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(The Little Dutch Boy at Age 50)
It was kermis time, the festival in my village. And I had too much bier with my school friends Piet and Jan. Ja. Soo, Piet thought we should go to the outer dyke with cans of spray paint, after the kermis. So we went out. Here in Noord Brabant there are three walls of defenses against the cruelty of the North Sea. The first dyke is called the Waker -the watcher; the second dyke is de Slaper - the Sleeper; and the last dyke, which had never before been tested, is known as the Dromer - the dreamer" 2 3
And when we got to the Dreamer, Piet and Jan said to me "Willem, you do it." Meaning I was to write on the walls of the Dreamer. This is why I was always in trouble in school- Piet and Jan would say "Willem, you do it." And whatever it was, I would do it. Soo, I took up a can of the paint and in very big letters, I wrote in Dutch that our schoolmaster, Mijnheer Van Doorn, was a gas-passer. Everyone could read the letters from far away. And just as I was finishing this, and Piet and Jan were laughing behind me, I looked - I was on my knees pressed up against the dyke- and I could that the wall of the Dreamer was cracking its surface, very fine little lines, like a goose eggs when it breaks from within.
And I yelled to my friends: Look! And they came a bit closer, and as we looked, right above my head, a little hole began to peck its way through the clay. And there was just a small trickle of water. And Jan said "Willem, put your thumb in that hole." And by the that time, the hole in the dyke was just big enough to put my thumb in. "Why?" I asked of Jan. "Just do it," he said. And so I did.
And once I put my thumb in, I could not get it out. Suddenly we could hear the waves crashing as the Sleeper began to collapse. Only the Dreamer remained to hold off the savage water. "Help me!" I yelled to Piet and Jan, but they ran away. "Vlug!" I cried - but no one could hear me. And I stayed there, crouching, with my thumb stuck into the clay. And I thought what if the Dreamer should give in, too. How the waves would bear my body like a messenger to the village. How no one would survive the flood. Only the church steeple to mark the spot where we had lived. How young we were to die.
Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be face to face with death?
And have you ever prayed for deliverance against all hope?
But the Dreamer held. And finally there came wagons with men from the village, holding lanterns and sand and straw. And they found me there, strung up by my thumb, beside the big black letters: Mijnheer Van Doorn is een gas passer. And they freed me and said I was a hero, and I became the boy who held back the sea with his thumb.
I was stupid. Wrong place, wrong time.
Let us just say it happened a long time ago.
Where is he? Waar is je broer? (Wo ist dein bruder?)
And you did not go? You should see them, they are really fantastic?
So you are an American?
Nee. It's a way to make a living, is it niet?
Uw paspoort, aistublieft.
Copyright © Marco Schuffelen 2011.
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Don't be a dief (thief) / dievegge (female thief) - diefstal (theft) - stelen (to steal) - heler (dealer in stolen goods) - hear Dutch - 2