The Traveller

© J. Francois Barnard - 13 December 2023

Berndt Östhaven, a farmhand hailing from Stattegg, Austria, glances up at the familiar sound of a scooter echoing through Stattegger Strasse. An intense desire for adventure surges within him, yet his sole means of transportation remains confined to the farmer's tractor resting in the barn. As a young girl cruises past on her Vespa, Berndt raises his hand in a gesture of greeting, only to retract it as a poignant memory floods back. In his hand, he clutches a carrot reminiscent of an encounter three months prior.

At that moment, she stood beside the tiger's enclosure at Graz Tiergarten, grinning at him. Berndt attempted a reciprocal smile, but a sense of awkwardness enveloped him. He fumbled to conceal the carrot, prompting her laughter. "Why not give it to the tortoise?" she quizzically inquired.

vespa"I intended to," he replied, tossing it into a waste bin with feigned nonchalance. However, his true sentiments lingered; he cared deeply and yearned for a salary increase to afford a Vespa. Oh, the adventures they could embark on together!

Interrupting his reverie, the farmer's displeasure snaps him back to reality. "What's with the grinning in the carrot bed? Work to be done!" scolds the farmer. Ignoring the reprimand, Berndt muses to himself, "Proper riding boots – the right gear for travel!"

His phone interrupts his thoughts. "Östhaven," he answers.

"Herr Östhaven?" says the enchanting voice of Fraulein Stümpf from Graz. "I see you're still at work."

"I am," Berndt confirms, "finishing soon."

"Papa wants to see you," she reveals. Berndt's eyes widen in anticipation.

"About what?" he inquires. "Michael's scooter," she discloses, "he wonders if you'd like to buy it since Michael no longer needs it."

Berndt's heart races at the news. "I would!" he exclaims with a grin, "on two conditions."

"What are those?" she playfully asks.

"First, manageable down payments, and second, riding lessons from the most charming Vespa rider in Graz!"


Editor's note: The above story was the result of an assignment done in the Creative Writing course, Section The Craft of Plot, at Wesleyan University.