“All right, Cecil, this here’s the place. Get out that shovel I toldja to bring.”
A lot of things happen at 6 a.m. in my neighborhood: birds sing, newspapers arrive on doorsteps, several roosters start competing for morning dominance, and the Johnson’s hound dog starts howling at God-knows-what.
Digging up a neighbor’s front yard isn’t on the list of normal, even for us, so when I heard Lumpy Pete’s scratchy whiskey voice when I opened my eyes, it took a second to register.
Loretta was gone for the weekend. I knew that because everyone in this neighborhood knows everything, and leaving the confines of the town is a big deal. Plus, she’d asked me to water her gardenias and leave food out for the small army of stray cats that frequented her yard.
I guess Lumpy knew it too, because there he was, trying—and failing—to whisper his instructions. Sliding into my bathrobe and slippers, I looked out my bathroom window and saw the two of them on Loretta’s front lawn. Lumpy wore his usual WWE t-shirt and worn-out, stringy cargo shorts with pockets full of random bits and pieces no one understood, and Cecil stood beside him holding a shovel and sporting a black T-shirt with the words “AIN’T SKEERED” scrawled across the front and a pair of ripped camo pants. In the first light of dawn, they made quite a duo.
I felt my eyes roll back in my head as I sighed, and I walked out into my yard. “Lumpy, what the hell’re you doin’?”
“That’s none a yer business, Bertie, you just go on back inside.”
“Like hell I will. You plannin’ on diggin’ up her yard?”
“Pete reckons there’s a treasure in Loretta’s yard,” Cecil piped up. “He saw it on the TV, Bertie! This old lady kept her money buried in her yard right under her flamingos, and nobody has more flamingos than Loretta!”
“Shut up, Cecil!” Lumpy hissed.
I could feel the slack in my jaw as I looked first at Cecil and then at Lumpy. They were right about the flamingos, at least—I stopped offering to cut her grass when I couldn’t push the lawn mower between them anymore.
Calling Sheriff Wilson for these two idiots would be a waste of time; I just needed them to get lost.
“Lumpy,” I lowered my voice and leaned in, like I was letting him in on a secret. “Don’t you think if Loretta had treasure buried in her yard, I woulda found it already?”
“Whatcha mean, Bertie? You been diggin’ up Loretta’s yard?”
“Why do you think I did her lawn all those years, Lumpy? You think I just love cutting grass and weedin’?”
“You mean to tell me you been havin’ ulterior motives for doin’ that?”
I gave him enough of an eyebrow raise to satisfy him, and he and Cecil looked at each other dumbfounded.
“Well, Bertie, I didn’t know you had that in ya. So there’s no treasure here?”
“Nah, nothin’ there.”
“All right, well, I guess we’ll be goin’ somewhere else, then.” The defeat in his voice almost made me feel sorry for him, but I just watched them walk away and then turned back into my house.
Inside, I opened up the cabinet to get some coffee filters and ran my fingers over the pink box behind them, silently thanking Loretta for the fifty thousand tucked inside Ziploc bags I’d unearthed from her yard over the past 10 years.