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  • Wojciech Salski

Giants

Updated: Apr 28

What is huge and what is tiny, is a matter of perspective thought the boy, who sat at the dinner table with his family.

What is huge and what is tiny, is a matter of perspective thought the boy, who sat at the dinner table with his family.

It was another evening, of what seemed to him a never-ending cycle of day and night. How much longer until I’m a grown-up he pondered observing his parents talk.


The boy was nine years old, and since the beginning of the year, he was no longer only an older brother. With the arrival of another child, he became ‘the oldest’, and this subtle shift provoked a powerful change in the way he recognised his place in the world. The presence of his new-born brother, so small in his view, forced him to reconsider what does it mean to be old. He always thought that him and his sister are small. Now they were no more. Maybe in comparison to his parents, they could still be considered small, but if someone was to measure them alongside the new-born, they would be inevitably announced ‘the big ones’. The meal continued as he looked down at the carpet beneath the wooden table and shuffled in his seat. Still not able to touch the ground he thought as he tried to push his feet closer to the ground, without raising from his seat. The doorbell rang. The parents exchanged looks and his mother left the room. The boy looked up at his father thinking of how life must have been for him, before the boy arrived. The father smiled to him and brushed boys’ brownish hair. The front door creaked open and the boy heard voices of his mother and the guests echoing through the corridors of the mansion. Trying to conclude, who is it going to be, the boy strained his ears, imagining as strong as he could that his sound antennas aim at the entrance to the room and following the scent of the conversation arrive at the front door. Steps of a few were heard and his mother entered the room, followed by his grandparents. He smiled. What’s up grandpa he wanted to say, but respecting the tables’ etiquette he didn’t. His grandma approached him and kissed on the cheek greeting him with sweet words. His nose felt the scent of grandparents house and the boy smiled wider, as his memory worked its magic within. His grandfather walked up to the table and shook his fathers’ hand. The boy observed the interaction in awe, thinking of how it would be to see from such a height, and greet with such strong hands. His grandpa turned to him and raised him out of his seat. Ooh you are getting heavier my boy he stated with a smile on his face. The boy was now on the height of the adults, which he extremely enjoyed. He looked at his new-born brother asleep in his little cradle. I am like a giant now the boy thought raising himself little higher, with his hands supported on grandpas’ shoulder. His grandfather kissed him hello and lowered him back to his seat. The boy looked around from his usual, as he thought, perspective, and pondered about the idea of age. Grandma is older than my mom, but she is smaller he noticed. Are people getting smaller when they get old he wondered, wishing he could get all the answers right away. His father liked to discuss these thoughts on some occasions, but not at the dinner table and grandpa, who was also sat next to him seemed busy greeting his little sister. The boy sat respectful of the ‘table rules’ and waited his turn to speak. His mom explained which plate contains what and what’s for dessert. He felt the ball of excitement filling up his stomach, as the desert was mentioned. The boy looked around the plates, trying to magically find something that did not consist of greens, which he wasn’t a fan of, but as the rules of the table stated ‘you got to eat your greens’. He choose one of the dishes and scooped the mix of vegetables and rice on his plate. Food spilled onto the plate and created a messy pile, that reminded him of a hill made of trash, like in the cartoons. Momentary thoughts occurred, giving him a subject to consider. The vegetables are so small he pondered but not to the insects they aren’t. Maybe for them they are quite sizeable he theorised, while tamping the rice with his fork. His father placed a piece of steaming hot meat and encouraged to eat. The boy nodded promptly and got to eating. No dinner, no dessert he remembered and stuffed his mouth with a fork-full of rice.

*

The dessert was delicious, and the boy still remembered the sweet, creamy taste of the icing when the phone rang. It was sometime past midnight. The boy was asleep with his parents after having a bad dream. He woke up in panic and, as most of the kids do at those times, ran to their room seeking refuge from the stresses of his childish imagination. Sometimes it isn’t fun to be a kid he thought in those moments, wishing he could be as brave as his father, and sleep anywhere, anytime. His mother shuffled under the duvet, hugging the boy as his father raised himself to seated and answered the phone supporting the sleepiness with his hand. The boy was awake. He tried to listen to the words in the phone, but they were barely hearable. Facing his fathers’ back the boy noticed that his parent tensed. Everything fell silent. The boy didn’t know why, but a great deal of anxiety spiked up his back, making him shiver briefly. His father did not say anything. His head bowed slightly more and the boy saw as his father raised one hand to the face. Who was it his mother asked quietly, with her eyes still closed. The boy pushed himself to seated and with the move, awaken his mom more. The father was sat still with his hand against his head, they couldn’t see his face. The boy felt the heart beating faster than before and hugged his mother in a feel of stress. His mother repeated the question adding is everything okay at the end. But everything was not ok. The boy felt it. His father moved slightly and took a deep breath turning to face them. His face was red and expressed a great deal of trouble. When his parents eyes met the boy felt as if the information is already there. His mom tensed, hugging him stronger and with hesitation took the phone that the father handed over. The boy looked into his fathers’ eyes trying to understand what is going on. The father raised his hand and brushed his brownish hair, making up a forced smile. It’s all going to be ok my boy he whispered with his voice breaking. The boy heard the voice in the phone. It’s about your father someone said, and as if rehearsed both of the parents broke into cry. The boy felt an overwhelming wave of tears gathering at the back of his eyes and melted into a worrisome state of mind. Something bad happened he heard his own voice, which trying to catch up with the emotions asked the obvious. His father closed to him and mom and embraced them. They cried. His mother seemed in panic, her sobbing interrupted with sharp inbreaths and sniffles. The boy was in the middle of it, feeling both of his parents hearts racing next to his, and thought of the meaning of the words on the phone. It is something to do with grandpa his mind concluded, as another rush of sadness filled his chest. He felt lost. Not willing to accept the truth, he wrestled with thoughts reasoning the meaning of it all. He was going to show me the press on our next visit the boy murmured to himself, interrupting the waves of tears. His parents strengthened the embrace, as the door opened. His sister entered the room, trying to comprehend what’s happening. The boy thought of some special connection between them all, that made her sense that something was wrong and wake up. His father reached out to her and all four of them sat on the bed in a still embrace. His sister started crying too. It’s okay to cry sometimes his moms’ words echoed through the boys’ mind, and once again the rush of tears freed them from their prison. The boy felt the sadness and fear with all his body. It was like the whole world disappeared for a moment under a huge dark blanket of grief. He didn’t understand it all yet, it was his first time dealing with such emotions, but deep down inside he felt it, vividly and greatly. His thoughts raced, as memories of his grandparents emerged. The boy knew that there is something like death. He saw it in cartoons and heard about it in the news. One time, when the boy has cut his finger open, his father even told him that an ignored wound could bring death too. But he has never experienced it truly. He knew his grandparents will die someday, he knew that his parents will die someday, he knew that he himself was to die someday as well, but all of these ideas were merely subjects of a conversation, interesting facts, nothing more. For the first time, the boy felt mortal and insignificant. For the first time, he felt his heart pried open and his body distressed in the fearful state. He sobbed, cried and groaned with sounds, which he had not made ever before, as his soul and body struggled with the process of grief.

