He is like the tires of his bicycle. He rolls around reality, seemingly able to endure the world. There are nails and sharp rocks in this young man’s life, however, some put there, some created by himself. His thick, dark brown coat hugs his undistinguished torso as he hypnotizes himself with the simplicity and familiarity of pedalling.
The fog in the air appears to moisten the smooth cobblestone road that separates the cold, peaceful buildings, buildings with stories of war, triumph, and family. All that the up-kept walls exude is wasted on this bread deliverer who no longer acknowledges them. The choppy Baltic air infiltrates his senses as he places his charge on people’s doorsteps. Times of impressing classmates and receiving physics exams with perfect scores is what this clean shaven man reminisces about. So naturally intelligent, but always thinking life will fall into his lap. He could have become something grand.
During his nostalgia, he doesn’t notice a carriage coming towards him. Solemn and rhythmic, the carriage doesn’t intend to stop. Both the carriage and the bread deliverer attempt to veer away, doing so in an awkward fashion. The back-end of the carriage strikes a stone wall and the deliveryman’s bicycle stumbles. The result is discomfort for the deliveryman, destruction for the carriage, and contamination for the bread. Out of the carriage, which now has one less wheel, emerges a plump and bewildered man. A strong feeling of entitlement secretes from this man as he angrily looks at his luggage sprawled across the street. His black, sleek suit is ruffled almost as much as his face. Trudging over to the bread deliverer, he calls him over.
“What is the meaning of this? Have you sabotaged me deliberately?”
“The road may be narrow, but I do not wish the fate of Laius on your person. The bread is ruined.”
“Boy! Where is…”
“The bread is ruined.”
“Shut up! What is your name and where is your father? He will hear of this.”
“My name is Albrecht Krüger and my father is imprisoned sir.” The older man tells the carriage driver to get another carriage and then turns around to face the deliveryman.
“No matter, you will come with me. The incompetence of a deliverer of bread will not keep me from my plans.” Embarrassment swells up inside the young man’s head. White and hot, it clouds his vision. Deep inside himself he wishes to crumble and hide, but a deceptive contrariness to that feeling emerges.
“I’ll have you know that this bread you have slain was very competent at delivering his people. He led them from the bakery and parted the Oder.” Confused, the older man stares at a loaf of dark rye that is now soggy through contact with the road as the younger man satirically points at it. Pausing, the older man must reconnect his thoughts before he talks.
“Do not speak, fool!”
“The fool is the one who blames a piece of food for delaying his actions.” The older man’s facial expression shows the furious search for a response. Instead, the man realizes he shouldn’t give the bread deliverer more ammunition and terminates his search. Disappointed that the man smartened up, the bread deliverer smirks. As the new carriage arrives, the older man grabs the bread deliverer by the collar and puts him in the carriage. “Whoah whoah! You realize if I wanted to depart I could have and would have easily done so.”
“I regret my brashness, by all means make yourself comfortable,” says the older man patronizingly. “The man I am going to meet up with is perfect for our situation.”
“Which is what?”
“Have you learned nothing? You caused damage to my possessions and you must pay for it.”
“I had the impression that we established the blame on the bread.”
“I am eager to see how my acquaintance will punish you, fool.”
“I feel like I am repeating myself an alarming amount. Again, we have already established which one was the fool. Incidentally, I am hurt by your wanting to punish me. My father is in prison, my goodness!” the bread deliverer says this too dramatically. “Did you here about those hundreds of Austro-Hungarians that died in that barn fire?” inquires the young man.
“I will not respond to your attempts at conversation. You merely wish to catch me off-guard and then ridicule and deceive me. I know your kind; you are lower than the people that steal the bread you deliver. You cannot fulfill your own life so you rely on the inconvenience of others. You think yourself so intelligent, but intelligence is specific.”
“Silence, your confidence is a trick and somehow you get away with behaving this way. I pity you.”
“I assure you my confidence is as real as the silk on these seats.” The young man’s smile hides the thumping shame that paralyzed his body. His limbs feel hollow and his fingertips become cold. Everything comes so easy to him yet the man before him can see right through. The young man could do nothing but generate a lazy comeback. Lazy. That is what he is, lazy and deceptive.
The young man doesn’t believe this; his mind is stubborn. Somewhere inside himself, he knows this man is right but the nature of how he thinks causes him to resist. They arrive at their destination. It is a busier part of the city. As they exit the carriage and their shoes strike the damp stone road, the young man contemplates ways of distracting himself briefly to stop thinking about what the older man said. He sees a man selling flowers, wondering if he knows that they won’t survive long in this Baltic climate. He could casually take a flower and give it to a lady who is standing in front of the building the older man is heading towards. He decides against it.
The building they are to enter is rather prestigious and has an average sized door. Upon entering, the men are exposed to the warm reds and browns of the floors, walls, and ceiling. Paintings, mostly portraits, line the walls. As the the men continue to walk through the building, more wealthy old men are seen. They are arranged, cigar in hand, in a semi-circle facing a fireplace. It is a gentlemen’s club. After weaving through seemingly endless receding hairlines and expensive coats, the young man sees who they came to meet and his expression changes from indifferent with a hint of disgust to cheeky confidence once again. When they begin to come into speaking distance, the older man speaks.
“May I present, Helmuth von Brüssow, one of the greatest judges in the city of Stettin.”
“You are too kind Leopold, welcome here.” Helmuth eyes the young man suspiciously, “What is he doing here?” the judge refers to the bread deliverer.
“He and I had a bit of an incident, some of my possessions were damaged.” The judge raises an eyebrow at the young man and then returns to look at Leopold. Leopold continues, “His father is imprisoned, so discipline is unfortunately absent in the life of this man and since I was coming to see you, I thought this would be a good opportunity to see how you would punish him.” The bread deliverer interrupts.
“Did I say my father is in prison? I believe I meant to say my father puts people in prison.” Feeling sceptical, the judge responds.
“I see, let me take the boy aside, I’ll talk to him.” The judge and the bread deliverer walk a few meters away from Leopold and turn to face the other way. The judges calm eyes and smile turn to confusion and slight worry. “Ludis, what in the blazes are you doing here?”
“I truly don’t know father, this man has a problem, in my humble opinion he should seek help.”
“Do not jest Ludis, this is no time for your disinclination to resign to maturity. This man can easily press charges. I am baffled at how lucky you are that he came to meet me. On that thought, you need to learn. One day your luck will run out and even if it somehow miraculously doesn’t, it is always good to learn. So I wi…”
“Hold on father, do not just go on some ramble about how I need to change my ways and how you know what’s best for me. How many times do I have to tell you that I am of age, which I have been for years already, and that I can make my own decisions.”
“That doesn’t matter. My father is imprisoned, I can’t believe it. You still haven’t grown up.” Helmuth turns around and starts walking towards Leopold. Ludis gets his attention.
“By the way, he doesn’t know I’m your son or that my name isn’t Albrecht Krüger.”
“I should have expected.” The men reach Leopold and Helmuth begins talking, “How does working at your estate for ten months sound as a proper payment?”
“I will agree to that.” says Leopold.
“But I will not.” cries Ludis. “Ten months?”
“You have no say in this, bread deliverer,” says Helmuth condescendingly. Ludis nods and walks away. He winces inwardly as he recognizes that he will no longer be able to attend a grand banquet as visiting nobility Ivan Balabanov.
By Emmanuel Rihl