By Steve Siciliano
I was about to make the turn onto Bass Lake Road when I saw Joe Parker stacking a load of firewood into the woodshed next to his pole barn. I glanced at my watch then pulled into Joe’s gravel driveway and parked next to a flatbed trailer that was hitched behind an old Farmall tractor. “Morning,” I yelled through the truck’s open window. “Looks like you’ve got some work ahead of you.”
Joe took off his dirty John Deere cap and while walking over to my pickup he wiped his brow with a red bandana. “A couple of hours’ worth maybe. Where you off to so early?”
“Dublin,” I said. “How was the winter? Go south again?”
Joe took a pipe out of his back pocket, a box of wooden matches out of his shirt pocket and after lighting the pipe he blew the match out and pinched the burnt end between his fingers. “I did,” he said. “It’s not the same without Marie. I’ll be spending my winters up here from now on.”
“Might make for some long winters,” I said.
“I’ll get by,” Joe said. “I’ll keep myself busy in the pole barn.”
“I think there’s more tools in that pole barn than there is at the hardware store in Dublin.”
“Like I told you. Any time you want to use any of them.”
“Thanks, Joe,” I said. I grabbed my own pipe and relit it with a Bic lighter. “I was sure sorry to hear about Cal.”
Joe put his hat back on and looked at the “For Sale” sign stuck in the grass between the dirt road and his neighbor’s split rail fence. “I’m going to miss that old boy,” he said. “Last time I saw him we sat on my deck listening to Ol’ Blue Eyes. Killed a fifth of bourbon that night. We talked about refinishing the hull on his ’63 Thompson this spring.” He looked down and kicked at the gravel with his steel toed boot. “I’m sure going to miss that old boy,” he said again.
A few minutes later when I walked into the cottage my wife looked up from her crossword.
“I thought you were going to the hardware store.”
“I stopped to talk to Joe Parker,” I told her. “He’s coming over this afternoon to help me fix the mower.”
My wife smiled and took a sip of coffee. “What happened to wanting to try fixing things on your own?”
“Oh there’s still plenty of things around here that need fixing.”
That night after Joe and I finished with the mower we sat on my deck and talked about fly fishing on the east branch of the Au Sable while listening to his Frank Sinatra collection and drinking a couple of tumblers of W.L. Weller Special Reserve.