The Tool Shed       

     The decision had been made last fall when a tree fell on the roof of Grandpa’s old tool shed. We’d hired the young carpenter to fix the roof, extend one side, and make a space behind it to store the canoe. It seemed simple enough. And we’d agreed to come down to the lake on the weekend to sort out the shed’s contents. Some scheduling confusion resulted in the carpenter’s arrival a day early, and in an effort to be efficient, he’d emptied the shed, placing its contents in the screened porch at the front entrance of the cottage.

     Arriving the following day, we first noticed the collapsed remains of the brown wooden planter, Grandpa’s pride. He’d made this creation by painstakingly slicing two-by-fours lengthwise down the middle, beveling the edges of each piece, and arranging them in a large circle, held together with nails and wood staples. Two supporting legs of the planter had given way.

     “Either something hit it,” James offered, “or more likely it just gave way to the rot. You know, - - - it was made of wood, and with all that wet soil - - - well, um - - -. It had a finite life anyway.” He squatted to examine the debris while I climbed the steps, opened the door, and stepped into the screen porch.

     I stopped short. The entire contents of the old tool shed lay strewn across the floor, a reckless heap of clutter blocking the main cottage entrance. I scanned the array before me. Old coffee cans full of rusty nails, screws, drill bits, hammers of differing sizes and styles, rounds of garden hose, mops, rakes, an axe, and some lead pipe. There were scraps of wood thrown next to a couple of bicycle fenders, a squeegee, and a light bulb attached to an extension cord. Grandpa’s shed had been unceremoniously emptied. His equipment, his instruments, his garbage, his treasures, all grabbed in haphazard armfuls and dumped.

     Looking down at my feet I noticed the old paint cans. Five, six? No. More like a dozen of them, full of paint brushes, stir sticks, putty knives, carpenter’s pencils and assorted widgets. Next to these sat an old bag of fertilizer, a chisel, a level, a container of Roundup, some Polyfilla, and the tiny red oilcan with the long narrow spout, its sticky surface coated with dead bugs.

     A piece of rolled up carpet peeked out underneath, something no doubt saved in case it might be needed some day. Beside an old striped umbrella sat a hinged tin box with a picture of the Queen Mary on top beside sculpted letters that said ‘Benson’s English Toffee Favourites: Assorted’. A couple of baby food jars full of thumb tacks bumped up against it.

     Peering out from the old red and white tin waste basket was an egg carton and the pamphlet that had come with the life jackets, ‘A Wise Choice: Now Wear It!’ To the left a staple gun was tucked in its dusty unopened box. Grandpa’s tool belt protruded from under a bicycle rack and a set of golf clubs, the ones he’d modified and cut short for the kids.

     Plunked in the middle of a paint tray, balanced between the toilet plunger and a wrench, I spotted one filthy black shoe, a drop of white paint on its toe. Under it I could see the paint spattered fabric forming a backdrop for the Venetian blinds. A Tupperware container intended for a single slice of pie was wedged underneath, full of golf tees and a tube of Chapstick.

     I tugged on the fabric and slowly pulled out Grandpa’s light brown work smock - - - the one with the Air Canada logo on the left breast pocket.      Slowly, I stepped back and sank down on the bare porch floor, held the smock to my heart, lips quivering, tears trickling down my cheeks.