‘So,’ said Juno casually to Doris on their way home from school on December 5, 1960, ‘your dad doing that Saint Niklaas thing again this year?’

‘Are you kidding? If he does I’ll disown him!’ said Doris in the way of teenage daughters the world over.

 

At long last, after a century-long seven year wait, Juno’s thirteenth birthday had come around. It was a Tuesday. Ever since the Sinterklaas incident a more informal arrangement had been in place whereby there was an open invitation for anybody who wanted to come by. Sure enough there always were cake and sandwiches and hot chocolate and punch. Juno was so popular that a lot of kids did come by, followed by most of their moms who’d take the chance to pump grandma for sowing secrets, followed later on by some of their husbands who’d empty pop’s bar.

Afternoon showed signs of turning into evening and the parlour had got more and more crowded. It was nearly dark outside. Strengthening gusts were blowing the last of the leaves up and down the street and rattling the windows. Grandma put on more lights. ‘Where’s your dad?’ Juno asked Doris. Doris’s mom had been parked on grandma’s couch for hours, but Mr Martin had only recently got over the reputation he’d had these past years as a bit of a recluse. ‘What’s all this about my dad?’ asked Doris in return. ‘He said he might pop in. Is there any more root beer?’ ‘I’ll get you some,’ said Juno, ever helpful back then.

She was just closing the fridge in the kitchen when all the lights went out. She heard the crowd in the parlour go, ‘Ooh!’ and someone said, ‘It’s a power cut!’ Then it went dead quiet.