A Story with a Slant


Sven's grandpa was hard of hearing.
That's why he used to park his red pick up at the cottage, crank the Braves game up as high as the volume would go and leave the door wide open.
He'd purchased a parcel of land in 1947 on beautiful Lake Wisconsin, for five hundred bucks.
He set a small cabin on it.
And then an outhouse.
Or maybe it was the other way around.
And then a boathouse was constructed.
A few years later he hired some guys to add a screened in porch to the cottage.
This about doubled the place in size.
It wasn't until Sven was in third grade and his grandpa was no longer alive when indoor plumbing appeared at the cottage.
But running water had been in place for a long time by the time I met Sven.
We stopped there one evening in 1984 to say hello to his mom, dad and favorite aunt, Helen.
They were on the porch enjoying a magnificent meal, with silverware tapping on china. His dad was using a piece of bread to soak up his gravy.
Is there anything you can do about this porch?" Sven's mother said to my handsome date who, happened to be a carpenter.
"Like what?" he says
"It's starting to lean a little."

Sven and his father went outside to investigate.
"We can probably jack it up," Sven said to us women, with our coffee in fancy cups with saucers, through a row of screened windows.
"That would be wonderful," she said.
And then came fall.
It was time for the pier to come out, the pump to be drained and the water to be shut off.
And then came spring.
The pier and pump were set back in place and the water was turned back on.
And then 1985 went.
Along with the pier and the pump.
Life has many challenges.
Time never stops.
Sven's father's battle with Parkinson's wasn't going anywhere but full steam ahead.
And the pier and the pump continued to go in and out according to the passing seasons.
And then.
Long story.
In the end, papers were signed, and the cottage wound up in the hands of Sven, my sister Louisa, my brother-in-law, Pierre, and yours truly.
"We should fix the porch," said Louisa.
"What's wrong with it?"
"It leans."
Sven and Pierre went outside to investigate.
"We could probably jack it up," says Sven through the row of screened windows.
"Cool," we said.
And then came fall.
And then another spring.
And then again and then again.
And during the years, the shoreline was redone.
The fireplace that didn't work, was removed as well as the asbestos that landed in the sand box when the front of the cottage had a face lift including a recycled sliding glass door and some large used windows, all across it.
The creepy little bedroom became part of the living room.
New, used appliances replaced the old and I was no longer taller than the refrigerator.
The shower became a tin closet.
Louisa and I duct-taped a couple of holes on the ceiling from a pesky squirrel in the attic and painted right over it.
We changed ugly curtains for other ugly curtains.
The pier was expanded out and to the side and benches were added.
The color of the cottage changed from red to yellow, to red to green, to brown.
The leaning tower of a boathouse that refused to fall over on its own was torn down and switched out for a new boathouse with a deck up top.
And another deck was added to the front of the cottage, funded by my mother, because she just wanted a place to sit, other than the raft covered in fake grass carpet, set on top of stacked bricks, lovingly known as, the veranda.
And it was sometime before that deck, in the middle of all of these changes, about fifteen summers ago, that Louisa and I spent a weekend there.
Just the two of us.
And her two boys.
I don't know where the rest of our families were, but I probably did at the time.
The plan was, after fun in the sun and after the fire was out, we would all sleep on the porch.
And since the boys were tucked in and sound asleep, Louisa and I took the liberty to have another beer out in the main cabin.
Now, if I can't make my sister laugh, she can make me laugh.
And sometimes we don't even know why we are laughing.
And that is what we were up to when, "What was that?!" Louisa says.
"I don't know!"
We jumped to our feet and ran to the porch.
Whatever that was, the thud was really loud.
This is when we discovered that if you put a boy inside a slippery sleeping bag that is on a bed with a satiny mattress, and that bed is on a porch that has a bit of a slant, it is only a matter of time until that that boy in that sleeping bag will slide off that mattress.
We found Christophe wedged between the bed and the wall underneath the row of windows.
Do you have any idea how heavy an eight-year-old with arms that are longer than your legs are, is when he is a dead weight inside a slippery sleeping bag?
There is nothing to compare.
And it doesn't help matters if you can't stop laughing.
I can't tell you how many times we almost had him back up on that bed.
But not quite.
Finally, we got him up there.
Exhausted as we were, we went back to the living room and raised our glasses once more.
It was getting later.
And later.
So, we went to bed.
Bacon and eggs sizzled the next morning while Christophe continued to sleep on the floor between the bed and the wall, unaware of any mishaps that occurred during the night.
Isaac Newton was on to something.
Whether you drop a feather or a rock from a cliff, or you put a boy in a slippery sleeping bag on a shiny mattress that is on a slant, they are all going to land at the bottom, no matter how many times you try it.
"We should fix that porch," said Louisa.
"I think we should jack it up," I said, and poured us some coffee.
Small guests began to realize that with stocking feet and a running start, the slanted porch was not that bad of a ride.
It was a short one and ended against a wall of windows.
You can't have everything.
Sven and I learned that if we pushed the bed, which happened to be on a frame with wheels, up against the wall underneath the windows, we did not slide off the end of it.
And then somebody, my guess is, Pierre, put some wood blocks under the wheels down at feet of the bed, jacking the bed up, making it parallel to the ground, rather than parallel to the floor. And then he added a couple of tennis shoes, as stops.
It was genius.
But, unfortunately, even if you can keep your bed in place and parallel with the ground, you cannot keep your wife from falling on her face in the middle of the night when she has to take a pee. Half asleep, poor Louisa was met with surprise and the threshold of the porch doorway to the living room, as she stepped out of a horizontal bed onto a floor with a forty-five-degree angle.
Geometrically speaking, it was the perfect storm of a cottage nightmare, and it left my sister with a black eye.
But let's not dwell on the past.
It's Spring.
And last weekend the sun came out.
The temperature reached forty-two.
There was no wind.
So, the four of us did what we always do when the weather is nice.
We went to the cottage.
And we sat on the deck funded by my mother to replace the veranda.
"We should fix the porch," Louisa said.
"We could probably jack it up," said Sven.
And then he and Pierre went around the corner to investigate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send Millie a Message!

Inspired by the blog, a story, or an artwork? Don't hesitate to contact Millie to discuss a writing or creative work or just to have an enthusiastic conversation about the world!

Get in touch

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.