Panem Nostrum (Give us this day our daily bread…)
Susan and I live in a comfortable, well-run condominium apartment building that is cared for by a superbly efficient Superintendent with a heart of gold.
I call him Le Shériff because he is partial to wearing cowboy-type sombreros in all weather and he calls me Le Capitaine because of my military background. He is married to a very kind woman, Lyne, who bakes bread as a hobby.
During Susan’s turn as President of our condominium association Le Shériff got into the habit of reporting personally to her every morning about the small problems that arise daily in a multi-unit building. This regular contact blossomed into friendship as time passed.
Susan and I are both over seventy and, because of the COVID 19 restrictions, we are not allowed to leave our place.
Imagine my surprise when I opened the door to Le Shériff this morning, the fortieth day of our confinement. He handed me a small parcel and as he left, he called over his shoulder: “pour Madame et vous, Capitaine.”
A loaf of bread, baked by Lyne.
I placed the loaf on the table and cut a slice. When I bit into it tears welled up in my eyes. I so well remembered the taste of home-baked bread.
In my mind’s eye the picture of a ten-year old boy standing in the courtyard of another condominium apartment house swims into view. He has hardly eaten anything for a month and is starving. A donkey is coming through the gate, pulling a cart heaped high with hay. Its owner is walking beside it.
“Little boy,” the man says. “Do you want to buy some bread?”
“I do, but I don’t have money.”
The man looks at the boy speculatively. “Tell you what. If you give me your overcoat I will give you a loaf of bread.”
The starving boy thinks quickly. It’s early March and the weather will turn warm soon. He takes off his overcoat and holds it out to the man. The man takes it and reaches into the hay to retrieve a loaf of bread. The boy grabs it and runs away.
The place: Budapest, six weeks after the end of the Russian siege. The year: 1945.
And the little boy?