students collaborate: dylan spence and jack graig-tiso

photo by Dylan Spence

We are starting the week with our sixth in a series of eight collaborations by students at JH Community School. Dylan Spence made this photo for his Photo 1 class, and Jack Graig- Tiso wrote a short story based on it.

photo by Dylan Spence

photo by Dylan Spence

Toolbox by Jack Graig- Tiso

It was one of those places that people don’t remember, a small town with one gas station, and then the small house a few miles out of town. It was just the beginning of winter, but this part of Wyoming already had more snow than Kevin ever would have wanted. He was driving a Fed Ex truck. They aren’t the best in snow and he didn’t go faster than 30 even though the speed limit was 55. There was a young man that wanted five packages delivered to this remote place, but that wasn’t what Kevin was thinking about. He was thinking of home where he could sit on his couch and watch TV. As Kevin pulled up, he saw an a-frame cabin with an extension on the side, making it a real size house. It wasn’t the largest place, but it was accompanied by a large barn right next to it. Kevin was unprepared for the new weather and his sneakers and jeans were not going to keep him warm. He made his way to the back of the truck and started to unpack the packages and carry them to the house. The temperature was dropping as the sun started to get lower to the horizon and it was clear that Kevin was getting cold, he would periodically stop to blow on his purple figures. After he had carried the last of the boxes to the house, he assumed the house was empty, and in fact it was. He joyously headed back relieved that he could finally start heading home. It wouldn’t work out that way, he wouldn’t get home and whether he knew it or not was a mystery. His first clue was when he looked at his passenger seat and saw the pad for a signature, a signature he didn’t have.

Kevin replaced the packages into his truck, but by that time his truck had been snowed in, and when he tried to leave, he didn’t move. He spent the next half hour trying to dig out his tires in between brakes in his truck. Little did he know that there was a young man coming to his rescue, this 17-year-old boy was named Jake and, while Kevin was sitting frustrated at his house, he was out enjoying himself hunting. He had snowmobiled out early that morning and was now tracking his kill; he had hit a dear just a few minutes ago. It was easy in this snow since the red blood stood out; he quickly found the dear and gutted it. Then stowing it in the sled behind his snowmobile, he headed back towards his house.

Jake found Kevin on his hands and knees trying to dig out his tires. He had already done one tire; but he was slow. Jake helped him carry the packages he had coming, but first he signed for them. They headed to the barn next to the house because that’s where Jake wanted them. As they entered the barn, Kevin could see an old truck. He wasn’t surprised, but it did distract him long enough for his eyes to miss an old metal toolbox, because he walked right into it. Although it hurt, he felt an obligation to help pick up the dropped tools. Dropping the box he was carrying, Kevin bent over to try and pick up the tools, but he was stopped. Jake told me him that he would clean up the mess. Kevin observed closely as Jake replaced the tools in the box, he notice that he carefully replaced all the tools back in that toolbox slowly and with purpose. Each piece had its place.

Kevin was cold and had retreated into his truck to warm up when Jake emerged from the barn; he approached with two shovels, ready to help dig out the truck. Then Kevin left hitting the gas and jerking forward as he headed away. He got about five miles before he was stuck again. It was only five of the fifteen that he needed to reach the nearest town. Even through the thick snow, he could see headlights approaching behind him. It took a few minutes and the light slowly got closer. Kevin was a little disappointed when once again he saw Jake, but he was probably the best person that could have come. Kevin had called his manager to tell him that he was staying there for the night, but he still didn’t know if there was a place to stay. Kevin asked if Jake would take him to the nearest motel, hotel or just anyplace with a room. After considerable though Jake offered to house him and that started their journey together.

Overnight the United States had been invaded. Through the work of spies infiltrating the military, the northern coast was tricked so that their sensors and other important systems were giving false readings. This allowed a coalition of countries to invade; but that’s another story altogether. Kevin was making a very important decision of what he was going to do. He eventually decided that he was in a safe place, being that he was west and not in any major city or near any military facility, so he stayed where he was. He had a heart condition that prevented him from being drafted and for the moment, Jake was too young. So life for the two of them continued as Kevin boarded with Jake although eventually Kevin stopped paying for the room.

Jake would go home from hunting, exploring, or whatever he did during the day, and then sometimes he would go around town trading pies and bread for some of his latest catch. Then he would stop at the post office, even though there was never any mail; officially the post office was closed. Jake would then go home, Kevin would have dinner ready, they would eat and talk about the day, Kevin would mention how thing were around the house, make a joke about the lazy dog Bernard, or maybe share some news that was on the radio. Jake would tell about the views he saw that day, if he thought he could catch a fox if he moved the trap north, what the news was in town, and other things like that. This was Kevin’s favorite part of the day, and maybe even Jakes. But some days Jake would stay home, read a book next to the fireplace, chop wood, and do other things around the house. And some days, Kevin would go with him and enjoy the outdoors. But after dinner Jake always did the same thing, and even though his day’s activities would change; this would not.

Jake would go to the barn where the packages were, and every time Kevin went to look, he was working on that old ford pickup truck. It almost looked like scrap metal, although the Ford didn’t seem to be missing any key parts, but it wouldn’t start. Kevin didn’t know anything about trucks or mechanics, and it didn’t seem Jake did either. When he was done outside, he would meticulously pack up his metal toolbox and return to the house. Placing the toolbox next to his bed, he would go to sleep. This was Kevin’s least favorite part of the day, there was no talking and Kevin felt worthless, unable to help. Kevin would wonder about the toolbox and it comforted him that everything in it had its own place.

