By: Jess Mercer
(© 2011 by the author)
The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's
consent. Comments are appreciated at...
It's almost Christmas when I get a phone call asking me to return home quickly as my uncle is expected to die at any moment. My own parents having died in an accident when I was a junior in high school, my uncle and his son are the only relatives I have.
My landscape architectural business is practically non-existent in winter and can be handled by my part-time assistant during my absence, so I book a flight to Minneapolis and hope the weather is decent enough for me to drive fifty miles north to the old family farm. There are no other towns or villages but the one five miles from the farm. It has a population of less than one hundred, existing only to serve the farmers.
During the flight I wonder what my cousin looks like now. It's been ten years since I've seen him, but even at sixteen he showed our Scandinavian heritage in his size, at six-ten and two hundred seventy pounds on his big boned frame, nothing about him was small, his demeanor stolid. Working together on the farm as boys, it was only natural that we expanded our sexual knowledge from applying what we heard at school by practicing on each other.
It was Nils who hugged me tightly, tears streaming down his broad face when I left the farm to go to college as my dad had intended and planned for. "Vat vill I do vitout you, Erik?"
"I wish you were coming to school with me, Nils, but I know Uncle needs you here. I'll come home every holiday. I love you."
"Ya, I luff you, too."
I did return for the semester break that first Christmas, but it was too full of memories to be a happy occasion for me. Nils and Uncle did their best, but I remained depressed until I was back at school. Even their accents now sounded strange to me. I had started working to erase mine in grade school. Not that I am ashamed of my heritage, but knowing I would be going to college in another state I wanted to avoid being called a Dumb Swede and worse. Physically I didn't fit the prototype, either. Though well built, I'm only six feet tall and dark-haired, weighing one-sixty.
I'm fortunate enough to rent a 4-wheel drive Jeep at the airport and start the drive. The road is clear, but once I leave the freeway there will be snow. It's not deep, a blessing for me not having driven in it more than a couple of times. The last ten miles on snow covered secondary roads and a country lane take almost as long as the drive on the highway, but at last I'm stopping next to a car near the back door of the old farmhouse.
As I'm about to open the door it's opened by a middle-aged woman I don't recognize. "Yes?"
"I'm Erik Larsen. Is my uncle about?"
"Come in, Erik." She lets me in and closes the door firmly against the cold. "I'm Edna Berg from the church. Your uncle passed away last night. Nils in town making arrangements. He'll be glad to see you; the poor boy seems so lost."
She sets a welcome cup of coffee in front of me and continues. "I don't know what he'll do now. There's not enough left of the farm to pay anything. With the drought and all, Henric had to sell a few acres now and again to pay the taxes."
I hear the familiar rattle of the barn doors then hear the old truck driven inside and the doors closed. A few moments later there's a stamping of boots on the porch to shake off snow and the door opens.
Nil's face clears when I stand and I walk to him. "Erik!"
After his hug lessens enough for me to breathe and speak, I say, "Nils, I'm sorry I didn't get here in time."
"You are here, now. That is what matters," he says, hugging me again.
"I left dinner in the oven, Nils. Some of the ladies will be here tomorrow with lunch and dinner, and Pastor will let us know what's needed. I'll be going now." Edna says.
Nils smiles at her. "Thanks, Edna. I appreciate your staying while I was in town. You see, someone did come."
"I'm glad he's here for you, Nils."
As soon as she's closed the door behind her, Nils sits down in an old wooden straight-back chair near the door and bends over to take off his left boot. My mouth drops open in surprise, because his right knee rests on a wooden peg leg as sturdy as Nils himself. He wipes the peg down and stands back up.
"What? When?" I ask.
"Eight years ago. Papa let me drive the combine. It needed some adjustment I saw no need to stop it for." He grimaced. "My foot slipped and the cutter did it."
"I wish you had let me know. I'm sorry."
Nils shrugs. "You could put my leg back? No need to bother you. Peg very sturdy, serve me well."
He fixes our supper and we eat in silence as was customary. After we've washed up and settled in chairs before the fireplace, Nils looks at me. "Erik, I have waited long, will you sleep with me tonight or am I now too ugly with only one leg."
