Friday 21 Oct 2016

Bottle on the Porch
AJ Robinson

I now live in Florida. What that means is this: winters tend to be rather mild. Sure, we get our cold days, but they’re nothing like what I used to get back home in Massachusetts. January and February were always the coldest, and we’d get days and nights where the temperature truly dropped.

This led to several things. One was snow, which was awesome, such as sledding with my friends was fun, building a snowman was fantastic and snowball fights. There was no word to describe how much fun they were!

Then there was something else. A little something my dad taught me about water. The first time he showed me this lesson was on a visit to Menotomy Rocks Park. We were going there to ride our toboggan down the hill and he stopped to show me the pond. It was frozen; ice covered the water. He told me that a lake or any body of water was truly unique. I didn’t understand what that meant, but he explained. Water was a very special liquid because it expanded when it froze.

I still didn’t get it.

He explained it this way: when something becomes solid, it gets smaller; it shrinks. That’s why it gets heavier and sinks. Okay, I could follow that. He told me, water wasn’t like that. It got bigger and floated, which was very unusual. That was why ice cubes floated in a drink and ice floated on the top of a lake. He said that it was a very lucky thing that water did that.

I didn’t understand that.

He told me that if water sank when it froze, it would drop to the bottom of the lake and that would trap all the fish down there. They wouldn’t be able to swim. Because water floated, it acted like a nice snug little roof over the fish and kept them warm all winter. I thought that was very nice of the water. He also told me that that was the reason we couldn’t leave milk, water, juice or anything else with water in it outside on a cold night. If we did, the water might freeze, and then the glass bottle would shatter.

I thought that sounded awesome!

The next time the weatherman said that we were looking at a freezing night, dad and I arranged a little experiment. We got one of our one-quart milk bottles, filled it with water and put it out on the front porch. After that, it was off to bed for me, although I excited about what we might find in the morning.

Well, as you can imagine, come the dawn, I was up and out of bed in a flash. I barely paused to throw on my bathrobe, and then I bounded down the stairs. Rushing to the front door, I unlocked it, threw open the door, and stepped out onto the porch. I looked down. There sat the bottle, right where we’d left it.

It was shattered.

I was in awe. Wow, here was water, simple little water and, when it froze, it could break a solid bottle. It was quite the little science lesson, one of my favourites. I always think of my dad and the bottle on the porch, whenever there’s a chill in the air.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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