Saturday, December 31, 2011

THE LITTLE MATCH BOY ~~~~ a re-telling of H.C. Andersen's poignant tale part VIII

Night comes early in the winter. The Streets of the city shine with ice and hoarfrost. Bundled people make their way down into warm fragrant rathskellers filled with beer and laughter. The little boy watched from across the cobbles.  The hot roast pork smelled so good. Everyone had it for New Year's, dripping with piquant saurkraut and spicy, brown mustard. But he didn't. Dinner was a dry piece of almond toast. Max had the same. They had to save. They had to be careful. Lucky he took the sweater. It kept him warm.  Max had a sweater of sorts too, made from a soft, wool scarf wrapped around his middle and tucked into his collar. They peed behind evergreen bushes in a small park and the sexton at a little church let them use the spigot in the kitchen. He said they could sleep inside on one of the pews, but the little boy was scared. It was so dark in there and the candles burned so red, so he lied. He said his father was coming back from Vienna and that he had to meet him at the Charles Bridge.  The sexton knew it was a lie, but he pretended to believe. The boy would be back tomorrow. He was sure of it. Perhaps he could do something then?

Now respectable people pay little mind to a young boy out after dark. A few of the women may go tisk-tisk-tisk. They may even ask his name and if he's all right and where he's going. But they rarely do anything else. One pretty, young woman gave him a handful of nuts before disappearing into a fine carriage with her friends. Max barked at the well groomed horses. The people inside laughed.  The rest of 'night one' was fairly uneventful. He cried just a little.  Max whimpered and licked away the tears. They quietly wandered  up and down streets lined  with quality townhouses. Rich burgers lived here, perhaps even a newly made baron or two. Bright lights streamed forth from the big, multi-paned windows. Sometimes, if the angle was just right, he could see inside. People laughed. They drank. They ate. Serving girls in starched, black uniforms circulated offering savory, hot, open-faced sandwiches on silver trays. And even the children had hot, spiced wine. He thought about New Year's with his family.  Even though he was small, he still remembered a few. They had cakes and good, salty salami. They had beer, good thick pilsner from the venerable local breweries. His father's friends from the bakers' guild came by. Everyone laughed. One man, from across the Vltava played a concertina. A lady from Budapest (somebody's wife) sang songs. Max wasn't born yet, so the little boy sat down in a doorway, a linen shop, I think it was, and told him all about it. Soon, they fell asleep, wrapped up and warm, in that almost  cozy spot, protected from the wind. They stayed there til morning, when the jingling keys of the shopkeeper scared them. So they jumped up and ran away.

But the next door neighbor's eldest son was looking for them. He knew they had four silver crowns. And a scared, little boy with a pocket full of money was to good to resist...


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