John taught me to eat an apple right. Eat the whole thing, he said, core and all. The core has the most good in it. He said this in his heavy Baltic accent: de mozed gude. My daughter used to call him Dracula. Here’s Dracula on the phone! She’d yell. She also told him, one day, that he had class. He was as pleased as if he’d got a military cross. John’s eyes are beautiful. He works at simulating eye contact. He thinks this is important. Except for the white cane you’d never guess. He was at Stalingrad but claims that he does not recall which side he fought on. John’s war was mad confusion: First he was in the Latvian Army, and then he was captured and conscripted by the German Army. He walked away one day and joined the Russians, his country’s age-old enemies. It happened to many, he said, sitting beside me in my living room facing an open fire. He said that thousands simply disappeared in that war and were never seen again: not killed, so far as anyone knew; just gone. Mislaid. He himself lost a sweetheart that way. She was pregnant with his child. God knows what army he was with then. They met in France, loved, lay together in a church, and one day she wasn’t there. Nineteen years later her son surfaced, flotsam on the ocean of Europe, and cursed his father for his birth. At Stalingrad John crouched in a trench in the winter rain beside a friend. A shell missed him and sheared his friend’s head off. There I was, John said, and suddenly his head fell into my lap. What could I do? I pushed it into the water in the trench, forgot about it. We sat together by my fireplace, eating apples. I moved to throw the core into the flames, but I think John felt the gesture. Don’t do that, he said, and caught my hand. You must eat the whole apple. His blind eyes looked at me straight on. Learn to eat it all, he said: fruit, core, bitter seed.