The Robinsons in Minnesota had a hard time believing the story. For a long time they suspected their son’s courage and benevolence. Grandpa and grandma kept the secret of their favorite grandson and Shawn was so much in gratitude, until one day Meghan came home leaving her trailer park, and took her revenge by making sure that the truth was told.
It was late July. ‘Today’s forecast: 68 degree, expect moderate to warm weather and some precipitation’ bumbled the KARE 11 TV.
As far as Shawn was concerned, even if St. Paul, Minnesota, was beautiful in the fall — it was the winter which he dread. In just about three months the city would be visited with a blanket of snow dipping 20 degrees below normal and battered with hail as large as golf balls. While Shawn endured the previous winters at the insistence of his mom who home-schooled him, this time he had his mind on an extended break — from August to March. Mom was not keen on this educational hiatus and it was up to Shawn to make the case why a tree-house project was a part of every boy’s ‘idukational divolopment.’
Although his parents were keen on his studies they were not falling for this con, at least yet, he planted this pearl of wisdom in their minds nonetheless. The trick was to let this plan germinate all through fall season. And as the leaves turned from green to hues of yellow, orange and red he anticipated that they would finally turn to his liking. To further this grand design, he topped it with other domestic overtures such as pretending to be a good help in the kitchen, and helping dad in the garage. This thirty day scheme finally bore fruit, because one fine August morning grandpa and grandma showed up at the door and extended an invitation to their home in the south country.
The South was a different world altogether. With the captive audience of grandma and grandpa at his beck and call, there were no bounds for Shawn’s adventures. Fishing for speckled trout on the Mississippi on day-break, potatoes and steak on barbecue in their backyard, accompanying grandpa on weekends to watch the Mardi Gras, relishing crawfish boil on an outdoor porch at the St. Bernard Parish, watching the poignant marchers to the tune of ‘when the saints go marching in’- boy this was what vacation was all about.
While he salivated on these luxuries his astute parents had discretely planted a chit in his carry-on bag with this subliminal message: ‘Hello son. Always remember. Your tree-house project was what convinced us to send you to this extended vacation. Your dad and I want to see some pictures and a two page report of the same.’ Well there. That put all his immediate pleasures in the back-burner.
When Shawn woke up to the stimulating smell of his grandma’s coffee the next day, the enormity of a tree house project started to dawn on him. Let alone thinking about how to build it, who would build it? Grandpa had some knowledge of vintage carpentry but his health was keeping him in ransom. And Shawn was not a Henry Thoreau either. His mind was full of grand designs including: a draw bridge; a jump-rope ladder; a playing corner for his Yo-yo and baseball; a straw carpet to read Dr. Seuss ; an easy- boy just like grandpa’s; a bird feed; a wind-cock ; a telescope?..the list went on.
…Shawn’s life on the tree house was closer to living in heaven….
Grandpa could not but just grin at these devilish plans.
‘Please, pa, please. What’s the use of a tree house if it’s not as big as Meghan’s’ that was his simple logic.
‘Shawnny. I wish I was as strong as you. Grandpa is old now and he can’t labor as much’
When repeated appeals to grandpa fell in vain, Shawn knew how to tug their heart:
‘If you like me so much, you would.’
Grandma and grandpa’s arched eyebrows concealed the charm of this mischievous suggestion.
‘Well Shawny. If you promise pa some help, let me give it a shot’ grandpa finally relented.
Grandma was always suspicious of this all boys club, who promised a lot but delivered little. To her chagrin the old sink was still leaking and grandpa had always complained about his health. Here he was at a task where a small injury was almost fatal.
As Grandpa backed his old Chevy, much to the peril of grandma, Shawn had already named the parts of his tree-house design. ‘Say, Pa. How high do you think the tree-house be like?
‘As high as the highest tree we can find in our backyard.’ Grandpa responded
‘Higher than Meghan’s?
Shawn gave a grandpa a peck on his cheek as he reassured himself the fulfillment of seeing Meghan green with envy. In his hidden schema, it was not the tree-house that was important; it was displaying his new wealth to the anguish of Meghan. For more gratification, he would invite her just to witness the expression on her face -and mock her with a victory lap.
Grandpa looked up to assess the health of his forty-year old grand oak in their backyard. It was one of those vast trees that had the gift that kept on giving. The leaves were just blossoming and would soon extend on the roof of their front porch.
For the next few days, Shawn did every chore that was asked of him. First, he helped grandpa build a platform of 4 by 2’s. He had to carry them all in the dolly and it was heavier than he thought. Then he fetched long screws that grandpa took forever to bore it into the trunk. Grandpa needed water every half an hour and he wondered why old people drank so much water.
Grandma reminded them to ‘shush’ when the noise was too heavy.
Once in a while Meghan’s dad came to offer help. Needless to say Meghan did not appreciate her dad helping Shawn to build the tree-house. She stood outside her porch and made funny faces. But she gave in when Shawn enticed her with grandma’s cookies.
Once, the team started their collective work, they added several cross bracing to make the platform stable. Then they filled the base platform with horizontal beams and topped them with plywood planks. Since Shawn insisted that his tree-house HAD to be higher than Meghan’s they added more diagonal bracing. After the fifteenth day of hard work, they raised the walls with 4 by 4 posts and allowed space for a small window.
Shawn made grandpa tie a hammock to one branch of the oak tree and hang a bird feed from another. The draw bridge took another week and was tediously constructed out of rope and clamps. Grandma used her sewing prowess to help them out. A ladder from grandpa’s porch was added to finish it all.
When it was done, Shawn wrote a lengthy report to his mom, on his hard work for the tree house, and about how he had built the tree house single-handedly!
Shawn’s life on the tree house was closer to living in heaven. He had made Meghan cry once in a while by not permitting her entry as he had changed the secret password at his own discretion. His grandparents were too frail to climb the tree-house and that made him an absolute monarch. In summary, the ownership of this real-estate-in-the-sky empowered him to the extent of making him drunk with power.
In late August it was a particularly calming night. There was a lull in the air and Shawn had gone to sleep. He had fought with grandpa and grandma for not taking him to the state fair. Having bolted his room and unwilling to come out, he was not even lured by Grandma’s delicious crawfish pie. The fact was that Shawn had gone to tree-house to spend time and brood on his own solitude while his grandparents were unaware.
Sometime at 11 in the night, Grandma wanted to check on Shawn to see whether his temper tantrum had receded. When she looked out from his ventilator she pulled a screech to find Shawn missing. She woke grandpa who suspected Shawn’s escapade to the tree house. When they went out, what they found outside was beyond belief. Meghan’s family and the whole neighborhood were already standing outside with worry on their face and water to their knees.
‘Good morning’ bumbled the WWLTV the next day. ‘Another miracle in the big easy. A boy rescued his grandparents from the flurry of the storm.’
‘Hard to believe, but true. A ten year old helped the frail Robinsons up a ten feet ladder after the waters from Lake Ponchatran flooded New Orleans. Late in the night, in Katrina’s aftermath, the levies gave way and the water levels quickly rose to the roof of their old home. In fact, the water was just three feet away from the tree house when the boy waved to the coastguards. When our correspondent from WWLTV d asked the brave boy about how he managed this feat — he mentioned rather shyly that he owed in part to his ‘idukational divolopment.’ God help this brave boy. ‘
In Minnesota the Robinson’s anxiety had turn into a smirk.
Author: Newton DSouza- USA