The Book of Aric
by Doc Sawzall
I wage war, learn algebra, geometry and build a cabin
The pond was called Blueberry Pond and the island was called Ant Island. The names are pretty self explanatory. Blueberry Pond is about sixty five acres in size and Ant Island was about fifteen acres at best. All around the pond are native blueberry bushes and the island is a mix of some wood and field with a picnic clearing and an old stone outdoor fireplace just above the natural sandy beach. It gets its name for the prodigious number of ants that seem to find their way to the picnics held out there. In the summer and winter the pond and island offer another view and side of the farm.
It was here at the pond when the ice was first out as the days grew longer, that the first signs of a stirring earth wakened. The evening peepers singing their songs of love, the first of the trees to bud and leaf were confirmation that a new season had begun. The first tendrils of life rising from below ground and water, the wild grasses sprouting and the building of nests for all sorts of hatchlings soon to follow. The evening peepers gave way to the throaty calls of the bull frogs, the cry of the wood ducks as the spring matured and summer made its entrance. The wild rush to propagate over, early summer was the time for new life to expand its tenuous footholds. Grasses grew along with the leaves and newborns became yearlings. About the first or second week of June the necessary conditions for shucking ones clothes would arrive and the row boat taken out to the island and a festival of skinny dipping and hastily put together picnic lunches would commence.
If the old hickory tree and family plot was where I went to recharge my batteries and gather my emotions, the pond and island was where I would take Ethan when I needed to rut. While we were careful about where and when we would please each other, it was on the island that our constraints would melt away and we simply could be ourselves in uninhibited passion. There were times when I simply could not hold it all in, I had a need to share with nature our couplings. I needed to be free to express the myriad of joys our lovemaking produced, I was loud, encouraging assertive and when necessary, pliant. I needed to be naked without consequence, to drink in my lover's nudity and he mine. To lie lazily in each others arms and speak to our future, our plans for the farm, our lives together.
It was the first place fall arrived and winter settled its hoary grip as the heat of the seasons cooled. Fall would be presaged by a riotous explosion of colors of the weaker trees along the edges of the pond and island. Nuts would be gathered, seeds gleaned and harvested for the long winter season ahead. Burros, dens and warrens would be fortified and those who didn't fly south for the winter would settle in for the long, cold night. It would be shortly after Halloween that the first frail formations of ice would appear on the shaded edges of the pond. Often they would be lost as the day would heat up but as the days grew colder and shorter they spread until the pond was covered by skin of clear sheet ice. Invariably as the fragile coating of ice grew stronger with the onslaught of colder weather, it would thicken to a milky white as the winter solstice would arrive. Soon it would be thick enough that by the end of the year it would be safe to walk and skate on. Late winter afternoons we would gather firewood in our sleds and haul it over to the island where we would build a fire to warm our frozen toes. While the colder weather may have dampened our enthusiasm to a degree it did not lessen our ardor. I loved the cold breezes caressing my barely exposed naked bits. It increased our sense of urgency. Our couplings were direct and to the point, short and sweet and very satisfying. Our serious lovemaking was then confined to Ethan's bedroom on the nights I would crawl into bed with him after making sure my bed looked slept in. Many times we were content to lay there in each others arms; I would often look out his frost covered windows and admire the delicate formations on the windowpanes.
Winter was a time for taking stock, mending what needed fixing and fixing what was broken. It was a time to settle accounts and redouble efforts. To do the work necessary and be ready, prepared for the time the sun chased the frost away and the warmed earth was ready to be worked again.
I did my inventory and settled my internal accounts, and mended what needed fixing, my world was forming nicely around me. I was winning the daily, weekly and now monthly battles with my folks. I had stolen their ammunition. It wasn't a fair fight and I would fight till Ethan returned. Their disappointments in me turned into a sense of chagrin which gave way to a reluctant acceptance. With that I forced their blessings however uncomfortably. I simply needed to stay the course. I had written letters to Ethan and received letters from him. While I wouldn't articulate my plan, I would share my success, my improved grades and my new attitude. My rewards were his simple words of encouragement and pride in my achievements. That was my reason for being and it was enough.
