“I’m sweating like crazy but it’s the best weekend I could imagine.” David beamed with happiness and pride.
He’d booked a U-haul for Saturday the eighth of September and now he pulled up to the storage. There, they finally saw their treasure again, after several long months. The large wooden container, within which were stowed their individual boxes and packages, the way they’d packed them back home those few years ago. They forgot all the things that were inside.
“Kačenka, look, there’s Bobinka, your big doll. Do you remember her still?”
“Really, she’s here?”
“Dad’s word on it!” announced David firmly.
From the hall they could make out the smell of salted seawater and fish as it had penetrated the wooden containers. It was romantic and evoked the image of sailors transferring their boxes from the railway in the harbor onto the ship. That huge container was now here.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to move it like this. We will have to open it up and pull out individual boxes and loose items, then bring them all into the truck here. You ready?”
“We won’t leave it here like this!” Alice was excited.
In a few minutes they were able to pry open the wooden boards with borrowed tools; from within spilled out half-broken and moist cardboard boxes. On the concrete floor of the storage area they could now see wet moldy clothes, books with crumbling covers, plates – some of which had broken. They stepped aside and – taken aback – examined the mess. Those are their remnants, for which they’d been paying month after month in storage fees, and which they’d so expensively transported across the sea. Everything was ruined. Kačenka began crying, Alice stepped closer and pulled out her red dress. Their clothes were blackened, wet, disgusting. David reached for the painting, ‘Gypsies by the fire’, which he’d loved for its realism and deep meaning. But he found himself holding only the frame, while the canvas remained stuck to a shelf that, in the year nineteen hundred and three was made by the then-apprentice of carpentry, Alois František Říha, David’s grandfather. Everything was wet, damaged, destroyed.
“Look here, girls.” David first snapped out of the shock, “we’ll load it up anyway. We’ve already got the U-haul for it, and besides, these things are still ours, regardless of how they look now. And in the end, we have to clean it out of here, anyway. But what’s most important is that in the peace and quiet of our home, I’m emphasizing in our little house, we’ll take a look and find what hasn’t been damaged. I’m convinced that we’ll discover many things that are completely unharmed. The water likely reached only the layers close to the surface and the stuff inside is dry. This is actually only the water from the ocean’s moist wind.”
Wooden containers are recommenced only for certain types of transport with limited storage period. But they’re much less costly than metal boxes, which was the deciding factor back when they were leaving. They also hadn’t anticipated the storage would be for so long. But what was done was done.
“You really want to load this up?” Alice was confirming.
“Of course. You’ll see; you’ll be pleasantly surprised, after we rummage through it a little more. I’ll back up all the way to the pile and we’ll get on it.” Alice uncertainly nodded and stepped to the side.
David began backing up the truck while Alice was navigating.
They began working. Stuck together, wet, ripped and dirty came out their photographs. Three of David’s suits in which he’d lectured to medical students, were crumpled and their leg cuffs stuck together; Kačenka’s little shoes as well as the Italian heels Alice had picked out in Vienna were soaked up with salty mush. They were loading up everything. Whatever was destroyed beyond repair, they packed together with the wet carton.
“Should I leave the cd’s in the cases, David?”
“Yes, everything the way it is. See, cd’s are probably fine. It won’t be as bad as it looks at first.”
Kačenka joined the loading process. She was grabbing smaller, lighter items, but was nevertheless participating. As they progressed deeper, removing moistened and softened boxes from within the container, other ones began moving of their own accord. The boxes were sliding and breaking into each other.
“Here is your sheet music, David,” reported Alice.
“Let me see, how did it do?” Alice gave him a wet stack of paper, sealed together by water. David let out a sigh.
“Oh well, let’s take it anyway. Maybe I’ll find a way to separate them. There should also be … pass it to me carefully,” Alice handed him the ‘paper mache’…the one with the personalized signature from Dizzie Gilelspie.” David carefully tried to peel apart the individual sheets, but everything was hopelessly glued together.
“I’m really sorry, David.”
“The signature’s here somewhere. Somewhere in this stack. And I know it and you know it and that’s that matters. It’s just that we can’t see it. But I have it. In here.”
“I know,” Alice affirmed in all seriousness.
Porcelain, unless something broke, was undamaged. The worst off were their books and clothes.
“Something smells terrible,” commented David, “what’s in those plastic bags? I can’t recognize it.”
“Those are pillows. That’s the smell of wet feathers. Nobody will salvage those, I’m afraid. We’ll have to throw it out. In fact, we’ll probably garbage more things.”
“I know. Yes. But I want to throw it out in our own house. That way we will know that we brought with us everything we had packed back home. That every spoon that had undertaken this journey, really reached its destination. Every one of our items will cross the threshold of our new home, finishing what it started. Only then can we get rid of things that are ruined.”
It was a foolish, but truly moving and symbolically strong idea.
“Eew, what is it?” screamed out Kačenka and jumped away from the box with photographs she’d just opened. On the wet pictures were stuck small black snails; the box was full of them.
“What is it?” David stared at the soaked cardboard, frowning, “some… that’s from the sea. I’ll do it, Kačenka. We’ll take them off and at home we can shower down the photos. That’s alright. As long as they’re here.”
At twelve-thirty, almost all of their boxes and their remnants were spread across the floor of the rented moving truck. On the concrete ground of the storage shed, they left behind only a few piles of wet cardboard. Kačenka lifted up one of the moldy cardboard pieces and yelled out: “Bobinka! Here’s Bobinka!” She grabbed the doll’s hand and pulled her out from the small pile of scattered play tea-set and other toys. She was completely unharmed. As though by a miracle she’d been spared the salt-water mass damage. “She’s good, totally good,” cheered Kačenka, “only a little dirty.” She was glowing with happiness as she showed Bobinka to mom and dad.
“I told you. Dad always keeps his word, doesn’t he?”