Exhuming Captain Midnight
by Guinotte Wise Guinotte Wise

Guinotte Wise was the winner of the H. Palmer Hall Award for Night Train, Cold Beer, a short story collection (Pecan Grove Press 2013). His work has appeared in a number of literary journals, including Atticus, Opium, and The MacGuffin. He is a sculptor, sometimes in welded steel, sometimes in words. Educated at Westminster College, U. of Arkansas, and the KC Art Institute, he remains degreeless but for a self-awarded MFA, which he says means something different than most. Some work is at wisesculpture.com Facebook Author's page is facebook.com/RenoPeteStCyr

From twelve on, life showed more signs of being the bitch everyone promised it would be. At fifteen I was old enough to have considered suicide. Wild swings of weirdness, bird-brained hilarity to shadowy melancholy. I couldn't drive legally yet, but I rented motorcycles with my paper route money and a friend's driver's license. I'd seen Marilyn Monroe naked. This was in 1954. The friend, Ray, whose license I borrowed, had shown me the first issue of a magazine called Playboy and Ms. Monroe was curled up on a red satin sheet in the altogether. I think it cauterized some part of my brain and turned me into a sex fiend. I never recovered.

So, at fifteen I was trying to figure out a way to say goodbye to my childhood. A ritual. A Viking funeral-like passage. This was a distressing time: I still sort of liked flying model airplanes; hiding behind the big velvet couch waiting, in vain, for someone to sit on the whoopee cushion I'd planted there; reading AIRBOY comic books while eating a peanut butter and Fritos sandwich. Goodbye Hopalong Cassidy, too. Especially since Ray told me about seeing him at the Shrine Rodeo in an echoing concrete runway waiting to ride into the arena. He'd smacked his horse in the head and said "Settle down you lop-eared cocksucker!" Two counts against him. Growing up is painful shit. Acquisition of unwanted knowledge. Ray, of course, thought it was funny.

I decided not to make too big a deal out of the ritual. I would put childish things in a Folger's coffee can, tape it up, wrap it in tinfoil, and bury it five steps north and ten steps west of the base of the clothesline post in the back yard of my grandmother's house. It didn't have to be goodbye. It could be a time capsule. Just in case, I would draw a map, so that years later I could dig it up. Or maybe the following summer. Or never.


* One Lone Ranger Atomic Bomb glow-in-the-dark ring. Fifty years later, I question such a thing. Really? An atomic bomb on a ring purporting to be a Lone Ranger artifact? As they say in on-line shorthand, WTF? But, yes, there was such a thing. Look it up on eBay.

* One Little Orphan Annie decoder the size of a small compact

* One box of roll caps for a cap pistol

* A pack of Black Cat firecrackers

* One tin of Surefire Itching Powder

* A Standing Liberty quarter, almost smooth

* A Mercury dime

* An empty CO2 cartridge

* Six .22 shells

* One Handshake "Joy" Buzzer

* A tiny Popeye flip book

* Three of the best aggie marbles I'd ever owned

* One marble sized "steely" steel bearing

* An Indian head penny

* An aluminum star token stamped with my name, from Rockaway Beach

* One shotgun shell, 12 ga

* One Roy Rogers pocketknife

* One cherry bomb

* A bumper-car pass from Fairyland Park

* A Mexican peso

* A pair of X-ray glasses that were a big gyp

* A Griesedieck Beer bottle cap

* An ad for plans to build a King Midget automobile from Popular Mechanics

* And last, but no way least, an ornate 1948 Captain Midnight Pocket Decoder, with a coded note. I could only remember the preamble, "I, Thatcher Hornbill, do solemnly . . ." something something something. I wanted to read what this fifteen-year-old Thatcher had to say.

The two decoders in the coffee can unraveled ultimately disappointing commercial messages from Ovaltine but could be put to other uses involving dirty words and teacher-indecipherable notes in classroom settings. And, of course, my solemn oath of growing up or whatever.

Okay, wipe away some 50, 55 years. Bam. Gone. No shit, just about that fast, too. Women. Children. Homes. Cars. Marriages. Lake houses. Dreams of wild success. Zap 'em. Gone like summer wages. Gone like the wild goose in winter. Hoffa. Casper. Invisible gone.

Stop motion, freeze frame. Screeech to a halt. An emotion surfaces. Examine the s.o.b. Nostalgia, that's what it is. Not the noblest of emotions, yet not unpleasant.

