by Sarah Earlene Shere, ©2023
(Mar. 10, 2023) — I walked along the riverbank, swinging the daily paper at my side. I stopped to gaze, once again, at the headline. Who knew that such a catastrophe could happen in our civilized world? The chimes of the nearby cathedral tower told me I would be late if I did not hurry.
As I turned to make my way back to the busy path, I saw the back of an old man sitting by the river’s edge. I was suddenly reminded of my boyhood days, one in particular. There I was, having just finished my first day of school, sitting by the river, at the feet of a man old enough to be my grandfather. My face was drenched with tears as I rubbed my runny nose on the sleeve of my best shirt. The man, Pietro, as I recalled his name to be, smiled down as he inquired, “And is that all the names you can remember being called today?”
I had thought before I nodded. Pietro then took the paper on which he had been writing and artfully folded it to his will. Soon a paper boat was resting on the palm of his large hand. Reaching out toward me, he urged, “Now, fill the boat with all the bad air you breathed in when you were surrounded with sadness.”
I had taken a deep breath and nearly sent the boat flying with my exhale. Pietro did not laugh, but solemnly took the boat and placed it on the water. “Now,” he explained, “we shall watch it sail away with all the sadness.”
“Such naivety,” the current adult I was mumbled. Suddenly, the man at the riverbank turned. Pietro? I hurried to his side. The man in the old, worn hat and disheveled clothes looked frail and a little lost, but it was my old friend. I eagerly spoke his name. He looked up, a bit surprised and bewildered. I sat beside him, and soon realized that the years had not been kind to him. My words made no sense to what was left of his mind.
Dropping my head, I noticed the paper still in my hand. With a smile, I began to fold it to my will, till the headline was lost in a jumble of type in the shape of a boat. I exhaled a deep breath into it, then held it out to Pietro. The wrinkled face lit up with a smile of recognition. With a weak breath, he blew into the boat. Then we sat there, together, in silence, and watched our sadness sail away.