January 14, 2009
By Eric Maltz, Princeton, NJ

“Did I ever tell you the story about the hurricane? We had to move from our big house in Orlando, Florida to this small house in Ithaca, New York because the hurricane knocked over our house and Grandpa lost his job as a craftsman. Our elegant house, compared to all the others in the neighborhood, had this huge pool with a water slide that I would wiz down as soon as I got home from school. Grandpa was very creative as a craftsman on metal jewelry. He would make some of the most exquisite pieces of jewelry for his customers but especially for Grandma.

McKinley paused for a second to put another log on the fire. Outside the snow was swirling around the trees and its branches. Peter, his eight year old son, was always grateful to have the day off from school because his father would tell him amazing stories about his past. “As I was saying,” McKinley continued, “you may be wondering why we chose Ithaca. This is because Grandma was borne and raised here. Grandma and Grandpa may get along now, but they used to fight over Grandpa getting a job. Grandma would always yell at Grandpa and he would just sit there and ignore her. I just started tenth grade in a new school, Ithaca High School, and you know how it feels to start a new grade. Imagine how I felt when I just get home from the first day at my new school and my parents are yelling at each other.”

“One day I just got so fed up with all the yelling that I just walked out of the house. I didn’t know where I was going, but I just wanted to get away for awhile. After about five minutes of walking in freezing cold weather, I saw a frozen lake through the gnarled, leafless tree branches. I went down to the bank of the ice covered lake to explore the ice. I was not entirely sure if it was completely frozen, so I picked up the biggest rock I could find then chucked it as far as I could on to the lake’s surface. It landed with a deep clunk, so I figured it was safe to proceed. I took about ten steps on to the lakes mirror like surface when I saw something shimmering in the distance. I was curious to what it could be, so I started to run, but I slipped, and landed hard on my bottom. I was a quick learner and decided to walk the rest of the way instead. Then I saw the window of a cabin sparkling in the sunlight!

When I finally arrived to the island where the wooden cabin stood, I liked at it for awhile. I could tell it was old because vines had grown all over the left side of it. I decided to go inside. The door creaked as I opened it. Because the air seemed to be colder inside the cabin then out side, it made me feel slightly uneasy so; I chose to take a look around the cabin. When I got around to the back I noticed an old, cracked wooden shed. When I opened the door to the shed it had what looked like tools to carve wood but, at the time I was not entirely sure that’s what they were.

As I turned to make my way home, I noticed a short old man looking at me. He was wearing a brown wool cap, a thick brown wool sweater, and black winter boots with his pant legs tucked into them. He approached me and said inquiringly, “I have not seen your face around here”. I answered, “I just moved here with my parents from Florida”. “Big change, huh, you don’t get snow in Florida”. “It is a little odd for me, but I am sure I will get used to all the snow soon. By the way, do you know what kind of tools are in the shed behind the cabin”? “They are wood carving tools. There is a story behind these old tools, but it is too cold to tell you out here. If you come with me to my house, I will tell you their store there”. I was a bit hesitant; because I just met the guy, but in the end, I decided to go.

When we arrived to his property, he unlocked the rusty metal gate with a key that looked to be as old as he was. We walked up an uneven brick path to his front door. The house was small, had only two layers, and was made out of stone. It had tow windows in the front with green shutters. He unlocked the door with another key and went inside. There was a coat rack to my left with many different styles of coats hanging on it where I hung up my heavy winter coat on the only available hanger. Then I put my boots underneath it. Then I followed the old man into the living room that smelled like new leather. I could feel the warmth of the fireplace on the right side of my face. As I started to sit down on the big brown leather chair, I was startled by the meowing of a black and white cat that was sitting on the carpet staring at the fire. The cat was staring so intently at the fire it almost seemed to be in some kind of trance. The old man sat down in an identical chair across from me. He told me that his name was Ernest. Then I told him that my name was McKinley. Then he started the story.

“I was around your age, when I first met the people that owned that cabin. There was a story that, the people who owned that cabin were really mean. One summer day, my friends and I were swimming in the lake. They dared me to swim across the lake, knock on the door, and talk to the owners. I was not one to turn down a challenge, so I did. I knocked on the door and they answered. When they did the owners said kindly,”How nice to have a visitor. We don’t get many. Would you like to come in”? They said it so nicely that I said “Sure”. When I stepped inside, all my friends thought I was doomed.

When I first walked in I felt awkward, I surveyed the considerable open spaced interior. I saw a closed door to another room straight ahead of me and to the right of the room were stairs leading up to the second floor. To my left I saw a leather couch facing a wooden table and two wooden chairs that looked to be hand made because the furniture was not completely even on its surface. Above them were deer antlers that looked like crooked tree branches jutting out of the wall. To my right I saw a round dining room table made out of pine wood, smoothed until you could just make out the reflection of your face. There where matching chairs on each side which were next to the window. There was a little neatly made bed before the stair case, which I assumed was for a guest. The wife offered me a glass of fresh ice cold lemonade. Of course after swimming all that was I said yes so, she went into the kitchen to get a glass.

When she returned I sat down on the couch and the couple sat on the two chairs. They asked m my name and I casually told them my first name. Then I asked if the chairs the owners of the house where sitting on were hand made. They said “We made them ourselves”. I would like to learn to make objects out of would too, would you teach me? The couple said yes. Then I finished my lemonade. Said my goodbyes and returned to my friends.

After Ernest finished the story, I told him that Grandpa bought a small shop in hopes to start up work again. Then I asked him if he would teach me to carve wood so I could teach Grandpa. After pondering the question awhile, he told me I could come after school. It was getting late so I said “Good bye” and left. When I returned home Grandma was worried sick. She said “Where have you been” I told her about my adventure. Then she said “You can make the suggestion to teach his to carve wood in the morning but, now it is late and you need your sleep”.

I awoke the next morning to the pleasant aroma of bacon and eggs. I got dressed and went downstairs to eat breakfast. After breakfast, I made the suggestion to Grandpa to learn to wood carve so he could start up work again. He thought it was a good idea and agreed to come with me after school. After school, I walked home to and got Grandpa. We walked to Ernest’s house and he greeted us with a smile. He said “Come in” after he and Grandpa got acquainted; he took us upstairs to the room where he did his work. The lesson lasted for about an hour. Then we went home. We did this for about two months. After this two month period Grandpa opened up the shop and soled the wide array of wooden items we made. I worded as his assistant. Because Grandpa got a job he and Grandma stopped fighting with him. That is the end of my story. “Wow that was a great story dad” said Peter, and then went outside to play in the snow.

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