Put that sucker under the lens of a fresh-poured Jack Daniels. Blow it up. Turn up the Spotify of Moonlight in Vermont. My god. Those times. Those mellow, slow-unbuttoning-of-blouses, Chanel-released-from-secret-places times. Oh. Go back a little further. Back to boyhood. Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight, make me a child again, just for tonight.

It's in that coffee can at my grandmother's old house, my boyhood. When she died, they sold the house. The neighborhood was deteriorating. Car washes, pawn shops, loan sharks opening up storefronts a block away by the old stone Catholic church we'd attend on those warm summer Sunday mornings, Gregorian-like chants and soft bell chimes lulling me to moist open-mouthed sleep, inhaling incense like opium.

If I can find that coffee can, I'll start over, do it all right this time, from fifteen on. I actually believe this. Have another drink, Thatcher. Don't mind if I do.

The neighborhood is all black now. I'm all white. Got to figure this out. MAC-10s being the weapon of choice around the old 'hood, I can't just march in there, unarmed, with a shovel and start digging. It will require stealth. Nerve.


The next day, a bit hungover, I turn at the corner where the Dairy-Freez used to be. A thrift store occupies the land now. Barred windows. A giant banana sits out front, to draw attention, I guess. It got mine. It's about two blocks to Grandma's house. I drive right by it because it's not the same. There's an asphalt circle drive in the front yard. A For Sale sign in front of that. A rusty white pickup with toolbox sides and ladder racks sits in the drive. Once turned around, I pull in, gaze at the stucco house. Looks pretty good, actually. The screened in porch has now become enclosed and part of the house, making it appear bigger, I suppose, though the whole house seems smaller than it did when I was a boy. I know that happens, but I'm always surprised, want to remark on it to someone. My second-story sleeping porch room still has windows all the way around. Dormers, roof, all the same shape. Used to be zinnias, peonies, lilacs all across the front circling around to the side yard. All gone. The tree that I used to climb down from the sleeping porch room is still there but bigger. Fifty years bigger. Hammering and circle-saw noises from inside bring me back to my mission—reconnaissance. This will be easier than I thought. I can walk right in. And I do.

A couple of workmen, one white, one black, keep on working. I wait until one pauses, looks at me.

"Hi. I used to live here a long time ago. Okay if I go upstairs, look around?"

"Sure, Knock yourself out," the white guy says, resumes cutting a piece of plywood on sawhorses, the circle-saw whining industriously, throwing off fresh sawdust smell. The black guy starts a nail in a door frame, bangs it home with two satisfying thwacks, hammer held almost loosely in his hand. Why do people say knock yourself out? It's smartass. Gratuitous. Knock your self out, dickbrain.

The stairs seem more narrow although I know they're not. I pause at the room where my grandmother died in bed, attended by my aunt and father. She didn't know me. After the funeral I stopped by the old house and her presence was quite strong for a moment or two. I pass my old man's room, tiny. Do I smell pipe tobacco? Does his ghost roam these narrow hallways? Does hers? She would play Chopin at the old baby grand, a cigarette in her mouth, long ash drooping, frowning against the smoke curling into her eyes. Swaying back and forth on the bench, hands diving into the keys. What a ghost that would be.

I'd go up to the third floor but it doesn't interest me. I head for my old room. It has shrunk along with the rest of the place. Right now, it's just a little side room they called a sleeping porch and now it's full of floor tile, boxes of stuff, fixtures, coils of wire. I try to imagine the radio going, the fan, the magic of anticipation of a free flight airplane I'd made, affixing the small, finned Hornet engine to the firewall, the snort of its first breath of life, the angry whine as it sucked fuel.

I look out the window to the side yard, my purview in the yearly summer visit to my grandmother's house. The clothesline is long gone, no more posts. There used to be a birdhouse on another post, a marker from which to count steps to the buried coffee can. It's gone, too. As a small child I shook that post to see the birds that lived in the little house atop it; they were wrens. My wish was granted. Out they came on red alert, pecking at my head, chasing me into the house, me shrieking in the treble ranges. Live and learn. That was my don't fuck with the birds lesson, even little ones.

I shoot a mental azimuth to where the can might be, fix the points in my mind. That's when I know I'm serious about this, I'm sober, pretty much, even though the Starbucks double espresso I carry has brought a little of the buzz back. I'm actually, physically, here in this house. Do I believe the can will take me back to age fifteen? My answer surprises me. Sure. Heck yeah. Stranger things have happened, but not much. There's magic in believing.

