Tales From No Man's Land


to Lia’s granpa

They didn’t know what to do with him. They didn’t get him, but then again they never really bothered trying.

            He wasn’t in the mood of explaining it to them. And he didn’t believe they would have understood much if they tried.

            Better not have to bother about.

            Or purposefully hobble himself.

            After all he had lived through, after the amount of silences he emanated, what was the point of getting mixed up with a bunch of idiots?

            Because they were idiots.

            A load of them.

            They positively leaked idiocy.

            They had taken everything as if it was a trifle.

            Set on petty thievery.

            On bribery.

            And all out theft.

            They had no idea what life was. What humanity meant. Or work. They kept going on about Communism, because that’s all they learned.

            Rotten on the inside.

            Soft in the head. Even Gottlob watermelons had more brains than that pack of empty headed melons wearing caps.


            Under the times.

            He was also under the times.

            With a political dossier and an unhealthy background.

            He was German. Had come back whole from the Eastern Front, couldn’t sleep at night, and what did they think of doing?!

            They made him work for the collective farm grocery store in the village. ’cause Germans are always correct.

            Seems like he had been too honest for their taste.

            And now, because he had disagreed with all their stealing, they were thinking of getting rid of him.

            Getting rid of him! Give him something else to do. Or turn his eyes away. And he’ll get a little something on the side.

            He wasn’t a bum.

            But they were. And they were trying to trick him.

            He played to fool on account of their soft minds that tried to lead him along, but he wasn’t born the day before yesterday.

            He understood very well how the world and the people in it worked. And he had had quite enough. Of the world. And people.

            He wanted peace and quiet.

            So the many and the stupid gathered, rubbing their little rat claws together, thinking about how to best get rid of him.

            And what did they think?! He doesn’t want to work in the store anymore?! Well then, let’s give him a job nobody wants.

            Let’s make him check the railroad tracks.

            That’ll be a great punishment, the imbeciles thought.

            The were laughing.

            He smiled as well.

            They grinned.

            He kept on smiling.

            Their grin faded. They forgot about him. They got bored. They put someone else in charge of the store. And kept on with their petty thieving.

            He kept on smiling, Turning his back to them, he started walking.

            He woke up before dawn – but he normally did that because he couldn’t sleep. Dreams from the war…

            He had 30 kilometers to walk along the railroad tracks. Daily.

            But he had a spring in his step, his mind was clear and his heart was pure.

            The plain would light up as soon as the sun started coming out of the ground.

            And he felt he was alone in the world.

            Bathed in the amber light that licked his skin.

            He was stepping on the railway ties looking straight ahead.

            And he could see how in the distance the sky was getting closer to the earth.

            How the railroad tracks became a ladder.

            I’m climbing up into the wide blue sky, he thought then, smiling.

            He traveled with his mind way past the clouds. Knowing every inch of sky, every happiness and all the sadnesses. All the rains and the way the wind shifts in autumn.

            He climbed up into the sky each morning.

            Then he went home to tend to his garden.

            And one day, after enough time had passed, he stayed there in the sky, choosing not to come back anymore.

            Ready for the journey toward something else.

This story was initially published in the MOVING FIREPLACES. 2019 book.

Photo credit: Diana Bilec

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