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I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead


ISSUE:  Spring 1993

I’d had just about enough of my own damn funeral. The red hymnals, the Sunday suits, the long faces filing past. I’d seen it all before, over and over in fact, and by now it was like a toilet running after everybody’s gone to bed. You know? There’s that endless commotion and you think, Christ!—too cozy under your own quilt—why doesn’t somebody jiggle the handle?

I knew the church well. Dry Branch Baptist, just down KY 651, about four miles from our place. It stood like a keep at the mouth of Cane Valley, a deep and sudden hollow. Three generations of my family had been baptized, wed, and eulogized on its grounds. Baptisms were performed in the waist-deep water of the Left Fork and weddings beneath a crown of coffee trees by Swift Camp Creek. But funerals were indoors. There was a cemetery beyond the grove of coffee trees, but there weren’t any Spooners buried there. We always took ours away with us.

My folks, Savannah and Virgil Spooner, were regularly resurrected for this, my final milestone. Mama gnashed her bridgework and made lurching, hysterical attempts to fling herself across my blanched corpse. To no avail. But she did succeed in exploding flower arrangements and rending the dark, heavy bunting about my pyre. Deddy, off to the side a bit and well beyond Mama’s field of force, fidgeted with a toothpick and off and on worked it around a nettlesome crevice in the back of his mouth. Several times he wondered out loud if folks didn’t usually have a snort or two at an event such as this. Being bereaved and all.

My little sister Drema, abandoned once again and forever unforgiving, paced ferociously at the rear of the chapel, kicking at the worn floorboards with her heavy, scuffed motorcycle boots and cursing me under her breath. A damp V spread across her back. Her eyes were full of firecrackers and marching men, and I knew she’d swallowed a handful of pills. As she liked to say, she had her reasons.

Willie, sweet and tolerant Wilhelmina Rains, my girl, was folded in on herself like a morning glory at noon as she wept there in the first pew. Perhaps not quite aggrievedly enough to suit me, but really, how much would ever have been enough? Should she have chewed her fists and railed against God? I don’t know. But her eyes, her neck, her short dark hair—she looked good in black, and I wanted to be there with her. There there.

On the periphery, a loose confederacy of well-meaning but generally worthless cousins and such moiled and roiled and here and there burst into stagey fits of stomping and keening. But that’s just how my people are. It’s honest, and they’re born to it.

And me? I was nestled into the blindingly white, satiny folds of the coffin’s padded lining, like a fat letter from home, full of bad news. I wore my only suit and a stranger’s bow tie. And either somebody close smelt of lime and tannin, or I did. I was certainly deceased as far as the others were concerned, my body having finally succumbed to abuse and neglect, but my mind was alive and firing on all cylinders, racing headlong toward the solution to a problem all but unsolvable— namely, How do I turn this thing around? Then the preacher Pons, redolent of brimstone and rosewater and soured milk, took the dais. He removed his dusty fedora and slowly ran his finger around the inside band, over and over. He surely didn’t look happy about what he’d come to say. Finally, he set the hat aside and squared himself to his audience.

