Jeff turned 19 and bought a blue-silver Mazda mini-truck. He pulled out the shocks and moved the bench seat uncomfortably forward so he could fit a giant speaker behind it. My ribs and lungs rattled with the music when I rode with him.
Eric and I were best friends that summer of ’88. We designed and built things: a second treehouse for the apricot tree, a bike track with six jumps, a 12-hole miniature golf course.
Outside of our minds and rudimentary drawings, the projects never really took off. We finished the ladder for the treehouse and lost interest. The dirt was too soft to make any decent jumps. We went outside and discovered there was no wind for our windmill hole of the miniature golf course and decided it probably wasn’t worth the effort.
While testing the wind, we saw three huge pieces of thick plywood leaning against the house. And got to designing.
We kicked around the idea of making hockey sticks, but we did that last year and the plywood gave our hands splinters. There wasn’t enough wood to make a wooden pool slide and we already had a skateboard ramp.
At the same time, we thought of the same idea: a paddle boat. Eric grabbed the graph paper and I went out and threw the wood into the pool to make sure it would float. We spent the next two hours drawing up a design incorporating our lounge chair, an old bicycle, and all the wood. We went to the garage to grab the saw and begin cutting. I went back to the pool to retrieve the wood.
It had sunk.
We dragged it out of the pool and set it back up against the house and, like every other day that summer, watched our tape of Thrashin’ and then went skateboarding.
The table has sat, wholly unassembled, in our doorway for three months. I work on it in fits and starts, but I can’t sand when the kids are asleep and, while they’re awake, I choose to hang out with them.
Besides, we live in Alaska. Whenever I get the urge to get to put the table legs together, I sort of stare at the pieces and then go watch the milestones and shovel the snow.
Jeff came home that night and mentioned, during dinner, how he had saved up to buy special particle-board to build an even bigger speaker box for his truck. “It’s a good thing you don’t want to build a paddle-boat with that wood,” I said.