Uncle; The Summer of ’62, Episode 5

A tow truck was called from a nearby home.

Rich’s sister’s husband, Chuck, picked up Mrs. Larsen and Mr. Larsen and drove them to the garage. Rich rode to the garage in the tow truck. At the garage, Mr. Larsen told the owner that a dog ran out in front of the car.

Rich liked Chuck. He always had an earnest look on his face. He smiled and joked with Rich. He gave Rich advice on growing up—not long talks, but just snippets now and then. There was about fifteen years difference in their ages. Rich liked being around him and was glad he was the one who came to get them.

Chuck’s eyes and Rich’s met as they stood beside the damaged car. He chewed on his gum as if not affected. Rich knew he did not accept the dog story. He knew and understood what might have really happened, but how Rich wondered? He had to have been in Rich’s place at one time also. Chuck laid his arm on Rich’s shoulder. “I’m going to get you home. Let’s go, Richard. Everything’s going to be okay.”

It was a quiet ride home, with Mr. Larsen trying to make it seem as if everything was normal. Rich went to sleep quickly that night and awakened late in the morning.

It was Sunday. Mrs. Larsen and Mr. Larsen had to work. Rich slogged down the stairs at 11:30 AM. Uncle Bob sat in the living room rocker reading the Sunday paper.

Uncle Bob lived with the Larsens. He was Mrs. Larsen’s brother. He was a quiet diminutive in thought and stature, a devious man with a mumbling speech impediment that made him difficult to understand at times.

Rich sat on the couch.

Uncle Bob seemed mesmerized by the paper because there was not the slightest indication that he was aware of Rich’s presence.

There must be a lot of pictures,” Rich thought.

Uncle Bob dropped one side of the paper. His fingers dug into his wire gray hair and scratched. His eyes never left the page.

Can I see the sports section?” Rich asked.

He fingered through the paper and handed the sports section to Rich. He looked at the box scores, but soon thoughts gravitated to the previous evening and wondering what it all meant. Rich wondered if Mrs. Larsen and Mr. Larsen would stay together.

Mom and Dad use your car today?” Rich asked.

Yup.”

Mom swerved to miss a dog,” Rich said.

That’s what she said,” Uncle Bob said.

Hit a tree.”

Very much damage?”

Banged in the front right fender,” Rich said. “They said it will be ready by Friday.”

Rich really wanted to talk and was willing to talk to anyone—even Uncle Bob. “You want some eggs?” Rich said. “I’ll fix ‘em.”

Yup, I’ll take some.”

All I fix is scrambled. You want toast with that.”

Yup.”

Bacon.”

Yup.”

Rich paused to see if he might display some sort of gratitude.

“Scramble three,” Rich heard a muffled voice from behind the paper.

They sat at the kitchen table eating the bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast. Uncle Bob said nothing to Rich. He chewed like a cow and stared into infinity without blinking as if a robot. When done eating he left a dirty plate, knife, and fork at the table.

Excuse me,” Rich said as Uncle Bob exited the kitchen.

Puzzled, Uncle Bob said, “I didn’t say nuttin’.”

Oh, I thought I heard you say, thanks.”

Nope,” Uncle Bob said unaffected and went back to the Sunday paper in the living room.

Rich was alone. He didn’t know for how long, but it was for some time.

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