As soon as Zofia completed her degree at the Academy of Fine Art she secured an internship with a local artist in downtown Warsaw. Working with an acclaimed artist would be a privilege, and besides, Zofia had no family
She welcomed the prospect of meals, board, and the company of a gifted mentor.
For eight months, the two women sat side by side in the studio preparing wreaths for an upcoming festival. From time to time, Zofia would stare out of the second story window and watch the men roll barrels of beer from the distillery into the truck to be shipped off to some lavish city. Zofia longed for riches and she often daydreamed about how money would change the landscape of her life. While the women sipped tea and waited for the glue to dry the details in place, the mentor shared a story with Zofia:
“You could find your fortune in
the tunnels of this city. There is a golden duck with gold feathers and a gold
living in a lake deep underground in the Ostrogoski Palace.”
Zofia was accustomed to her
mentor’s wild imagination, but this particular tale was one that Zofia could not
In search of possibility and whimsy and a new way of life, she took to the street that evening after her mentor
retired to bed.
Cloaked in a red trench coat, Zofia blended in with the brick alleyway in the dark. She waited for the lanky security guard to take a break, before jogging in the direction of the ominous tunnel. The dampness of the vortex made Zofia’s skin clam up as she hurried toward the white light. The idea of time slipped away from Zofia as she managed her way through the tunnel. Finally, she arrived upon polished yellow stone arches and a crystal clear lake. Circling the water was a breathtaking golden duck with a crown resting on his head. Zofia bent over the lake to hear the whispers of the creature more clearly:
“I will give you 100 gold duckets, but they must be spent in one day. If you share your money, you will revert to being poor again.”
Zofia shook her head in agreement and magically the golden duck dropped a bag from his bill at her feet. The coins clanked against each other as Zofia fled the tunnel and exited the Palace in the direction of the market. As dawn broke in the Old Town, for the first time in her life, Zofia understood ease. At each stall she realized that the items she adored could not only be touched but owned. Bystanders watched as Zofia purchased fancy furs, expensive jewels, and fine art. With her arms overstuffed with goods, Zofia made her way over to the Bristol Hotel where she ordered the most expensive room and gourmet meal in all of Warsaw. Onlookers assumed Zofia was royalty, and waited on her with admiration and respect.
Later, while wandering through Łazienki Park, Zofia felt a small fistful of duckets still occupying her pocket. Unsure of how she could relieve herself of the remaining riches before daylight, she took a seat on a park bench to think. Staring at the brilliant star dusted sky, she heard the voice of a homeless beggar who was stretched out under the tree next to her.
“Could you spare some change, Miss?”
“I cannot give it away,” Zofia replied remembering the duck’s warning, “but do you have anything to sell?”
“I have a good heart that I will sell to you,” the beggar responded pulling his hat down toward his ruddy cheeks.
“I’ve already got a heart,” Zofia said. She waited to feel it beat as an affirmation.
“But yours is made of stone,” the beggar huffed and rolled over to sleep.
In order to prove the man wrong, Zofia tossed the coins on top of his blanket. When the last coin settled in place, the beggar transformed into the golden duck.
“You went back on your word,” the duck scolded, “and as a result, you will be poor for life.”
Zofia removed the fur shawl and placed it with the necklace of pearls on the bench.“There’s no point in riches, if you cannot share them,” she said and walked back to the studio with a new sense of wonder and a perspective as glaring as the coins that once filled her pockets only moments ago.