"The Ice Carvings"
"The Ice Carvings"
“When will Tomasz get here, Matka?” Lech asked for the seventh time. “Can we drive straight from the airport to the Christmas festival?”
Lech’s mother smiled. “Your cousin will spend tonight in a plane, remember? When Tomasz and his parents arrive from Florida tomorrow, they’ll be tired. Let’s let them unpack before visiting the Stary Rynek. The Old Square will still be there.”
“Can we watch the ice carvers today?” asked Lech. “I told Tomasz about last year’s ice sculptures, especially the dragon slayer and the spaceship. I want to see what the carvers invent this year.”
His mother agreed. “Alright. Dress warmly. There’s no snow, but the air is cold. I hope Tomasz hasn’t forgotten Poland’s winters during his year in America.”
Half an hour later, Lech and Matka reached the Poznan city square. People in booths sold sausage pierogi and jars of honey. Toddlers held Christmas balloons on strings. School children sang carols from a stage. A pair of brown horses pulled a red-and-green carriage.
“Over there—the carvers!” shouted Lech. Along one side of the square, fifteen platforms formed a long line. Atop each platform sat a colossal stack of ice-blocks, a stack big as three refrigerators stuck together. Next to each stack stood two people holding chainsaws. Chisels large and small waited near the platforms’ edges. “We’re just in time!” Lech exclaimed, running toward the platforms.
Seconds later, a man with a microphone yelled, “Now!” The men and women on the platforms revved their chainsaws and began cutting chunks off their ice. They moved fast, slicing curves and Vs and holes in the giant blocks. Soon the stacks stopped looking like refrigerators. They started looking like vehicles and animals and humans.
Lech and his mother watched till noon. Then they rode the tram home, ate lunch, and returned. By two o’clock, the carvers had put down their chainsaws and picked up their chisels. The chisels broke off smidgens of ice to form noses, steering wheels, wings.
“Look, Matka!” said Lech. “It’s an ice magician pulling ice rabbits out of an ice hat!”
“There’s a sea monster rising from the icy deep,” Matka replied.
“And a lion ready to pounce!” Lech said. “And an elf in a Christmas tree! And a flying car! And a skier doing a backflip!”
Lech and his mother stayed till the sun set at three-thirty. After supper they returned once more to see Christmas lights shining on the finished carvings. Ice swans, ice boats, and ice kings sparkled blue, yellow, green, and red. Lech grinned. “Tomasz will love this.”
The next morning, Matka, Lech, and Tomasz drove straight from the airport to the Christmas festival. “Lech can’t wait to show Tomasz the ice carvings,” Matka told Tomasz’s parents.
Jumping from the car, Lech and Tomasz splashed across the Stary Rynek through puddles of water. “My coat’s too warm,” said Tomasz, lowering the zipper.
Lech frowned. “I guess it rained last night. Strange for December. Hey, let’s get some pierogi.” The boys paused at a booth and bought one pierogi each—large, fried dough pockets, stuffed with chicken and potatoes and wrapped in paper. Clasping the pierogi in their hands, they hurried to the far side of the square.
“See, Tomasz?” Lech pointed excitedly. “There they are! The ice...!” Suddenly Lech’s jaw fell. His eyes popped. His pierogi dropped to the ground.
Tomasz shuffled his feet. “Seems the rain melted them.”
On the platforms, fifteen ice sculptures stood shrunken and shriveled. The sea monster sprawled below the deep. The magician dripped among his vanishing rabbits. The Christmas elf huddled beneath his toppled tree. Lion, car, skier, swans, boats, kings—all were broken, wet, mutated, icy lumps.
“They’re ruined,” Lech whispered. He stared at the ground. “I wanted you to see them, Tomasz. You came all the way from Florida.” Turning, he scuffed away.
Tomasz followed. “Lech,” he asked, “do you think I flew across the ocean to see ice? I came to see you.”
Lech stopped. “Tomasz, do you like living in America? More than you like Poland? Will you ever move back to Poznan?”
“Florida’s hot,” Tomasz answered. “My parents think we’ll live there another year or so. I like it, but I’ll be happy when we come home.”
Lech’s shoulders loosened.
“By the way, Lech,” Tomasz said, “a horse just stepped on your pierogi.”
Lech glanced at his pierogi, squashed on the ground. “Maybe Matka will buy me a new one.”
“Let’s ask her,” replied Tomasz. “And then let’s go play at your house. I’ll bet nothing’s melted there.”
© Suzanne Werkema