Pitching Pennies from Issue 86
I expected a different downfall for my wife’s brother, something akin to murder, or forgery. Long ago—and you can ask my groomsmen, because I told them all about Lee Wayne at the bachelor’s party when he disappeared for a couple hours—I predicted kidnapping, grand larceny, felony DUI, drug- and gun-trafficking, bigamy, and any number of paternity suits. I thought Lee Wayne might finally get caught scamming people out of their retirement savings, or selling stolen goods, or hooking up with chop shop men working a tri-state area. That’s how it is for men who insist on being called two first names, one of which is “Wayne.” There’s scientific and sociological proof. I predicted that Lee Wayne would eventually make his way to Nigeria to teach those internet people how to siphon money from one account to another without repercussions.
The maximum penalty for the mutilation, diminution, or falsification of usable currency, according to United States Code title 18, part I, chapter 17, is about the same as the maximum penalty for littering. If I ever get married again—it’s logically possible that it could happen—I’m going to mention this to my new set of groomsmen, who’ll all be different than the first team I employed seeing as those friends, for the most part, advised me against marrying Monica. In my defense, I found out only later that my wife went by Monica Marie up until the time she went to college. I don’t know if there’s ever been a scientific and sociological study about two-named women yet, but there should be. Kate “Ma” Barker. Mary Lou Retton.
“Lee Wayne’s coming by to stay with us for a couple weeks, until he can straighten out his life,” Monica said to me one day, seven years into our marriage, nine months after the last time we’d heard from her brother. “I don’t want to hear any crap from you about this.”
A minute earlier we had been getting along fine, talking about how it would never be socially acceptable for women to chew Red Man or Beechnut tobacco in public until they learned how to spit cleanly. We’d gotten on the subject because neither of us were doing very well when it came to nicotine gum, prescription Zyban, nicotine patches, prescription Chantix, hypnosis, cold turkey, and so on. Monica and I stood out in the middle of our back yard smoking 100% additive-free natural tobacco, because at least we’d gotten away from the more popular name brands. We had agreed that A) we should not smoke in the house because maybe the cleaner smell would make us eventually stop; and B) once we ran out of money from buying the 100% additive-free natural tobacco cigarettes that cost twice as much as, say, Camels, Marlboros, and Winstons, we would have no other choice but to quit, or start robbing banks in a way more suited to her brother Lee Wayne. I’m not all that proud to admit that when I smoked cigarettes outside I found myself looking at the tomato/Brussels sprouts/habanero/broccoli/ rosemary/basil garden and wondered how difficult it might be to grow actual tobacco plants there, and learn how to roll handmade cigars.
The neighbors next-door had a cook-out. It was a little more than obvious that they pretended that they didn’t see us standing there, a half-acre away, puffing like special lizards. These were new people who’d only moved in a couple months earlier. The old neighbors evidently didn’t pay their mortgage, et cetera. I think their last name began with either an L or a T, but I can’t remember. I said to Monica, “Two weeks?” I said, “There’s no way that he can straighten out his life in two weeks. Did you mean years? Did I mishear you? Did you say two decades?”
“Not funny, Clewis.”
It’s my last name. People always call me by my last name, always, and even did when I was a child. Look at the other people in history known better only by their last name: Caesar, Einstein, Plato, Shakespeare. There are a lot of them. Maybe Geronimo and Crazy Horse. Hemingway and Faulkner. Castro. In the world of high finance, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Hearst, Astor, and Buffett. In regards to art, Picasso, Pollock, Dali, Renoir, Monet, Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Warhol.
Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Nixon, and Reagan when it comes to politics. Churchill. Gandhi.
I don’t count Hitler.
I didn’t know that Lee Wayne would show up by the time Monica and I went inside, cooked supper, then came outside to smoke before going in to eat. I kind of wondered how come she made a big point out of fixing a special meal of fish tacos, asparagus, cole slaw, fresh cut potatoes fried in olive oil, and a black bean soup concoction we’d never had in the past. She had already baked bread with forty-seven different grains, and whipped up hummus from chickpeas. Monica made a regular tossed salad, and cooked a pie made from canned peaches and pizza dough. I thought maybe I’d forgotten our anniversary, or my own birthday. I thought maybe it was Lee Wayne’s birthday, or perhaps he was coming over to ask us to be in a wedding he had forthcoming.