“Son of the Living God, eternally and mercifully shining forth in all Your Majesty and Grace, “he began, voice all a-quiver and pitched at Heaven itself, “we are confabulated here this sweltry noon to bid fond farewell, Toomey Spooner. We ask for Your guidance. We want to comfort the family and friends of the so presently departed, for they are in their time of need. We’re here to worship in perfect, holy communion with You, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ the Nazarene, and to stand in utter awe of the vast Unknown Unknowable. “A long silence, deep and still as an abandoned mine, while the preacher Pons poured his awful gaze out across my unblinking mourners. “Not a thing we’ll encounter in this vale of tears is vivider than death. Nothing. Ol’ Death walks with us every day. And when he comes, he swoops down on us in Technicolor. Brighter’n the noon sun, bigger’n the night sky, pricklier’n a bed of nails!” Preacher Pons let his audience absorb this. “And we’ve got some death here among us today, folks. Right here! And I suggest, “his voice dropped low, and he seemed to lock eyes with each and every worshipper, “you get on down here and take a damn look!” Then he leveled his long, bony finger at me, and it quivered in mid-air. The sickening aroma of carnations and roses and lillies roared up around me. “Now, what kind of man was Toomey? We can only guess, really. But we know he was decent enough after his own fashion. Isn’t that right?” Murmurs of assent. “For instance, he gave each month to Save the Children. We’ve all seen photos of his little muchachas down in. . .well, somewheres. “More assent, some chuckling. “Lessee, “he said, finger to his temple, eyes to the floor, “well, he deeply disapproved of nigger-baiting, and I suppose that’s something. Only other thing I can think of is the time he beat Bobby Champeaux here half-senseless because the fool got drunk and severely picked on three of his own little children. “Bobby flushed red and there was some laughter. “But, “ the preacher Pons ground his jaw as if he were chewing on a strap of leather, “none of that’s enough. “More chewing. “What’s our most precious gift?” Life! “And to what end do we live that life?” Life everlasting! “And what’s required of you to enter the Kingdom of God?” Faith! “That’s right. But Toomey had no faith. Thus, he misspent his life. Thus, he squandered his most precious gift. Thus, “and the preacher Pons arched his eyebrows and hunched his shoulders, as if he couldn’t help what had to be said. Or done. He whispered, “Thus, “again, almost inaudibly, and bent to me on one knee, as if to pray. I heard what sounded like a match struck on its box, and then the preacher Pons stood up and back. In a minute, orange flickered over Willie’s face, and heat and smoke were all I knew.

My thoughts had galloped away from me, but I wasn’t dreaming. Not exactly anyway. I couldn’t have been because I wasn’t asleep. Oh, my bedroom lights were out and had been for hours, , but I was wide awake, the clock humming, the house settling, the oddly familiar tableau unfurling like a lost episode of TV Playhouse.

Fact was, control had by then been slipping from me for a while, maybe even a little at a time ever since Deddy blew his brains all over that muddy, hoof-pocked paddock. I’d walked out back to throw scraps to the chickens, and there he was, slumped over a bale of hay in the sunshine. The paddock just seemed to me such a. . .random notion. His glasses were folded up in his left hand, and the. 45 dangled with clear heft from his right. Two roosters were having at one another in the knee-high corn.

I rolled over onto my stomach, onto a cool spot under the covers, and punched the pillow up under my chin. From there I could see lemony slices of moon through the Levelors, and maybe I did and maybe I didn’t glimpse a shooting star out over Big Bone mountain, a sort of pyramid against the night sky. But just in case, I made a selfish wish. And for the next five or six minutes, with the otherworldly focus of the tightrope walker, I was fully conscious of every breath I drew. I laid so very still I might actually have been mistaken for dead had there been anyone about to peek in and check on my slumbers.

But it was no use.

I couldn’t sleep for love nor money, and the last eight nights had sorely tested my mettle, by which I mean my capacity for doing without. Sobriety had mint what little peace of mind I had coming into the thing, and I hadn’t of late felt much like me. Willie said it was the same thing as when she gave up chocolate—which she did about once a week— but I’d seen her slip instantly into sleep without so much as a Hershey’s Kiss.

But there are reasons within reasons, and the thing was, I couldn’t sleep because I’d been a little rash and perhaps overeager to please Willie Rains. And because I’d made a promise to her which I later had bountiful occasion to rue and rue.

I said promise, but that doesn’t really nail it down. It was more like a misthought bit of bravado, and Willie just happened to be there to witness it. And, understandably, she mistook it for the real thing.

A couple of Fridays back—or, put another way, eight nights prior to the big night I spoke of and will yet speak of again—Willie and I drove over to Beattyville for steaks at the Ponderosa. As always, the place was preposterously martial in its neatness, but somehow unhygenic. Filmy. A pimply boy looming over a stack of coffee cups took our orders for medium-rare ribeyes. He had bloodshot eyes that crackled and fizzed, and I sized him up quick as a young man who would one day do grievous harm to someone he loved. I mentioned it to Willie.

“How can Toomey Spooner just decide something like that? Huh? That’s like framing the poor boy. “She had a point, but so did I.

She led the way to a booth between an elderly farm couple and four richly-scented Lee County matriarchs. I recognized them. Probably everybody did. One of them was a Missus Fitzgerald, from whose son Tom I’d once forcibly taken three goats. It’s enough to say he’d mistreated them. The Missus didn’t let on she’d seen me and that was fine. And fair, in light of things. The farm couple was making to go.

