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No More Nickernackin'

Peter Obourn

So that’s all we could do. For over a month, we didn’t hear nothin’. Then one day my phone rang, and before I could even say hello, I hear, “Where the hell you been? I been callin’ you for two days.”

“That you, Bill?” I said.

“Yep.”

“Where are you?”

“Listen,” he said, “I need a favor.” He asked me to pick up his mail, watch the house, pay the bills; he’d pay me when he got back.

I said okay, because what else could I say? “Where the hell are you?” I said.

“Hang on a minute.” I could hear him talking to someone, then he said, “Emerson, Iowa.”

“Are you with someone?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” he said. Then he hung up.

Even though I knew I’d never see the money again, I paid the bills that had to be paid and threw out the junk mail. In among his mail pile were two picture postcards.

I always figured it’s okay to read other people’s postcards. Anyway, this was now a true mystery, so I took them down to Walt’s. Walt, Roy, and Norland were huddled in the booth looking at another picture postcard—this one from Iowa—which had been addressed to Bill, c/o Walt’s Diner, Forgeville, New York, handwritten, but every letter beautiful—curved and slanted exactly the same—like one of those fancy wedding invitations.

So we had three postcards, as follows:

“Oak table” postcard—an oak table sitting in front of an adobe restaurant. According to the card, the table was made from a two-hundred-year-old oak tree. It said: “Dear Billy: This here is the only thing in the USA older than you. Ha-ha,” and it was signed “M.”

“Green bottle” postcard—a green wine bottle from Sterling Winery, Napa Valley, California. You could see the vineyard in the background. It said: “Here’s that bottle of wine I owe you. It was fun. Love, Marjorie.”


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