Two-by-sixes puzzle together in the foundation
of a railroad worker’s hands, air where the red
fruit of an adult summer would plop up, circled
in scrawny pine atop waterfront clay.
Five-year-old son splashing more primer
on himself than the wood, useful in company
and father-love, a Fisher-Price carpenter.
A winter, then a cottage where air
once steeped. Red stain barn fits its shape
atop old farmland harvested in neat fractions
by young couples from the city - Northumberland
now salting a subtle new monument.
The shelf is two skyscrapers too high, books
topping the open doorway to bunks
and the poorly masked smell of Porta-Flush;
the son, seven years tall but far from grown
enough, dreams of the pisan stack glowing
there in a reflection of picture window sun. Dad
and M’nuncle Petes trade them often, this dazzle
of red cars, green army men, and yellow dinosaurs
wafered in newsprint fourtone. Imagination races
with glossy covers until slammed to the brick wall
of their brotherly smiles -- ‘you’re too young,’ they say,
while flipping away in a betrayal of eagerness.
A hand reaches down from between ceiling cracks,
spaces left between a master bedroom floor
and the angular barn roof, deliberate oozing holes
for stove-warmth on cold nights. His arm
spans a half-stack too short, but even partial paper
treasure exceeds the hoped rewards for kid
cleverness. These holes, pre-assembled robber
trenches, had been spied two days prior; 60-watt
inspiration suggested a predator’s swoop, swift hawk’s
dive from the lofted beam skies. He fidgeted, a little snack
of impatience, until parents beachwalked into an hour’s
absence. Then, up the fold-down ladder he zoomed.
The books are spread Crowleyesque, paper ring
deliberate in splay to keep the order
intact, incantive protection of son from father’s
wrath and the knowledge of his trespass.
For a stopwatch of time, the boy is lost
to the covers, hypnotized by thrill of taboo
and their colourwash call. But urgency sounds
in its paranoian key, and he stabs randomly,
diving in. Chance opens the hybrid of dadly interests,
war and the supernatural - G.I. Combat explodes
his eyes in the clanking tracks of a Haunted Tank, and dying
messages shrapneled with finger pens, indelible blood ink.
The unfinished picture book nightmares
shell him for weeks, red letters curdling
on and on the wall of everywhere. Confession
is a no man’s line, so he thanks the god of beaches
for more parental wanderlust, pulleystrings
down his ladder to the forbidden, memorizes again
each loop on nail to mask his plunder with the art
of restoration. Courage rewards both troubled spirits -
boy and story are appeased with a happier ending,
underdog-tagged heroes whose recipe for survival
is never forsaking their good guy ways. Another book,
then another, and ink-lust newsreels him in, eager now.
They are gone one day, maybe a week before school
and the re-move to parish suburbia. He panics as to what gave
him away, the ladder mis-tucked or the pile not quite the right
angle of crooked. Maybe it was the peanut butter - a tiny stain
in a House of Mystery, glopped through careless hunger
for scary stories and a sandwich. Not a word from the parents,
though, and the young plunder ace wonders he is not punished,
a prisoner of war books. It is months, in a supermarket’s safety,
before he dares ask for one, a ‘comic book’. A crack of smile
through beard shows no hint of surprise, and up and away
to the rack they slink. No guns or horror screams there,
but a super man. “This will be good enough,” Dad says.
2002 -- (c) Frank "damonk" Cormier