“You know, Poppy, I love Grandma’s sausages and syrup,” Dingleberry Number One informed me as I prepared the wieners and warmed the local tree sap.
“Of course you do,” I replied while inadvertently flipping flapjacks into a soapy sink. “Grandma knows how to do everything,” I growled.
Still, Dingleberry Number Two chimed in from his illegal peanut-gallery perch on the kitchen counter: “You know how to do some things, too, Pops, don’t you?”
I thought about this as I ran warm water against the pancakes, turned down the stove-top, so as not to reduce the sausages to charred pencil ends, and blew my nose into the the only dish towel my two, fine young cannibals (AKA, grandsons) hadn’t earlier claimed for identical purposes. “Yes, me boys,” I bravely ventured, “For one thing, I can make stuff up.”
Number One: “Grandma says you tell stories.”
Number Two: “Yeah, and sometimes they’re not even true.”
Oh, oh, oh. . .perish that thought. “They are always true,” I insisted. “It’s just that sometimes they’re not factual.”
Consider, I said, the story of the big, rock-candy mountain cave.
Number One: “I used to like candy.”
Number Two: “Uh. . .well. . .I used to like candy, too.”
Well, then, I announced, “you’re sure to like this story.”
Number Two: “Then, um, do you think we could have some candy. . .or, maybe, a cookie. That would be okay.”
No time for any of that, I declared. “Attend to Poppy, for he – who is I – is about to pontificate.”
As all eyes rolled in breathless anticipation, no doubt, of their grandfather’s preternaturally gifted story-telling, I commenced:
“Once upon a time in a land far away, a bunch of people lived in a cave. But not just any cave. Its walls were studded with diamonds and its floors were paved with good intentions; so much so, in fact, that every time a worthy resident of Spelunkertown trod upon its main thoroughfares, the ground would gurgle happily, “thank you for walking all over me,” before asking, “would you like a diamond to keep you company as you go along your way?”
Number Two: “What’s a diamond?”
Number One: “It’s like a cookie, only it sparkles.”
Number Two: “Pops, I’ve changed my mind. . .Could I have a diamond, please?”
All in good time, my eager chap, I said, “but first a song. . .Who, here, knows the chord structure to Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’? . . .No?. . .No one?. . .Okay, then, back to the story.”
Number One: “So, Grandma’s just out getting groceries, right?”
Number Two: “I think she keeps the cookies in the pantry.”
Enough, I cajoled: “Do you want to hear the end of this story, or not?”
Number One: “Not really.”
Number Two: “I could eat.”
Grandma will be back soon enough, I sputtered.
Meanwhile, where was I?. . .Oh yes. . .
“After a while, the good people of Spelunkertown had taken so many diamonds from the walls of their shared cave that it ceased to be interesting. No one came to see it anymore or walk along its broad, compliant streets. No one cared whether the hole in the earth they once loved together might inspire the excavation of new and even better grottos where people could gather in glittering conviviality and companionship.
“No one thought of their neighbours, because their neighbours had taken their diamonds to lands far away, across the horizon. People, once close, had become distant memories to one another.”
Number Two: “I’m confused.”
“You said the story was about a “big rock-candy mountain cave”.
“So, where’s the candy. . .I was waiting for the candy.”
It’s a metaphor. When all you’re interested in is satisfying your own appetites, then you’re always going to be alone in the world.
Number One: “I’m hungry. . .Are you done?”
Indeed, I was.
Number Two: “Okay, Pops, sit next to me.”
Number One: “Poppy, you sit next to me.”
Funny, that. I can sit next to both of you for as long as you want.
And with that, we sat together and ate together a glorious meal of soapy pancakes and charred sausages on the big couch that Number One, thinking of Number Two, had picked for Grandma’s house.
And, together, we fell asleep in our own, dazzling cave of dreams and wonders.