I can't believe what I'm hearing. "You've waited for me all these years? I thought you'd be married by now."
He shakes his head. "After you left I find no woman hold interest for me, just you my Erik. I love you and I wait and hope."
I get up and pull my cousin up. "Nils, I have tried to have sex with a few other men, but it didn't work. It was always you I wanted, but I was afraid you were straight and would beat me into a pulp if I asked."
He shakes his head again. "What a fool I am not telling you I want to make love to you when we in school."
"I would have come home more often if I'd known, but the memories were painful and I stayed busy to forget."
"We sleep together now, or is my leg too ugly? You are here for only little time."
"Ugly?" I hug him and let my hand caress the short nub sticking out behind the peg. "You are more beautiful than ever, Nils. A peg leg on any man always turns me on, but on you it becomes a thing of complete beauty."
"I thought you would hate it."
"Never. I'm glad you use as peg instead of a leg, it's far nicer looking."
"Leg I cannot afford. Peg I make myself after Johansen lend me his grandfather's to use for pattern."
I kiss him. "Who says you're a big dumb Swede? You're a big beautiful Swede with a marvelous peg leg. But we're wasting time. I'm ready for bed."
"Ya. Me also."
In a way, I do offer comfort to Nils. He returns far more than I give, almost insatiable in his need. At last we sleep, Nils' arms around me. I wake earlier than usual to find Nils propped up on his elbow looking intently at my face.
"You become more handsome than ever," he says.
"And so are you." I reach down and rub the nub of his leg. He pulls it away.
I smile at him. "Because it's so beautiful." And it is, there's a thin pale scar on the rounded end.
"I do not think, but if you like ?"
"I do, Nils. I wish it had been me instead."
"Why do you have such wish?"
"Have you forgotten how I pretended back when we were kids playing in the hay loft? I would have given anything for a peg leg or a pair of crutches back then."
A slow smile creases his face as he reaches up with a huge hand and ruffles my hair like he used to. "Ya, I remember now. I think you crazy to want such thing. You have these wishes even now?"
I nod. "I did some research while I was in college. It's an accepted psychological condition now, and it's not crazy. There are two types of desires, mine is simply finding a man with one leg or arm to be physically and sexually attractive, the other is a sincere desire to have an arm or leg cut off."
Nils shakes his head. "You are educated one. I cannot make in my mind how this," he lifts his stump, "make me beautiful, but I love you so I like when you touch. But to wish leg cut off is not good." He hugs me, then growls, "Is late. We must be up."
I watch fascinated as he straps the peg on his bare stump and walks to the bath to wash and shave.
"Now you," he says when he comes back, takes off the peg, and sits on the side of the bed to dress. "See what I mean," he says when he sees me watching.
I nod and go. By the time I'm dressed, I hear Nils' peg occasionally thump in the kitchen, so go down and find him fixing breakfast.
"Dear Lord," I groan when I look at the plate he sets in front of me. There's a huge slice of home-cured ham, two eggs sunny-side up, a generous serving of hash browns, then he pulls a pan of biscuits from the oven.
He grins as he drops two biscuits on my plate. "You home now, Erik, not eat like city boy. We have long day."
I give it my best try, but there's some ham and hash browns left over when I push back from the table. I do have one more biscuit in my hand, though.
"You're a great cook, Nils, but these biscuits are special. I've haven't had one like them since I left home."
"Momma taught me." He smiles. "You always like to eat, but not to cook."
"Put on coat if you want to come. Must tend stock."
"You have stock?" I'm surprised. Uncle Henric used machinery well before any of his neighbors.
It's cold out. Nils stops to open the gate to the barnyard and points to the small fenced pasture behind the barn. "That is all of farm now." He continues on to the barn. I hear a whinny when he opens the door.
"Good Lord, that's not old Olé?"
Nils reaches over and rubs the horse's long nose. "Ya. He very old now." He grins. "Like rich man, he not work. Eat and sleep all day."
