Saturday, August 17

Sharing Shorts: Screen Door


Squirrel Lake


Screen Door
by Richard Becker

Every summer we migrated north with the birds, flocking to a family lake cottage deep in the woods. My Grandfather built most of it: thick logs fashioned into a home and painted green; big bay windows on the west side to catch the reflection of the sun off the waves; a screen door on the east with a squeak that said welcome home.

It was a retreat where family members gathered to remember some things and forget others, caught up in all the charm and challenge of living the moment. Who would win at penny-ante poker? Who would pull in the biggest fish? Who was old enough to claim their right of passage by plunging into the water and swimming a mile to the other side of the lake? Who would lose their marshmallows in the bonfire made from an old boat that had outlived its purpose?

It was a place with backwood rules. Flush for two but not for one. Flip the bail closed on the spinning reel before the lure touches the water. Never buy bait because it’s easy enough to dig up nightcrawlers in the morning or net minnows in the early afternoon. Expect to clean what you catch unless it’s a Muskie. Never let a screen door slam, and expect someone to call after you if you do. “Don’t let the screen door slam.”

The last time I shut it quietly behind me, my Grandfather was half the man I remembered. Lymphoma had stolen most of him. We didn’t take the boat out or pick wild berries or climb the watchtower. There were no accidents on my uncle’s radio to run to or trails to mark or gardens to tend. We settled on telling each other a few good stories before he lifted a broom above his head for exercise.

It was the last time I ever saw him, and the last time I ever walked through the front door again. The cottage was sold by his second wife a few years later, compounding everyone’s sense of loss with reoccurring emptiness that comes around every summer. Looking back, I should have slammed it.

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Screen Door is not so much a short as it a scrap — a warmup for things to come. For more shorts, scraps, and classes, follow my page @byRichBecker on Facebook. Goodnight and good luck.
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