off the grid by Shannon Peil
Beyond the rocks, surrounding the house, in what would be called the ‘back yard’ if
mountain houses ever really had yards, was this tree. It was perfect in the sense that very
few pines in the area were built in a way to support a tree fort, but this one would.
Perfectly, he thought. He thought the word ‘perfect’ over and over in his head while he
walked around the base of the tree. Perfect. Perfect. Perfect. Perrrrrrfect. The word
stopped making sense and he tried to think about something else. Machetes. A machete
would be perfect. No, not that. A machete would suit his needs completely.
He walks around the base of the tree some more swinging his arms like he had a machete
and was clearing the underbrush and juicy foliage of a jungle he’s never been to. He
thinks he will probably never go to a jungle. He is mildly disappointed. Looking up
through the dense leaves, he imagines the wooden planks circling it, resting on the evenly
spaced larger branches. He considers whether he wants a rope ladder, or what. He isn’t a
carpenter. He isn’t sure. He thinks if he had a machete right now, he could clear the
obstructions around the base of the tree until about 6 and a half feet, but then he wouldn’t
be able to reach any higher. Where should the bottom floor of a tree fort sit.
Sitting in his room later, he puts out his cigarette and stares at it. He grabs a pen and a
notepad from his laptop bag and flips to a blank page. Blank, but with lines on it. Pre-
approved lines over whitespace in even spacing for his writing pleasure. He smiles and
A machete would suit his needs completely.
25 year old caucasian male
approximately 159 lbs., 5′8
He stares blankly at the lines. He stares blankly at the whitespace. He meant to outline his
plans for wood, preferably a light colored, pretty wood, resistant to water and cold. He
meant to also draw out the dimensions of wood and tools he would need to complete the
job. He stares blankly some more. He isn’t sure where he thought this information would
come from. He googles “tree forts.”
He finds some information written by someone who appears to be much better versed in
the practice of building tree forts than himself. The writer asks the reader how old are the
children, how many children are there. He wonders why they would assume this fort
would be for children. He scrolls down to see if the writer is well versed in building tree
forts for approximately 159 lb. children. He wonders if maybe he will invite a girl up
there. This could force his plans to require a foundation that could accomodate 300 lbs.
He considers putting the notepad away and watching tv. He scrolls down.
The writer of the article mentions using ‘galvanized bolts’ as they will not rust away. He
makes note of this on his notepad. He sees mention of using multiple trees, and building
the floor of the fort supported by branches from both trees. He wonders why he didn’t
think of this. He wonders if this state can even accomodate this sort of tree fort. He
shakes his head. There is no way that will work for him. He goes back to google and
finds a different page. He sees no results that seem pertinent and changes his search terms
to “tree fort construction.”
He opens a professional looking website promising to guide him on his journey. He looks
for the plans they promise and sees the words ’small fee.’ Someone wants to charge him
for his excursion into tree fort building, he thinks. Someone wants to capitalize on my
moving away from capitalist home-ownership. He gets mildly upset. He wonders what
‘off-the-grid’ really means.
Shannon Peil lives and writes in Boulder, Colorado. His work has appeared in a few dozen online publications and a couple in print, but more notably he edits for people who actually know what they are doing at http://amphibi.us. He gets referred to as Ms. more often than not in e-mails.
© 2011, Metazen.