Jack Galmitz

The Boy

The boy was born late in the marriage of his parents. So late that they hadn’t the energy or interest in exploring the world with him. They were disappointed that he had added nothing to their lives, and he could feel this, so he withdrew from them. He collected stamps in lieu of a family and friends, particularly foreign stamps that came in bulk. Since they were inexpensive, his parents always obliged him in his requests for more. They even bought him a magnifying glass on a stand, so he could look for long periods of time without tiring his arm. The glass magnified 7x, which meant he could virtually see the engraving lines with such clarity that it seemed as if he were inside the stamp.

He particularly liked stamps of places, of cities, ones that showed streets and monuments. In those he could walk and look and find all sorts of hidden places — public and personal.

His ancestors came from Russia, peasants subject to pogroms, many of his great grandmothers and their female children raped, the men beheaded. It was his grandfather, who smelled like a cigar up close, who came to America at age nine, to become a farmer.

That day he received a package of fresh stamps. He opened it and dumped the contents on his bed. He scanned the images and colors. One stood out and he placed it under his microscope at his desk. It was dated 1966 and was Russian. There was a small map on its upper right hand corner with the location of the place marked in the far west. He was delighted. There was a castle there of white stone and behind it a mountain. Trees grew large to the West and in the distance were more mountains. Groups of people walked in front of the castle, each with a small boy pulling one of the adults ahead. He was intrigued.

He had no way of knowing that the stamp depicted the home of Russian dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who would later be exiled to America — Kislovodsk, city in Stavropol Krai, Russia. Had he known, he would also have known that the region of Stavropol was built as a military fortress, by Don Cossaks, the very military men who had raped and beheaded his ancestors. He also had no way of knowing that the name meant “city of the cross,” which might have confounded him. It was located in the middle of the Caucasus Mountains and helped Russia secure control over the region. It was the child, a boy, leading on every happy group before and around a church that looked to him like a castle that made him happy. The real history of the place depicted in the stamp meant nothing.

Jack Galmitz prefers the imaginary to the real. He spends most of his time alone creating stories and visual images only some of which make it to paper. He is nearing 70 and hoping that Herman Hesse was right: that after death we enter our dreamworld.
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