Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Wow! (03/11/10)
TITLE: Paring Down
By Loren T. Lowery
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I was ten years-old and easily taken by the sun’s glint off the blade as granddaddy applied its honed edge to the twig. The twig long dried by its winter’s rest in the brambles of the wood pile next to the house carried with it memories. Last fall grandma and I collected it with hundreds of other from the nearby woods to be used as kindling to help heat our home.
But now, by the patient labor of my granddaddy’s hands in guiding the sweep of the blade, this one twig was being transformed. Not into so much of anything that I could see it becoming; but also into the shavings that lay white and curled at his dusty, booted feet.
A slight breeze disturbed the shavings, scattering them in gentle swirls, rattling them across the porch, pitching them out of sight beyond the edge of the porch.
“Whatcha’ thinkin’, Danny?” Granddaddy asks, without looking up.
“Nothin’,” I reply. I like talking to granddaddy. He always seems satisfied with short answers. He seems to know that sometimes answers are not expected and it takes a while for a mind to wake up from being asked.
He doesn’t always expect an answer either, knowing some questions are more a nuisance then anything else, like a fly you’d shoo away from your dinner plate. Or, if it’s a good question, a short answer would suffice until you had time to mull it over.
I stand and go into the barren dirt yard, colored and livened only by pecking hens – mostly Rhode Island Reds as Grandma calls them. I find and collect the whittled shavings. Somehow feeling they belong together, or maybe granddaddy might need them, later, to complete what he’s making. Cupping as many as I could, I set them in the growing pile at his feet.
“Did you teach Daddy to whittle?”
“Did. He carved a tiny roadster with turning wheels when he was ‘bout your age. Got it on my dresser, case you’d like it.” My face beams and he nods. “‘Course a few years later, he made himself a smokin’ pipe. Somethin’ your grandma wasn’t too proud of and made him toss it away.”
I smiled knowingly and he continues, “Got that hid in the same dresser.” He winks.
My parents were killed in a car wreck last year. My wearing a seat belt and not being thrown out a window is what saved me and mostly accounts why I’m living here with my grandparents.
“Teach me?” He simply nods and I don’t ask when because I know he’ll know when it’s time. “Whatcha’ makin?” I slide into his vernacular like slipping into my favorite jeans – the ones my parents had given me last Christmas. I know I’ll outgrow them someday, but not now, not today. Maybe never.
“What’s it look like?”
“Easy to do when you’re lookin’ too hard.”
I try not to stare, but still bring my face closer. The glint of the blade, up and back - his measured strokes, mesmerizing. I do see nothing. Yet, I’m oddly calm in the quiet of his work.
I rest my head on the pillar that attaches the stoop to the roof and continue to watch him – the twig diminishing, the white shavings increasing at his feet with every stroke. Even though I know it’s dead, I wonder if the twig feels any pain.
“I see a lot of your daddy in you.”
I fight tears and he is patient with me.
“He’d be proud; your ma, too.” A breeze kicks up, scattering the shavings again. I rise to collect them. “Let them be,” he calls gently.
I sit back down. “You don’t need them?” He shakes his head. “Not even for kindling?” He shakes his head again. “But the stick, it’s almost gone, too and it’s…it’s…”
“Nothing,” he finishes for me.
I search his face, his eyes. Suddenly I feel a peace I’d never thought possible.
A voice comes from behind us. Its grandma’s standing at the screened front door. “And what have my two men been up to?”
“Nothing,” we respond together, knowing her question to be a good one; and that a short answer would suffice until I, at least, had time to mull it over
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