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Yesterday I spoke to a man from Dussen who’d had a very hard life.
For much of his story, he was a secondary character.
His father had been captured and held in a German work camp, where they hurt him.
Later, his father was hurt again when a load of rocks fell on him, injuring his head.
His mother left to live with a neighbor.
He took care of his father.

Dussen is known for its castle, surrounded on three sides by a deep moat.
He was on the town’s football team, among friends he’d played with since childhood.
One night, still a teen, he was in a match when his father wandered off from the stands.
To return home, people presumed.
Because of the work camp, his father walked in heavy orthopedic shoes;
on his way home, as he passed the castle, he slipped and fell into the moat.
He could not swim in the shoes. Did he slip?

Without his father, he became the protagonist.
He trained to be a mechanic but was injured in a car wreck and could not stand in the shop.
He couldn’t play on the team after the wreck. He became an official.
He couldn’t keep a job. He married and divorced twice.
He had a daughter, but for years they did not see one another.

When I talked to him, we were at a museum near Dussen.
He was an historical interpreter.
He’d met a new woman. He’d learned how to manage his money. He had a savings. He was talking to his daughter again for the first time in years. He could help her with money when she needed it.
He seemed hurt in his eyes, slate gray. But also content.
He was, he said, a late bloomer.
The story was over. In the story, you see yourself from a certain distance.



Peter Streckfus is the author of the poetry collections Errings (Fordham) and The Cuckoo (Yale). He is on the poetry faculties of George Mason University and the Pan-European MFA at Cedar Crest College.




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