From behind expansive Ray Bans, Willie said, “God. Look at that, would you?” and tipped her pretty chin. I cut my eyes across the aisle to a sorry family of five. Nope. I wasn’t interested, not right then.

“What about them?” I asked. You see that sort of thing all the time, and I wasn’t real inclined to think about it. But something was up.

“Nothing. “Willie pushed a frozen pat of oleo back and forth across a piece of melba toast, and I tipped an inch of bourbon from my dead brother Sewell’s flask into my Coke. Willie casually scanned the tabletop—salt shaker, pepper mill, Lee & Perrins, Heinz 57—and then locked her eyes on mine. “Guess what?” she said. She glanced at something over my shoulder before bringing her full attention to bear. “Drema called last night. This morning, really. Believe it must’ve been about four in the a. m. “

I bit into a radish and considered this news. I felt tired and slack and. . .well, a little bored. I said, “Oh, no. “

I had asked Drema, as if that would do any good, to please not bother Willie, especially not at all hours. Willie, for her part, was fond of Drema and had even encouraged the friendship, but Drema had never developed a sense of Willie and her rhythms. Drema’s middle of the night distress calls Willie found intolerable.

“Oh, yes. Quite drunk, of course, or something, and sounding a little bit lethal. Said she did believe she was going to have to waste Odel. Her word, “waste. ” Wondered what I thought of the idea. “Drema lived up in Lexington with her girlfriend Lorraine Dent, who also just happened to be Odel Dent’s estranged wife. A calamitous role, at best. I’d checked into it, and Odel was a sincere and violent man with a string of arrests—passionate and effective battery seemed to be the theme—and at least one two-year stint in Eddyville to prove it. Lorraine’s recent lesbianism didn’t suit Odel even a little, and he was fixated on Lorraine’s return to the Dent home and her natural role as object of his dull desire. Incredibly, Drema’s attitude toward the situation was sporting, and she saw in herself at least Odel’s equal in apocalyptic potential.

“Shit, Willie. I’m sorry. “And I was. Plus pissed with my baby sister.

“Oh, don’t be. Drema’s life is fascinating, really. I mean, how in the name of God does a girl get there is what I want to know. “A teen-ager in a cowboy hat and plastic palomino skirt served our steaks and potatoes. My attention wandered back across the aisle. Mom, Dad, a boy and a girl, maybe five and six, and Granny. Not a word passed between them, and the boy had his fat pink tongue pressed to the black Naugahyde bench. The old woman gazed fixedly at something half a continent away. Desert islands.

“Ya’ll enjoy sour cream or chives?”

“Please. “

“Besides, “Willie went on, “it presents an opportunity to discuss something I’ve been a little shy of. “My guts sprang to life and shot me a warning signal. Our waitress, all smiles, reappeared with a stainless steel carousel brimming with sour cream, bacon bits, and finely chopped chives. This time I noticed she wore an impressive engagement ring. Willie smiled and thanked her.

“Willie, “I set my knife and fork down, “listen: it’s not that I can’t take it, cause you know as well as anybody, I can. But let’s just enjoy these US DA prime cuts and take it up on the way home. That suit you?”

“We’ll talk, though?”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world. “

We finished our steaks and had coffee with our pie. Then we had cigarettes with our coffee. I tipped a little more bourbon into mine and blew big convoluting smoke rings that skimmed the Formica table. Willie slipped her ring finger through two or three. Then a little more bourbon with a second cup. We talked about the weather, the day’s and week’s events, and speculated on the lives of our fellow diners, what sorry defeats they must’ve endured. The usual. On the way out, I paid the bill and ferried a ten back to the table. Something about that big diamond ring, I don’t know. It just didn’t seem like enough of something. That, or too much of the wrong thing.

Out on the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway, I lit a fat joint and passed it over to Willie. I held the smoke deep until that sweet fog flooded my mind, just the way I knew it would. Boy. We had the wings pushed back wide and the cool October air whistled in and swirled about, lifting leaves and hay and paper from the floorboard. I noticed the pinpoints of Orion burning clearly out over Bear Pen Mission, throbbing like pulsars. Willie passed the joint back and exhaled. Smoke billowed in the cab for a moment before it was sucked through the vents and into the night.

“Now, Toom?”