“Are we cooking for the rest of the week or something?” I said. Most nights we didn’t even eat together—I ate a bologna sandwich, and she ate unsalted, unbuttered popcorn with a side of eighteen-cheese quiche. I said, “When’s your brother showing up?”
She looked at her watch. She said, “If possible, try not to mention the word ‘penny.’ Don’t mention currency, copper, recycling centers, or that thing up in Chicago that’s not the stock exchange, really. I can’t remember what it’s called.”
I said, “Wrigley Field? Second City Comedy Troupe? The Sears Tower? Oprah? That German submarine inside the Museum of Science and Industry?”
“The Chicago Board of Trade. I think that’s where it is. Anyway, don’t mention pennies.”
I was about to ask why, there in the back yard, with the neighbors still grilling what smelled like nice rib eyes and our own tacos growing cold on the kitchen counter, when Lee Wayne drove up palming an oogah-oogah-oogah horn attached to the steering wheel of a late model Toyota hybrid
“Pennies, or jail. Don’t mention either one,” Monica said. “He just got out of prison.”
My first thought, of course—maybe during my predictable and likely second bachelor’s party I would say to those gathered “Prison?! When and why did Lee Wayne go to prison?!,” but it would be an exaggeration—my first thought was “Who leaves prison and shows up at a sister’s house driving a late model Toyota hybrid?”
Then I thought that stuff about when and why did Lee Wayne get incarcerated, and then the third thing I thought was, “Why would anyone put an oogah-oogah-oogah horn on a nice car?” There might’ve been some other considerations in between. I’m that way. I’ve been coming up with other considerations ever since I decided that I wanted to make more of myself than being a plain guy with a horticulture degree in charge of making sure city workers pick up branches, weed beds, and cut the grass in public areas. Not to get sidetracked, but one time I made a movie of a man who cut the grass at his house, took a shower, then went to bed with his wife. They had sex for about two minutes. All of this was done in silence–even when he was on the Troy-Bilt 17.4 horsepower manual 42” riding mower in the front yard—until he got into bed. Then he said, audibly, “I’ll do the back yard tomorrow.” And she said, “You ain’t done the front yard yet, son,” like that, all symbolic and ironic. Then the credits came up saying how my friend Fred Bingham played the part of The Grass Cutter, and his then-fiancee Kay Sue Platt played the part of Disgruntled and Unsatisfied Wife. I sent the film off to one of those movie contests, but never heard anything. It might’ve been too short. It ran right at two hours, because I slo-moed the grass cutting scene. I slo-moed the mow, see.
The movie’s called Chores and Maintenance, in case it ever comes out for real and people want to know.
Everyone called Kay Sue “Kazoo” behind her back, until she took off from Fred. I’m hoping that Chores and Maintenance never gets picked up by a major distributor, just so she doesn’t gain fame and royalties.
Lee Wayne got out of the car and skipped our way. He said, “All right! I smell something good!” When I say “skipped,” I mean that he actually skipped, like a schoolgirl. He still possessed long sinewy arms, the face of a hatchet, the legs of a man who’d never used a ladder. He looked like my beautiful wife, minus the boobs.
I dropped my cigarette butt and stomped on it twice, then reached down to pick it up. As I stood erect, Monica dropped hers so that I’d have to stomp on it, and bend back over. At least that’s what I thought about a year later. I said, “Hey, Lee Wayne.”
He held his arms out wide and said, “Not bad, huh? That was certainly worth it.” He hugged his sister, then nodded up and down toward me. We didn’t shake hands or anything. The last time we shook hands that I could remember was at the bachelor’s party when he returned from a place I never learned. He came back, and shook my hand, and said, “I got to thank you, my man.” I think he might’ve hooked up with a barmaid out in the parking lot in a van he used to drive. My groomsmen had taken me out to one of those Hooter’s places.
I said, “What’ve you been up to?” pretending that I hadn’t heard.
Monica said, “What you smell is those steaks over there,” and pointed toward our neighbors who had evidently made a pact to keep their backs pointed our way, like synchronized swimmers. Kind of too loud she blurted out, “We’re eating fish, asparagus, cole slaw, potatoes, peach pie, soup, and hummus, because it’s more nutritional than red meat!”
They were either Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or one of those other denominations whose members prided themselves on clean living and pure spleens. I didn’t know for sure, because I hadn’t found the right time to take them over some flowers or brownies.