Nils turns Olé out into the pasture and mucks out the stall, pitching in some fresh hay and dropping some grain into the feed box. He fills the tub with fresh water before stumping to the far end of the barn and scattering grain on the floor, then going through an open doorway. Several chickens come through into the barn to pick at the grain. A few moments later Nils appears carrying a small basket holding several eggs.
"I might of known you'd still have chickens."
He smiles. "These good eggs. Fresh, not old like in store."
Back in the kitchen he wipes the eggs with a damp cloth and puts them in the old fridge. He's shaking his head when he looks at me with tears in his eyes. "I don't know how long or what I do."
I put my arm around him. "For what?"
He waves his outstretched hand. "House and barn, small pasture all that's left. I try to find job to live, but is starting winter so no work on farms."
"Why didn't you let me know? I owe you and Uncle more than I can ever repay."
"You have work hard to make business of your own. You owe nothing, your papa provide before he die."
I pour two cups of coffee and set them on the table. Once Nils has sat, I do also and look at him. "Nils, you are more a brother to me. Papa may have provided some money for my care, but you and Uncle were my only family and gave me love. Money doesn't buy that."
He shakes his head. "Love costs nothing."
I reach across and thump him on the head. "You dumb Swede, love costs everything a person posses and I love you. In the city many people give to charity but there's no love. We were raised with lots of love and shared everything together, that's real love. So long as I have anything it's yours."
He gets up and pulls me into a crushing hug. "I have a little. We see after lawyer talks."
I reach down and rub his nub again. He pulls away and smiles. "If I make you pay to rub leg, make much money."
The pastor comes by to finalize the funeral arrangements. I stay in the kitchen except when I carry them a cup of coffee. Pastor Ingquist recognizes me to my surprise. We have a few words then he and Nils finish their talk.
I can tell how deeply Nils is affected, so I hug him. I've always thought of him as stolid.
"I'm glad you are here, Erik. So alone I feel."
"Don't feel that way, Nils. I can stay here with you until things are settled."
I'd forgotten how conservative the Lutheran church my uncle attended has been. I struggle to remember enough Swedish to follow the service. The funeral is a somber affair offering little comfort. Nils has on his old black suit he's kept neatly brushed and a new looking peg. I feel out of place, but he holds my hand and occasionally squeezes it for reassurance. After, he begs me to stand with him and greet people. I speak to many I remember only vaguely. Finally we go home to change back into our comfortable jeans and eat the lavish dinner sent by the ladies of the parish.
It's only nine-thirty but even the strong coffee can't keep me going. "I'm beat, Nils, I'm going up to bed."
"Ya. I also."
Tonight it's my turn to hold Nils. I massage his back, feeling the taught muscles finally relax, then hear a faint snore.
Nils is still asleep when I awaken the next morning. I slip out of bed to go to the bathroom, then start back to bed. On the way I notice Nils' everyday peg on the floor by the bed. The new looking one is leaning against the dresser. I can't resist. I put my knee on top of the new peg and tighten the straps. It's too long for me to walk on as I knew it would be, but I love the feel of it. Then I hear a snicker.
"I wondered when you try," Nils says.
I slip it off and get back in bed to rub his stump. "If you weren't so tall I would have. It felt good but it's heavy."
"Ya, it feel good to knee, I must wear all time." He punches my arm playfully but he's so strong it hurts. "Peg not so heavy. You get weak living in city, do no work."
I punch him back just as I did when we were kids. "I don't live in the city. My business is out in the country where it's quiet. And I work, you dumb Swede!"
He squeezes my upper arm. "Ha! You puny little dumb Swede. You stay here, pitch hay, shovel horse shit you make muscle strong."
"That shows what you know. I pitch hay over newly seeded slopes to keep the seed from washing away and I shovel plenty of shit to make gardens I design grow." I don't add that it's dried manure in fifty-pound bags.
He dresses and straps on his old peg. "Breakfast I fix."
"Biscuits?" I ask hopefully.
He grins. "Ya. Feed you good, make strong."
"I wish I had some beer," Nils says after breakfast.
"Then let's go. Where do you get it now?"
"Hansens." He's named a gas/convenience mart I remember passing. "But old truck not good in snow now."
