Uncle Greg always liked to deer hunt
Outside of Geneva, Ala.
He used a Labrador Retriever
To chase the deer across the road
While 12 gauges avalanched the air.
But not today.
I went with him to deer camp
The winter I was 14.
We slept in a box camper with a
Faded yellow stripe at the bottom,
Bubbles of rust eating through the flaking paint.
He yanked the covers off me
Around four in the morning for breakfast.
The air was cold as steel and I hated him
For it no matter how much
I wanted to go the night before.
I walked outside to where he was cooking breakfast.
The fire snapped and damp wood hissed as
I crouched in an army blanket.
He cracked the eggs, put the shells in the filter
With the coffee; he said the shells make the coffee less bitter.
The bacon popped in the iron skillet
And he stirred the grits.
He gave me coffee for the first time.
I was fourteen and drank it black, the way men do.
Drank it smooth and I was satisfied.
I drank a lot to keep warm.
I had to get out of the tree stand
A few times later on, moving down
The oak, toes numb in the sharp air,
Fingers stiff and thick.
I never went hunting with him again,
But I wish I had.
That morning was still and cold
In the stand up in that Oak.
We watched the sunrise as
Fog lifted from our mouths
Like steam from the coffee,
And I never knew that egg shells were
Supposed to be in the coffee.