Low Ceilings

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]y friend HJ’s trailer sat on fifteen sprawling acres. It wasn’t his family’s land, and it wasn’t their trailer, either. They didn’t own much of anything.

One morning, Daddy took me, HJ, and his little brother out to where our pines grew.

“HJ,” Daddy said. “Pick a tree you like.”

Ten-year-old HJ chose the tallest evergreen.

Daddy scratched his head. “Shoot son, your house has low ceilings. How about something smaller?”

We carried the tree to HJ’s. My father helped his daddy set it up in the living room. You could’ve lit the world on fire with the smiles those brothers wore.

Later that night, Daddy took me into town. When we marched into the department store, Daddy said, “What do you say we buy HJ and his brother each a present? You pick them out.”

Well, that’s more difficult than it sounds. Because no creature is as complex as a ten-year-old boy — except maybe an octopus. After much deliberation, I selected a Buck knife for HJ.

On Christmas afternoon, HJ showed up at my back door with frostbitten cheeks and a red nose. He was so excited he was practically shouting. He fumbled in his coat and handed me a crude wood carving, shaped like a fish. “Here,” he said. “Merry Christmas, from one fisherman to another.”

I thanked HJ, and asked him where he got the wooden thing.

He clicked open his Buck knife. “I made it, with this.”

“Wow, that’s a beauty.”

He turned the blade toward the light. “Thanks, my daddy bought it for me. It’s the bestest present I ever got.”

Well, HJ.

That goes triple for me.