There were squirrels there that were not scared of us the way the squirrels were at home and they would come right over to us for chips or pretzels or whatever other snacks we had. My grandmother said that our snacks were bad for them and she always gave us a bag of trail mix that had different kinds of nuts and dried fruits to give the squirrels. There were also some birds that always came around. They would stop about ten feet away from us and look at us sideways the way birds do. Then, they would take a few hops until they were a little bit closer, stop, and look at us sideways again. When they got very close to the hammock, we gave them some of the nuts and fruits too, and they would grab them and fly away for a little while before coming back for more.
At some point, we stopped going to the store and we would drink the entire pitcher of juice that my grandmother brought out for us, even with the ice and pits, and pulp in it. We still spent most of our time talking outside but going back into the house no longer felt like such a bad thing. Sometimes, when the summer was over and I was back home, I tried to see if I could get my floors in our house to make any noise by walking on them as hard as I could but they always ignored me. We also had squirrels and birds at home but they never came within twenty feet of me and they would scurry away or fly off, half terrified, if I made even the slightest move in their direction.
I had started filling up the bathtubs at Grandmas and sometimes, I would take a long soak instead of a shower. Those tubs were so big that I could put my head completely under the water and stretch out, pretending that I was in the ocean. I mentioned that to my grandfather and a few days later, he told my cousin and me that he was going to show us how to float like magic. We helped him carry these big heavy bags into the house from the garage and up the stairs to the bathroom. That was the loudest those stairs every squeaked but they no longer sounded unfriendly; now, they sounded like they were excited for us. The bags were each full of twenty-five pounds of salt and we poured it all into the tub. Then, my grandfather told us to get into the tub and see what happens. My cousin and I both got into the tub on opposite ends and to our shock we were floating on top of the water just like logs on the lake. He left us in there and we floated like that for hours, talking about all the same things we used to talk about in the hammock. After a few minutes, we couldn’t feel the water against our skin anymore and it felt like we were floating in space. The following summer, the first thing we did when we got there was fill up the tub with salt and start floating again.
That year, my grandmother got us an enormous bag of trail mix for the squirrels and birds and when we went back out to the hammock, they seemed almost like they had been waiting for us to show up all year that we had been gone. Unfortunately, that was the last summer that we were able to spend at my grandparents because both of us had summer jobs at home. When my cousin’s family came to visit that summer, we were talking about how much we missed spending our summers and our grandparents’ house and we agreed that the thing we missed more than anything else was floating in the tub of saltwater. We hung out on my backyard deck a little bit but all the animals treated us like strangers or even worse: as though we were hunters intent on killing them if they got anywhere near us. Halfway through the conversation, we got up to get some soda from the fridge. We weren’t paying much attention to one another as we sat back down on the deck. Then, I looked at the table and noticed that both of us had…