The Little Street (story)

That is where they live. That is what they have. That is what they belong to. That is they and their lives. It is not a common neighbourhood in the suburbs of Wroclaw, in which each family has its independent life, they greet each other, they sometimes take a coffee together to talk about the problems of the neighbourhood and their children play together in the street. No, it is not, this neighbourhood is not like that. Apparently, it is a normal street in the suburbs of a big Polish city: a poor part of the city that is suffering the poverty of the post-war, in which we can see the typical tall and pointed buildings, usually in red or green, more common in these areas in red -which denotes poverty-. But it is not just that, this street is not just like that. This neighbourhood is a big family, in which all of them work really hard every day since the sun rises until the sunset. The Civil War has just finished, and they have to work hard to recover from it, to finish with the poverty they are suffering. Men go outside the neighbourhood to work in the countryside or in the city, or carrying things from one place into another, or wherever, they just spend the whole day outside working, from the very beginning of the day until the end, juts for a few coins, juts to buy the necessary food to survive and fed up their families. Women stay in the neighbourhood, working at home, taking care of their children, cooking, and sewing and weaving clothes, waiting for their husbands to come back for dinner and rest for the next day. Meanwhile, children help whenever they can, going shopping for their mothers or taking the lunch for their parents in the city. Humble and hard-working people, a big family fighting altogether against the poverty they are suffering, trying to leave back the damages of the war, looking forward into the future, in order to create a new neighbourhood, a new and better way of life for them, at least for their children and the upcoming generations.

However, it always exists the exception. That strange family, whose child never goes out, whose father is only seen early in the morning when going to work and already late in the night when coming back home, and whose mother just talk to the rest of the women when necessary. But it does not mean that they do not belong to this great family, they co-operate in everything, they help their neighbours and they work even harder than the rest of the people in the street; but they always work in silence, they do not share a close relationship with the rest of the neighbours; it is as if they spoke another language, or they were for another planet, another kind of creature, or from a very different culture. Their faces were becoming older and sadder each day, they were losing weight, they were unhappier as the time passed; they were like dying in a slow and painful way. But why? The Civil War was over, their lives were flourishing, they were managing to recover the neighbourhood, it is as if they had born again, after being like dead for a period they are starting to live again. Even the music; the music was disappearing from their lives, the music that identified their house so well, the music that everybody liked to listen to when they had the windows open; the music that used to be part of that house, as if the walls were able to create it, since nobody knew where it came from. The music that used to emerge from that house day and night it is just listen now couple of days per week; as if ‘the musician’ was also losing strength… Nobody could explain what was going on in that house and what was happening to that family.

Everybody remembers the day this family arrived to the neighbourhood. It was late in the afternoon of a sunny Thursday when the Civil War was about to end, it was when its final was obvious, just some days before it was definitely and officially over. They came in a black car, full of packed stuff; the boot, the free seats, the roof-rack. The parents came out of the car and looked at their new house. The child stayed in the car until the parents asked him to come out and get in the new house. He went into looking without looking at it with his head hanging down. Everybody in the neighbourhood stayed silence looking at them; the parents did not seem to care, but the child seemed to feel very annoyed in that situation.

There are no secrets in this street; however, it is obvious that this family keeps one: nobody knows where the husband works and no one in the neighbourhood has ever seen the child outside home since that day. Nonetheless, the neighbours have realised that he spends more and more time looking through the window. In fact, at the same time the music is disappearing from that house the boy is starting to spend more time looking outside through the window. He just looks the other boys in the street, he looks how the children play, trying to understand what are they doing. It is similar to football in a way, because they always divided themselves into two groups and they make with whatever they find around two goals. But they do not play with a football ball, but with a ball much smaller, and instead of kicking it with their feet they do it with a kind of stick they all carry with them during all the game. <Once I listened to them talking and I found out that ‘hockey’ is the name of that game. The children spend hours and hours playing that game, the same hours I spend looking at them through my window. Sometimes I feel like going out and playing with them, but I have not enough courage to do it. I have never played hockey or something similar…and I am afraid something could happen to me or they will laugh at me…and I have not that stick to play. So I keep on looking at them, discovering how they play, the rules of the game, the technique, the strategies…> He starts writing down all the characteristics of the game and the ‘playing style’ of each of the boy. He analyses the strategies they use, deciding which ones are the best ones, and he tries to improve them and create new ones. He is starting to gain more and more interest in this game, feeling more and more fascination for it.