"My Jeep has 4-wheel drive. You need anything else while we're out?"
"Flour if you want more biscuit, but we go to market for that."
I drive slowly, but Nils doesn't say anything. Instead, he's busy taking in the snow-covered countryside. I suddenly remember how country people tend to hibernate in the winters up here and wonder how long it's been since Nils has been to town other than to see the undertaker.
Surprisingly the market is large and well stocked for a tiny village store. l grab a cart and tell Nils to pick out what he needs. I see him eyeing oranges and bananas in the produce section. I know he's too proud to ask, so I put them in the cart over his protest. He gets twenty pounds of flour and some baking powder, coffee, sugar, and milk. He shakes his head as he puts the milk in the cart.
"Not good like when papa had cow."
"I'm sure it's not, but it's a lot easier and doesn't take any care and feeding."
He nods. An aisle over he finds the beer he likes and picks up a six-pack. I add three more.
"I plan to drink with you."
He looks abashed. "I forget I am not alone."
I put my arm around him and squeeze. "You're never alone when you have me."
The cart is loaded when we finish shopping. At checkout I have to take his worn billfold from his hand and shove it back into his pocket before he lets me pay with my credit card.
I have to drive us back into town that afternoon for Nils to see the lawyer. I can tell he's apprehensive.
"Erik, you will come with me to talk to lawyer?"
"You will be discussing things that are none of my business."
Nils reaches over and squeezes my arm. "You are family, only family I got now. You are one with education so you will understand what lawyer say."
"If you want me then I'll be with you."
After near an hour of hearing Nils' father's will read and the lawyer's yammering, I understand what Edna told me the day I returned. The house and barn, and about thirty acres of pasture are all that is left to be passed along to Nils along with a bank account of a little over a thousand dollars which might cover the simple funeral. When we leave, Nils looks at me and shrugs with his palms up, a what do I do now look.
Neither if us speak until we're back in the old farmhouse. I've poured a cup of coffee for both of us and we sit at the kitchen table.
"I have no life here now," Nils says, his eyes glistening with tears.
I shake my head. "Not without a steady job. You've hardly got enough pasture to feed Olé and the chickens. Feed for them must be expensive in the winter."
He nods. "Ya. But I cannot let Olé go hungry. Is part of family."
I nod, remembering the many rides Nils and I had together as children on Olé's back. He was so gentle our parents never worried about our being thrown off. Nils and I did get our backsides warmed a few times for filling our hands with sugar to give Olé.
I let Nils reminisce while I fix some supper. After we've eaten, I open a couple of beers, handing one to Nils.
"Nils, there's no way I can abandon my business or move it here. You've said there's been no work when you've looked, so it looks like there's only one solution."
He looks up. "What?"
"You sell this place for the best you can get and move in with me. I can use a good man who has farming skills for planting, fertilizing, and other types of related work."
"I am strong, I will find something. Charity I do not want."
I get up and walk around the table to pull him up into a hug. "Was it charity when Uncle and you took me in?"
"No. You are family. Was only right."
"Isn't there something in the Bible about good deeds being rewarded?"
He nods. "Ya."
"You and Uncle did not expect reward when you took me in, but things have worked out so that I can return your kindness. You are the only family I have Nils. I love you and I want you with me."
I feel a wetness where his face is against my shoulder. Nils never liked showing his emotions, so I reach down and rub his nub. "If you live with me I can do this any time I want."
Nils gives a little giggle. "That is what you want, not me."
I hug him tighter. "Yeah, but I need a good man, especially one who can oversee my crew of workers so I don't have to keep extra people at the office. I don't like doing it and my part-time man doesn't know how to plan work." I pull back and grin at him. "I'll keep you so busy you'll wear that peg leg down to nothing, so you'd better make another before we leave."
"I need to think."
"I know, but it wouldn't hurt to start sorting out some of the old stuff and throwing it away. You need to decide what to keep as well."
I call my office once a week to check on my assistant and make sure he knows to take numbers and pass them along so I can return them on my cell phone. For the next three weeks Nils and I go through the barn and the house making decisions on what to throw away. I can tell how traumatic it is for Nils, for he wants me to hold him each night until he sleeps, not once in that time do we make love.
