That right? Showed ’em to you, did he?” His tone grew terse.

“Yeah. He did. Just wish you and me could get past this.”

Troyer looked at Aldo and started to speak out, but changed course.

“You really love those boys, don’t you?” Troyer asked.

Aldo tsked. “The sons I never had.”

“Yes. As you’ve said.”

They clasped hands like old friends and he helped Aldo onto the tiller. The farmer looked at the truck’s windshield.

“Glass isn’t even broken on that side. I’ll wash them fillets up and no one’ll be the wiser.” He walked over to the vehicle and peeled the perch off the glass. “Don’t like letting food go to waste, ’specially your Island Lake perch,” Troyer called out.

Aldo looked around and felt dizzy. He leaned back and rested his arm. Something pricked him.

“Minchia puttana!” he looked at the source of his pain.

Troyer approached the tractor and noticed Aldo staring down.

“Aldo. Let’s talk about this,” he said, walking fast toward him.

“Did you buy this today? I dropped it off at the auction!” Aldo said, looking at the green crate as if it was a lost key.

Having seen it once in the only movie he ever watched—a comedy with Abbott & Costello—Ed Troyer actually felt himself do a double-take.

“You did? You took it to auction?” he asked, almost yelling.

“Yeah, why?” Aldo asked.

Troyer’s face softened, like he remembered something.

“Not your nephews, eh? You brought it yourself? It’s heavy, Aldo—”

“They were in Spruce all day, hunting state land.” Aldo grew indignant. “Think I can’t lift it? You did, didn’t you? Cleared out a bunch of stuff from my garage. Every now and then, gotta rid yourself of old stuff.”

“I’d been looking for some fasteners, tie-downs, eh. I had dangling cables by them apple trees I wanted to take care of. I used the rest to fix a gate and fence-row by the highway. They’s handy. Used them all up. Every one of ’em.”

“Hope you didn’t pay too much. Hell, those have been in my rafters for years. Wished I knew you needed them. Would’ve saved you the money,” Aldo said, regret and pain splitting time in his voice. His coloring had turned grey.

Troyer looked at the crate.

“So you never bothered to look inside? Did you look inside—just now I mean.”

“Why would I? I know what’s in it. I stole it off an Edison truck in Warren thirty-some years ago,” Aldo said, making a hasty sign of the cross. “Did you use them all?”

Photo(s) by Illustration by Joe Borri,