We finished the Intelligence center ahead of schedule, despite the delay caused updating the architectural drawings. We never knew what the cause of redrafting was. We didn’t care. We were just brick layers. More than that, we could claim that we were certified stone masons. The certification didn’t mean much if we had no buildings to brick. So, that day, before our foreman left for the day, we went to see him,
He stood examining a section of pages for a building. He eyed us curiously, “What do you men want?”
The guys shoved me forward. I swallowed hard, “Um, we are certified stone masons, sir, but that certification doesn’t mean much if we don’t have a building to work on.”
“Well, what do you want to do? Change professions?”
I wondered, was it something I said that made him ask that question? Then I thought I would just ask him outright! “When we finish the project were working now, we’ll be out of work. Do you know of any place we could go to do bricklaying work?”
He laid down the plans he had been looking at. He cleared his throat, “Hmm! We will have wait two weeks before we start our next building project. The Intelligence unit is moving into its building this week although the paint is not even dry. There is only one thing I can think of that you might do. After each project that we do, there is always about a week of cleanup and fixup that needs to be done. We could keep you on an extra week or so for that if you are willing. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait three weeks before we will be ready in Dresden for masons!”
I nodded, and then a thought came to me. I asked, “Can I talk this over with my work brigade?”
The foreman shrugged, “Surely!” He turned back to wrapping up his plans.
We moved away from him, about 20 meters, and I started first, “Look, guys! If we move out of Bill’s area to Dresden, we will lose touch with him, and we’ll have to start all over again with somebody new.” We stood in a loose circle, each of us thinking about what moving to a different building site would mean.
Erwin suggested, “If we move to Dresden, we might meet an agent with more influence and more helpers than Bill has!”
I shook my head slowly, “It might be possible, but The Dresden area was hit as hard a Berlin, maybe harder, during the war. Remember the problem we had finding a place to live?”
Erwin rubbed his chin, “Hmm!”
Hans stepped up, “I remember that one time in the Kellar, Bill said Berlin was where the most agents were active and working!”
Martin added, “I…I think we…should stay.”
George nodded positively, “I can’t go. I can’t leave Hilda. We’re going to get married!”
We stood silently looking at George. None of us knew what to say. I came to a conclusion, “I think we ought to stay for the cleanup week. At the same time, after work hours, we can be out looking for more mason work. Besides, who knows, something might open up nearby!”
Erwin slowly nodded his agreement. Hans shrugged and nodded. Martin nodded, “Me too!” George nodded rapidly, “Oh, yeah! Oh, yeah!”
We walked back to the foreman. I stepped up, “We would like to work on your cleanup crew.”
The foreman said, “Wonderful. I need to clear it with the other foremen!”
Panic rose in me. I quickly asked, “You mean that they might not agree?”
“Manfred, most of them know the work you and your crew have done here. They trust your work ethic. I don’t think I’ll have any problems with them.” He picked up his set of plans and walked away.
I turned back to the crew. His answer satisfied my immediate fear, but it put an ache in my heart.
Erwin asked, “What’s the matter, Manfred?”
I was looking down at the ground, “His answer put an ache in my heart! The ache is due to the fact that we, as a team, are known. We have a reputation. We were known for our work. All the hard work we did. We are known and trusted. And now, we’re going to leave our good reputation behind.”
Erwin nodded, “It doesn’t make sense, but staying doesn’t make sense if we have to live under this oppressive and unpredictable government.”
That was the first time I had heard him openly criticize the East German government,
Hans asked, “So, if the rest of us escape, are you going stay here in East Germany?”
Good grief, what a question, and what a predicament.
Erwin interrupted my thoughts, “East Germany is poor. The only money being spent is Russian Rubles. West Germany is recovering. East Germany is not. We can make a new reputation once we’re free.”
“True! I don’t want to stay here, but I don’t want to lose our good reputation!”
Martin spoke without stuttering, “That is called an approach avoidance confli...