One day Fred built a fort. Or started building one, to be precise. He couldn’t say why he started exactly, it was almost as though he found himself building one, as much to his surprise as anyone else’s. He and his wife kept a stack of mostly warped 2×4’s next to the garage; not that either of them were particularly handy or enamored with DIY, but there always seemed to be some use for them with the little projects and maintenance issues that came up.
So Frank dragged a few boards out to the willow tree in the backyard and started sawing and hammering until he found he had steps up the trunk to a crux where the trunk divided into 2 large branches. Here he measured, hemmed and hawed, then somehow managed to fix a square frame with sides between 4-5 feet long to the tree securely enough for him to stand on the boards. Then he climbed down and surveyed his work for a minute before heading back to the garage. He rummaged around til he came across a sheet of plywood leftover from a patch job in the attic the previous summer. He half carried, half drug it out to the willow; measured, sawed and hammered, and before he knew it the frame was a platform.
He was sitting there, feet dangling over the side when his wife came out the back door. Shielding her eyes from the sun with her hand she looked quizzically up at him, “Frank? What’re ya doin’ hun?” “Oh, just taking a little break.” “Ok. Break from what?” He gestured to the wood and tools below. She looked down at them, then back at him, “I see. What’re ya buildin’ there?” Frank hesitated, shifting about and feeling the sturdiness of his platform, “Kinda…I mean it seems like…it’s a kind of fort.” Her nose wrinkled, “Uh-huh. Well I guess Peter and Mary might like that, if they don’t fall and break their necks. Try not to make a mess back here, ok hun?” She turned back to the house, took 1/2 a step, then pivoted back, “Say, would you like something to drink?” “Sure, that’d be real nice. Do we have any more lemonade?” “I’ve got the mix, so I’ll stir us up a pitcher and bring you a glass with ice.” “That’d hit the spot, thanks.” She disappeared into the house and he started to measure for walls and a roof.
Once the tree fort was finished and decked out with a tin roof and glass windows Frank set his sights on the garden area not a stone’s throw from the willow tree. It was summer now and he was bursting with energy. He did his best to ignore the wrinkles of concern above his wife’s nose when he brought home a carload of supplies from the lumber store, choosing instead to focus on his anticipation of the task at hand. He started by digging out a foundation and filling it with concrete and rebar. It was hot, heavy work and his wife had long since stopped bringing him cold drinks – probably her silent way of showing her displeasure with his project.
In truth he barely noticed. By this time it seemed all his free time was dedicated to the fort. On weekends he worked on it, evenings he designed, re-designed and fretted over it; even at work he found himself doodling additions and surfing the net for materials. For someone with no construction experience his progress was remarkable. Yet the further he progressed, the better the project went, the less happy he became. He harrumphed and scowled and muttered his way around in a kind of daze. The labor also took its toll, stooping his shoulders and giving twinges and aches in his joints.
By late summer Fred started working on a second story to the garden portion of the fort, with plans to connect it to the tree fort with a walkway supported by angled struts. His wife went from silent disapproval to vocal opposition, using the always peculiar what-will-the-neighbors-think line of reasoning. Frank toed the ground, studied his hands and grunted his way through a dozen one-sided conversations on the subject, none of which slowed his progress or dampened his drive. He felt he was close to getting a grasp on the big picture now, and could almost see the totality of the finished fort, with ramparted walls replacing the rickety pine fence bordering their property and passageways, towers and secret rooms.
He considered taking a leave of absence from work, where these days he was distracted at best, but settled for devoting his 2 week summer holiday to fort construction in lieu of he and his wife’s annual trip to the lake with her family. She was either near tears or shouting – he had difficulty telling which – when she announced she would go without him and wasn’t sure when she would come back. He looked concerned and tried to follow the conversation while internally he was calculating the improved construction efficiency of having less distraction, not to mention the gain of work hours by being able to eat and work and foregoing lengthy, confusing conversations.