Here’s another one I posted in December. If you haven’t read it, I hope you enjoy it .
My dad grew up in Chicago in the thirties and forties. Since then I guess rats have gotten a lot smaller. Or maybe only Chicago rats are as big as German Shepherds. Dad and his twin brother defended themselves against these man-eating rodents with garbage can covers. He lived within a bus ride of the shimmering glory of Lake Michigan, bordered by museums of classical and original designs and grassy parks, and studded with white yachts. Mostly, though, Dad lived among the rats.
That’s why, when he moved to the Great Lake State, he yearned to live on a lake. After a couple of tries and some finagling that didn’t work out, Dad finally purchased a cottage on a small lake outside of Kalamazoo. Although the sellers hadn’t yet moved, he drove us out to take a look at his accomplishment. We pulled up under a massive tree, next to a small house. “This is it!” Dad swelled up like Popeye–with pride instead of spinach.
I remember staring out the car window for the longest time, watching Mom follow Dad, picking her way through the trash-strewn yard. It wasn’t that the inhabitants of the house were slovenly or that a raccoon had knocked over the garbage can. The yard was the seller’s place of business, which happened to be a junkyard. Broken glass and metal scraps littered the dirt yard around the house, and from what I could see even covered the sandy beach that ended at the swampy lake. Rusted shells of old cars housed yet more trash. I looked dismally at the marsh grass growing up out of the muddy-looking lake water.
Dad yelled to hurry up, so I trudged behind Mom and my brother, right into the house. I didn’t have to worry about tracking into the house because the floor was covered with a thick layer of dirt. An old man pushed his straw hat back from his forehead and told us how much work it had been to haul the dirt in to cover the linoleum. They had wanted a floor like they were used to back home in Kentucky because it was easy to sweep. Cool in the summer and warm in the winter. His wife reminded me a little of Granny from TV, but quieter and not as razor mean. She sat in a wooden chair in the corner and just smiled at us. When Mom spoke to her, she nodded.
It didn’t take long to look over the house: narrow kitchen, front room, back bedroom, and a hallway off the kitchen with a slimy, rusted tin shower attached by a hose to a pipe in the wall.
The seller brought us outside to show us the Michigan cellar, which opened like a tomb. He shone a flashlight into the crawl space, and the light glittered on the cobwebs. Dad climbed down anyway, the flashlight now firmly in his hand. “Come on down,” he called.
Mom said, “No thanks. I’ll wait here.” Her white tennis shoes were coated with gray dust.
“No. Lu. Come here!”
I saw Dad’s hand wave in the open doorway, brushing aside the webs which his body hadn’t managed to knock aside. It was hard to say no to Dad, so I gingerly climbed down into the hole. “Don’t turn the light off,” I said.
When I looked around, the ground was dirt, just like the interior of the house, but it was cool and clean down there, except for the webs. I didn’t see any rats or droppings. In fact, it was almost bare. Except that in the middle of the floor rested a pair of pure white ice skates. I’d never seen something so out-of-place. They had red yarn pompoms, and the white leather didn’t have a speck of dirt on them.
Dad must have said something to the old man who must have agreed because before I knew it the skates were in my arms. They smelled like leather and were soft and pliable, each with a sharp bite at the bottom. I held them like a kitten on my lap all the way home.
Writing Prompt: Remember an unexpected gift you received. Write a story about receiving the gift and heighten the contrast between your expectations at that moment (of life, of a gift, anything) and the gift itself.