It was day or so after Christmas that first winter with Ethan away serving his country that I found myself, spending as much of my vacation up at the farm as I could get away with. Sitting in the living room was a rather large, gift wrapped box. Mr. and Mrs. Tompkins had waited till I had completed my chores and called me in to the living room. The box was from Ethan and while it was addressed to his parents there was a smaller box, a box about the size of a shoebox, addressed to me. We opened the larger box, and there, lo and behold, was a brand new color TV. While none of us had given much thought to the old black and white as it was just fine, this was a surprise, a real treat. They passed me the box addressed to me and I held it, stared at it knowing his hands picked the gift out, wrapped and sent it to me. I tried to send something earlier and asked what he needed; Ethan simply flat out refused to let me buy him anything. He was adamant, when he got like that I knew better than to argue. He was the only one who could bend me to his will when necessary, all he asked of me was the continued improvement that I had so recently started. There was a letter that came with the box with instructions to open later, when I was alone. With nervous anticipation I opened the box and removed the packaging material. It was a brand new thirty five millimeter camera with an assortment of lenses and a check to cash so I could buy film and get it developed. There was a note taped to the camera that he wanted pictures, a photo album of the stuff we did and around the farm.
The letter was another matter together. In so many words he told me how much he loved and missed me. That his tour was halfway through and he was hoping to be stationed in Europe, probably Germany. There was much unsaid between the lines and a promise to fly me over if he pulled duty in Europe.
Later one evening just after supper when Mr. Tompkins was helping me with my algebra and geometry and we were discussing, rather I was discussing just how useless and pointless it was, when he showed me how he used both of them, the fundamental principals in problem solving around the farm. Looking at me he asked if I liked taking woodshop class. I told him yes, I liked making things with my hands, I liked that I could see the tangible results of my efforts. He explained how both of those subjects were the fundamental building blocks of much that took place on the farm and what I liked to make in woodshop. I was so thoughtfully and carefully prodded in a direction I needed to go in. It was important to mix with my college prep courses some practicality. I said thanks and expressed my appreciation but I was going to draw the line at taking Home Economics. He laughed and left me to finish what I was working on. A short while later I joined the both of them in the living room to watch some TV.
Looking back I had wished the TV had never come into the house. When I got into the living room the news was on and they went to a segment that was discussing the war. On the black and white TV, the black and white the images of the war seem to be removed or further away from the subjects being discussed and shown. It was if it was a newsreel of events that had happened in the past. In glorious living freaking color however, the horror of the war was shown close-up, in all of its brutality and violence. It took on a whole new dimension, there's blood, burned bodies and blackened villages. Images of planes bombing and lives destroyed in glorious living color. It was where my Ethan was and all of a sudden I got very, very…scared. I couldn't watch and made my excuses.
I figured I could come back in after the news so I made myself scarce and went and reread his letter. He was talking about as how he wanted to fishing down at the pond; he wanted a 'trout' just about my size. He figured he had the right 'bait' and he couldn't wait to camp out on the island again…I chuckled at the thought of it, remembered the last time we camped overnight on the island. We were all snuggled inside a tent when the skies opened up. We got soaked, not wet, but drenched. That old tent was good for keeping the mosquitoes away and affording some privacy but not much else. The rain was hard enough to put the fire out and fully douse the embers. We gathered out things, rowed back to the farm, hung our wet clothes, tent and sleeping bag on the clothesline and scurried up to Ethan's room. We dried each other off, warmed each other with our hands and tended to pressing matters. We suckled each other and nursed our essences. Ethan smelled like linen that night and had a soft downy quality to his hair. Where I lightly touched his skin tiny goose bumps would form. I lightly traced a finger down the length of his shaft and softly teased his tightening sac. He returned the favor and took delight in stroking the hairless sides of my pubic mound. He would bring me close and slow down, he loved to prolong my agony, and I was more of the mind that once I started on him, that I was going to bring that pony to the finish line a winner. I would try not to telegraph my impending climax but invariably my body would betray me. Once he knew I was going over the edge he would follow, the sounds of my breathing and gasps of keeping pace, not to slow down but to stay the course. He was good at timing his release and I swear he could get to orgasm in three strokes or less if needed. We had long ago learned the fun of sixty nine. And while he would be keeping me in agony, he just seemed to coast along until he was ready to let me…go. I could count on like clockwork that as I exploded, he shortly followed.
