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"You want an egg?" He
asked the boy. "I'll roast you one in the ashes." The boy
not heard of this. He thought of
roasted hot dogs and smiled at the picture of an ashy egg,
sunny side up on a stick. He was a
curious four year old. Small passing notions often
paused to linger with him, transfixing
his attention, filling him with wonder, or with
dread. This was an especially
"How ya gonna do it
grandpa?" He was giggling and wiggling, waving his little rake.
"Careful there. Go get one
from grandma and I'll show you," and off he went. "Get
one for me while you're at it." He
had to yell as the boy was already near the back door.
They had been burning leaves all
morning. Pushing a shrinking mound ever inward,
adding another pile to freshen the
flame. The sweet smoke sometimes got into the boy's
"Just because I got tears,
it don't mean I'm crying grandpa."
"It 'doesn't mean you're
crying." Even as he corrected the boy's grammar, he chided
himself, "No more pressure."
His wife usually reminded him to lighten up, but without
her out in the yard with them, he had
to check himself for gaffs. Once this morning the
boy even reminded him saying,
"I don't hafta know all
the words grandpa, I'm only a kid!" Now he smiled at the
memory in spite of himself, turning
embers to reveal hidden pockets of unburnt leaves.
He looked up at the sound of the
screen door and saw two small hands carrying two
large brown eggs. He noted a similar
'coffee with cream' coloring of both hands and eggs
and the term 'high yellow' came to
mind. The boy was stepping nearly heel to toe,
monitoring his hands, as he carefully
made his way back. Jimmie, his very own, very
first, orange tabby kitten hopped after
him but soon gave chase to various drifting leaves.
"Grandpa, I didn't know
they made brown eggs. Was they brown chickens?"
"No, I think it was the
vitamins the mamma chicken ate that made them brown." He
hoped he was right. I'll have to
look that up, he noted.
With the hoe the old man made an
indention at the edge of the hot ashes. With finger and
thumb he quickly nested the two eggs
side by side, and scooped a hoeful of embers to
"We gonna be able to find
em, right grandpa?"
"Yes Angel. You and I will
watch this spot. We won't let them get away will we?"
The boy frowned but did not respond. He
hoped to be up to catching one, should it
escape from it's current discomfort.
Later, they sat under a nearly naked
maple and cracked and peeled their hot snack in the
October chill. Hilo came and nuzzled
the old man's pant leg and found a soft spot just
above the knee to lay his head. The
screen door sounded again and Grandma, scarfed and
sweatered, came out, bringing a thermos
and some honeyed biscuits. He was not
surprised when she produced two coffee
cups, and even a salt shaker from deep in her
"What am I gonna drink
Grandma?" Angelo asked as only a worried four year old can.
"I left you some hot cocoa
on the counter." She applied her extra special coaxing
tone and Angelo's eyebrows automatically
raised to match her enthusiasm.
"Do you think you can
bring it out without spilling it? I wouldn't want you to burn
yourself." Eager to complete this
impromptu picnic, Angelo ran back to the house,
jumping over Jimmie who made a dive for
his ankle but for reasons of his own, bolted
toward the garage, rolling now with a
very important bit of gravel.
"She just called,"
she said, watching Jimmie.
"Well? What?" He
asked this though he already knew what she would say.
"She says maybe next week.
You know, she's just not ready." She always tried to
soften him, and though at times, he
reproved himself for not being able to be soft like
her, he now bristled at her for trying
to 'fix' his feelings. They were interrupted as Angelo
came again heel to toe, even more
slowly with his not terribly hot cocoa.
"Angel." he said,
"Maybe later we can go and rent a movie. We're nearly finished
High thin clouds cooled a pale Saturday
sun. Jimmie dozed in the driveway and Angel
copied his Grandpa, throwing the
remainder of his hot chocolate into the fire. Mingled
ash and steam roiled and rose in the
unsteady current, and a disappointed Angel looked
into his suddenly empty cup, wishing
for a reversal of fortune.
"Where's my good little
"Shhhhh shhh shhhh,"
she hissed, pointing to what he already saw, Angelo and
Jimmie, balled up in his recliner. They
paused as kid and kitten stretched and resettled,
a leg exposed from under, and a paw
sticking through the afghan. He followed her into
the kitchen. He had just come up from
his shower, barefoot, in jeans and a tee shirt. He
brushed the side of the coffee pot with
a knuckle, and lit the stove. He got his cup from
earlier, and ran it under hot water to
'mother' it, and to rinse a bit of twig into the sink.
She sat by the window with her book,
looking at him. He settled across from her. A slow
front finished off the sun, and the
scattering leaves were finally overcome by a steady
"The fire's nearly out
anyway." he offered, speaking more to the chore of the day
than to anyone.
"Go." She said. "GO!
Drive up there, get a room if you have to, and stay till she sees
you. Wait her out."
The pace of the rainfall changed
slightly, and under the coffee steam, his cup gave up a
bare whiff of today's smoke. He met her
look. As she turned her attention to her reading,
she slid her hand toward him. He
reached and received her makeshift bookmark, reading
the health center's phone number, and
the director's name.
Jimmie cried his way into the kitchen.
The old man got up, poured milk into a saucer, got
down the cookie jar and a glass, and
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