Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Tool Shed

From House in the Attic

I walked back through the house to the tool shed. Wasn't that where a man was supposed to hide out? A blue drop cloth draped the tractor mower; the leaf blower had been detached and stored in the back corner next to the snow blower attachment. I stared at the snow blower chute. I stepped up and took a close gander. Standing over the blades didn't frighten me, but I was deeply respectful. The blades looked so benign, so cold, so still. But I felt like they were alive and just waiting for me to crank up the tractor. I imagined the feeling of my whole arm grinding up in that machine. I heard the blades jam for second, then the thunk, the infinitesimal hesitation, the blade winning, the crushed gore sensation, the blood and tendon and yellow fat shot into the new falling snow. I saw my arm in the chute all the way to the elbow and felt the flash terror that no one would come and get me out. I remembered the white heat and this mess that was luckily only my hand hanging in front of me. I held my broken hand with my good one and listened to the wind and the silence between the wind. I put my tongue on the roof of my mouth to control the fear. In a few seconds it worked.

I looked at the hanging tools, the cans of lubricating oil, neetsfoot oil, WD 40, hanging paintbrushes, a small American flag stuck in an empty mayonnaise jar. It had forty-nine stars. I smelled oiled machinery and leaves, the dank cement floor, the faint odor of grass and fertilizer. How many people have stood in all the tool sheds everywhere? Portifino, San Miguel Allende, Odessa? Men who escaped the house, to fix, to screw, to bolt, to mow, to shovel, to fertilize something. I heard the little pops of the oil can pressed at the bottom, the slurpy thick gush pumped into the little holes in all the tiny corners of all the lawnmowers and moving parts in my life. There was a little spill on the cement floor, and a toss of sawdust on the spill. Hand pushed lawnmower blades clicked through long summer, whirred in the air over the edge of the terrace, balked in the rocky back lot. Invisible June bugs bore a steady song through the heavy air, and never ending grass kept right on growing. Teenagers romped in their new bodies, raced through the warm nights fueled by super-electric hormones, the fresh smell of swimming and hot dogs. The chatter and shriek of their dreams echoed across all the little afternoon ponds and lakes and swimming pools everywhere. How magical tool sheds are, I thought. How forgiving and deadly, how seemingly cool even in summer when the spider dances its eternal ballet, wraps its fresh flies in a mad whirl of deadly ribbon along the window panes, and up into the dark beams. Now, the tool shed was leaf quiet. Cobwebs covered the window and outside I saw a small blue rubber ball lying in the wet February grass. Beyond that, birch trees. I heard the wind race low along the lawn. It rushed right at me. I turned my head and it raced off. I cupped my left hand in my right held it until both hands felt like they were the same temperature. I felt closer to home for the first time in years.

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