🙂 Tuesday = #Blogbattle
#BlogBattle is a weekly short story challenge using a single word for inspiration. Hosted by the talented Rachael Ritchey. Feel free to join in, or click here to read the current week’s stories and vote for your favorites.
This is a story that I started as part of a writing exercise created by the illustrious Candice Coates. The original was just a thought, hope this revised edition is an improvement.
This week’s word: Photograph
The Truth Will Set You Free
I thought if I could just keep moving forward. Focus on the future and not dwell on a past that I couldn’t remember. There was a part of me that I knew nothing about. I tried to not let it bother me, but it did sometimes, all on its own. I just don’t know where to find the answers, but I need to find them. It isn’t just affecting me, but it’s affecting the people around me as well. After another failed relationship, resulting in me needing to move out, I find myself today, packing up my things, again. My cousin Joseph is here to help me, I will be moving in with him until I can find a place of my own.
“Hey, Alex, I found this box in the basement with your name on it, what’s in it?” He carries the box over to me and sets it on the table.
“I don’t know, I never looked, it’s from Grandfather.”
“He’s been gone for five years now, why haven’t you looked at it yet?” Joseph questions.
“It’s probably just a bunch of the stuff he collected thinking I’d want it some day, I just never got around to it.” I say as I continue to box up some books.
“Remember how him and Uncle Charlie would play cards all Sunday afternoon? With a bottle of Smirnoff perched in the middle of the table to be shared between them.” Joseph laughs at the memory.
“Oh, but when they brought out the bottle of Wyborowa Blue Vodka, things got real interesting.”
My grandfather always told stories, he had such a vivid imagination. His stories always entertained us, we never knew if they were true or not, or if they were the mutterings of too much vodka and longing for home.
When the bottle of Wyborowa was empty, it was then that they would sit quietly and talk between them, speaking only in Polish, knowing we couldn’t understand them. I rarely heard the foreign language, it was just how it was, once your feet hit the shores of America, you left your old life behind, and painstakingly learned the English language, never indulging in your foreign tongue…unless your soul held secrets.
“Well, I guess it’s time I should see what’s inside.” I slide the box over in front of me and opened it up.
“Yeah, maybe there’s something important, why else would he give only you a box of stuff, I didn’t get a box.” Joseph grumbles.
I open it up, and just as I thought. Several decks of cards, some shot glasses, the pocketknife he always carried with him, that could be useful, I take it out and slip it in my jeans. At the bottom are two envelopes, one holds some kind of journal and the other has photos and newspaper clippings. I hold up the newspaper article and show it to Joseph, “It’s in Polish, that’s just like grandfather to give me something I can’t even read.” I shake my head.
I pull out some of the photos, the pictures were old, possibly foreign, one drops to the floor. I pick up the photograph and hold it in my hand, I can’t take my eyes off of it. It seems familiar.
“Alex, what is it? Do you recognize these?” Joseph inquires eyeing me strangely.
“It’s…it’s almost like déjà vu…but stronger. Joseph, I think I took this photograph, but how? Why?”
“Look at the journal, see what it says. Let’s hope it isn’t in Polish.” Joseph says in jest as he hands me the envelope. I pull out the journal, there’s a lose piece of paper tucked in between the pages. I unfold it. It’s an official document from Poland. As I look closer I realize it must be a birth certificate. In large letters it reads: Alesky Zwierzchowski, and I recognize the date, it’s my birth date. Could this be my birth certificate?
I skim through the pages, I recognize my grandfather’s handwriting. I begin reading one of the entries.
Today is not such a good day. Those men demanded that Alesky give them the photographs that he took, but he refused. I love that boy more than life itself, but he knows no fear, and thinks he can change this evil world we live in with his camera, but it is not that simple. Alesky left the house before I returned home, he went to meet with these men. I knew where they would be, just as I got there, I saw one of the men strike Alesky on the head with a metal pipe, and when he fell to the ground the sound of his skull as it struck the concrete is something I will never forget. He was in and out of consciousness, I knew this was bad. I had no choice but to defend my grandson. I only meant to injure the man, but he dropped to the ground lifeless, the other man could not run away fast enough. I then took Alesky home, and called the doctor.
I turn the page to read another entry.
Alesky’s head injuries were severe, even though he is completely healed, the doctor said that he would not remember anything. My father told me to take him to America, where my brother already lived. He explained that when we enter at Ellis Island we give them our names in Polish. When they record our names in the manifest, they will be spelled the way they sound in English, which does not resemble our name in Polish. The Polish language has it’s own alphabet. It will be like we are given a new identity. It is a perfect opportunity for us to start a new life and never be found. We leave tomorrow.
My mind is reeling after reading this, I look at the photograph again and the memory and images all come flooding back. The two men demanding the photographs, I can feel the pain from each blow that I took, as well as the final jolt as my head hit the pavement. I subconsciously rub my head as if to relieve the pain, in my mind’s eye I see the man fall lifeless to the ground.
I look up at Joseph, he is speechless. I hand him the journal for him to see for himself. I examine the birth certificate again. They were right about the recording of the names, this has to be mine, my American birth certificate reads Alex Wiscoski, close enough.
I drop it on the table and put my head in my hands. I rub my temples trying to alleviate the ache that is trying to take hold. All I can think of is all these years…all these years, the truth was right here.
Joseph closes the journal and returns it to the box and says, “Well. I guess that answers a lot of your questions.”
I drop my hands and look at him blankly, “Yes. But it sure brings up a bunch more. Maybe it was better not knowing.” I reply.
“Denying the truth doesn’t change the facts. This is just a piece of the truth, find the whole truth, and I bet it will set you free. At least that is what they say.” Joseph shrugs.
I mumble to myself, “That is what they say.” Trying to convince myself that this is a good thing, as I put everything back in the box to be explored another day.
© 2016 Carrie Ann
Check out Candice’s Blog here.