“What’re ya doin’?” James hadn’t been able to find John in the house, so he went searching outside. Right in the middle of the cornfield where they always cut the corn maze, John was playing in the snow. Playing in the snow like a kid, but without the kids. “Buildin’ an ice maze. Thought the kids’d like it when they come this weekend. Dontcha remember alluv Bree’s soy milk cartons I been savin’?”
James remembered seeing John going through the garbage and taking out the cartons. “How long have you been doin’ that?” John had the big, leather gloves that James used for welding. His work boots and overalls were covered in a fine layer of snow. He walked over to a huge pile of soy milk cartons and tore one apart, revealing brightly colored ice within. “I saved the cartons all year and kept them in the feed shed. Since we don’t have the cow anymore, it’s just been empty. You didn’t seem to mind.”
He took the block of ice and placed it along the path. “Looks like you’re not gonna have enough,” James commented. John flared an angry look at him, wiping his runny nose on the sleeve of his mustard yellow work overalls.. “It’s not gonna be as big as the corn maze. Just a small one for the kids.” James glanced at the pile of cartons and what John had done so far. “You got anymore in the shed?”
A panicked look flashed across John’s face. “No?” James shook his head and folded his arms. “Then you’re not gonna have enough.” He watched his older brother’s face fall in disappointment. It was painful for James to see it. He felt as if he had tipped over his brother’s pile of blocks or accidentally stepped on his Lego creation. A desperate need to fix it overcame him.
“Now don’t go lookin’ like that. Just ‘cause you don’t got enough ice blocks doesn’t mean we can’t make more ice.” James was desperately looking around. He walked over the feed shed and grabbed an icicle hanging off the low roof. “We could maybe add a buncha these and then turn the sprinklers on ‘em. Let ‘em harden up overnight.”
James watched his brother’s face to see if it had lightened, while John took the icicle out of his hand. John stuck it between two of the blocks. “Get me a bucket of water,” he demanded and James ran to the feed shed to look for a bucket. Before he could get out, though, John was swearing, “Dang it!” James ran out of the shed with a couple of buckets in his hand. “What?”
“We can’t run the sprinklers, they’ll freeze solid!” James held one of the buckets in his hand. He smelled the remains of rabbit feed and realized that it had been the one that he had used to move the food from the bin to the cages. He remembered with a cringe why they no longer kept any animals on the farm anymore. He could almost see the blood on his hands at the memory.
Before he could wallow in the sadness and guilt, he remembered something he had read during his teardrop trailer obsession. “No! I know what we can do. I saw it on the computer.” James had read the blog of a woman who traveled in her Casita trailer, getting odd jobs around the country. Every winter, she worked at an Amazon fulfillment center in Kansas for the Christmas season and to keep her waterlines from freezing, she used a heated hose. “Those trailer people have hoses that plug into the electricity and keep warm enough to not freeze. It’s not as good as the sprinklers, but it should work.”
John thought out loud, “But won’t that make the water so hot it’ll melt the ice?” James replied, “I don’t know.” Suddenly, the two of them were united just like they were when they were kids. They were building with ice and water just as they built with Legos and Lincoln Logs.