Marek, Piotr and Jan spent their childhood together. Marek’s grandmother said they would hang together one day but still she stuffed their schoolbags with raisin cakes.
When Marek grew up he was going to leave the village and become a fighter pilot. When Piotr grew up he was going to leave and become a movie star. Jan was going to stay and work in his father’s shop. But he was going to have a big bushy beard like his great uncle Anton.
Whatever Marek and Piotr thought of Jan’s ambition, they said nothing. His father’s shop provided sweets and broken biscuits. Jan was entitled to his great uncle’s beard.
At sixteen, Marek and Piotr packed cardboard suitcases and set off for the city; Marek to join the Air Force and Piotr to work in a smart hotel and impress passing Movie Producers. Jan entered his father’s business and started on his beard.
Jan’s beard was glossy and luxuriant when Piotr, holes in his shoes, shuffled back down the village street carrying his possessions in a canvas bag. Jan poured him a glass of schnapps and set it on the counter.
“What a face fungus!” said Piotr admiringly, “If only old Marek had lived to see it.”
“Not shot down!” cried Jan.
“Run down,” Piotr emptied his glass, “A taxi in Breslau.”
Marek had failed his pilot’s medical and worked in a shoe shop before stepping off a kerb with too much on his mind. Piotr had worked in hotels which charged by the hour. His film career was restricted to haunting the back rows in the cinema.
“The dreams of childhood.” he smiled sadly “At least you have achieved your beard.”
Jan let Piotr stretch out a shaking hand and stroke it. What are friends for but to share ambitions?