“I know you think the wood is the most important part. But it’s not. What makes the furniture is the joints. The joints hold the wood together. It won’t matter what kind of wood you start with. If the joints are bad, the furniture won’t last. That’s why we spend so much time on the joints.”
Vianna rolled her eyes and looked at the ceiling, one foot digging in the sawdust at their feet like a nervous animal pawing at the floor. She had mastered the bored look. She had spent enough time watching the popular girls at school. Had spent countless hours poring over the jaded faces of models in her favorite magazines. Entire chunks of her teenage life had been devoted to copying the look of the professionally-bored student actors on TV shows. She knew how to look bored.
“Yeah. I know. Boring. Right?” He put the plane down and started to rummage through the toolbox on the bench without taking his eyes off her.
“Yeah, Grandpa. Boring. Booooooring!” She smiled.
“You know what’s boring, granddaughter?” he holds up a couple of nails. Long, brown nails, bent in some places. Used nails. The look like they’ve been recovered from Noah’s ark. Vianna wouldn’t be surprised if Grandpa said he’d worked on that too. He was always telling her stories that she knew couldn’t be true.
If Grandpa’s stories were history, he’d been an apprentice in the shop where they made the cross that Jesus was crucified on. He hadn’t worked on it himself. No. That would carry too much emotional baggage. But he’d been there. Had seen it all unfold.
If Grandpa’s stories were history, he’d been one of the guys who helped them bend the first piece of wood back onto itself to form a circle. And when they got it to stay round, they’d made the first wheels that weren’t just a cross section of wood but a thin strip that formed a tire of sorts. Yeah, he’d been there for that.
If Grandpa’s stories were history, he’d been sick one time. The only time he had ever allowed himself to be sick and he thought he wasn’t going to make it. The fever, Grandpa had called it. Like there was only one fever. Never mind that, he had said when he was telling his made up story. He was sick, and didn’t want to die with his invention still a secret. So he had whispered the idea to his friend, Henry, right before he succumbed to the fever. He gave him the block of wood he’d been designing for years. And when he woke up, the car had been constructed. His car. The tiny car he had whittled from wood had been made into a vehicle, big enough for a man and his friends to sit in and drive around. His idea. And his friend, Henry, who everyone was now calling Mr. Ford, refused to talk to him because he was ashamed.
If Grandpa’s stories were history, he’d built the house that he himself was born in.
If Grandpa’s stories were history, he had walked the fifty miles each way every day to build the house that Vianna was born in so many years later.
Now, he took the longest of the brown, rusted nails. It looked like it was about four inches long. Vianna didn’t even know they made nails that length. She’d never seen them before and she’d spent most of her free time in this workshop watching Grandpa work.
He dropped the other nails on the bench and they rolled around, searching for a resting place on the perfectly level workbench. He took up the hammer and put the nail against her shoulder.
“Want to see boring?” The blunt edge of the four inch nail rested on her shoulder but Vianna knew, without being able to see, that his finger was under it. He poised the hammer as if he was going to strike then leaned forward to meet her eyes. “Ready to be bored?”
She pushed his hand away, grinning, moving in for the hug. The smell of sweat, and sawdust, and mint balls swirled around her as she rested her head on his large chest but she didn’t notice anymore. She had spent so much time with him, his smell lined her nostrils. It was the wallpaper on an entire section of her brain. She was more likely, now, to notice how she missed his smell when he was away, when she hadn’t seen him for a long time, more than a week, and the wallpaper started falling down, needing a fresh application of glue.
Grandpa was always teasing her. But not in the way her friends did. Not in the way anyone else did.
If Grandpa’s stories were history, he was the oldest living man in the world. The oldest man in history. The oldest man who ever lived.
Which is why when her mother woke her up that night, nothing made sense.
It was the Sunday after her fifteenth birthday party.
It was a week since she had sat in his carpenter’s workshop and listened to the boring story about wood joints, complete with the faux “boring”, complete with a hammer and rusty four-inch nails. It was a week since she had last hugged him and thought that he was the only part of her life that made sense.
It was a random Sunday night following a rare weekend that she had spent at home doing random weekend things, the kind of truly boring stuff that she did when she wasn’t at Grandpa’s house. She had thought about him all day, every time she’d been bored. And she had smiled.
It was just another Sunday night when she’d finally gone to sleep.
But then Mom shook her awake and sat on her bed and told her Grandpa was dead. Vianna got up, looked at her mother’s watery eyes, absorbed the information, then put the covers over her head and went back to sleep, convinced it couldn’t be true.
If Grandpa’s stories were history, he couldn’t die.
She must be dreaming.
Copyright (C) 2015 by Karen Wright
The above is an excerpt from an ongoing creative writing project which will probably be heavily edited in the future. Please do not copy or otherwise share this content.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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