“Office set up in the diner now, Sonny?”
Sonny stared skeptically through squarish metal framed glasses, his conversation with Jim interrupted. Both men were bearded, wiry and older… past prime. Past retirement age.
“I figured it looked better than doin’ it down at the Riverside.”
They were vets, unlucky enough to have been a few years older in ’69. VFW members who hit the Riverside as often as the home post . Mike had bumped into the middle of a some talk about cubic yards and dump trucks – the paper shared- but hell, it was a six person table, and in the next moment Spike walked in to make it four. Sonny focused on Spike.
“I got that tree cut up for ya”.
“Yeah? Did you split it?”
“You lazy bastard.”
“I was gonna bring my chainsaw down.”
“Well now you don’t have to. In a hurry to help you out I wrecked a new saw chain. Didn’t want to bend over so I put the forks on the backhoe and lifted a log right up to the porch. Cut that whole son of a bitch up except for one little limb, then sure as shit…PING!”
Spike smirked. Another vet, he’d passed the last thirty years as a timber and lumber broker. Knew the cost of hedgerow trees, nails in timber, magnetic detectors at the mill, the price of shutting down to replace a sixty foot bandsaw blade.
Mike mulled a piece of split firewood he’d handled a couple times over the fall and winter, the last look he’d had as it went into the stove. There’d been a galvanized roofing nail, perfectly preserved, deep in the inner rings of the tree.
“Who sharpens them now, anybody?”
“Beaner’s still doin’ ’em I think.”
Jim spilt some hillbilly, all nose and throat. A musical blur of wrong tenses, Mandarin sounding.
“He come back un at spell dinny? Cuppa year go.”
Sonny nodded, continuing:
“Jesus, I’ve got about a hundred of ’em. The old man would go through three or four in an afternoon. Run ’em right down into the dirt.”
Eager with his story, Mike jumped in:
“So…you hit a nail…?”
Sonny studied him with a practiced look of incredulity.
“No. I hit the god-damned fork.”