Without warning strong hands grabbed me and spun me around, my face less than an inch away from a apir of insane blue eyes distorted behind badly scratched and scuffed wire framed glasses. The lenses had been dulled by countless years but the focus of those eyes were not at all dulled by the heavy years which now burned into me with fury and rage.
His breath was nauseating with decay and strong burned coffee. His sagging face was creased and pitted like some mouldering pale gourd. My arms were pinned together in his his vice like grip, his nails digging into my skin. Shock gave way to fear and I becan to sob uncontrollably.
At this his grip slackened but did not entirely let go with one hand. He stood up.
"Ohh, eh, no. No, do not kry leetle one, do not kry. Please, look here..."
I looked up through my tears and saw that his eyes had grown softer and sympathetic, little of the famished deprarate animal that had moments before had me in his grip, remained in his face.
With his free hand, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a candy and held it out to me.
"Here, leetle one, you schtop crying und have ein schveet."
My tears stopped and I obeniently took the candy and popped it into my mouth. It tasted like no other candy I had ever had before. It was not overly sweet with strong herbal tones. Something about it reminded me of my uncle's aftershave. To this day I cannot smell Old Spice without remembering this old wizzened man who now knelt down painfully onto one knee down to my height.
Pfeh! "Jars," he spat with contempt, ", in ze Alt Kontry we had none of zees fancy schings like "jars! All ve has vas ein pit in the ground in the back of our cottage, packed hard vith clay und schtraw and ve covered it up so no ones could find it und schteal it!"
At this I cringed away in fear once again as the starved animal once again came alive in his eyes. But only for a moment as the old man recognized my renewed fear and he relaxed once more.
He then took off those scuffed and dulled lensed farmed and wiped them with a dirty rag that he withdrew from his pocket,
"Oh, yes, leetle one, ve had to be very very kleffer bek in ze alt days. Alvays peeples comes to schteal our foods. In ze sommer, ze Baron's men (at the Baron's name, he spat upon the ground) vould come to take his share und zey would helps zem selfs to anyzing zey could find. In ze kalt of ze winter bandits vould come from ze forrest und rob us blind leafing nossing for us to schtarf und freeze to death."
At this he pressed in within inches of my face againand I recoiled, "Or meebee just schlit our throats as ve lay schleepink in our beds, eh!" Fortunately, he relaxed immediately and withdrew once more chuckling and coughing, "Hach, hah, haff, ah but ve were schmarter zan se Baron's men, (spitting into the ground once more), und even schmarter zen ze bandits is ze forrest!"
"Once, ven ze Bandits come for plunder und murder vith torches und sey commink first to our neighbor, Hans ze Beekeeper und schteal all uff his food und zen zey schteal his daughter avay from him, never to be scheen again, poor sching!"
I realized that my fear of the old man was fast waning and a sense of awe becan to take over me. I began to hang on every thick accented word.
"Mein fascher zen, he opens ze door, moments before ze bandits come to break it down, und he lets zem in to ze our haus! Zey vere taken aback und zen zey sees mein schwesters lying abouve ze cellar, white as ghosts und lying schtill. 'Was ist wrong mit dieser Madchen?' He askz und my fascher he says one vord,"
"Und ze Bandit he turns even whiter schtill und backs out of our haus as quick as can be."
The old man's face lit up with color and his cheeks filled up with mirth.
"'Typhus, Typhus!' He cried und all of ze bandits fled back into ze forest und ve do not see them again that vinter!"
At this I found myself delighted and grinned back at the old man and his tale.