LESSONS by Michelle Ross • Cleaver Magazine
LESSONS by Michelle Ross In the shed, the girl’s mother presents a hammer for the girl to examine. “A hammer is a lever, a simple machine. All simple machines reduce the push or pull force needed to move a load by increasing the distance over which that force must be applied,” she says. The girl slides a finger around the cold metal knob and along the thick claws. She recalls the purple hammer birds in Alice in Wonderland, how their heads seemed backwards. The claw end of a hammer more closely resembles a beak, after all; but in the movie, the knobs are the birds’ beaks, the claws like feathered hair moussed back. Of course, in the movie, the birds wedge nails into wood rather than pry them out as her mother does now. “See how I lift the handle all the way up like this to remove the nail? I’m willing to work for a longer period of time so that I may apply less effort over the short-term. In the end, conservation of energy always prevails: input equals output. But most people don’t appreciate how wildly different that input can be made to look and feel.” As is the case with most of her mother’s lessons, the girl understands that this one is at least partly about the girl’s father. Since he left them, he has remarried; fathered two boys, brothers the girl has never met; and published a book of cookie recipes, three of which the girl’s mother claims he stole from her.