For My Grandad on his 97th Birthday

Power Snakes

It was the kind of August day where you could smell winter coming, something indefinable, the smell of snow at the tail end of the summer breeze, hitching a ride. Up until that point, it had been hot, the kiddie pool set up the lawn, which baked in the sun, our relief an escape into the woods, down the path, footsteps sinking slightly in the moss of the ancient forest floor, the brook’s eager journey over pebbles, tickling our thirst. Arron tossed a naked Carter into the lake, Carter’s face full of fear and shock and delight all at once.

The cooler day prompted the workers into action. Mom, Olivia, Carter and I watched through the giant kitchen window, the dance of two who could not sit still – a pas des deux between shed and Jolly House and then down the path, arms full of tools and lumber mirrored by tiny hands making balls of dough into cookies. There was very little chit chat between them – a language of silent signals, a word, a nod.

Later, full of cookies, and soup and bored with blocks and Lego, a small one demanded to find daddy, and so with a screetch and a slam we followed the forget-me-nots to the path we knew so well. But today, there was a visitor, a brown snake twisting and turning before turning white and then orange and looking menacing as its impossibly long body meandered in our direction, to the lake. We heard footsteps approaching, a shirtless Arron in shorts and flip flops.

“Jesus Bird! Be careful! Don’t let Carter near all these extension cords!”
“Isn’t this dangerous? All these cords linked like this?”
“You know your Grandad…” Arron shrugged, accepting the makeshift power supply, accepting the authority of the elder. “Just be really careful, OK?”

I smiled, as I put a little hand in my other hand, away from the danger, knowing the bite of this particular snake could be fatal. The snake disappeared into the cashmere grasses and for a moment we thought we were safe, until it reappeared, crossing the tiny footbridge, its one plank missing. By now we could hear the high pitch scream of a saw, a giant insect prompting little hands to cover ears. As the lake appeared before us, a nest of activity had taken over where before only a grassy knoll had lain sleeping its eternal sleep. The sharp smell of newly cut cedar blended with the old forest and the knoll now had an amour, a platform wide and square. “Solid” as all things built by Arron aspired to be. Grandad stood on the platform, peering out at the lake, surveying his land from this new vantage point, awestruck anew.

Arron returned holding two open beers and handed one to his comrade in arms, engineer of platforms, purveyor of power-laden snakes. Together they stood, quietly proud of their shared accomplishment, content with mutual respect.

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