While I spent my day telling men named Fred and DaQuawn to spread pine nugget mulch around the pansies, Monica taught kindergarten and, I imagined, had to raise her voice often.
“I need a beer,” Lee Wayne said to me. “Let’s go inside and get a beer. Y’all still smoking? I quit. They don’t let anyone smoke inside prisons these days anymore, so I had to quit. What a good way to quit!” He put his arm around my shoulder as we walked inside and said, “Say, you got any pennies I could buy off you? I’m going straight back to my old ways, seeing it’s worth it.”
Monica shot me a mean look. I wasn’t supposed to say “penny” and those other things. I said, “I think we might have some one-cent currency units, Lee Wayne. Why do you ask?”
We went inside. We ate the hell out of some fish tacos. If it matters, Monica chose catfish. Tilapia would’ve been fine, but she chose farm-raised catfish from down in Mississippi. We had catfish juices dribbling down our faces, and we drank beer, and we turned up the stereo so we couldn’t hear the neighbors sizzling next door. We listened to Johnny Cash, because Lee Wayne said they wouldn’t ever let anyone listen to Johnny Cash for the month he spent in lock-up. We listened to Merle Haggard, and Social Distortion, and about anyone else we figured had a lead singer who’d done time. Robert Johnson. Steve Earle. The Monkees. Monica and I didn’t have the most complete CD collection, but we made due. I said some things. I said, “Here are some people who will be in jail,” and played one of those sad Italian operas.
We never even got to the peach pizza pie. We ate, and sang along, and then finally Monica said, “Tell me what happened exactly?”
Here’s Lee Wayne’s—and then my, eventually—story: a copper penny gets a person one cent’s worth of merchandise. Let’s say that there’s an item out there that costs a penny these days, like maybe one-tenth of a gumball. But a full copper penny—it takes 146 pennies pre-1983 pennies to make a pound—was worth about $3.40 a pound when Lee Wayne envisioned his brilliant, prison-worthy idea. I’ve never been good at explaining things mathematically, and I had to listen to Lee Wayne twice. One hundred forty-six pennies minted before 1983 equals $1.46. In weight, 146 pennies equaled $3.40, what with the price of copper.
Again, it’s against the law to mutilate, diminute, et cetera. I doubt that “diminute” is even a word, but before Lee Wayne I’d never heard of “diminution,” either. It’s not a word used widely when telling employees to spread fertilizer or cull vines.
“What else did I have to do?” he said to us. “Y’all know how I was spinning my reel and not pulling anything in. Look, it only took time, and I had that going for me. I’d go to the bank, buy, say, a few hundred dollars in pennies, sort out the pre-1983 ones, put them aside, rewrap the post-1982 pennies, and so on. Then I’d go down to the railroad track—you can’t just take regular pennies to the recycling center and hand them in—and set the pennies down on the rail. Presto change-o! The pennies got flattened, I scooped them up and took them to a place where they knew, deep down, what I did but didn’t care, and then I took that money—it would be quite a bit, and then I’d turn in the newer pennies for a penny apiece, you know—back to another bank and bought more. Over and over.”
I wasn’t accustomed to drinking any more. Monica said I could only drink on days when she came home from kindergarten happy. I said, “Let me get this straight. You had the pennies smashed by trains, and then you took those smashed pennies to the metal recycling center and turned them in. Like I might do with cans I pick up on the side of the road.”
“That’s what I did,” Lee Wayne said. “I hung out in a hobo jungle-like setting, and I put pennies down on the rails. There’s a place I know where freight trains come by on the hour. I set down all these pennies, and then I picked them off after they rattled off the rail all flattened and unrecognizable. Meanwhile, I set down more and waited for the next train to come by. Then I took bags of flattened pennies down to this iron and metal place. They knew what I did, but somehow they didn’t get charged. Let me tell you, a guy named Mike Wayne something or another who worked down there should’ve spent time in jail, too. But I ain’t sad or blameful about it.”
I thought about a railroad track that ran straight through town, right in the middle of where I sent my workers to weedeat cockleburs. I said, “How come not everyone’s doing this?”
Lee Wayne craned his neck around and smiled. “The maximum fee is something like a hundred bucks and six months in prison. Or at least it used to be. I got charged a hundred bucks and thirty days in the county lock-up. I wasn’t really in a prison, technically. So what? You know how much I made, Cuz?”
