—”

Day before yesterday on his way through town, Julien had seen a soldier in full uniform—a Third Armored Company uniform, brown leather jacket. A tank driver—man he’d wanted to talk to that guy—holding the hand of this beautiful girl in a white dress, with all these guys Julien’s age clustered round, and everyone going on about something he couldn’t quite hear—blah blah Germany, something something Hitler, blah blah blah army, get ’em, loud shouts of Yeah and laughter, and then the girl shouting, It’s not funny, it’s not funny, you could get killed!

Julien had stood there, riveted by that beautiful girl shouting at her soldier, and a hot whisper had run through his veins: It’s war—isn’t it. And he’d taken one step into the street, to cross, to ask What happened? What did Hitler do?—and the soldier had turned to him with a flat, outraged stare. And then the others, one by one—like he was a cat that had peed on the carpet. The girl in the white dress didn’t look at him at all. He could still feel it. It burned.

“That pastor promised you this job in his new school, and now it’s not even opening and now you have to teach at the public boys’ school. Why do you like it here?”

“The new school will open next year, and I will teach there. As you know.” Papa’s voice was hard now. Yeah. He knew. He knew next week he would have to walk through the school gate and face those guys who’d looked at him like he was something they’d found under a rock. He would have to walk through that gate beside some skinny Jewish kid with glasses—some kid with parents from Germany—their new boarder, who was going to get the empty room across from his in a few days so they could be the two new boys from Paris, together.

“You also know that there is going to be a war. So aside from why I like it here, you could try considering what other reasons your mother and I might have had for moving south.”

He’d come home, the day he’d seen the soldier, to find his sister cooking supper. Burning supper. To find that Hitler had invaded Poland and his mother and father were in their bedroom with the door closed. His mother hadn’t come out.

There was silence for a moment. Julien thrust his hands into his pockets and contemplated the dull gray slate roofs of beautiful, beautiful Tanieux.

“You see this bush?”

Julien glanced up. Papa was pointing at a green, scrubby thing that looked like an uneven, upside-down broom. He didn’t look mad. Apparently they were moving on to botany. “Do you know what it’s called?”


“It’s a genêt. Around here we used to call them balais.” Brooms, how brilliant. “You could use them for a broom if you didn’t have one. You could burn them for winter