“Uh huh. “I looked over at Willie, but she was bent to the passenger window. We passed beneath a streetlight and it flashed across her face, neck, bosom, lap, and legs, and each sang to me in its turn. “I do want to know what’s on your mind. Otherwise, us together wouldn’t be worth a thing. “

“Well, all I’m saying is this is just something to think about. Taking your history into account. “She waited until I said OK. “Now, consider your family for just a minute. “

“You must mean Drema and Hunt. “Hunt is my father’s half-brother who lives in a bombed-out hovel on the back side of my property. He’s also lunatic, though outside the Spooner tradition.

“Well, I meant alive and dead. Drema’s one of ‘em, sure, and Hunt too, but see, I’m taking the long view. I mean, you’ve also got ‘em buried thick up on that hill. “Willie took a long drag, the coal flickering orange across her face, and spoke while she held it deep. “Uncle Teddy and Sewell and Deddy, “she exhaled, “Granny Sue and Jeanette and—”

“Easy, Willie. If you don’t come at this thing a little straighter, I might never get it. “I flicked the nub of the joint at the vent, but it blew back in and showered us with tiny coals. We howled and slapped at each other, and Willie daubed spit on her really minor wounds. I flipped the dial to a staticky C&W station out of Whitesburg.

               In one of our weaker moments,
               we posed as man and wife,
               stole time, parole time,
               and called that thing a life.
               Let’s raise a toast
               to one of our weaker moments
.

Willie wanted to know what we were talking about.

“My dead, if I’m not mistaken. “

“Oh yeah. “Willie picked at her jeans. “It seems to me we have a future together, Toomey. I think you know you’re the only white man alive whose babies I want. “Willie scooted in close and slipped her hand over my thigh. “But your gene pool frankly does not inspire my optimism. By way of alcoholism and just general antic behavior, you Spooners have one by one driven yourselves to the brink of extinction. Honey, you’re an endangered species. “She was right and I knew there was nothing to be said about it. “Drema’s next, I don’t think there’s any question about that. She’s on her way out, Toomey, and you can’t help her. “Right again, and I registered these facts as they flew: check, check, and check. I slipped my arm over Willie’s shoulder and drew her in. She had started to cry. “I just wish you’d slow down is all, before there are consequences. I can’t bear to think of you headed down too. “We were by then deep in the old Slade Tunnel, approaching the dark patch of Kentucky night at the other end. And I thought: she is right. I don’t have to do this.

“Is that it?” I asked. “Is that all that’s been odd between us?”

“My God, Toomey, isn’t it enough? I’m talking about the rest of our lives. “

“Right. But is that the whole thing?”

“Uh huh. It is. “

The Bible tells us there are ten irreducible commandments carved in stone. Well, that strikes me as being a little inflexible. I’ve cooked all those commandments down to one general suggestion: Beware Reckless Whimsy. And that’s all the advice I have for anybody ever.

I cranked my window down, and the cold air surprised me a little. The temperature had to have dropped fifteen degrees in as many minutes. I used to watch the Weather Channel about as much as I watched CNN, and I knew the massive cold front which stretched from Canada into the Gulf of Mexico had swept through. The moon sat on the horizon behind a web of branches. I pulled Sewell’s nickel flask out of my jacket. “For us, “I said, “and the fruit of our peculiar union, los bambinos. “

“What’s that all about?” Lucky for me, Willie was smiling through her tears. I wanted to lick her wet cheeks.

“It means, “I said, “that I expect full cooperation. A little thing when you think about it. And full access if you get my drift. “Full access? I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. The moment had acquired a life of its own, and some vital connection between thought and action had been suspended. I was just going. So, I kissed the flask—for Sewell’s sake, I think—and hurled it end over end, silver flashing in an arc, over the cab and deep into the brush beyond the shoulder of the Parkway, where I would never be tempted to return and comb the weeds and bushes. I was stoned, and it was the easiest thing in the world.

Too easy.

“Geez, Toom. “At least Willie was pleased. It was more than she’d ever asked for. And the implications were obvious(!): we were entering a new epoch.

I gunned the engine of my monster Dodge Ram and shifted into overdrive, convinced I’d done the right thing.

That’s not true. Even then I wondered.

Back at Willie’s peeling clapboard house on Stanton Street, just inside the front door, she turned on me with a wicked smile and a fulsome thereness and crooked her finger under my nose. “Come here, you. “We made long and messy love right there, on through the kitchen, and finally all over her cozy bedroom, where we slept until noon.

