The Cabin at the End of the World(3)

“You are? Oh, I love to catch grasshoppers. Used to do it all the time when I was a kid. So much fun.”

“It is. But this is more serious.” She juts out her lower jaw, a purposeful imitation of Daddy Eric when she asks him a question with an answer that isn’t yes right away, but will be yes eventually if she waits long enough.

“It is?”

“I’m catching them and naming them and studying them so I can find out if they are healthy. People do that when they study animals and I want to help animals when I grow up.” Wen is a little light-headed from talking so fast. Teachers at school tell her to slow down because they can’t understand her when she gets going like this. Substitute teacher Ms. Iglesias told her once that it was like the words leaked out of her mouth, and Wen didn’t like Ms. Iglesias at all after that.

“I’m very impressed. Do you need any help? I’d love to help. I know I’m much bigger now than when I was a kid.” He holds out his hands and shrugs like he can’t believe what he’s become. “But I’m still very gentle.”

Wen says, “Okay. I’ll hold the jar so the other ones don’t jump out, and maybe you can catch a couple more for me. No big ones, please. They can’t be big. No room. Just the small ones. I’ll show you.” She walks to the stairs to retrieve her jar. She goes up on her tiptoes and peers through the cabin’s open windows that flank the front door. She looks for her dads, to see if they are watching or listening. They are not in the kitchen or the living room. They must be out on the back deck, reclined in the lounge chairs, sunning themselves (Daddy Eric will most certainly get sunburned and then insist his lobster-red skin doesn’t hurt or need aloe), and reading a book or listening to music or boring podcasts. She briefly considers going out back to tell them about catching grasshoppers with Leonard. Instead she picks up the jar. The grasshoppers react like heated popcorn, pattering against the lid. Wen shushes her charges and goes to Leonard, who is in the middle of the lawn, already hunched over and scanning the grass.

Wen sidles up next to him. She holds out the jar and says, “See? No big ones, please.”

“Got it.”

“Do you want me to catch them and you can watch?”

“I’d really like to catch one at least. It’s been a long time. I’m not fast like you anymore, so I’ll just move real slow to not scare them. Oh, hey, there’s one.” He bends and stretches out his arms on either side of the grasshopper that is hanging upside down from the tip of a dried-out stalk. The grasshopper doesn’t move, hypnotized by the giant eclipsing the sun. Leonard’s hands slowly come together and swallow it up.

“Wow. You’re good.”

“Thanks. Now how do we want to do this? Maybe you should put the jar on the ground, let the ones inside calm down a little, and then we can open the lid and put this one in, too.”

Wen does as he suggests. Leonard goes down to one knee and stares at the jar. Wen mimics his movements. She wants to ask if the grasshopper is jumping around in the darkness of his hands, if he feels it crawling on his skin.

They wait in silence until he says, “Okay. Let’s try it.” Wen unscrews the lid. Leonard slides one hand over the other until he is holding the grasshopper in one mighty fist and then delicately tilts the lid open with the newly freed hand. He drops the grasshopper inside the jar, replaces the lid, and turns it once clockwise. They look at each other and laugh.

He says, “We did it. You want one more?”

“Yeah.” Wen has her notebook out and writes in the appropriate columns: “2 inches, green, boy Lenard, medeum.” She giggles to herself that she named the grasshopper after him.

Leonard makes quick work of catching another grasshopper and deposits it inside the jar without incident or inmate escape.

Wen writes: “1 inch, brown, girl Izzy, low.”

He asks, “How many do you have now?”


“That’s a powerful, magic number.”

“Don’t you mean lucky?”

“No, it’s only sometimes lucky.”

His response is annoying as everyone knows seven is a lucky number. “I think it’s lucky, and I think it’s lucky for grasshoppers.”

“You are probably right.”

“Okay. That’s enough then.”

“What do we do now?”

“You can help me watch them.” She puts the jar down on the ground and the two of them sit cross-legged and across from each other with the jar in the middle. Wen has her notebook and pencil out. A gust of wind rattles the paper held beneath her palms.

Leonard asks, “Did you punch the holes in the lid yourself?”

“Daddy Eric did it. We found an old hammer and screwdriver in the basement.” The basement was a scary place with shadows and spiderwebs in all the corners and angles and it smelled like the deep dark bottom of a lake. The cement slab floor was cold and gritty on her bare feet. She was supposed to put shoes on to go down there, but she had been too excited and forgot. Ropes, rusted gardening tools, and old life jackets hung from exposed wooden beams, the battered bones of the cabin. Wen wished their condo in Cambridge had a basement like this one. Of course, once they were back upstairs, Daddy Eric declared the basement was off-limits. Wen protested but he said there was too much sharp and rusty stuff down there, stuff that wasn’t theirs to be touching or using in the first place. In the face of the no basement allowed proclamation, Daddy Andrew groaned from the love seat in the living area and said, “Daddy Fun is so strict.” Daddy Fun was the mostly playful nickname for the family worrier and the one quickest to say no. Daddy Eric, ever calm, said, “I’m serious. You should see it down there. It’s a deathtrap.” Daddy Andrew said, “I’m sure it’s terrible. Speaking of a trap!” and he pulled Wen into a sneak-attack hug, spun her around, and gave her what he called his “face kiss”: lips planted on the space between her cheek and nose and he playfully smooshed the rest of his big face into hers. His beard stubble tickled and scratched and she giggled, screamed, and squirmed out of it. She ran to the front door with her jar and Daddy Andrew called after her, “But we have to listen to Daddy Fun because he loves us, right?” Wen shouted, “No,” back and her dads reacted with mock outrage as she closed the front door behind her.

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