Monica said, “Wait a minute. So you traded in dollars for rolls of pennies, and then went through the pennies and pulled out all the ones minted before 1983 when there was a bunch of zinc added or whatever. Am I getting this right? Is this what you did? And then you took the old pennies and laid them out on railroad tracks so they’d get smashed into unrecognizable flat pieces of copper. Then you took the smashed pennies to some guy who paid you whatever copper costs by the pound, and walked out of there, and bought more. Is this right or is this wrong?”
I said, “You might be the smartest man I’ve ever met.” I said, “Hey, whatever happened to you at my bachelor’s party?”
Monica looked at me for about one second, and picked up her fork as if she were going to scoop up some hummus. She said, “Why the hell can’t you think up something like this so we can move into a nice subdivision and cook steaks out when we want? Goddamn. This isn’t working. This here?” She waggled the fork between us, back and forth. She held her eyebrows high. “It isn’t working, Clewis.”
Monica wasn’t accustomed to drinking, either.
I went outside to smoke, and Lee Wayne followed me. Listen, I don’t think they had any of this planned. You’d think that Monica called up her brother, said “I’m going to leave Clewis, and I want you over here in case he gets violent,” and had her bags all packed to take off. As far as I could tell—I went back and looked at phone records and never saw a number that was Lee Wayne’s, or the county jail down where he lived—Monica’s epiphany and actions were spontaneous. “Epiphany” is a word we do use down at the city shop, seeing as there’s a guy working for me named LeCrank who has a girlfriend named Epiphany who’s always causing him to show up late for work.
I took my beer outside. The neighbors sat at two picnic tables, all of them sitting on the same side, staring at their own vinyl siding, their backs to my yard. I said to Lee Wayne, “What the hell just happened in there?”
He stretched backwards, which caused his T-shirt to rise, which exposed a tattoo that surrounded his navel. It was that famous “Born to Lose” statement, and his belly button doubled as the “O” in “Born.” He said to me, “I thought maybe this was one of those Candid Camera deals. One of those ‘You’ve been punked’ things, you know. They let us watch TV in prison, pretty much any time we wanted. We could watch TV, but we couldn’t smoke. If you ask me, it’s healthier to smoke than to watch what they got on TV these days.”
One of the neighbors stood from the picnic table, walked to a boom box, and turned up the volume. They listened to Lynyrd Skynyrd. Imagine that. They listened to that song that goes “Ooh that smell/Can’t you smell that smell.” I guess it was all a joke to them, how we’d been yelling shit over there about their grilling earlier.
“We couldn’t listen to that band in prison either. They got a song about a Saturday night special, you know, and I guess the higher-ups thought it would get all of us to thinking.”
I looked toward the sliding glass door and saw Monica pulling a suitcase behind her. “What could y’all listen to?”
“I know every lyric to Johnny Mathis,” Lee Wayne said. He began singing “Chances Are,” but in a rockabilly-kind of way. He stopped after the “I’m in love with you” part and said, “Monica Marie’s always been a little bit of a hot head. I haven’t been the best brother when it comes to staying in touch, so I don’t know all the ins and outs of y’all’s matrimony. Has she been threatening to leave?”
I shook my head. I said, “I guess I better go back inside and talk to her about this.” I stomped on my cigarette and didn’t pick it up. I said, “Give me a couple minutes. Hey, if you want, you can go over there and pick some of those habaneros.” I pointed. “If they’re mostly-orange, and about the size of a modern human testicle, then they’re ready to be picked.”
Monica had that one suitcase that rolled on wheels, and six boxes filled. She didn’t pack up things that we’d gotten for our wedding—I’ll give her that—like the lava lamp, the matching set of Atlanta Braves shot glasses, the George Foreman grill, a great painting of Young Elvis on velvet, and the microwave cookbooks. No, she only packed up her clothes, some school supplies, scrapbooks, the ashtrays she’d bought herself, and a set of knives she’d received for being Teacher of the Year at Calloustown Elementary.
Monica said, “I’m sorry, Clewis. I know this probably seems like a shock to you. And I didn’t mean it to happen like this. Maybe I’m just embarrassed that you’re embarrassed to have a brother-in-law like Lee Wayne.”
“I like Lee Wayne,” I said. “I’ve always liked Lee Wayne. Who doesn’t like Lee Wayne? He’s one of those people you can’t hate, no matter what he does.”
