A Ship Made of Grass and Dirt

foughtGrandpa tilled the fields out back with a hat on, the plow slicing through soil like a prow. He carried a pitchfork into the house to eat lunch. After he finished, he’d toss it on the table and say, “Well, I should get back in the water.” He fought pirates between church pews and soothed lions in the dark circus of the barn. For him, rest was a not-yet-smoked cigar in a pocket; faith was a dahlia bulb in a pot in March.

foughtGrandma dug the root cellar of our house herself. She told people she’d found a mammoth bone and dragged it to some bigwig in the city. I believed her. I believed her just as surely as I believed the Martian landscapes tucked between pages on her nightstand, or the dreams of her children tucked between clean sheets upstairs. She swallowed whole planets and then went outside to feed the pigs even when the icebox in the corner shook its head no.

foughtThey plotted their course together. No maps, no calipers—just using each other as their north star. They slept side-by-side each night on flypaper and still woke each morning to add rungs to their ladder. On Saturdays, they’d test its sturdiness by leaning it against the sky and they’d climb—Grandma’s bloomers would always show, but no matter. The people of the town would look up at them like astronomers, but call them boastful later. The pageantry, they’d say, was shameful.

foughtNow Grandma and Grandpa are the tin bathtub in the kitchen; they are comets drawn on paper; they are the sea air crackling around me as I tie my shoes.

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13 Replies to “A Ship Made of Grass and Dirt”

  1. Oh my god. Nate! I can’t even. I love this so much. It brought tears to my eyes and left a lump in my throat. I wanted to sink into those words and keep reading their magic. I love the import of them sleeping side by side on fly paper, the image of climbing up to the sky – all of it. Such a lilting, lyrical tribute to true love and family and all that is good in people.

  2. My favorite line was also the one about faith. I also liked how grandma dug the root cellar and found the mammoth bone and also ate whole planets and then went to feed the pigs. The story had a very over the top, tall tale quality to it.

  3. Oh I love this. I love how you applied fantastical and sci-fi imagery to the earthiness of farmers. I want more from these grandparents! I especially liked: “She swallowed whole planets and then went outside to feed the pigs,” “On Saturdays, they’d test its sturdiness by leaning it against the sky and they’d climb—Grandma’s bloomers would always show, but no matter.”

  4. That was a lovely lyrical journey. Best lines for me were “They plotted their course together. No maps, no calipers—just using each other as their north star. They slept side-by-side each night on flypaper and still woke each morning to add rungs to their ladder.”

  5. Magically real magic from first word to last. Two lines that I especially love are:
    After he finished, he’d toss it on the table and say, “Well, I should get back in the water.” “…faith was a dahlia bulb in a pot in March.”

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