“Creak!” The old house’s door swings open as I push it. The air smells of freshly cut grass, and, sure enough, the growl of a lawn mower can be heard, coming from the house next door. I leap out the door, over the steps, and land with my pink, flip-flopped feet in the sandy gravel. The sun is smiling down from up in the clear blue sky.
I bound through the stubby grass, heading for one of my favorite places in all of Port Austin—the backyard. I turn the corner, pass the shed, and get a rock stuck in my shoe. Panting, I look around. Disappointment wells up inside of me. Nope, not here. Then an idea comes, and I dart back around the shed, past the corner, and into the garage.
The first thing I notice as my eyes adjust to the darkness is the buzz of a saw. Then I feel sawdust spraying my bare legs, and then I see him. Clad in a protective face mask and thick gloves, my grandpa appears somewhat like the Terminator. When he sees me, he stops the saw and flips the face mask up. “Hello, sweetie!” he exclaims.
“Hi, Grandpa!” I respond and start to step forward, only to be stopped by a box of stuff. I scooch around the box and ask, “What are we going to do today?” He ponders this for a moment.
“Aha!” Grandpa exclaims, surprising me. “Today,” he says very matter-of-factly, “we are going to make… a swing!” Before I can say something, he snatches his silver, wire-rimmed glasses out and fumbles to put them on. He shuffles around boxes and beach toys and then opens a cabinet. He pulls a long, red-and-white, tightly coiled rope out, muttering to himself. “And this, and this, and this, and then we’ll take that board I just cut, and then…” He shuffles around some more, gathering boxes and ropes in his arms. He strolls outside the garage and plops his armload onto the glass patio table.
“So…” I start to say but am interrupted.
“Aha!” Grandpa interjects. He dashes into the garage and soon arrives with a bow and arrows and a spool of wire. I clear my throat and start talking.
“So, what on earth are we doing?”
Grandpa continues tying the red-and-white rope to the wire. “Grandpa!!” I clear my throat again. He glances up.
“Oh… sorry. Um, well, this arrow,” my grandpa reaches over and grabs one of the arrows, “is going to soar over that tree limb.” He points toward an old tree limb growing off of an old tree that towers above us.
“Then?” I ask.
“Uh-huh,” he continues, “and the arrow will have that wire attached to it. Then, we’ll pull all the ropes over the limb and tie it to the seat.”
“The seat?” I question.
“The wooden board,” Grandpa tells me. By the time he’s done saying that, the rope/wire is tightly tied to the end of the arrow. I leap up in anticipation.
He smiles as he tucks the arrow tightly into its nock and raises the bow. Tufty and gray, my grandpa’s hair is a mess, as usual. Grandpa closes one eye, squints, and bites his tongue as he carefully takes aim. He pulls back, lets go, and… whoosh! The arrow soars through the air and I run underneath with my arms extended, like a football player ready to catch a pass.
There is a crinkle and a ripping noise of leaves, but the arrow is too low and strikes the ground with a dull thud. We nock the second arrow. Pull back, let go. It soars, straight and true, but again is too low. Crack! The arrow lodges itself in the tree. Holding our breath, Grandpa and I stare intently at the arrow, and, sure enough, after a few seconds, it falls to the ground.
The tree limb towers above us, intimidating as ever. Third arrow. Nock it, pull back, let go. It soars higher than the rest, over the branch, a blur of silvery wire. Red and white, the rope follows closely behind. “Yippee!” I cheer, jumping up and down.
“Don’t get too excited,” Grandpa warns me, “we’re not done yet.”
Yanking as hard as we can, we pull the rope over the tree limb. I dash to the patio table and grab the wooden board. Two holes have already been drilled in it, so we thread the rope through them and use metal fasteners to secure the rope. Finally, the swing is done.
I hop on the swing and push off as hard as I can. Within minutes, I am up high. Flying through the sky, with the wind whistling through my hair, I feel like a bird. I can see the sun smiling down at me and hear the lawn mower from next door. I can see my grandpa standing there, gazing up at me as he gathers up the spool of wire and the fasteners. He has a twinkle in his blue-gray eyes, and it isn’t hard to realize that he was once an engineer and is proud that I take after him. He grins at me and I smile back, lovingly.