“Knee feels tight. My arm’s sprained—don’t think it’s broke, a stinger maybe. I’m OK, Ed. Little dizzy. I was bringing some perch over, but hell … ”

Aldo grimaced as he twisted his body. “Ruined now.” He listed and Troyer grabbed his arm. “Oh Ed, that was a beautiful animal. What did I do?”

“Yes. Yes he was. We’ll get you some tea now. I got a chain, we’ll drag him to the barn. Meat’s still edible. You tenderized him, good Aldo, you did!” Troyer tried to lighten the situation, and Aldo accepted it, remembering now about the cat.

“Look at his antlers … Hey—you want ’em?” Aldo asked.

Troyer reacted sourly, “What the heck would I want with them?”

“I don’t know … maybe I’ll give it to my nephew, Mauro. He wanted that thing so bad he could taste it. By hook or by crook, I guess he’ll finally get him on his wall.”

Troyer took the remark in and let it ruminate in a quiet, darker space of his mind.

“Mauro, you say? He’d be the dark-haired one?” Troyer asked.

“Yeah, that’s right,” Aldo said, gripping the farmer’s arm to remain upright.

Troyer stood still, just a moment, before trotting back to the tiller. He attached a heavy chain to the deer’s antlers, securing it with latching hooks.

“He would like them, wouldn’t he? We’ll see about that, eh … uh, you and me will split the meat,” Troyer said, though it came out more of a command.

“You take it, Ed,” Aldo spoke through gritted teeth. “I’m really sorry about Esther’s cat, but my nephews didn’t shoot it,” Aldo said with conviction. “He even showed me the colors of the vanes on his arrows. They were different colors than you said; blue and green, Ed. Blue and green.”

Troyer raised his chin and his brow tightened.

Photo(s) by Illustration by Joe Borri, www.skidmorestudio.com