I leave. The two workmen are somewhere else in the house. Their radio plays old Stones. Mannish Boy. I wonder if the workmen go back and forth between hip-hop and rock and roll. How do they agree on it? Flip a coin? 50 Cent comes to mind.

In the side yard toward the back I stand in the approximate area of what I envisioned from the sleeping porch. The back yard has completely changed. Used to be a natural stone retaining wall to a higher yard and a little jungle-type area separating the yards. I used to climb the wall, cut through Gustafson's yard on my way up to Troost Avenue and the used comic book place; I'd trade comics there, two for one in the musty store. Troost wasn't exactly elegant even back then.

Okay, the birdhouse post would have been about here. I pace off the steps, taking care to compensate for my adult paces, taking smaller strides. This general area. I look about for something to stick in the untended lawn. I lay an x of sticks there and snoop around the detritus of rehab lying closer to the house. Aha. A rusty wire with a tattered day-glo pennant that must have been used to mark water lines or something. I jab it into the earth where the x is. I'll bring a metal detector if I can find one. Or not; witnesses might think there's buried treasure, wait until I unearth it, kill me. The whole deal is problematic. If I only had a shovel, I could dig right here and now, get the hell out. But I'll have to come back. I feel like a ghost drifting around here.

One night. Two. Jack Daniels. The old songs. Public TV fundraising with Doo-Wop put me over the top. Now those were the days, Thatcher. Fuck it, I'm goin' in. Flashlight. Spade. Plastic grocery bag in case the can has disintegrated. Work gloves. Pistol? No, I'll talk my way out, cops, neighbors, I'll think of something on the way over. A plausible story. I look at my watch. 10:15 p.m. The time of night puts limits on plausibility.

I'd take my wife's quiet Civic but since she passed away I never renewed the plates. Okay, the Volvo wagon with the gutter muffler. Should have fixed that. Just go.

Troost at night. Women in shorts and halter tops walking. Leaning into car windows, music booming out of the cars, how can they even hear each other? Not my problem. I turn at the banana, drive slowly to the old house, park on the street. No signs of life at the house, dark, driveway empty. I locate the wire with the pennant in the shadows. The streetlight beam is blocked by the corner of the house. Good, I'll be digging in the dark. I chunk the spade into the ground, toss aside a little pile of dried dirt and grass. Again. I'm warming to this.

"Don't fucking move." Then a strong light. A dog's growl on top of this.

"Oh shit," I say, quickly, involuntarily.

"Thass the dog's name," the voice says. "So many people have called him that, he answers to it." Maybe a chuckle. "Drop the shovel."

I do. But I don't put my hands up. This may be it. Program, as an army buddy used to say. I turn slowly toward the light. The voice sounds like Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction. The light dips to the dog on a choke chain and leash. Pit bull, all teeth and sinus noises. Then the light flashes on a nickel-plated Desert Eagle. Light back in my eyes. I suppose he's holding the fucking .45 sideways.

My eyes, accustomed now to this apparition, relay to me that his flashlight is on a headband, dog leash in left hand, big stupid gun in right hand.

"Dog also answers to 'Fuck me, I'm outa here,' and 'I think I shit my pants.' He likes the first one as it means a chase, and he always wins." Chuckle for sure.

Suddenly I'm tired of this. "Fuck you, your dog, and your Desert Eagle. What a stupid fucking weapon to carry around. You rob fast food places? Hold it sideways and scream like a little girl to open the cashbox?"

Silence. Dog sits down.

"I am not the perpetrator here," he says quietly.

"And me with my sp . . . shovel, I am? You got gold back here? Bodies?"

"It's my yard, dawg. It's night time. People get killed around here just for showin' up. White man with a shovel. Man." The light on his forehead swings back and forth sadly as he shakes his head. "Mm-mmmp."

"Look, let me dig about a foot deep, find what I'm after, and I'll just scamper on home. After replacing the divot, of course."

He sighs heavily. "White people." The light sweeps back and forth again. "All right. Dig." His 'all right' comes out 'aaiight.' He walks to the front porch, comes back without dog or gun. He now has a long cop-looking flashlight which he trains on the beginning of the hole. No weapon is apparent but I'm not going to test that assumption.

