The conversation went like this: I’m going to work on my deer stand. You can come if you want.
Oh, it’s optional?
You don’t have to. Come on Buckshot.
All four feet are ready for anywhere he can run like wind and fire.
I’m thinking, I could sit in the truck and read.
I go. Buckshot rides in my lap. Our four-wheel drive squishes and squirms 2.3 miles on rain-soaked roads. Buckshot jumps out of the window to chase a jake turkey. It flies off. He goes only as far as the edge of the woods, comesback and runs alongside the truck. It must feel great to run wide open. He's good for a mile or two at 25 mph.
We stop at an enclosed, abandoned stand near the road. I can't wait to read some more of The Book Thief.
Here, he says. Take this window cleaner and newspapers, climb up there and wash the windows.
Rats! There goes my reading time.
He goes ahead with a sling blade to clear a path. At the foot of the ladder, I look almost straight up. No way! He put up 300’ towers. I'm afraid to climb ten rungs. I get no sympathy. Focus. Both hands and both feet are engaged one rung at a time. I get to the top and have to make a choice. Stay standing, grab the rickety door frame and step in, or go in on hands and knees. Hands and knees win.
Here’s the broom. Sweep it out while you’re there.
The stand is about 4’ by maybe 6’ with a lawn chair taking up half the space. My every move is calculated. Plexiglas scratches and does not clean to glass standards. I clean a pair of small glass windows from the inside and reach as far as I can to wash one of them on the outside. He will need a ladder to wash them. You notice, I slipped that job onto him. Two windows were shot out. Not surprising. If a big buck was visible from that direction, the windows were expendable.
We are remote, but still, a man on a bulldozer comes down the road and stops. He asks my guy if he can help him fix blah blah on the dozer.
Sure. He comes to the stand and yells up, I’ll be gone about five minutes.
News flash: Mississippi minutes are not 60 seconds long; they can be hours or days or longer. I fantasize being Rapunzel, but even on a good day, I don’t have enough hair to “let down” far enough for anyone to climb up.
His 5" turned into an hour. While climbing the ladder, his phone rings. He frowns and nods. We’ll be there in thirty minutes. Deer stand repairs are abandoned. We go back to camp and find company. There’s no leaving until all the b.s.ing is done and everybody’s had a beer, except me.
We finally head out, and we can’t find Buckshot. I feel like Chevy Chase’s wife in that goofy vacation movie. We go without him, a first. I bury myself in The Book Thief so I don't worry about him. Twenty-five miles later,we load the piece of machinery. More b.s.ing amongst the adolescent grownups. More beer and I’m driving back as the sun dives below the horizon. Buckshot is waiting on the doorstep. We’re glad. He’s ecstatic.
It’s pitch dark. The outside barrel stove is still hot. The neighbor comes over with a plate. I brought your supper: three hot pieces of barbecued chicken and fries. Yum! All is well.
The guys chat around the fire. I slip away to The Book Thief. Horribly depressing, inspiring, humbling, too. I wish Liesel had kissed Rudy. It had never occurred to me to write a story from the perspective of the Angel of Death. Nice work Markus Zusak.
2013 Red Convertible Travel Series