Day 2, Prompt-1 “How To Hewn A Family”

by | Oct 17, 2020 | Dean Cleaning Two | 8 comments

Walnut Man stands a solid five inches high, when not bent at the waist. Then, he loses a good inch, just like my grandfather, the person who made him. Walnut Man’s hands and feet are flat pieces of wood with notches representing the digits of each. His arms and legs, jointed, hand-whittled dowels, allow him to sit on the chair my grandfather made from matchsticks. His named is derived from the objects of his torso and head: walnuts.

As a young girl, I watched as my grandfather precision split the two halves of one of the walnuts: the glint of his pocketknife dulled with age, not unlike the blue of Gramps’s eyes. The ca-raack signaling a clean separation made us both giddy. After scraping the brainlike nut from its shell, he divided it hemispheres and offered me one. While crunching and digging bits from his teeth with his tongue, he glued the halves together, blowing them dry with his nutty, smoky breath. He poked two round holes into the nut for eyes, smoothed out the bottom portion of the seam where the halves met, creating a nose, and etched a straight line for a mouth. His final touch, penciled eyebrows. My grandmother relieved Walnut Man of an eternal existence in his birthday suit with green pants and a shirt, now faded and dirty, that she handstitched onto his body

I sat with my grandfather while he made his Walnut people and matchstick houses and chairs. He fully wired one house, and with the push of a button the interior came to life in light. I marveled at the Walnut Family sitting around the kitchen table inside, imagining their life to be perfect. How could it not be? They had been hewn by the rough-skinned hands of love, discernment, and commitment.

Walnut Man’s face resembles my grandfather’s before he died: wrinkled, bald, brown skinned (Gramps was part Cherokee), and contemplative. He knows what my life has been since Gramps died: my parents’ divorce, my father’s shooting, the fabric of my family shredded and burned by vain, manicured hands.

Now, sitting at my kitchen table with my husband and daughter, my family, I’m certain Gramps watches through the window, through Walnut Man’s eyes. Wrapping my weather-worn hands around my mug, I hear his joyful whisper, “I always knew you could do it.”

 

8 Comments

  1. David O'Connor

    The first two sentences are excellent, total hook, I’m invested. I also love the penultimate paragraph (should it end there?). Add an illustration to this piece would be so inspiring… any old photos? Well done, good work!

    • Constance Malloy

      David,

      Thanks for your comments, and the suggestion regarding the end. I do have pictures of Walnut Man!

      Constance

    • Paul Beckman

      Constance-The love of the young girl and her grandfather is so special and cemented by their sharing the walnut meat together. You carried the whole scene through beautifully.

  2. Tommy Dean

    Love this character, this walnut man! Great use of the object as character! So easily visualized in this opening and ready to see what trouble he stirs up!

    “the glint of his pocketknife dulled with age, not unlike the blue of Gramps’s eyes.” yes, love this comparison! This how you make objects more than just props!

    “My grandmother relieved Walnut Man of an eternal existence in his birthday suit with green pants and a shirt, now faded and dirty, that she handstitched onto his body” Love the way the character of the grandmother is introduced, the one with the sensibility to give him clothes, make him proper!

    “He knows what my life has been since Gramps died: my parents’ divorce, my father’s shooting, the fabric of my family shredded and burned by vain, manicured hands.” Oh, this is wonderfully written sentence! the shift here is well-timed, and so evocatively detailed!

    Such a vulnerable piece, such a great use of the object to tell the story of your grandfather and your life!

    • Constance Malloy

      Tommy,
      Thanks for your feedback on both of my pieces this weekend. I have really enjoyed it!
      Constance

  3. Francine Witte

    love the Walnut Man. Great name. And i love all the description of how he was made and how much that says about the grandfather. Very good sensory details.

  4. Trent

    Constance –

    Well-done, for reflecting how some things have much more weight, than someone would figure.

    Something I’m curious about – were there any near-misses? As far as Walnut Man being misplaced, or in a box/container
    where he might have been damaged? Either way, that could be a reflection of him being a “survivor” of sorts~

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Chelsea Stickle

    This is a beautiful story, Constance. I absolutely adore the walnut people village, and now I desperately want one. Because walnuts are from the natural world, it gives the village and the whole story, really, this earthiness that I just love. The fact that Gramps makes these is so cool and such a great connection to the narrator.

Submit a Comment

Pin It on Pinterest