When I miss him one afternoon, I find him in the barn using drawknives to put a taper on a long thick chunk of wood.
"What're you making?"
"New peg. I need if you work me hard like you say," he says with a grin.
I sit down on a bale of hay across from him. "I always wanted to see how one was made."
"This way slow. If I had big lathe I could turn fast."
I watch his painstaking work for a few minutes then go back to the house to begin our supper. Nils will feed Olé and the chickens before coming in.
I'm not near the cook Nils is, but he makes short work of the pork chops, mashed potatoes, and green beans. When he's finished, he nods. "Not bad for a city boy."
"Promise me one thing."
"When I make you a city boy, you'll still cook country."
Nils grins. "Ya. Only way I know how to cook. Will look country, too, in jeans and peg leg."
I hug him, amazed that he could say that with a smile in the prospect of leaving home. "I live in the country so you'll look exactly right."
The next day warms enough that much of the snow melts. I'm washing our dinner dishes and Nils is in the barn when I see a nearly new pickup park near the barn and a middle aged man get out. He comes to the door, startled when I open it.
"Aaaah, is Nils here?"
"He's in the barn."
He nods and walks back toward the barn. I see Nils standing in the door looking toward the house. When he sees me, he beckons for me join them. I get my jacket and get to the barn in time to hear the man saying, "You give any more thought to my offer, Larsen?"
Nils glances at me then says, "No. Not ready to sell."
The man smirks. "You can take what I offered or I can buy it cheaper at the sheriff's sale when you go bust. I just don't want to wait that long."
His condescending attitude pisses me off. I grab him by the shoulder. He jumps, not being aware of my presence.
"I don't know who you are or who the hell you think you are, but Nils is not going bust nor will the sheriff be selling this place at a tax auction. If you've made a decent offer he'll consider it; if not, you can go fuck yourself."
"You can't talk to me like that!" he splutters.
I poke a forefinger in his expansive gut. "When you're on our land I'll talk to you any way I please. Now get the hell out of here!" I help him with a shove.
"Who was that?" I ask Nils after the man has driven off.
"Don't remember his name. Work for some big outfit buying up land all around. Papa sell to him when need money for seed and taxes. I tell papa he get cheated but you know papa." Nils smiles, remembering how Uncle was head of family and listened to no one except the pastor.
"I think you and I should run into town and talk to the lawyer and maybe a realtor."
"Ya. I wash."
The lawyer listens to me then says, "Nils, I hate to see you rushed son, but I think Sandy Olsen might have someone interested in your place. Please talk to her. I tried to tell your father about selling to that bunch, but he wouldn't listen."
"We'll go there now. Thank you, sir," I say.
It turns out that a few hundred feet of a farm next to Nils' lies along side Nils' property line. The owner wants more access which Nils' land would provide, but because he's new to the area, he hasn't talked with Nils, knowing the tendency of old families to stay put. That evening after dinner I call him on my cell phone. He asks to see us the next morning.
I'm impressed by the look of the man who gets out of a new 4-wheel drive long bed pickup and walks confidently toward us. Once we've introduced ourselves, I do not hesitate to invite him in to have coffee while we talk.
"I'm sorry your father had to sell off most of the farm, Mr. Larsen." He says to Nils. "If I had owned my place then, I would have bought it. I know it is even harder for you to contemplate selling your home of a lifetime, but I am grateful that you called to give me an opportunity to make an offer. I saw that fat idiot leaving here yesterday."
"You know him?" I ask.
"No, but I know one or two of the investors he's working for." He grins. "That's one reason I bought my place, it's driving them nuts for me to own a small spread inside their big one. By law they cannot refuse me access to my property, but it's up to me to keep up the road. The county road is closer here and your access is on your property. If you sell, I hope it will be to me."
"You plan to farm?" I ask.
He shrugs. "By your standard I'm just a gentleman farmer. Our kids are in college and provided for, and I got tired of the city, so I sold my business and moved out here in September. I set out some fruit trees and plan to have a good sized garden come spring. We'll keep a couple of horses for riding and maybe a few chickens. That's about it."
