Eric Chandler


I almost killed Phil more than once.
I backed out of my driveway and braked for the
Green Bay Packers jacket and white cane
taking Tuffy the West Highland terrier for a walk
in the dark during a snowstorm.
It was all the same to blind Phil.
He messed around across the alley
in his garage with his power tools
while his wife Marty tended the flower gardens and
the giant rhubarb plant.
He made me a pair of sawhorses.
Two-by-fours with remnants of red and green paint
held together with long deck screws.
Still amazed he didn’t cut off
one of his fingers in the
permanent dark.

Not sure what to do with them,
I took them to the cabin.
They ended up holding the boatlift
above the frozen water.
Eight legs immobilized in the white
with their heavy load.
In the same spot when the spring waves
lapped at the now gray wood.
Sentinels in the ice,
year after year.

I visited Phil when his insides failed.
I saw him hold his hand in the air.
Kind of waving it, never able to see me,
—not before, not now—
from that bed in hospice.
Marty, said, “He wants to hold your hand.”
I should’ve known something was up when, earlier,
he gave my kids all his fishing poles
and me all his bottles of brandy.
I see Marty walk with Tuffy every day.
Badasses out in all the snow and ice
that Duluth delivers,
just like Phil.

Last year, one of the sawhorses was swept away.
Just disappeared.
What good is one sawhorse?
I went to the cabin with two new plastic ones.
They joined the boatlift team with the sole survivor.
I stomped through the knee-deep snow this winter to check on things.
The plastic swaybacked under the load while
Phil’s sawhorse stood stoic surveying the snow.
Bearing the weight like Atlas.

Eric Chandler is a husband, father, and pilot who cross-country skis as fast as he can in Duluth, Minnesota. His work has appeared in The Talking Stick, O-Dark-Thirty, Aqueous Magazine, Great Lakes Review, Grey Sparrow Journal, and Northern Wilds, to name a few. Visit for links to his published fiction, nonfiction, books, and poetry.

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