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July 14th, 2019
Lucilius was tinkering with a project in his woodshop when the father of his godson came in. The kind man smiled at the set up Lucilius had put together in their backyard garage. He picked up a piece from a new chess set that Lucilius had finished making and studied the fine smooth surface carved from the lathe while Lucilius finished up his current efforts. A long winding cut on a band saw clipped to conclusion and Lucilius flicked the power switch off, letting the metal band relax from its tinny screech, groaning a long smooth drag like the honing of a blade until it came to a stop.
“What are you working on now?”
“Oh, just some scrollwork that’ll go on the bookcase for the living room.”
The man smiled. “Can’t thank you enough for all the beautiful work you’ve done for us.”
“Well hey, you’ve given me a beautiful home to be a part of.”
The man laughed. “Pretty sure I’m getting the sweet end of the deal.”
“Nah,” Lucilius said, “there are no deals between family, least not in the way I see it. Way I look at it, I get to spend time with my godson.”
The man’s smile was lifted high on a side. “Speaking of your godson, I wanted to ask.”
Lucilius looked up from the scrollwork to meet the man’s eyes.
“We were thinking of moving him up to the guest bedroom, and I wanted to see if you had any ideas about changing it for him? You have free reign of course, we love everything you’ve done.”
Lucilius paused, and thought for a few moments.
“Yea,” he said. “I think I’ve got a couple ideas.”
* * *
One of the earliest memories that Lucilius’ godson would come to remember for the rest of his life was that of a thick rope always hanging in the middle of his room. The rope hung from a circular hole in the high ceiling.
As a toddler, with the help of his mother and father, the boy used it to help take his first steps, and eventually it was used to swing from the bed across the room to the toy chest. But eventually, the boy began to wonder what was up above his own room. The perfectly circular hole in his ceiling gave glimpse to another room above where the thick rope was affixed to the second ceiling high above and there was no other staircase or way up to that high and secret room. The boy grew frustratingly curious about the space up there, his parents sworn to secrecy, and his godfather gently laughing off every request to know what was up there.
“You’ll find out when you’re ready,” Lucilius would say during his visits.
The boy would lay in bed, puzzling over a way to get up there. At night a dim light came on in the high room and lit the circular hole, creating a nightlight of sorts – something Lucilius had planned so that the space would not scare the boy in the dark, but also as a tempt to wonder.
Then one day, while Lucilius’ godson was building with Legos, he realized a new idea. He’d pinched a small piece between two larger ones. They did not technically fit but the boy did not have the right pieces and the improvisation worked. Seeing what he’d done, he looked at the rope and wondered.
Then he got up and left his room, making his way out the back of the house to the garage where his godfather kept a woodshop. He entered and went over to a long rack of clamps that Lucilius had arranged on a wall. The boy took a few of the heavy clamps, and lugged them back up to his room. After puzzling over the mechanism for a moment, trying to remember how his godfather had used them, he managed to loosen one. He opened the jaws, and then gently eased them onto the rope, and began tightening. When he could squeeze the vice no further he let go. The clap hung in midair, bending the rope at an angle with its own lopsided weight.
The boy took hold of the rope high above the clamp and then hanging from his grip, he lifted his feet and placed them on the clamp and slowly pushed till his weight was fully supported by the clamp. The boy smiled and then got back down and took the second clamp and affixed it to the rope a little higher. He tried his idea again, and used the first clamp as a means to reach just a little higher on the rope, and then, hanging, he managed to lift his feet to the second clamp and push himself still, a little higher.
After a few more trips to the woodshop to collect clamps, Lucilius’ godson was ascending the infamous rope that had taunted him all during his short life. That rope, now riddled with clamps, was turning into a staircase, the boy climbing up and down to bring clamps higher, until he was nearly flush with the hole in the ceiling.
From there the boy saw something he’d never noticed. What he’d always assumed was a dirty smudge was actually a little bit of writing, scrawled on the inside wall of the thick hole.
You must be strong enough or smart enough if you’ve made it this far. Each lends to the other. Keep going, and enjoy the next challenge that awaits above. Love, Lucilius.
The boy, sweating from the effort, and determined, reached down and took another clamp that he’d hung from a pocket. With an arm looped around the rope he carefully placed the clamp and secured it, and then lifting his feet to it, he hoisted himself up into the secret room.
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