"What will you do with house here?" Niles asks.
"This is quite an old place, but it looks in good repair and you have central heat. With painting inside and out, it will make an attractive home if I hire someone to help me."
Nils grabs his hand and squeezes it. "I am much relieved. I fear you tear it down."
Redmond frees his hand and flexes his fingers for a moment. "To tear this place down would be a waste of good property and money. You have managed it well, Mr. Larsen."
Our coffee finished, Redmond wants to see the barn and pasture, so we put on our coats and go out. Redmond is astonished to see Olé and rubs his nose.
"What do you plan on doing with the horse, Mr. Larsen?"
Nils shakes his head. "I don't know. Olé is like family, but so old no one want. I want for him to have easy life, I know he die soon. If I go live with Erik, have no place for him." Despite his size, Nils looks like a despondent teen-ager.
Redmond takes two steps and put his arm around Nils' shoulders. "Son, if you sell this place to me, I will see that your horse is well fed and cared for. You need have no worry about that. You are also welcome to come see him any time."
"Thank you, sir," I add.
Several of the chickens wander in from their house. "You have chickens of course. Do they lay well?"
Nils smiles. "Most days half dozen eggs. Enough for us. I set one hen each spring so have biddies. Eat chickens that not lay eggs."
Redmond smiles. "I have been told that the Larsens are the most self-sufficient family in the area. It is easy to see why, now." He glances at his watch. "I must be on my way. Mr. Larsen, this is my offer." He names a sum well above the tax and property evaluation and leaves after shaking our hands.
"What you think, Erik?" Nils asks over supper.
"I'm frankly surprised at his offer. It's well above evaluation and he's willing to take the stock as well. The only thing he didn't mention is how soon he wants possession if you sell to him. But we can work that out. There's nothing much to keep you here now."
As soon as we have our cups of coffee in hand, I sit down next to Nils and put my arm around his shoulders. He looks constantly down at the worn rug. I feel him begin to shake softly and know he's crying. My arm hugs him tighter.
"I am sorry to be such big baby," he finally whispers.
"You're no baby, Nils. I've done my share of crying, too. In a way it was harder for me to leave my home than it is for you, because I was so young."
He nods. "I know."
The next morning I'm doing some preliminary sketches for a job I'm planning to bid on when Nils comes to the back door and calls me to come out to the barn. When I get there, he's sitting on a bale of hay with new pegs, one on each side of him. I note immediately that one of them is no more than half the heft of the other. Nils is smiling.
"You say I come live with you I work so hard peg wear down to nothing, so I make this one for spare," he says holding up the heavier of the two.
"Are you sure the other one will hold up a guy as big as you?" I ask.
He grins from ear to ear. "Is to hold you. You say you want pretend, here is peg. Stand here so I make length proper."
I hold my leg back while he gets the length between my knee and the barn floor with a slender stick. After he's cut the peg to length, he straps it on my leg, then stands and hugs me.
"Now you pretend like you used to. This time with real peg."
I'm almost overcome with nostalgia and emotion as I hug him. "Nils, this is so wonderful of you. I feel like I did when we were kids."
He backs away and looks at me. "Ya. You make almost one more Larsen with peg for real leg. I make you wear all day so you know feel." He grins. "Now coffee I need."
When I pass by him he grabs my foot sticking out behind and tugs gently. "This look silly. If still the combine I had, I would cut it off."
I spin around and hug him again. "I'm an acrotomophile, not a apotemnophile."
He laughs. "Big words for pretend or wanting leg cut off, I think you say. I work for you, plain English must speak. I am not educated in college like you."
"Yeah, but you've got a lot more common sense and goodness of heart than most people. I love you, Nils. My dream will be complete if I have you to hold in my arms every night and hear the thump of your peg in the mornings." I grin at him. "I might rub that nub a lot, too."
Nils pretends to cry then wipe his eyes. "I am cheated."
"I have real nub of leg for you to rub. All you got for me is smelly foot behind peg."
I'm glad to hear genuine mirth in Nils' voice again as we laugh. I give his nub a good hard squeeze.
