Mauro pulled on his jeans and smelled the aroma of percolated coffee. He saw Aldo, still walking stiffly, settle in at the dining room table. It was as though he’d willed himself to heal, his coloring much rosier than the day before. He had already cooked up a half-dozen eggs and some perch. Mauro saw two steaming plates.
“Who’s up, and cooking, too? Look at all of this! How’re you feeling?” Mauro asked, pouring himself a cup of coffee.
“Been better; been a hell of a lot worse, too, nephew. Got out of bed before your young ass, didn’t I? Heh, heh … ” Aldo groaned reaching for a butter knife.
Mauro quickly grabbed it for him. He handed him the knife and looked at his uncle’s hands, the skin hairless and getting papery. So many times he had watched those hands grab tools, pound in stakes, split wood, or twist a wounded pheasant’s neck.
Mauro rubbed the hood of the Oldsmobile the drivers had left his uncle and went back into the cabin.
“Truck will be ready next Thursday. You think you’ll be OK here while I’m gone? I can stay another day, long as you like,” Mauro said.
Aldo peeked out the window of the cabin door. He tsked.
“They gave me an old man car. Can’t put much oak in that trunk … no, I’ll be fine, Mauro. Thanks for staying. Maybe next year you’ll bag one over at Ed’s. That giant has sons. Such a shame to waste a beautiful animal like I did. I’m getting old I guess, not paying attention like I should.”
Mauro tried to shoot back a snappy rejoinder, but his brain couldn’t come up with one. He smiled at his uncle instead.
“Well. Better hit the road.”
“See Ed Troyer. He’s a good man. Nothing to worry about with him. I gave him my word, nephew. Told him that you’d stop by. He may even let you have the rack.”
Aldo ate a piece of toast. Mauro watched him chew. It seemed like time stopped; he was unable to speak. Finally, he felt his voice, but it didn’t sound like him speaking.
“Uncle. I’ve got something I need to tell you … ”
Aldo looked at him, oblivious to anything but his breakfast.
Mauro met his eyes and felt the weight of his deception grow heavier somehow. This something that had started out as an error in judgment—like a pinprick—had grown into a festering boil, but it was all his doing. He wanted to release the pressure of it, but looking into his uncle’s trusting, aged face, it remained buried.
“Spit it out. Cat got your tongue?” Aldo said.
The choice of words made Mauro falter.
“No. I wanted to tell you, that I really love coming up here. I just wanted you to know it’s been some of my best memories as a kid, ever, being up here with you,” he said.
Aldo smiled, visibly moved by Mauro’s admission. A rush of warmth surged inside him.
“Those aren’t easy words for people to say sometimes. But you have no idea how much it means to hear them. Thank you, nephew,” Aldo said.
Mauro bent down to hug him and kiss his cheek. He tried to get up, but Mauro placed a hand against his broad chest, urging him to stay seated, which Aldo gladly did.