A man was walking in solitude; briskly down the cold, dark streets of Krakow, Poland - a
poor, small, , unmistakably .
friendly town. The locals offered not much in the way of luxury or pampering;
but rather, a solid dose of
truism and genuine curiosity and
of outsiders, that is often overlooked by the
that glanced out of their window panes on occasion while working on their
Sudoku puzzles and New York times crosswords - gliding quitely through the evergreens unnoticed but for the local fawna - down the Euro-rail trail - almost to their destination somewhere in Italy or perhaps Greece. One could almost bet with good certainty that the majority of the North Americans would end up in
Venice and/or Rome -
most likely with an
neatly mapped out (in Office Excel or perhaps Word format) in their fanny packs wrapped tightly around their waists, reminding him of
neatly tied bows
on christmas presents, marching in STOIC unison (with the unlikely exception of those unwise enough to bring their
⚠⚠small children ⚠⚠
to their destination with an occasional flash of a camera in the distance on cloudy days.
He had witnessed this phenomenon first hand just after the fall of the Soviet Union and the his country was, again,
a sovereign nation.
He heard a sarcastic "hmph!" escape his lips thinking about his "sovereign" nation. . .
The Asians seemed to be drawn to German and
French locations more than most of the others.
And the English . . .
well, they went where ever they damned well pleased. He theorized this was done for the sole purpose of maintaining an air of unpredictability and simply due to their fickle nature. This night was particularly unforgiving and the cold the air was bitter and crisp,
with a distinctivE nip that one could feel in their core as it effortlessly sliced through thick layers of heavy clothing.
He knew it would take a couple hours to simply feel normal again. He could feel his hands starting to throb. That was bad. Almost invariably, the dull throb would worsen and intensify until not only was he inside comforted in front of a warm flame, but he would also have to wait until the circulation returned to his extremities, which was a painful, seemingly eternal process, and his body seemed in no hurry to assist in the process. Unfortunately, the dull ache started early. He could normally make it al least to the abandoned Orthodox church at the top of the hill, that seemed tonight, eternally long and he wondered if gravity itself hadn't conspired against him. He still had almost a kilometer before he made it to the top of the hill to the church that was burned, along with half of the town, back in the days of Stalin's rule, just prior to the first of many "five-year plans." The great majority of the buildings remained as they were - now mostly worn down to rubble that an archeologist could indulge himself in with endless delight. . . . . If he could just hurry . . . . he didn't want to run, because even worse than the obstinate and unyielding bone-chillS was the stinging sensation in the lungs that would inevitably occur if he over-exerted himself. That was a much more painful sensation and
he opted for the former.
Just for a moment,
Shadow appeared . . .
causing the man to freeze in his tracks - more out of surprise than fear or foreboding (that would come later). He glanced around and saw no thing, no person; disturbing the stale, dry air that enveloped him from all four corners.
He could smell wood burning from around the corner of the block.
He could taste the nostalgic remnants -
tiny bits of memory
slowly gathering strength in the recesses of his mind - of his grandmother's
YYY Shoree Bread, . .YYY
(a name that he was never able to correlate with any particular religion or region) cooking in the small clay oven she spent so much time with. They were great friends, his grandmother and that oven.
,,,,,,,, S.l.o.w.l.y. ,.& Cautiously,
he once again fell into a steady rhythmic walKing pace, his head whispering in unison, "all - most - there - all - most - there," with each hollow step echoing down the hill to his back as he continued his steady ascent through the perimeter of the industrial district just to the south of the
Federation buildings (3 in total) standing proudly against an otherwise unremarkable landscape of
shadowy linear forms leaning with a distinctive sag in such a way that the buildings appeared to be sighing in unison. All of them helpless.
almost along the frontier of the land
~~ dissected, reconnected, ripped open ~~
for one (hopefully last time) and then stitched back up as carelessly as an American Civil war Dr. might treat a leg amputation. Despite all of the locals' hard work, the town was still in poverty, without sufficient clean water, and, most disturbingly;
it still reeked of that putrid smell of crooked Communism and Post-Gorbachev Mafia Lords sweeping through the town;
only hours after the iron wall came crashing down.
He never had anything against the concept of communism . . .
but the reality was, the people were still materialistic and the people still wanted things - from basic necessities, to minor conveniences, to flagrant demonstrations
of inequity in a country whose government stood firm in their claims of equality amongst all . . . . he shook his head in silent disgust and did not break his steady rhythmic climb up the steep hill.
He was a fortunate one. He had shoes that fit well and the soles were still intact. There were no holes due to overuse yet and they were made of a strong, resilient Swedish leather - known for it's longevity in the colder climates. He was, by no means, wealthy. There was no such thing as middle class - the Mafias had taken care of that possibility. He had gone to school with one of the local goons as a boy and, for whatever reason, he was looked upon fondly by this particular
(the most notorious family for bullying and threatening the local region). He was able to keep half of his "tax" money as a result. This still meant
he gave up 40% of anything he made
to the Petrov family, but he was one of the more fortunate ones that ended up with almost a third of his income intact to spend on himself and his familty after
the Petrov Family,
and the Federal levels of
.......got all of their dirty hands in his cookie jar. Most of the local familys were lucky to maintain 10% of what they earned, sometimes having to resort to bartering amongst each other for goods that otherwise would have been sold for a considerable profit.
The man hated dwelling on things such as this, as it served no purpose but to anger him and, like a dog chasing his tail, he would ruminate and the anger would fester and feed on itself like a poison; exponentially cascading downward - the longer it was allowed to run free, the harder it was to stop.
but intent on reaching his target, he forced his mind to wander in a different direction . .
She would be waiting, as always,
flushed after a day's hard work
and subsequent child care duties amongst other things. Her cheeks always had a touch of
color to them, despite the fact she swore against make-up all together. Her lips welcomed him home and she always knew exactly what to say based upon her sharp, wise, and amazingly quick, assessment of his emotional and physical state. She would rarely say more than a few words for the first half-hour, and just sit with him as he slowly felt himself regain control of his fine motor skills. Her hands were always warm, but never so warm that they hurt his near-frozen hands underneath the many layers he tediously buttoned, snapped, zipped and tugged at stubbornly only 12 hours prior.
She would gently take off his weather-beaten mittens
and lead him by the hands to the fire, always careful not to squeeze his near-frost bitten fingers, but applying a very
༼༼༼a tender a༼༼༼
force that only she could do and kill the dull throbbing pain in his hands from the long walk home that always came at this time of the year. He was gently pulled out of his daydream when he realized he was smiling(!)
to himself 〰〰〰〰〰. He could feel a large grin present itself across his face, unknotting his typically deeply furrowed brow. He laughed out loud.............