“I can’t have him living with us,” she said. “It won’t be good for me, and it won’t be good for you. What I’m saying is, it’ll be bad.”
Here’s that thing I do all the time that isn’t particularly beneficial: I began considering what Monica’s kindergartners would be like twelve years hence, when they could only come up with monosyllabic arguments. I thought of a documentary film I could make that involved showing Monica saying “Good” and “Bad” to her students over and over, then following their lives, maybe splicing some Frankenstein in between.
I said, “Who invited him to stay with us until he got his life straightened out? I didn’t. Give me a break, Monica. Come on.”
She said, “Well it must have been for a reason. That’s all I can say. It must’ve been the way things were meant to work out. I’m betting that things will change. I’ll call you up.”
And then she left, driving away in her Ford Taurus that she had use of for twelve months what with the Teacher of the Year award.
I am not too proud to say that I sat down at the dining room table, in front of three half-empty plates of fish taco remains, and nearly openly wept. Nearly wept. Nearly caught myself thinking about how I’d been a bad husband, et cetera. But I got all sidetracked thinking of how I should aim my handheld toward the neighbors for a few hours each night and call the documentary something like They Turn Their Backs, or Someone Go Get the Paper Towels.
“Everyone’s always talking about hiding their money down in one of those Bermuda or Switzerland bank accounts,” Lee Wayne came in the sliding glass door saying. “Big waste of time when it comes to doing small time incarcerated, you know what I mean?”
I said, “Give me a minute, man.” It wasn’t, again, like I was crying. I needed to write down some ideas on the closest thing I could find, which meant one of the paper plates in front of me.
He dropped a dozen habaneros down on the table. “Man, I thought about hiding my money with my sister. Glad I didn’t do that. No telling where it would be now. You kind of owe me, now that I think about it. If I’d’ve hid my money with Monica, she’d’ve left here a long time ago.”
I thought about punching Lee Wayne, but he was bigger than me and there’s no telling what kinds of mixed martial arts maneuvers he learned in the county jail. I said, “There’s another twelve-pack in the refrigerator. She didn’t take the refrigerator.”
Lee Wayne didn’t walk into the kitchen. He stood upright, with his chest poked out. “I need to go get my bags out of the car,” he said. I didn’t respond. “Am I staying in the guest room?” I didn’t say anything. “You want to pitch some pennies up against the fireplace, just for fun?”
My crew needed to finish planting day lilies the next day, near what would become a walking path that went straight through the middle of town. According to city council, we would be paving over a set of railroad tracks presently–as soon as CSX freight trains quit coming through–for that “Rails to Trails” program that all the renovating towns had done already, after talking high and mighty about revitalization and quality of living so that Time and Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report could tell retirees where to retire, and the health-conscious young where to relocate if they subscribed to a cardiovascular lifestyle.
What else could I say but, “You want a job, Lee Wayne? Listen, you come work for me. We’ll get you all the pennies you want, and you do what you know what to do, and we’ll split the profits. I don’t have it all worked out in my mind yet, but I will. Can you pretend to run a leaf blower, or an edger?”
He said, “Well. I don’t know.”
I said, “Listen, you can bring all the pennies you want, and I’ll set you out where there’s that track, while there’s that track.”
“I don’t know. Well,” he said.
Like I said, I normally didn’t drink that much. Maybe I wasn’t thinking correctly. It seemed like a good idea—normally I told half-hearted workers what to do, and then I sat around waiting for everyday citizens to call up complaining about something. My day went like this, mostly: “Hey guys, today you need to go cut the grass around the fountain, corner of McDaniel and Lanneau.” Ring-ring ring: “Your men are cutting the grass on the corner of McDaniel and Lanneau, and they’re not wearing shirts,” or “One of them’s cutting the grass while sitting down,” or “My tax dollars shouldn’t be spent on two men eating hot dogs out in the open.” Stuff like that, which didn’t get addressed in nine semesters of college horticulture classes.
I said to Lee Wayne, “How is this a bad thing? You’ll have a regular income, and you’ll have time to conduct your copper recycling business.”
Lee Wayne drank from his beer. He shook his head side to side. “I don’t know. I’ve been thinking hard about some other options I have.” What options could my evidently new-ex-wife’s brother have? What was on the horizon for a man driving a half-electric car with an oogah-oogah-oogah horn? He said, “I was supposed to show up earlier. I was supposed to show up a couple weeks ago. I’ve been out of prison for a month, and Monica Marie wanted me to show up a lot earlier to beat you up or something.”
