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GINSENG ROOT / Ira Sadoff When the rented Renault broke down and I broke down on the deserted Autostrasse in sight of the towering Alps, I knew we could be victims as well as tyrants, helpless and not invincible, sorry for ourselves instead of pious to a fault. I thought of our boys in The Great War crossing this legendary highway to take back France, tempting starving kids with chocolate bars, then tempting their moms into more starving kids. Where were they now? A Mercedes passed us by. So in a way I had an answer to the childish question that plagued me like the wounded car that drove us crazy intermittently. My question: do the wealthy suffer? On that rainy Saturday night when we fought over where to go when we meant 'Should we stay together?' 'Suffer by ourselves?' or just 'Get on with it?' We got on with it. I looked under the hood where the engine block had dropped into a muddy ditch. Considering where we were, kilometers from Dachau, not far from the German border, we catalogued each injury we foreigners endured: the hundred gallon tank of gas in Zagreb, the ten-year-old who slipped us ancient, worthless francs, our fly-by-night charter flight that left us on the ground. We survived. We cried until we laughed and rolled into the mud when a tow truck picked us up. The kindly Stuttgart driver made me think 26 · The Missouri Review of a happier vacation, searching for the only Ginseng farm in Georgia run by a German immigrant. He got out in '42, he said, but not before he bribed the Gestapo for his palace full of mementos: Lugers, helmets, Hitler's signature, and best of all, bottles of pure Rhine water. He almost wept at what he'd left behind. His memories of home were full of joy, and sadly, genuine. Now he owned all this land. From his window where he guarded his priceless treasures he pointed to the field of ginseng plants. We went looking for the bright red berries and brighter yellow leaves. Lovely as they were we dug on our hands and knees for the drab brown root. It woke us up. Do the wealthy suffer? In their leisure they pick up the pick the packaged root already ground to dust. And miss the awful pleasure of the dig. Ira Sadoff The Missouri Review · 27 ...


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