Saturday, March 12, 2011
Gdansk, Prussia, 1851
The snow starts to fall harder and faster as the little man scrambles up a small embankment. The air is so quiet that the sound of his heavy breathing seems magnified. Enormous white flakes collect on his eyebrows, but don’t melt. He must brush them away constantly just to see what’s ahead. A thick wool coat is wrapped tightly around his small body. Heavy, brown, leather shoes protect his feet and a knitted cap covers his head. Despite this, he is so cold the snow sticks hard to his skin and clothing, and there is nothing he can do about it.
Once he reaches the top of the embankment on the edge of the dirt road, he stops. He listens intently. Wolves howl far off in the woods and their call echoes momentarily until receding again to silence. The man is beginning to give up hope. And then, there! He hears the faintest sound of wooden wheels crunching the hard earth. Elated that he hsan’t lost the trail, he looks ahead. He knows this road – it leads directly to the port at Gdansk. He trudges on, following the tracks that are quickly disappearing under the heavy blanket of snow. There is no doubt in his mind that if he doesn’t move quickly, the trunk he is tracking will be placed on a boat or a ship to God only knows where. Not again, the man thinks. Not again.
An hour later, tired, freezing, and desperate, the little man limps into the busy port town, past the fish shops, and to the edge of a dock. One lone fisherman’s rig is tied up at the end of the pier, but that is not what he came to see. He watches the ship that has left its pier as it sails into the stormy night too far away for him to reach. The trunk is on that ship and he wonders what he will do now.
A voice rings in his head. He knows this voice. His father. A man with gifts greater – far greater – than his own. Is the voice really that of his father, or just his own memory of it, berating him for failing on this important mission?
It doesn’t matter.
The message is simple.
“Myron. You are such a putz.”