Little Jacob

T. Bodan

It has been a wonderful late October evening on the island of Ummanz in the Baltic Sea. Jacob and his father left the guest house. Slowly, very slowly they went around the house until they reached the huge Aspen tree growing right behind it. There the landlord was already waiting for them.

„Well Jacob, are you looking forward to the event?“ he asked. Jacob shrugged. Huge eyes were staring from far away.

„Now we are going to climb that tree“, the landlord told them calmly and gestured to a funny looking construction far above. There was a net,  a kind of big trapeze, but it looked rather small from down where they stand. „This means“, the landlord proceeded smiling apologetically „I´m going to climb the tree and then I will let down the ‘basket-car’ and pull you up” With this he turned and reached for the climbing net behind him. Now Jacob could see, that he was wearing a small backpack Rucksack.

„Both of us?“ Jacob asked surprised.

„Yes, both of you“, the landlord confirmed simply. He already had firmly grabbed hold of the net with both hands and pulled himself up. “You’ll see.“ Then he started to climb and soon has reached the trapeze hanging high up in the tree. There he fumbled for a while until he had loosened the car and lowered it like an elevator.

„Don’t worry, my son“, Jacob’s father explained calmly. „This is a hoist, which means, our two hundred pounds we are bringing together are only like 50 or 60 in his hands, comprendes?“

Jacob understood … a bit, but also those sixty pounds he considered rather a lot for only one man to hold, not to talk about pulling them up.

Then the car was down and his father lifted him into it. Then his father climbed in himself, got down and took his son firmly in his arms. The latter coughed. It sounded like an old tin drum ripped and buckled at many places, a horrible noise. Jacob looked down and his little heart beat as he saw the bottom slowly disappear. Soon they hovered above the shed and Jacob could see over the main house. There, in the west, where the island of Hiddensee was stretching behind the ‘Schaproder Bodden’, there hovered the red glowing sun and a funny jittering lay in the air. „Are you afraid?“ his father asked. „No!“ answered Jacob truthfully and coughed again. Being afraid in fact was the least feeling he had in mind right now.

Shortly before they had reached the trapeze THEY came. At first Jacob could only hear them. One haunting trumpeting sound and another one and another. He turned his head a little and then he saw them. They came from southwest, from ‘Gellen’ and there were many, uncountably many of them.

 „Cranes!“ his father whispered and he lifted little Jacob out of the car and onto the trapeze. At first Jacob had the impression as would the cranes fly directly at them, but then they turned a bit to the  west and started to fly in wide bend around Tankow to their resting place in the ‘Udarser Wiek’ and the ‘Koselower See’, directly in front of Jacob’s guest house. This way the cranes directly flew in front the red glowing sun. Jacob saw crane after crane as dark shadow before the wonderful red of the sky and his heart raced again. The trumpeting sound grew louder and louder. There came ever more. They flew in sharp triangles, all the same course, all with the same destination. More and more cranes landed in the ‚Wiek‘ and they trumpeted as trying to let whole Ruegen know that they are there and that this is their resting place. Jacob‘s eyes grew bigger, even bigger. His mouth was ajar and a small trickle of blood leaked down his chin. His father dabbed the blood and rather unconcernedly repeated his dabbing when the trickle reappeared. Eventually, almost all cranes had landed. Only a few triangles were left to be seen in the evening sky. The sun had disappeared behind the horizon and in the east the moon had come out. Jacob realized that he was shivering. Uncle T., as he called him, handed him and his father each a cup of peppermint tee. Warm, slightly sweetened with honey from the island, it was delicious. Now Jacob also knew what had been in rucksack. The cup warmed up his hands, the tee reheated his body and suddenly Jacob felt as easy and peaceful as being a baby in his mother’s arms again.

It was only after dark when they started to decent, first he and his father and then Oncel T.. Still accompanied by the amazing concert of the hundreds of cranes around them.

Jacob died briefly before Christmas. He was only something above 3 years old when it happened. But one evening in his short life he had seen hundreds of cranes flying through the evening sun and they had given him a wonderful concert.