Spontaneous Prose, Experiment No. 1

You hear on that phone that your grandfather — your mother hears on that phone that her father — has had the necrotic tissue evacuated from a wound in his leg and is now bound from ankle to mid thigh and unable to shower. Later you know she is on the phone with him again because she asks if he needs someone to come over to wash his hair. He is unable to work and winter is settling in. There has already been snow and he is building a house. He may move to this house. For as immovable an object as he is or is in my imagination he has moved before, and this house is only next door to the house he lives in now. In my life there have been two houses. There have been many houses, but only two that could be called his own. The first was in mennonite country. Vegetable stands and horse and buggies. Visiting my grandfather in this house was visiting a different world, or maybe the same world but a different time. He is not a twenty-first century man, or even a twentieth century man. He is a builder of houses. Nevertheless he has an iPad and can facetime us whenever he wants. This is his first computer, but his second e-reader. In that first house I came to know my grandfather as a reader of mystery books and westerns, but it turns out this was because they were the books available in large type and at low prices. Once we visited the book shop where he traded in old books and it was not the sort of book shop I have since come to love. When his eyes were better he read every book there was to read. He pronounces Les Miserables "Less Miserables" but this is because he is the man he is. Now he is connected to the New York City public library and can read all the books there are left to read. At the first house there was a dog. This was the first animal my oldest sister ever loved, and perhaps the only dog, because she is allergic. I myself barely remember this dog. His new house which he has lived in for probably a decade now is on a lake, maybe a finger lake because that is where he lives but I cannot be sure. If he moves into the house he is building now, if he finishes it enough before winter, he will have a better view of the lake because it is farther from the lake and therefore on higher ground. He must finish it, because he is a builder of houses. But also he must finish it because it would cost too much to hire someone else to finish it. This is the time of year when grapes are in season, fall on the brink of winter, and he buys a basket a day all for himself, and we are all very jealous, until we visit him and find grapes are still in season and have a basket for ourselves. Then comes the slipping off of skins and the swallowing of seeded, concord grapes. There is a contrast to be made between the skin of his hands and the skin of the grapes they pluck. I have always wanted hands like his, rough, stony, but the best I will get is chalk stains or dry erase or graphite smears. Like all my grandparents and like me, my grandfather studied mathematics in college, but he was married at 18 and had a family to raise, and he is a builder of houses. This is who he is, who he must be. Then there are the wineries. We visit these, when we visit him, and an aeronautics museum. In the wineries you fall in love with the scent of oak and fermenting grapes and fear that you will become an alcoholic but instead you become a writer. When you visit now there are still oak casks and dusty racks of champagne bottles but more and more there are towering vats of steel, and only the scent of wine, with nothing intermingled. There is also the small town of Canandaigua, where Bob Cooley knows everyone and everyone knows Bob Cooley. He even helped renovate the library, the Wood Library, which is made of brick. There is no retirement for this man, because he is a builder of houses, but also because his savings have been drained by his heroin addict daughter. A few of his children still live nearby. Once he rented a room out to his ex wife, my grandmother. He eats watermelon with salt. Or ate watermelon with salt. Now his heart is failing and I do not know if he eats salt.