But that was then. Before. . . that’s all. Just before. Always a happy time.

It’s so hard to sleep without a drink, with nothing much to slow you down. I don’t see how everybody does it. I mean, all those thoughts!

That vexing funeral review had slapped tight the shutters, bolted the doors, and otherwise abandoned the premises. Drema and Mama and Deddy, Willie and the preacher Pons, all of them. But actual history had rumbled into my head. That is to say: Drema and Mama and Deddy, Willie and the preacher Pons, all of them.

Jesus.

Exhausted in every way, I slipped from between flannel sheets and into my ancient brocade robe, the only luxury my father had ever allowed himself. The only one I’m aware of anyway. Deddy wasn’t cheap, not by a long shot, he simply preferred throwing his easy money at women and whiskey and didn’t concern himself with much else. Especially after our mother died. Yet. . .yet nothing.

I sat down on the edge of the bed and pulled on a bulky pair of red rag socks. A moth was bouncing around inside the cylinder of the lampshade. Pop. . .pop, pop. Etc. I didn’t have a thing in mind, except that moth and the odd fact that every fiber of its being was rather directly engaged with 75 watts of GE firepower. The clock on the nightstand said 3: 42. Holy cow. Maybe a little CNN.

But then, as it had Buddha unawares beneath the bo tree, it hit me whole and all at once, complete and fully formed, a big idea. I understood it was time for me to stake a claim of some sort, to winnow and expand, to account for myself. To assert the actuality of me! Yes. I insist on the right of the individual to defy time, history, and his or her own blood.

Or at least the right to try.

But like Deddy used to say, you have to have the proper tools for any job. For instance, even Jesse James would’ve floundered and been taken for a fool had he found himself wagging a pop gun at Allan Pinkerton’s earnest boys.

Case in point: By five o’clock my rigid resolve had given way to pretty extreme intemperance—it started as a celebration, I guess—and I was down at the edge of the pond, still swaddled in Deddy’s burgundy robe, blazing away at the water with a big. 45, and muttering, “She loves me, “p-pow!, “she loves me not, “p-pow!, and in any six-shot configuration, that’s bound to end in “not. “At risk of obviousness, I know, I’ll point out there was an empty seven-fifty of Jim Beam bourbon whiskey perched on the foot of the dock, and, it seemed to me, it just begged for what for. So I atomized it. The moon was low and luminous, and I cast a razor-sharp shadow across the water and onto the opposite bank. Without prior warning, there in the moonlight, aspects of the night conspired to inform me: we’re all drowning in shit. My eyes stung and leaked a little, and I had to sit in the mud and algae and wrestle with a simply worded question.

Now what?

Well, not waking up in an Atlanta Motel 6 with a snarling little cocktail waitress who swore—while I drew the plastic curtains together to shut out the sun and tried to remember who she was—that I stole the T-bird we drove down in, and that I’d begged her to marry me when we passed through Jellico, but that she’d been married four times already and was now “altogether too cautious to pull such a childish stunt. “Not that. Not if it was true.

I’d never again hold a woman in my arms, smelling her warm hair, feeling her love for me—full and perhaps forever—in her voice, her skin, her motion beneath or above me, not selfish but eager, and think even then: no, you’re not the one, you will never be the one; but let her continue to think she is for weeks, or months, or even a year, and then, at the moment she is most vulnerable, when maximum collateral damage is assured, have a few drinks, six, say, or nine, or 14, and tell her the truth in every ugly particular.

On the other side of it, no more false, but poetic, drunken declarations of love.

No. I love Willie. None of that will do.

I made a list like that and it filled a lot of negative space there in the night. I will not, not, not. . .and that’s half a program. But I felt like I was disappearing and fired off a few more rounds just to hear the report with my own ears.

I never did sleep that night, nor even the next morning; and in fact I’d dropped even deeper into my own special hole before all was said and done. But I nevertheless met the new day with an industry and vigor and optimism I’d not known for a while.

I had a plan.