I put out my hand, "Thatcher Hornbill."

"Really?" It comes out as a laugh. "Sorry. Mine's Rayondo Renard."

"Rayondo? Sugar Ray Renard, the fighter?"

"Used to be," he says.

I forget my dry mouth, the slight tremor in my knees. "Damn. I followed you in the Olympics. And after, of course. Wow. You were fantastic!"

"The past. I don't dwell on it."

"That last fight with Trumbull. You out-boxed him, out-classed him, held him up at the end . . ."

"Like I say, all in the past. What are you digging up here?"

I feel rebuked, and something else. Maybe silly. The welterweight champ is dismissing his own past, and I'm looking for trinkets in a Folger's can.

"A . . . sort of time capsule." I tell him about the contents of the can, the decoders, the circumstances surrounding the burial.

"Captain Midnight," he says. "That's you."

I continue digging. It's obvious the hole is going to produce nothing.

"Look," he says. "Why not come back in the daytime. I know where I can borrow a metal detector. Tomorrow after ten a.m., ten-thirty, okay?"

I leave the shovel, we shake hands again. He watches while I walk to the station wagon, start it, drive away. Maybe he's taking my license number but I don't think so. Sugar Ray Renard. A hero of mine. I drive home, west and south to the suburbs. He's obviously part of the vanguard moving into the somewhat blighted areas, renewing, resettling. He's about ten years younger than I am. I watched his career arc up, then suddenly plummet like so many fighters. But he'd kind of disappeared. No articles or TV mentions of him that I'd seen. Sugar Ray Robinson came out on a US stamp, another hero of mine. But Sugar Ray Renard vanished. Now we were digging in his yard. A horn sounds behind me at a stoplight that had turned green; I wave, lurch ahead.

As I pull into my driveway, I turn off the ignition and think. Sugar Ray is a young 60 or maybe 55, somewhere in there. Still working probably, at whatever ex-fighters do when they vanish from the ring. Open a gym? Work at UPS? Who knows? That house wasn't cheap. And if he was the one rehabbing it, he had to have some bucks. I hope so, for some reason. Inside, I pour bourbon into a faceted glass. My hand shakes as I lift it to my mouth.


I pull into the smallish circle driveway a few minutes before the appointed time. A Cadillac Escalade with black-tinted windows sits in the semicircle of asphalt. Hanging from the rearview mirror are a pair of miniature boxing gloves. Sugar Ray appears to be doing well.

He comes out, dog and a shambling sort of person with him, a kid? Looks like a kid. Sugar Ray motions to me to get out of my car, walks closer, says, "This may be distasteful to you, but it calms everything down; both the dog and the kid see it and think everything's okay—we have to hug is all and laugh a little bit, then they cool they jets and life goes on at the Renard household . . ."

"Ahh. Not at all distasteful. I'd be hugging one of my heroes. Had you been older, and me younger, I'd have had your poster on my side of the bedroom door. As it was I had Annette Funicello. And, later, what's her face with the feathery hair and big tits . . ."

He laughs, I laugh, we hug, pat one another's backs, eyes on the kid and dog. The dog immediately loses interest, wanders off, and pees on my tire; the boy stands and claps his hands sort of, something off about the boy, young looking maybe ten, maybe twelve, but large, maybe even obese, and his face is that of a Down syndrome person. I am taken aback, hadn't ever thought of it, since I'd never seen a Down black kid and would have, if questioned, opined that there wasn't such a thing, that only whites, maybe Asians were susceptible (wasn't the term at one time, way back in my childhood, mongoloid? and there hadn't been many, period. It hadn't seemed to have happened back then, just as cancer had not seemed like a prevalent disease . . .). At any rate, here he is, a black Down kid, I'm sure of it. He has that slightly distracted look, a sweetness about him that invites the kind of hug his father and I have just shared. His father? I don't know that. I will wait for any explanation if one is forthcoming, otherwise I'll just shut up.

Sugar Ray turns to the boy, says, "C'mere hon, want you to meet someone."

The boy advances, shyly, looking down, sideways, anywhere but at me. Then he fixes me with that look, through glasses, says "hello."

"Hello," I say, too quietly, clear my throat, say it too loudly.

"This here is Cap'n Midnite," says Sugar Ray. "Shake."

The boy puts out his hand, says "Foyd. Mah name." We shake.

"Floyd," says his father, to me. "After guess who."

