My great-uncle Milton was one of the last living residents of Freeport, Kansas. He had made a fortune selling bibles to bible-salesmen, and he kept it all in cash in a bunker under his barn.
On a hotter-than-hell July morning in 2000, Great Uncle Milton rubber-cemented eleven three-cent Charter Oak stamps from 1933 on each of two letters: One to an address in Argonia and one to an address in Anthony.
Five days later two strangers came walking into town. One was a morbidly-obese woman of indeterminate age with bright orange skin carrying a two-liter bottle of carrot juice. The other was a scrawny old white dude who needed a shave and looked like Pappy Yokum. Neither one of them looked fit to walk; certainly not in this killing heat. Great Uncle Milton sent them to the cellar with a couple of Picnic Paks he had me buy for him at the Wal-Mart in Wellington.
Two days later the cellar door banged open and the strangers climbed out with bloodshot eyes and slept-in clothes. Great Uncle Milton handed each of them a suitcase full of cash and they wandered back out of town the way they had come. Ol’ Milt went and took the seat off the tractor and bolted it to a skateboard my nephew Brandon had abandoned the summer before. Then he went down to the cellar and came up with his arms bent out way in front of him full of a big bale of nothin’. He unrolled the nothin’ out on the dirt in front of the skateboard and spent more than an hour making sure it was nice and smooth. Then he stripped naked and sat his skinny ass down on the tractor seat and I swear to god it actually sizzled.
“Uncle Milton, you look funny naked,” my daughter Ashley said.
“Can I have a suitcase full of money too?” I asked.
“Look at them billowing,” Great Uncle Milton said, pointing out at the waves of heat rising off the dirt. “Ain’t they pretty?”
“Come back inside and drink some water,” my wife said.
Great Uncle Milton just laughed. “Good luck with everything,” he said.
The skateboard began to roll forward. Great Uncle Milton wobbled on his seat, still laughing and clacking his dentures. Ashley ran after him and threw her arms around the empty air as she fell in the dust. Great Uncle Milton was rising into the afternoon sun. My wife folded her arms and looked disapproving.
Soon Great Uncle Milton was completely out of sight.