“Grandfather’s Nets” by Nelly Reifler

Cover Tweed's #1When we were little, we’d sit at Grandfather’s feet next to the wood stove, and he’d suck on his corncob pipe and say to us, “Nets got to be upkept. You know why?”

We’d shrug and swallow our honey milk.

“Well,” he’d say, squinting and leaning forward in his rocking chair, “without the nets, it would get in. Yes, it would. And you know what happens if it gets in?”

“No,” we’d say, even though he’d told us before.

“Well. It shall swarm across the land, and blot out the light of the sun, and the sky shall turn dark, dark as night. And it shall produce a terrible buzzing sound, so loud that it vibrates the earth under your feet. The birds shall drop from the sky and lie stunned in the fields, never to fly again. And then it shall search, and it shall find its prey. And do you know what that prey is?”

We would hold our breath, waiting.

“That prey would be us. Us is what it wants to eat. And that’s why Grandfather goes out every day with the spool, the bobbin, and the shuttle.”

Even just a few days before the end, we saw him head out there. We stayed behind, but we knew he’d be moving slowly around the perimeter, searching for gaps and weak spots that needed reinforcing. He’d pat and tug at the weave, testing it. When he found a fault, he’d unspool a length of filament and thread it through the complicated lace. Hobbled as he was, arthritic and weak, his hands still moved quickly; the motions were automatic for him. After all, this had been the work of his life.

Yes, over the years we had asked him to show us how to work on the nets ourselves. We asked because we thought we should ask. We knew we weren’t supposed to learn. The nets were just there. They were Grandfather’s thing. Whenever we’d asked him to show us what to do with them, he nodded and hiked his shoulders. But it was clear that he didn’t intend to teach us.

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