Uncle John sits huddled in the basement under a heap of sweaters and blankets and many pairs of socks. His feet look bloated and too big. He waves me over. There's a coffee cup in front of him on the table, but also a bottle, black and gold-capped. He sits in front of his radio, but the radio isn't on.
"It's the women in this family," he whispers. "They do not speak."
I approach him and bounce from foot to foot. It's cold under the earth.
"I hear boys at work talking, right, Berto?"
I say "Yes," but of course I do not really know what he means. When Papa told stories he would watch you to see you were listening, but he didn't require you to nod or to agree. Uncle John needs to know that you know.
"Old boys, young boys, new married and long married. They talk about the mouths on their women. That they don't stop yappin, about their days and their jobs and the grocery store, and who said what and who cares anyway, this and that. And I sit and I wish, Berto, for some of it rub off on her." He points upward, to the first floor of the house above us, to Aunt Lydia up there unseen.
"Our women? They do not speak," he says. "They survive. Always moving. Never drowning. Like your Mama. I married into this family, but you? Berto, you come from shark stock."