So here I was sitting at the kitchen table, avoiding the news on the TV, reading Ethan's letter on 'trout' fishing and dreaming of a night on the island, I just didn't want a repeat of the downpour. Then it hit me, what we needed all along, a screened in cabin on the island.
Ethan was adamant that I wasn't to buy or send him anything, my letters were enough. It was frustrating and the way around it I figured, would be to build a cabin on the island. I would make something for him. Now a normal kid more than likely would have made a wallet or a footstool but I've never been normal. This is how I got into trouble so many times; I had the idea, just not a clue as to how I was going to pull it off. I was pretty excited about it and the more I thought about it the possibility seemed probable. The minor issues were lumber, transport, labor and permission. The major issues, well I didn't want to go there and get discouraged so they were best left alone. I figured I would sketch something out in woodshop and would ask the instructor for some basic guidance.
It worked out better than I expected, through woodshop I was able to have my instructor work with me on getting plans that he had available to him. There was even some reference material in the school library and I spent the rest of that week's classes huddled over the material available to me. The following weekend I selected the cabins I liked best and sorted through them. From that list I developed a list of features that I wanted to incorporate and went back to my instructor. He gave me the basics in drafting and I put together a crude sketch of what I wanted. With his help I was able to come up with a basic set of plans, enough so I could now estimate what I was going to need for materials. That was going to be a problem. I figured I could scavenge some of what I needed but it wouldn't be enough. Mr. Tompkins had an agreement with Hopkins Lumber, they had a local mill and on occasion they would cut wood on the farm and leave a percentage of wood cut for future use about the farm.
I was now at the point where I needed to speak with Mr. Tompkins about my plan. I figured I needed to have everything logically laid out so I could convince him I had put in the necessary work and what I wanted to do was feasible. We sat down that Saturday night and I had my discussion. I reasoned that it was something we could all enjoy, while it looked daunting I had a schedule of events, not fixed dates but the tasks necessary listed in order from beginning to end.
He was impressed with the details and his concern was on the lumber I didn't have or could put my hands on. I was stumped as well. Getting up and fixing a cup of coffee he hit upon a solution. It would require more of my time and labor but it would solve the problem. The old hay shed past the workshop needed to come down; it was no longer in use and needed to go. Almost all of what I needed was in that shed. If I was careful in tearing it down I could reuse most of the lumber and salvage the tin roof. If I was willing to do the work necessary to tear down the old hay shed then Mr. Tompkins would have a word with Hopkins Lumber Yard for the remainder.
It was cold out those winter days when I was busy tearing down the old hay shed. I stacked and sorted the boards as I pulled them off and removed the old nails, I even kept those. When the day was to dark or too cold and the weather uncooperative, I was in the workshop at the anvil straightening out those nails. I had a couple of pails full by the time I was done. The frame of the old shed was a bit more difficult but Mr. Tompkins gave me a hand and without much trouble it was down and sorted. We were into the second week of February when the tear down was finished. As I had removed the nails and sorted the lumber by size, I kept an inventory of what I had and what I was going to need and each day I would check off what I had of the list I was keeping. I was close and would need some additional items from Hopkins Lumber Yard. I was going to need a few rolls of tarpaper, some glass to fix the broken windows I had salvaged, paint for the tin roof and new hardware for the door.
