Friday, January 03, 2020


There was always this model ship on the shelf in my parents’ closet, its keel cradled in the felted holders of an elegant stand. A glorious warship but mastless, stripped of rigging or sails.

No one thinks it was there since the beginning of time but it was always there.

I asked my mom about it. I didn’t ask my dad. His side didn’t have scale replicas in the house.

“It’s your grandpa’s,” she said.

“Can I have it?” I asked, wondering why it wasn’t mine already.


I took it down and put it on the bookshelf in my room. The rest of it—masts, yardarms, the boom that sticks out from the bow—was wrapped up in old newspapers and I took that too. There were no sails. Still I would restore this thing of beauty that time forgot.

I set upon the ship with plastic glue and sewing thread. I put the masts back in their holes and hung the yards where I thought they should go. It was hard to tie a good knot at the end of the smooth sticks and it was hard to get them to hang right, perpendicular. I fixed the boom to the prow with a big dab of cement. The surfaces didn’t really join, but they stuck together fine. I strung a black thread from the tip to the top of the front mast, and then another from the other mast to the middle of the stern. That’s what a ship looked like in my head. There were dozens of cannons strewn about on deck, with little pins at the bottom to stick them in place. I put one in each of the cannon ports and there were almost enough to go around.

When I was done I thought about my grandfather, dead long before my birth. He was a revered man, the beloved patriarch of a family riven by insanity, resentment and drink. It’s possible he would have loved me but he would not have been proud.