Jake left one morning and headed to check his traps; the first one was empty. Thinking for some time he removed it, and placed it in his sled. Heading to check the next few, they too were empty, but he knew you didn’t catch things every day and didn’t get too upset. After replacing the first trap in a new location, he took out his map and marked its new place. Now it was time for lunch, with the sun over his head he took out his lunch curious to see what Kevin had packed him. It was a wonderful lunch with a container of still warm tomato soup and a quite cold grilled cheese sandwich and, of course, a few pieces of venison jerky, from the deer last week. Well into his meal, Jake sat back and was listening. He enjoyed sitting there watching the sky. There was a crack that startled him, making him spill some of his soup. He thought it was a gunshot he thought, but he couldn’t place what gun it had been. It wasn’t uncommon for people to hunt. Finishing up, he headed away from the gunshot; it was always smart to give people their space. He would have continued to go his own way if things had not changed but this time, when he heard that sound, he was on the side of a hill no longer surrounded by trees and, with nothing blocking his view, he realized it wasn’t a gun shot at all. There was a red flare rising into the sky. Jake looked as if in deep thought. Jake turned around and headed right toward it.

Kevin was visiting with the marshals when he saw Jake come into town, and had something in the sled behind the snowmobile. Kevin assumed it was something he caught, but it was too large for that and today wasn’t a hunting day, was it? Kevin excused himself from the elderly couple, he put on his hat and coat and started towards the sled determined to solve this small mystery. Jake ran to the doc’s house. That was Kevin’s first clue that the sled held more than just a wild animal. Approaching, he could see the face of a man, pale and white. He examined his face then felt for his pulse, faint but still there. The doctor was an elderly man who lived with his granddaughter. Laying the man on the table, everyone could see his outfit; it was military and American. This concerned Kevin. Why would soldiers be this close? After his shirt was removed, Kevin helped the doctor remove the bullet lodged in the man’s chest. That’s when Jake informed the group that there were others; they were OK and walking to town. When they arrived, John, the wounded man, was stable and with proper care would probably survive.

The solders talked to all of them gathered in the church, they were passing through, but John was in no condition to travel. So they asked if anyone volunteered to take him in, it was known that the doc could do it but that with his old age and only his granddaughter to help, it would be a burden. A glance at Jake would show he was anxious to volunteer, but he didn’t have the know-how to care for the wounded man, and then Kevin stood up. Before even the doc could object, he informed the lot of them that he used to be a nurse. Of course most in the town had already heard his story; he told it anyway. On account of his heart condition, he couldn’t be trusted in surgery, if something went wrong with him the patient could suffer, he was unreliable. No one wants an unreliable surgical nurse. Although the soldiers were ok with it, Kevin also had to ask the owner of the house Jake. Before he could finish his question, Jake interrupted stating that we would gladly accept this man into his home.

That night things were settled, Jake gave up his room protesting that an “old man” couldn’t sleep on a couch; no, he would take the couch. After dinner, leaving the house, Jake took his toolbox and worked on that old truck, the next morning Kevin found the toolbox back in its place next to the bed, even though he hadn’t slept there.

Jake took a great interest in John and, the next day when John woke up, Jake was there at his bedside not out on a hunting trip; he even let his traps have a day off. There wasn’t much John could do so he started reading though the collection of books Jake had, and for the next few weeks it would be the same. It seemed like there wasn’t any progress, but there was.

It was a snowy day toward the end of winter when John stood for the first time; leaning on Kevin, he walked to the bathroom instead of having the bathroom walked to him. Soon John was walking with some help and then with no help at all.

After dinner one day, Jake left for the barn and John followed. It was well into the night before Kevin decided to check up on them. Entering the barn, he was struck at the sight of the two men staring at the truck’s engine as John explained what needed to happen. Lying underneath, Jake grabbed the pipe and started removing it, as John stood over him unable to help except to guide the light and hand him tools. As Kevin left, he started thinking about it, and started to smile; he never had the courage to touch anything in that toolbox. But there was John touching away as he handed Jake tool after tool, maybe everything does have its place. Where he had failed to help, John could.

John was getting better daily. He knew a lot about cars and trucks, and just mechanics in general. John and Jake worked around the house, fitting the pipes, even getting the electric back on in the house using the generator in the barn. They were a sight, the two of them, walking around with John slowly making his way sometimes leaning on Jake for support. Kevin took a photo once out of an old disposable camera. It’s of John leaning on Jake and in the boy’s hand is his toolbox.

One night they were out late in the barn and the truck was almost done. It was late at night when John came back into the house. He was still weak and needed help. Following him to the barn, Kevin saw Jake had fallen sound asleep. Kevin helped carry Jake back to his bed and, as Kevin turned to leave, John entered and set down the toolbox next to the bed. John sat down on it and pulled the cover up to Jake’s shoulders; then standing, he left. Kevin continued to close the door, but first he saw a smile spread across Jake’s face as he turned over to go to sleep. He silently promised to keep his secret.

It wasn’t long after that the truck started, and it’s still working. Soon John left, and then they came for Jake. Only Kevin was left in that house to think about the days it was filled with others. It would never be filled again. But in another part of the country, John was teaching a class and among the new recruits was Jake. Maybe like the toolbox, everything does have its place.


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