*

The sunny morning did not fit the day. The boy was sat at the kitchen table, dressed in a dark suit and looked out the window, lost in his thoughts. He felt stupid and empty. He felt like days like this one should not exist. His father invited everyone to get into the car, it was time to go. The boy flinched, feeling as if this moment was yet again, a shift in how the world is. At least in my opinion he thought, walking down the steps to the car. His ‘not so little anymore’ hand clasped on a piece of wood carried his last present for his grandpa. His mom said that it’s a great idea, when he first proposed it. The boy was carrying a wooden board, which he used to paint his toy figures, when visiting his grandparents house. The board was now covered in purple paint and included a brief message from the depth of the boys’ heart. The boy climbed into the car and sat next to the cradle of his little brother. The baby was asleep, with its tiny hands clasped on one of the fluffy toys. The boy looked at his brother and rested his own hand next to that of the new-born. The difference in size was great and the boy once more thought of that handshake that his father and grandpa exchanged that day. He thought of the idea of old, and what does it mean to be big depending on the circumstances and point of view. The boy thought of his grandpa and of all the times he amazed the boy with his abilities. He thought of the time when his grandfather created wooden dogs for all the children, making them from pieces of the old fence; and of the time when without hesitation his grandpa chased the ball into the sea, before it was too late to get it back; and of the time when he took him to the roof of the summer house and made him feel like a giant, looking down at his family in the garden. The boy thought of all those things and his heart settled a little more. The car left the patio and the journey began. Everyone was silent, all in their own thoughts, tackling the terms of the reality, as they drove to the funeral.

*

The service started just before teatime and the boy noticed that there is much more people present that he was expecting. The church was full, and assuming that there must be a few ceremonies happening today, considered most of the people inside not a part of ‘their’ celebration. All his known family was here. His cousins, uncles and their parents were present, making it the biggest family gathering he has so far experienced. The church felt different, almost surreal, with some of the colourful windows covered in a grey veil. After a few religious sketches that the boy didn’t pay much attention to, the guests raised in their seats and slowly made their way through the hall of the building towards one of the side halls. The boy followed his parents without a word, not knowing what the purpose of this commotion is. As they approached a little space between the pillars the boy noticed the stand. A wooden, dark brown coffin was fixed on the stand in the middle of the space and each guest one by one approached the box for a moment. The boy was not able to see what’s inside but the twists in his stomach made the assumption without hesitation. The boy squeezed his fathers’ hand stronger as fear emerged. They approached the stand and his father picked him up to see what the coffin contains. The boy gasped shocked, looking down at the peaceful face of his beloved grandpa. His father encouraged the boy to say goodbye to grandfather, and so the boy did. Thoughts of doubt entered the boys mind, pushing the idea that it is untrue, and that his grandpa is alive; and so the boy reached out and put his hand on the strong, big hands he has seen so many times. He flinched as he felt an unusual temperature of the body. His grandfather’s hands were cold. The boy considered it to be that, which distinguishes life and death, and for the first time felt at peace with the situation. Keeping in mind that dying leads to heaven, as taught by the books and traditions of his family, his heart settled and filled with warmth of the love that connects those of the realm of life with those on the other side. The boy touched his grandpas’ hand one more time and his father moved away, taking him along. His eyes fixed on the coffin as they were walking away, the boy murmured to himself thinking that, if what they say is true, his grandpa hears it all right now. The words that echoed through the membranes of his mind, and through the world far greater than that visible to the eye, established the way his older self-perceived the man who was his grandfather. You were the coolest grandpa in the world the boy whispered and closed his eyes thinking of the last time he saw him.

He was a giant the boy thought remembering the hydraulic press, his grandpa’s hands, and the metal that disappeared between the platforms as if there was no problem in squishing iron.


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