The next trick was to get all of what I had gathered out to the island. I built a sled out of one of the old doors to the hay shed and got 'Old Betsey' fired up. That was a bitch; she had to be hand cranked and the cold made all of her moving parts like a jug of molasses left outside on a winter's day. It was a test of wills and with a little gas down the carburetor I was able to get her going. I loaded the sled for the first trip and hauled everything out to the island. The ice groaned and cracked a bit but we made it across and I shoveled out an area for my lumber pile. It was slow going, this work on weekends, and by the time I had gotten everything out to the island there was a delivery from the lumber yard. I made a couple of more trips that Saturday morning and what I needed was done. My last trip out was to bring out the old cast iron cook stove that was in one of the milking parlor storerooms. It took some doing maneuvering that behemoth out to the sled but I managed. I took the legs off and grabbed four fence posts. Like the Egyptians of old, I rolled it right out the door and onto the sled. When I got to the island I hauled it to a spot where it would be out of the way and covered the stove with the sled turned upside down.
Waiting for the ground to thaw and the ice to finally give way seemed to be an interminable delay. I used part of that time setting the poles I would need to build a dock for the rowboat at both ends. I used and axe to open the ice up and then I used the posthole digger to dig a hole in the soft bottom muck of the pond. At least the muck wasn't frozen. The poles were cut to the lengths I needed and sharpened at the bottom. Once I thought I had the holes deep enough, I placed the pole in the hole and took a sledgehammer to it. I drove it down as far as I could and then set about setting the others. Once the poles were all in place, I attached the framing that would carry the surface of the dock. I could build that part once the ice was out. Mrs. Tompkins would be able to go back and forth without getting her feet wet.
I needed to bring the bags of cement out. I had already found the sand and rocks I would need to mix with the cement for the cabin footings, but if I had brought it out with the lumber it would have hardened and been useless. Mind you, the bags were ninety pounds of Portland cement and getting them down to the row boat and up to where I was going to need them was a real workout.
I was finally able to get the docks completed and footings dug and poured by the end of March and the framing done by the end of April. May saw the siding and the roof go on and by the first week of June the finished floor, windows and screening was done. A crude well had been dug and we could pump water up into the cabin. Up at the edge of the clearing as far away from the well as possible, I built an outhouse. I had remembered to get the cook stove in position before the framing was complete and Mr. Tompkins set about ensuring it was hooked up correctly. With assistance where I needed it, when things were to cumbersome or difficult to manage alone, Mr. Tompkins would lend a hand and then back off. He left to me the bulk of the work and would point out errors or offer tips. It wasn't large but it suited our needs, there was the main room with a living area and cook stove, a bedroom along with a bunkroom that would sleep four. I used my algebra and geometry in real world applications and it made sense. We found some old chairs, tables and beds and brought them out.
The second week of June saw my fifteenth birthday, school would be out in a week and we decided after my birthday with my folks, we would celebrate at the new cabin on the island. Mrs. Tompkins fired up the cook stove and made a scrumptious dinner of pan fried pork chops with early garden greens and a cherry pie for desert. We sat around after the meal on the screened porch and watched the sunset. I brought everyone back to the farm and returned to spend the night at the cabin. Ethan's gift was ready.
I had a birthday card from Ethan and I managed to keep it till I had returned to the cabin. I read it by the light of the oil lantern. I was a horny fifteen year old goat when I finished reading between the lines. It wasn't so much that was said but how it was said, the innuendo. The carefully crafted hints and reminders, of his lust and desire, the missing of our times together, I was going to have to release some tension later that evening.
For the most part, he always managed to keep the conversation focused on things around the farm or me, my school work and if I was managing ok. I would tell him how lonely things were but was coping, I copied my grades and sent them off to him and I tried to keep him abreast of the seasons at the farm. I was taking pictures and sending them to him, I managed a few shots of me as well. The camera had a ten second delay so I would have enough time to stand where needed. There was one picture I sent, barely dressed of course, that left very little to the imagination, I heard about that for months afterward. I would hear constantly just how proud he was of me and to remember to stay the course, he was closer to coming home than when he first left. He appreciated those letters, I have them still, and while they may be dog-eared and somewhat yellowed, they still speak to who we were. He saved my letters as well and when the nights grow longer and the days colder I read them to us. I feel the same today as I did then and I know he does.
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