Mauro and Don drove the dirt road leading to Aldo’s house with the excitement of another bow season fresh in front of them. Mauro, a chiropractor, had bought into a thriving practice. He was the darker of the two, and though his hair was thinning, his arms and chest were covered with thick black hair. Don always teased him, telling Mauro he was “three DNA strands away from being a Yeti.”
Don was fair, with smooth skin and blue eyes, looking more Danish than Sicilian. He was partnered in with an orthodontist in a suburb of Detroit. Their fathers were younger brothers to Aldo, and the two were as close as first cousins could be—brothers, for all intents and purposes. Both were deadly with a bow, though Mauro had the edge because of his acute vision. His eyesight was better than 15-20 and he could see detail at great distances.
As Mauro eased his black Jeep Cherokee into the driveway, they were greeted by the image of their Uncle Aldo standing on his porch, a steaming mug of coffee in his thick hands. He wore a wool cap and orange down vest, his chainsaw at his feet in a battered, red plastic case. He was solid as stone and had a square face with deep-set eyes that while warm, possessed a kind of hawkish quality. Wavy silver hair, combed straight back, gave him a dignified persona, but he still looked like he could kick almost anyone’s ass. His chest was unnaturally large for a man of his years, and even this late in life, there were athletes who would have envied his biceps. He swiveled his thick neck like a falcon and proudly gazed at the two boys.
They could barely get the doors open fast enough to greet him. Mauro hurried over and hugged him, following up with a traditional kiss on the cheek. Don did the same, his embrace a little tighter, longer. Mauro followed up with another hug.
“There’s my boys,” Aldo said, his familiar clipped voice comforting to them.
“More firewood, huh, Unc?” Mauro said, pointing at the saw case. There were two woodpiles of split oak to the side of the cabin that could heat three houses for four winters without putting a dent in either. “Save some wood for the animals to hide in.”
“The hell with them animals. Love getting that oak. I’ve got my stove burning hotter than a hooker on Eight Mile Road. Like a sauna in there.” He looked at the empty Cherokee. “Thought Nino was coming … ”
“Had paperwork at the hospital to clean up. Be here later on,” Don said
“All my nephews did so well; doctors, lawyers, tradesmen—all professionals. If them prick cops from the thirteenth could only see my brothers and me now, the way they harassed us, them SOBs. Especially that spud-eating motorcycle cop, O’Brien.That Mick cop, he hated us Vendetti boys.”
Mauro and Don eyed each other. Don nodded at Mauro as if he’d just lost a bet.
“So, Unc, we all set with your farmer pal?” Mauro asked.
Aldo’s face became serious. He looked around as if he were about to let them in on a tip about a hot horse.
“You’re in, Killer. Now you boys listen. My friend, Ed Troyer—I told you about Farmer Troyer, remember? Man’s a prince. Salt of the Earth. You won’t believe the woods he has—crawling with deer! If it weren’t for his Esther this woulda been a regular thing. He finally convinced her though, because the damn deer are eating his crops.
“We’ll do our share to help him with that,” Mauro laughed.
“You just mind yourself ! People up here, takes years to get them to trust you. Mennonite, he is. Little easier to get to know than the Amish, but not too much. Mennonites are honest, but they’re skeptical of us downstaters. He’s been good to me, though, so you boys are all set. Got the whole place to yourselves. Ed’s a good man. Get some rest. He’s expecting you there tomorrow at five.”
“He’ll be up that early?” Mauro asked.
“Hell yeah, he’ll be up. He’s a farmer, ain’t he?” Aldo chuckled a little at his nephew. “I know you’ll be respectful now, you wouldn’t embarrass your uncle, right? He gives me fresh green beans—and the corn? Maddon’! I bring him split oak and if I’m lucky enough to catch me a mess of perch, I pop over with some fillets. Esther cooks us up a nice fish dinner.” Mauro tried to interject but Aldo wasn’t done. “Don’t screw off out there now, you hear? Good man, Ed Troyer, and I gave him my word you two were good kids.”