This story didn’t happen exactly the way it is told. Time wears on words and tales of travel twist and turn with every telling. Maybe it didn’t happen at all, but there were snowflakes and postcards and isn’t that enough?
The childhood of Atticus and Zane, it was often said, covered all things from A to Z, and as such the phrase would provide the friendly punchline to many of the adventures that the brothers shared. The parents of the two Honea boys were nomads by nature and tended to wander from places like Agoura to those like Zelienople, and along the way they stopped often to smell the roses, let their dogs use the ground, and seize the day accordingly. Mrs. Honea often said things like, “Let’s make something of this life,” and Mr. Honea would often take a sip of his coffee, give her a nod, and push play on the soundtrack to their story, which, to be fair, was more than heavy with the assorted works of The Beatles. Atticus and Zane would run through the sun and shade of the respective seasons and laugh at the jokes that the world was telling.
So it was on a Sunday morning when the day was still stretching and Mr. Honea was yawning with coffee on his breath that Mrs. Honea turned to the boys and told them that she had heard a symphony of sidewinders in the night and suggested that they wear two pairs of woolen socks over their normally one pair of feet. Also, she clarified that the sound of a rattle in the desert was not an invitation to curiosity, but rather a warning to the contrary. They had lost too many cats that way. Cats are notorious for not wearing socks.
Atticus and Zane bundled their feet per their mother’s request and opened the door to the RV that they called home. Their view was one of pine trees and snow-covered mountaintops. There was no desert to speak off.
“Oh,” said Mrs. Honea, “what a strange dream that must have been.”
And so the boys put on second layers of everything else, including an extra set of underpants which may or may not have been on the wrong side of the laundry pile, and they jumped down onto the frozen tundra in search of very cold rattlesnakes or maracas packed with chilly beans.
The forest was deep and equally wide, and there were rinks of ice scattered around where ponds should be. The Honea boys, thanks to their parents, park rangers, and countless viewings of It’s a Wonderful Life, knew better than to walk upon frozen bodies of water without their safety having been confirmed by someone that knew how to do such things, and so they avoided them as a rule. However, the current sheet of ice under their feet had appeared without warning as they had been too busy looking up in trees for sleeping bears that must surely fall like very large pine cones, and had managed to miss the difference between cold ground and colder water as they made their way from the comforts of family and home into the depths of what was clearly wild.
“I suppose,” said Atticus, “that we would have noticed the difference had we only one pair of shoes on.”
“Oh,” said Zane as he looked at the awkward feet of his brother, “I was wondering where my shoes went.”
Zane looked down at the boots of his father, which were currently on his own little feet and had been filled with the aforementioned two pairs of woolen socks, but also with an entire roll of tissue paper and part of the Seattle Times that he assumed his parents were finished with. Then he looked at the ice and wondered how something so big and clear could just appear beneath two little boys who were nothing if not diligent in observation and whatever other skills were deemed necessary for a life like theirs, being one full of adventure.
“Atticus,” he said to his older brother, “I really have to poop.”
It was just then that Mr. Honea opened the door to the portable outhouse that served as a public restroom in the campground where their RV was parked and rejoined the morning. His feet were freezing, hanging as they were halfway out of his wife’s fuzzy slippers, and he could not find the sports page anywhere. Everyone knows that a sports page is best read while taking a personal moment upon a seat of porcelain, and even though this particular seat had been more plastic and the moment more public, Mr. Honea still expected a certain level of civility in times when the deeds that must be done were having their doing. Also, someone had used every last square of tissue paper and not bothered to change the roll. Needless to say, Mr. Honea was not in the best of moods when he opened the door to said portable outhouse to rejoin the morning and saw his two sons standing in the middle of a large rain puddle frozen over by winter in the night.
“Hello,” he said in a firm voice that implied much more than a casual greeting. And he meant it.
The two boys looked up at their father and smiled broadly. They were, in addition to many things, saved.
“Good,” shouted Zane. “Daddy’s done pooping!” and he ran past his father into the restroom. He could feel the tissue paper grown warm and soft between his toes.