THE LONG AND INTERESTING LIFE OF ADAM CHOCIEMSKI (PART TWO)
created by Tom Owen
“When an unexploded bomb was found three streets away from the Chociemski’s home, a hyperventilating Katya forbade her son from playing outside after school for a month."
As Katya watched her son grow up, she began to fear more and more for his wellbeing. She and her husband had tried to have another child – a little sister for young Adam to play with – but she never arrived. They assumed it wasn't God's plan for them, or they were too old now. They counted their blessings and focused their attentions on Adam.
Being an only child meant the weight of all of his father’s and all of his mother’s apprehensions about the world landed firmly on Adam's not-yet-filled-out shoulders.
His parents were torn between the honest desire for their son to fit in – to be like all the other boys – and the desperate instinct to protect him from the world’s ills.
Adam was the first boy kept home from school when a bug was going round, the last to receive any kind of vaccination (it must first be tested on the other students) and the only child in the whole neighbourhood to still carry his gas mask to school every day (under sufferance it must be added). When an unexploded bomb was found three streets away from the Chociemski’s home, a hyperventilating Katya forbade her son from playing outside after school for a month.
While he did have to endure the weight of his parents' overbearing love, Adam didn’t want for much in the way of new clothes or the occasional treat. His father’s job paid him well enough and they had good life.
His boss, Piotr thought, valued his expertise and enthusiasm – as well as a work ethic seemingly missing in some of his English colleagues. Not to mention the grave lack of skilled workers of any species in London immediately after the second world war. By the time Adam was 10, his father was foreman.
Piotr wanted to share his success with his son. To pave the way for him to have a good life, like any caring father would.
This is how Adam came to see a printing press for the very first time. From that moment he was enraptured. The roaring noise as the machines came to life, the rapidly moving reels – turning blank reams of paper into living, readable print. The instant transformation from limitless potential into concrete actuality.
While the new laws on child labour prevented Adam from holding a position, he still came to the mill as much as he could. Every Saturday and Sunday he would help with the weekend editions, learning to set type and how to manage many different runs all at one time.
His mother despaired – already she spent much of her time trying to remove newsprint stains from her husband’s shirt cuffs and now Adam’s clothes bore the same sticky grey smudges.
When he turned 14 Adam left school and joined his father at the printers.
Tom Owen is a freelance writer and editor of Smoke and Tales.