Each time I get in the old claw-footed bathtub I long for my shower stall at home. At least there's a shower head at the end of a long rubber tube that attaches to the faucet, but I miss the forceful sting of water under pressure. Guess the old water pump won't do much more. I think Nils will enjoy my shower and it's big enough for both of us at the same time.
This is only the second time since I've been home that Nils has initiated our loving. He's rejected my attempts since the first night. We are prolong our pleasure as much as possible, mine increased by the caresses I give his nub. I'm surprised that it seems to increase his pleasure as well. I'm perfectly happy that neither of us was ever interested in the anal business.
Nils wakes me with a kiss, I kiss him back and remember my dream. Likely a combination of things, but I dreamed I had a BK nub like Nils' and the peg I wore felt as natural as my real leg. Nils and I together on our pegs made a striking couple, his big build and intense blondness against my dark hair and slender frame. The dream is so real that when I get up to go to the bathroom, I reach down and strap on the peg he made for me without a thought.
When I get down to the kitchen where Nils is fixing breakfast, he motions for me to stand still and walks all the way around me.
"What?" I ask.
He grins. "Still smelly old foot behind peg. You wear peg so I think maybe trolls come in night and take off real leg."
I hug him. "My foot does not smell you dumb Swede; I had a shower last night. I dreamed my leg was gone and I just reached for the peg when I got up. It does feel good. You make them well."
"I have much practice. When farm was big I need my peg feel good all day. Much work to be done and I must feel peg like real leg so I learn to make in winter when no farm work."
After we eat, Nils says, "You call Redmond. If he can, we go to see lawyer this morning."
"You've made up your mind then?"
He nods sadly. "Ya. Longer I stay harder to leave. Best be done quick."
I nod. "We've got things pretty well sorted out. Are you sure you don't want to take any more of the furniture?"
"Ya. We have best old pieces from family. Sell the rest."
It takes a week to arrange the auction of household goods. In the meantime we get together the few pieces we both want to take to my home. I'll rent a small U-Haul truck and we'll drive. It'll be less expensive than shipping the furniture and buying a plane ticket for Nils. I'm not even sure I could get him on a plane. On a final sweep of the house, we go down into the cellar. Behind the furnace I find three large stoneware crocks that are too valuable to sell at auction.
"Let's take these, Nils. They're genuine antiques and valuable."
His face softens. "Ya. Mama make pickles in those. I hand them to him to set out. The last one is filled with something covered by a rag. I carry it over under the single light bulb and pull out the rag covering the contents and gasp.
"Nils, look at this!" The crock is filled with currency.
We carry it upstairs and empty it out on the kitchen table, and start counting. The bills are mostly ones with occasional higher denominations. There are even one or two of the old larger sized bills. I look at them closely never having seen one before. At final tally there's some little over ten thousand dollars. Nils smiles.
"Papa not trust banks much. Always say he had cash money for emergency. I guess this is it."
I nod, thinking how like Uncle it sounds. "We had better clean up and take this to the bank so it can be transferred to the bank I use when we get you moved."
Nils shakes his head. "No bank. I will pack with clothes."
"That's too much money to treat casually, Nils. It could get lost or stolen."
The rest of what follows is a whirlwind. The day of the auction we both leave to avoid the emotion of seeing familiar things with strong memories for us being reduced to mere chattels worth only what someone is willing to pay.
We spend the night in a motel after we've settled up with the auctioneer. Mr. Redmond is kind enough to tell us he'll dispose of the few pieces remaining and the old equipment in the barn. He has already deposited a check in the bank for the purchase of the farm.
The hardest part for Nils comes early the next morning. About dawn he and I go by the barn to say our goodbye to old Olé and give him a couple of apples I bought at the market knowing he loves them. The ancient horse is delighted, but seems to realize that something is up. Nils hugs the long face close for a few moments, then looks at me and nods. It is time to go.
There in the frigid Minnesota air Nils and I exchange a warm kiss in the old barn where so long ago we had first experimented with physical love. It's only proper that the place that nourished both of us launches our journey in life together.