By nine I’d showered and shaved and downed half a pot of blackest El Pico (“Fresco y Aromatico!”). It was crisp but comfortable out, the sun barreling in low over treetops about half yellow, orange, and red with autumn. Flocks of swallows and martins—and I don’t know what all—winged their way toward Africa and the Amazon Basin. Through the kitchen window I enjoyed their random, shifting patterns against the bright sky and feathery, layered clouds. Or perhaps they weren’t random at all. I’d read somewhere that chaos theorists were plotting the dispersal of stars in the universe and the growth of crystals. Maybe one day a belief in anything random or chaotic will seem as quaint as the simple faith of cargo cults. I don’t know. I lit a cigarette, shot a thick plume of smoke through a shaft of sunlight, and thought, unplottable. Quite. By nine-thirty I was racing in the Ram toward Campton. My dog, Whodunit, sat in the cab next to me, hunkered low and a little cowed by his old master’s new countenance.

Earlier, at about the same time the first wedge of blue edged in over the treeline, I had for once faced some pretty dreadful facts dead on. One, I was my Deddy’s boy. Virgil Spooner was no doubt the ghost in the machine, the man behind the curtain. The nexus upon which my inner life turned and turned. Inward and downward.

Two, the money had clearly ruint them all. Ridiculous sums for nothing but the great dumb luck to plop their hardscrabble Irish asses square on a massive seam of coal. One of the largest ever discovered around here. My greatgrandfather distilled corn all his days, for fun and profit, and took the glistering bitumen more or less for granted, firing his still with it and burning it for heat in the winter. But his boy Agee, my grandfather, who had an altogether keener sense of commerce, hit it big with the mines and never looked back. And so on down to me. After Agee, it was like we were all just sitting on our hands, waiting for something to happen.

And three, I wasn’t a boy no more. At 32 I was missing all my molars and I had the lung capacity of a rat. My knees ached nearly full-time by then, and I had to wear my glasses to watch TV. On the other side of it, my hairline was intact, and my musculature was still sleek. Without exercise. But I’d seen age sneak up and pound the soup out of the men in my family. For instance, one day Uncle Teddy’s spearfishing in the rapids of the North Fork, laughing and telling lies and gulping Weidemann’s, and the next he lay near death in Patty Clay Memorial, gray and emptied out, full of tubes shooting vital fluids to and fro. So.

I rose from the muddy bank, my joints popping, and clambered across the dock, woozy but there. There there. Shards of glass glinted across the foot of it in the morning’s first low light. Used to be a whiskey bottle. Watching milky clouds glide across the surface of the pond, I let my father’s old robe slip from my shoulders, stepped ever so carefully amongst the slivered and shattered bottle, and dove into the cool black pond.

I felt the water close over my feet.

Treading water, my hair slick on my head and water running down across my neck and eyes, and blinking it away, I wondered what it all added up to. All the perfectly grilled steaks and tall cool whiskeys and really good movies. Even all the times you made love to the only one you want, or the morning you watched the sun come up over Lake Cumberland, bobbing with your old man in that dented, leaky canoe. Work, I knew. That’s all there is in the end. Accomplishments. Something the survivors could chisel into a tombstone. I quailed at the thought of exiting the world exactly as I’d entered: fat and bald and blank.

It wouldn’t do.

And I knew then what the preacher Pons all but spelled out for me. That mine was a sin of omission. That there are things you don’t do that’re every bit as bad as the bad things you do do.

Not only had I never worked, not really, not counting those two summers I dug post holes out at the Herrick place, but I had never contributed anything, really, to anybody ever. The world was not a better place for my having lived. No career, obviously. But no nothing. Excepting Drema and maybe Hunt, no lasting relationships. No wife. No children to succeed me on this planet and carry us Spooners into the unknowable future, remember to others our triumphs, our failures, our tall tales, our small tales. No great work of art, no curious but fascinating journal of life as it was being lived in the 1990’s, no document whatsoever. A cipher. And I knew that it was true, that I was indeed in grave danger of wasting my life, of leaving a vacuum, the thing which nature abhors.

I floated there quietly on my back and sneezed when the sunlight fell across my face. I dove deep into the cold water and felt my penis shrivel to nothing. Mockingbirds swooped through the tall pines, singing everybody’s songs but their own. Whodunit stood on the dock, back from the broken glass, and watched, his head cocked at an angle. Here, boy. His ear twitched, but he stayed put.

And before I climbed out of that pond, up the rope ladder and onto the dock, wrinkled and water-logged, naked, dripping and blinking, I’d somehow or another decided it was absolutely necessary that I become the next mayor of Campton, Kentucky.

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