"Aahh, Patterson," I say. "Great name indeed."

"He's a sweetheart, Floyd is. My man." He puts his arm across Floyd's ample shoulders. "Seventeen. Docs said he wouldn't make it past twelve. It's him and me."

"I did," Floyd beams. "Fav yeos." He holds up a hand. "How old Cah Midnite?"

"Up there, Floyd. Do this ten, twenty times . . ." I open and close my palms again and again. "Too many."

"Too many?" He seems incredulous. "Nah too many, no." he says, seriously.

"Life is pretty important to Floyd, "says Sugar Ray. "He wants me to live to be a hundred. Right?"

"Den you kin dah," says Floyd.

"Thank you, hon." It was obvious they had discussed this at length. I feel close to tears. Old people have to watch that shit, we cry easily. I cried at Peanut Vendor by Stan Kenton when it played on a late night jazz station; it was a song Fran and I had heard for the first time at a Kenton concert way back in the 50's, at Swope Park. Funny I can remember everything about that balmy humid night, the breeze, the flash of the brassy music, the drive home in my old Ford. Yet I can hardly remember what fucking day it is and when I have a dental appointment.

"Well, hon, go get that metal detector, and be careful bringing it, go slow okay? It's not ours so we have to be extra careful . . ."

"Okay" he claps his hands softly and speaks some words as he walks to the house, taking this mission seriously, as he probably should. I know nothing of metal detectors other than that they seemed expensive, possibly fragile. The dog is ambling along with him, wagging his tail and looking up at him, sensing this could possibly have a fun component. And maybe it can.

"Floyd's special olympics, a swimmer."

"Do special olympics kids box?" I ask before I thought better of it.

"Special Olympians don't need to," he says. "They're tough all on their own. A non-threatening tough, you know? Better than us."

I nod. Compress my lips hoping to look thoughtful.

Boy and dog and metal detector emerge from the house, dog sniffing whatever parts of the instrument he can reach, interested. A pit bull never looked less frightening than this one, almost comical in its puppy-like enthusiasm. Something was up and he wanted in.

Floyd hands Sugar Ray the appliance in both hands as though proffering a ceremonial sword to a candidate. Sugar Ray takes it.

"Thank you, hon. Let's get this show on the road."

"Show on th roh." Floyd adjusts his glasses with the classic one-fingered push at the bridge. Sugar Ray turns the appliance on, dons the headset, makes some minor adjustments, then begins sweeping the area with the detector plate about an inch off the ground. He looks at us and smiles as he walks seemingly aimlessly about. He tosses a penny on the ground, sweeps over it, grimaces as it shrieks shrilly enough that I can hear it from the headset. "Son of a bitch works," he says.

"Suvva bidge works," says Floyd to the dog, who is clearly pleased. Floyd moves from foot to foot in anticipation.

"Here, you try for awhile, Thatcher." Sugar Ray removes the headset, hands the whole rig to me. "You know where you buried the thing. Generally."

"Very generally. I might start over by where the wall was, and sweep systematically." I put the headset on, adjust it, sweep over the penny for a baseline sound. Sqwaaawk. The dog cocks his head.

Nothing, no sounds, then a peep or two. Turns out to be a pop-top tab just under the soil. I work outwards from the wall, wider and wider, then I hear it, strong and steady in one spot. "Shovel!" I shout. "Please," I amend. Sugar Ray hands the shovel to Floyd who turns it over to me, gravely.

I take a deep breath. Floyd mimics the breath. Sugar Ray holds both hands up with fingers crossed. The dog whines.

The soil here is sandy and a couple of shovels full remove the dirt from a small object, not a coffee can. It's a bottle opener. Rusty and old, but by scraping my thumbnail across the etched lettering I can read Smitty's Tap, and an address in Independence, Missouri. I hand it to Sugar Ray.

Finally, Floyd is sweeping the device around haphazardly when he apparently hears a signal, and homes in on it; he drops the metal detector and begins digging with his hands. The dog joins in, throwing dirt backwards between his legs, stopping, sniffing, starting again, whining. I take the shovel and join them. It's the time capsule. I pull it gingerly out of the hole. It wasn't buried very deep. The tinfoil is filthy and falls apart easily, but the can has retained some of its color, though rusted. The tape covered areas are intact, and the tape pulls apart fibrously.

Sugar Ray says, "Wait. Go no further. This is a fifty-year-old time capsule. First we get a table cloth or something to empty it onto. And a cold beer. Bud, Thatcher?"

