“Change huh? You wanna hear a story about change?” The old man pushed his hat back on his head and looked at each of the kids gathered around in the dust under the tree. They all looked back at him expectantly. There was a passel of ‘em, that was for sure, an even split between boys and girls. Most had curly blonde hair and dirty faces. They’d been playing outside all day. They wore sun dresses, or overalls, jeans, or shorts. They all bore a certain resemblance to one another, clearly family. They all looked like their parents. They all looked like him, all of them except one, the red haired girl, who reminded him of his wife, gone all these years without ever knowing these kids.
“OK, I guess I can tell you about change but first you all need to tell me some things that change.”
They each spoke in turn, respectful of one another.
“The season’s can change.” Said one of the older boys.
“Leafs will change colour in the fall.” Said another.
“I can change my mind…”
“We can change clothes…”
“I got two quarters in change at the store when I gave Mrs. Lattimer a dollar for a 50 cent box of animal crackers.”
“Those are all great examples of change,” said the old man. “I’ll tell you a story about a change in the weather.
“A few years back I was going to go to New Mexico for the holidays. I took a flight and changed planes in Las Vegas. Continued on to Albuquerque where a good woman met me at the airport.”
“Was it Grandma?” the little red headed girl asked.
“Hush, child,” the old man said, “that’s not important to the story.”
She nodded her head and he continued. “Time and distance conspired against me and where the weather had been fair when I left there was a blizzard in full force when I arrived. The two and a half hour drive from the airport took two days, roads were closed, hotel rooms were in short supply and we were forced to live by our wits, with little or no internet access.”
He looked at each of the kids. Their eyes were wide and they anxiously hung on his every word.
“That first night we made very little progress before we were forced to take shelter in a desert cave and make coats from coyote pelts to keep from freezing. I built a small fire in the lee of a rock and we scavenged for food. Luckily we came across a band of free range chickens and we were able to make grilled chicken sandwiches for dinner. The next morning we found that the rest of the chickens had left us eggs, sausage, tortillas, cheese and salsa; probably as some sort of peace offering, so we scraped together a couple of breakfast burritos that provided us sustenance for the next leg of our journey. Then we drove south for an hour through freezing temperatures and blizzard-like conditions.
“Eventually, we were stopped by a trooper who would not let us pass. ‘The road is closed,’ he said, ‘I can’t let you go through. You’ll have to go back and wait.’ I asked him if we could wait there by the river and he advised against it because of the weather but eventually agreed that if that was what we wanted to do then we could. We built an igloo and traded some beads and other trinkets for hamburgers from passing nomads.
“The next morning the trooper was still turning travelers back from the barricade but my companion was an enchantress, had I mentioned that before? She cast a spell on the trooper and he fell into a deep sleep. We passed through and continued on to our destination. We arrived late that afternoon, got a fire going to warm the house and heated up plates of left over lasagna and French bread. It was pretty rough but we survived.”
“That’s it, grandpa?” asked one of the older girls as she worried a scab on her elbow. “No pirates, or desperados?”
“That’s it girl,” the old man said. He took his hat off and squinted at the sun. “I got plenty stories about pirates and desperados but you wanted to hear about change. I can tell you about my adventures with Billie the Kid tomorrow though, if you’d like.” The grandchildren all cheered, jumped up and dispersed throughout the orchard. The old man rose slowly from the stump he had been sitting on, gathered his tools and plodded back towards the barn. He was grinning like the Cheshire Cat.