I said, “Why? Why in the world?”
“That’s exactly what I said. I said, ‘Has he hit you?’ I said, ‘Is he cheating on you?’ I said, ‘Has he taken y’all’s nest egg and turned it into pennies just so he could take them down to a railroad track and flatten them, then turn the things in to the nearest copper recycling center?’ Well, she didn’t have an answer. I know that I’m supposed to be on my blood-kin’s side, Clewis, but I’d be willing to bet that she’s seeing somebody else, I hate to say. When I was in prison, which was really just the county jail, people were always asking me to go beat up somebody, just because they had a new boyfriend. And just because I had fighting-arms, what with lugging pounds of pennies for so long. Weird place, prison.”
We sat there at the dining room table. When Lee Wayne had come back in the house with two duffel bags he hadn’t closed the sliding glass door all the way, so through the crack came strains of the neighbors talking, and yelling at one another in a friendly manner. They had traded playing music for a game of charades, it appeared. I went outside to smoke what ended up being my last five cigarettes ever—who knew this was all it would take to quit?—and my brother-in-law followed me out. We took chairs to the back yard, sat down facing the neighbors, and watched. I hadn’t played the game in years, but remembered quickly the signs for “movie,” “book,” and “song” title. Like I said, they weren’t a half-acre away, pantomiming out prompts they’d pulled from an empty charcoal briquette bag. This was a mother and father, their son and daughter, and some other man and woman with a son and daughter. The more they reached in and played, the more they got charcoal on their arms and faces, what with the bag’s residual soot. I found myself in love with these people, I’ll admit.
“I don’t want to impose on you none, Clewis, but I kind of do really need a place to stay. I mean, I got out, I got my money, and I bought that car. I wasn’t thinking! I got that car, not considering that I needed to rent an apartment or trailer or something.”
I yelled out at my neighbors, “Gone with the Wind!” I yelled out, “Wait—‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ by Bob Dylan.” One of the young daughters looked like she tried to portray “wind.” She kept waving her arms from left to right, floating-like. I thought, maybe she’s doing one of those hula dances. I yelled out, “’Tiny Bubbles,’ by Don Ho.”
My neighbor smiled at me and waved. The husband waved, that is. I realized that it might take time to win his wife over, especially if she’d somehow met Monica and they’d had a conversation that went something like, “I’m your new neighbor,” and Monica said, “I’m planning to leave my husband.”
Lee Wayne said, “This is what it should be all about. Minus my sister taking off. And having tacos that didn’t include real meat. This is what it should all be about. Hey, Clewis, give me a cigarette.”
I said, “No.” I watched the neighbors. I stood up and yelled, “Air! The Clean Air Act! ‘You are the wind beneath my wings’!” How come I wasn’t more distressed about Monica leaving? I thought. How come I didn’t get all upset and try to track her down? “‘Pennies from Heaven’!”
I turned to Lee Wayne and said, “What about wheat pennies? You didn’t put wheat pennies down on the railroad tracks, did you?”
“There aren’t that many wheat pennies. Most of them are worth two cents, though, if you wanted to sell them at the flea market. Maybe a nickel. It’s not right.”
I stood up and, as if on automatic pilot, walked over to my neighbors’ house. The smell of steak still hung in our humid air. They didn’t seem fearful of my approach. The young girl said, “It was ‘Grapes of Wrath.’ It’s a book.”
I got it. She tried to portray the dustbowl. I nodded and laughed. I pulled my arm for Lee Wayne to follow me over and said to the neighbors, “Hey. My name’s Clewis. That’s either my brother-in-law or my ex-brother-in-law.”
The man said, “That’s an unusual name.”
I told him how my wife couldn’t take it, either. I asked if Lee Wayne and I could join in. They said okay, and I took their turning their backs on us earlier as coincidence. As it ended up, these people weren’t members of an offshoot religion. They were normal. They explained how they believed in the extended family, and how playing games kept them closer, and how it’s what they did back in Michigan before it became apparent that they’d never work there again.
I stuck my arm in the charcoal bag and pulled out a song I’d never known. Or maybe I couldn’t concentrate, thinking about how I needed to drop by the bank the next day.