"You bet. Bud. And Floyd?"

"He gets a Diet Rite, he likes those. Makes him belch. And that makes him laugh. Don't open anything while I'm gone. Thatcher?"

"I won't." I put my hands in the air. Floyd does the same.


Floyd does belch and laugh. We all laugh. Then Sugar Ray flourishes a sheet on the ground. I dump the contents of the Folger's can on the sheet, but carefully. Magical pieces of the past clink and rustle, artifacts of Mu or Atlantis couldn't be any more fascinating. Sugar Ray reaches for one of the coins, then hesitates, looks a question at me.

"Sure, go ahead."

"Man, this is old. Standing Liberty," he says.

"It was old when I had it. I gave coins like that to the ice cream truck guy."

"Bud Lightyow! Bud Lightyow!" Floyd exclaims. he's looking at the Captain Midnight decoder. I look at Sugar Ray.

"Buzz Lightyear, he's saying. His favorite character from Toy Story. Looks a little like that."

I can see Floyd is excited, but he is keeping his hands off for now, almost dancing in his desire for this piece. It is also the piece I most want to examine, to rub as though a genie's lamp. I want to read the coded piece of paper that has survived with it, see what gibberish I had written as a kid. I hand it to Floyd and he looks at me, says, "Bud Lightyow for me?"

"For you," I say.

"Naw, Thatcher, it's part of your childhood stash, man, you can't . . ." Sugar Ray is perturbed.

"Look at him," I say. "Do you want to take it away?"

Sugar Ray smiles, shakes his head.

Floyd pats the decoder, holds it next to his cheek. He examines it closely, sits down in the grass with it. He is in another world.

"I can't remember making anyone that happy in years. It's his."

Someone calls to me. It's my grandmother. It's time for church. Last week I hid in the bushes by the little wall and they gave up, went without me. My aunt, my grandmother, my dad, they all climbed into the old '41 Dodge and left. And there were no consequences. They just figured I was playing somewhere out of earshot. I grab the taped-up Folger's can, the shovel, and conceal myself in the bushes. They call again, halfheartedly. Then I hear the car's gears grind as they pull out to the street.

I come out, peer around the corner of the screened-in porch. They are gone. I feel a little guilty, but not too much. I've gotten my white Sunday shirt dirty somehow. My blue pants have dirt at the knees. I place the can into the hole and shovel dirt over it, replacing the grass and patting it firmly in place.


It's a mystery to Sugar Ray where Floyd got the odd, obviously old object with the space suit guy on it. He calls it his Buzz Lightyear but it's really nothing like the Toy Story plastic toys they got for his birthday. It's metal and tarnished and old. It says Captain Midnight Decoder. Sugar Ray feels a strong current of deja vu, then it passes.

"Where did you get this, Floyd?"

"You frien. Cah Midnaht."

"Oh, let him keep it," says Maddy, the boy's special needs companion, laying the day's mail on the kitchen table. She forgets to tell Rayondo she'd had to sign for one letter from a law office.

Sugar Ray hands the object back to his grandson, and as he does so a tightly folded piece of paper that was taped to it comes loose. He unfolds it carefully, sees a series of numbers. That night after Floyd is in bed, he takes the decoder object from the bedside table, sits in the kitchen with a pencil and paper and turns the wheel of the decoder to the letters that correspond to the numbers.

"I, Thatcher Hornbill, do solemnly put to rest my childish shit not knowing what lays ahead, maybe riches, maybe death, maybe Marilyn Monroe touching my ferndike."

Sugar Ray is laughing, trying not to laugh too loud, wheezing, the laughter coming out in gasps. What a white name, Thatcher fucking Hornbill. Marilyn Monroe, oboy. This is something. Ferndike. He shakes his head, his shoulders bobbing with laughter he's trying to hold in. The dog lays his head on Sugar Ray's thigh, looking up at him, sensing merriment.

Upstairs in his bedroom, he lays his change on the dresser, not noticing the worn standing liberty quarter among the coins. The dog pads into Floyd's room, lays down by the side of the bed. Sugar Ray brushes his teeth as the TV in his dark bedroom flickers and a night newscast mentions, in passing, the death of T.L. Hornbill, prominent insurance executive who had died in his sleep the previous week. A controversy was stirring among some distant relatives about a new will he'd had drawn up.

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