The children know that he looks at them, and they make signals to him to come down and play with them. But he always has to refused…he has no stick to play. His parents are already aware of this situation… to which they give an end. It is Edward’s birthday and they give him a stick as present. When opening it, Edward smiles, and without saying anything goes down to the street. He opens the doorway and stays there smiling with the stick in his hands. As expected, all the children look at him, but he plicked up courage and asked them if he could play with them. ‘Sure!’ answered altogether. And they explained him the basic rules of the hockey: <You just can touch the ball with the stick, you cannot use your body to move it nor elevate it… > He is so nervous that he cannot even listen to them, but he already knows really well the rules: If a person makes you a serious and volunteer foul you make a Penalty Stroke throw; if the defender makes a minor foul inside the area, Penalty Corner throw.

After the whole day playing hockey, Edward comes back home for the dinner. He is dirty, sweaty, tired, bleeding from a knee and with a bruise in his right eye, but with the biggest smile his face has ever had. His mother looks at him, worried because of his appearance, almost incapable of recognising him as his son. They stare each other, and when his mother looks at the sparkle of his eyes and the smile drawn in his face, she immediately understands that he is happy like that. When his father arrived home that day, Edward just said a few words to him: ‘Thanks, for the best birthday present I have ever received’, and he went to the bed, being the night he best slept since they arrived to this house.

And days pass by like this. Edward is becoming better and better in playing hockey, and he has now really good friends, something he had never had before. His parents also start to get integrated in the neighbourhood, and have realized that these people really enjoy life; no money at all, but health and happiness to go around. The house is not the new house but home, and children are not the boys but Edward’s friends. However, for the people from the street still there is something weird, they know nothing about the past and previous life of this family and the music that characterized so well that house has finally utterly disappeared.

The street is economically growing up and there are more and more things and services available for the neighbours; there is a doctor, a school with a couple of teachers and they are building a real grass hockey pitch for the boys to play. The neighbourhood is flourishing and everybody there carries a calm and lovely life. Until one day, suddenly, some shouts are heard from the house of this family and Edwards leaves the house shouting and crying.

When he appears in the street, before everybody asked him what was going on, he starts to talk: <I don’t want to move to another house, I don’t want a big house with a swimming pool, I don’t want to study French music and painting again, I don’t want to spend the day playing the violin any more, I want to play hockey, I want to go the school with my friends, I want to keep on with my life here!. I prefer being poor than rich and playing hockey rather than the violin! Here I have friends, I play hockey and I’m happy!> Never before the street had been so silence. No words, no noises, just silence.

The following day Edward did not go to class. All the children were worried, because maybe he had gone not to come back any more. And that day was Edward’s birthday.

Nonetheless, when they came out from school, Edward was there waiting for them, with his parents, all the neighbours and another man they had never seen before. Edward with a big smile in his face, his parents quite happy too, the man with face of indifference or ignorance, and the rest of the people with a great curiosity. Nobody knew what was going on; why that man was there and why there were several boxes in the street. Then, Edward’s father talked to all of them: <My son is right. I know you all listened to him yesterday, and he is right. We used to have quite a lot of money, but we had a very structured and disciplinary life; we did a lot of things, but we had no friends at all. We got poor because of the Civil War, but kept on working hard and yesterday I got back all the money I had lost. I am a business man, and you know what happens in business, one day you have a lot of money, the next day you have lost everything and the following day you get all the money back. Today is Edward’s birthday. I used to present him the all he wanted, the best and most expensive toys. Last year, however, I had no money for that, and I just gave him a stick for his birthday. That night he told me: ‘Thanks, for the best birthday present I have ever received’. Today I’m giving him what he asked me yesterday night (and he pointed to the boxes and the man): Material and complete hockey equipment for all the children in this neighbourhood. And this man will be their coach, he will train them for the Europe’s Cups next year and he will keep on training them until they become the best hockey team Poland has ever had.>

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