Thursday, February 8, 2024



If I were a writer of mid-length fiction, I would focus on a sole man in his 60's, named Christian, who walked, and then rode in a donkey cart, from Poland to Alsace-Lorraine in the summer of 1946.  (What the women generally went through I find too horrifying to articulate.  Others, of course, have done it well.)  

How he found the better part of a gold tooth in the underbrush by the side of the road.  The boy with the entrenching tool who did most of the hard work in burying the dead, while the common role of Christian was to say a nondenominational and perfunctory prayer.  The general disappointment among the surviving women that the war had emasculated him.

A pheasant for dinner!  A soup of dandelions and wild berries, boiled in an overturned Wehrmacht helmet nestled in some hot coals.  A weasel, and later a feral cat.  The donkey Ulysses himself at the end of the road, with the rest of him traded to villagers for some clean clothes.

His body strong enough to fend off typhus during the trek.  But, from 1948 according to the locals, half of his handprint in blood on a slab of cement, non-structural, in the root cellar of a minor aristocrat.  Not from an act of violence, but a sudden generalized hemorrhage of the lungs that was attributed to Silesian coal dust and other assaults common to the age.

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