The casket was soft, but the road was rough. I was jerked from one end of the thing to the other. My body was pushed from one side to the other as Bill negotiated the turns, the stops, and the starts. Finally, I felt the truck slow. Then, I heard the breaks squeal as Bill slowed to a stop as the checkpoint. I heard him indistinctly discussing the events of the day with a check point guard. I’m sure the others heard the conversation also, but I don’t know if they were as scared as I was. I heard Bill and the guard walk to the rear of the truck, and then I heard the cargo door open.
Just then, Bill’s orders popped into my mind. We were not to make any noise, at all! We were not move, and if possible, not to breathe. What had been a comfortable casket now became an annoying ache near my right shoulder. What had been roomy enough before was now too tight. The top of the casket that had been okay was now too close to my nose. Then my nose started to itch. I squeezed my eyes shut really tight in an effort to ignore the sudden complications. But my nose was the problem. I told myself if I could just touch the itchy spot with a finger, the itch would go away. I slowly moved my right arm up from my side. Everything was okay until my stiff fingers became stuck in the padding that was attached to the underside of the lid. I tried to remove my hand, but a ring on my right hand was caught on something in the lid padding. All the while the itch was spreading to the other side of my noise. I believed if it covered my nose, I would have to sneeze. I was in a panic. I had to touch my nose. I had to!
I was struggling with my brick layer’s strength to free my hand and ring. I knew if my hand came loose suddenly, it would surely make a noise! I knew for certain that the sudden dislodging of my hand would cause the casket to move suddenly. I mean I had never seen a casket with a dead person in it cause it to move suddenly.
I knew my nose was going to explode if I didn’t get to touch the itch. Then without warning, the casket lid flew open. My hand followed the lid. Bill stood above me. There I was. My right hand across my body and stuck up in the open lid. My eyes had been closed so tightly, that tears had seeped out. The muscles of my face were constricted to the point that my face was probably unrecognizable.
Bill said, “It’s okay, Manfred! You can come out now. You’re in West Berlin now. I couldn’t help myself, and I cried.
Bill took my hand out of its stuck place, and he pulled me up to a sitting position. He said, again, “It’s okay Manfred. I don’t blame you. I feel like crying myself! Although, I have to say that I’ve seen a lot of different reactions. One woman screamed for five minutes!”
I said, “I thought my nose was going to explode. It had a really bad itch!”
He looked at me closely. No! It hasn’t exploded. It’s still...