By: Gregg SAPP
Burton Charbonneau never turned off his computer. The primary application that he always left running was his email. In the quiet of any night, while multitasking in and out of fitful sleep, he could hear its distant musical tone – a fragment from “Hang on Sloopy” – whenever a new electronic missive arrived. Generally, he allowed messages to queue until morning. On some nights, though, when his mind was distorted by whatever worries were keeping him awake, that song stuck in his head, so while Tess snoozed next to him he snuck off to check his correspondence, hoping for good enough news to justify getting up.
At 4:30 am, the streetlights on Evergreen Avenue cast moving shadows of ash leaves against the walls of his den, like a dreamscape, into which he entered when he sat at his desk. There were several new messages, but all of them were subscription-based alerts and computer-generated junk mail – except for one, the most recent. It was a memo with an attached file from the alias “COWTOWN1,” aka Nick Fancelli.
Damnit, Charbonneau mumbled when he read it. Nick never could take a hint. He mulled whether to respond, and if so, how, but after several revisions, still couldn’t convince himself to press send. Finally, he shook off his ruminations when he heard the toilet flush in the master bathroom.
Tess was sitting in bed, wearing a sheer kimono, with a Red Bull on the nightstand while reading Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Everybody in the cafes, galleries, and the hipster taverns in Wicker Park was reading that damn book, and even though Charbonneau acknowledged that being conversant with its arguments was to his social advantage, seeing Tess with it still gave him a twinge of disappointment. She thrived among the artsy niches and bohemian enclaves in the neighborhood, which Charbonneau had trained himself to accept, for her sake. They’d bought their greystone home after getting married, eleven years ago, just ahead of a wave of gentrification that encompassed the area, so that if they sold it now (it was tempting, to him), they’d double what they paid (he still dreamt of retiring in Boca Raton, after all). But Tess never wanted to leave. Her attachment to that environment underscored their age differences, which was seventeen years, but seemed to be increasing as he aged and she apparently got younger.
“Guess who I got an email from already this morning?” he asked.
“Nick Fancelli?” she replied, entirely too quickly.
“Damn fool went and bought a ticket for me.”
“Just like he said he would.”
“Yeah, but I never agreed to this whole preposterous ritual.”
Tess marked her place in the book. “Oh, didn’t you?”
“When you were kids, you did.”
“Seriously? When we were kids?” Charbonneau shrugged. “I mean, c’mon, hon’…”
“You swore on the golden cross, did you not?”
Charbonneau didn’t think that was the kind of thing that he would have told her. He wasn’t even sure that she knew what it meant. Still, since she was asking, he’d either mentioned it to her, probably in a facetious manner, or she was just guessing, which would have been presumptuous if it wasn’t correct.
“What difference could that possibly make?”
“An oath is an oath.” Tess crossed her heart with her index finger. “It can’t be broken.”
It seemed prudent to agree with her judgment of the sanctity of an oath. “So, you think that I should go?”
“The ticket is bought and paid for. Of course you should go.”
He sighed in feeble protest. “But I’m only going for one day.”
“That’s all it should take, if you do it right.”
Charbonneau didn’t think about that remark until later, in the middle of the workday while he was dreamily poring over legal briefs, and the thing that he wondered was what she had meant by “do it right.” Was there really a “right” way to do something foolish?
In recognition of Columbus Day, 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson issued a proclamation honoring Christopher Columbus and the over five million Americans of Italian descent, from Enrico Fermi to Joe DiMaggio to the barber who cut his hair. The Columbus, Ohio Italian Club, of which Luigi (“Lou”) Fancelli was president, sponsored a celebration on that day, the finale of which witnessed the burial of a “time capsule” containing small items of cultural uniqueness donated by each member of the group’s executive board. Interred in a garden at Saint Francis of Assisi church in Victorian Village, the capsule was not to be disturbed until Columbus Day, 2014, fifty years later, when it would be opened and added to, then closed for another fifty years, ad infinitum.
Lou’s eldest son, Niccolo (“Nick”), thought that was the craziest cool thing that he’d ever heard. He just had to do the same. He invited his best friend, Burton (“Boog”) Charbonneau, to join him.
“A time capsule?” Boog questioned. “Is that like a spaceship capsule? Like John Glenn’s?”
“Naw, yah dip. It’s like buried treasure of stuff that yah want to show to people in th’ future. Then yah close it tight so no air or water can get in. I think we can use one ‘f my grandma’s canning jars.”
Boog had gotten his nickname from his habit of nose picking, which was something that he did when he thought too hard, like at that moment. “I don’t get it,” he said.
“What is it that yah don’t get?” Nick asked impatiently.
“Who’s gonna dig up this stuff?”
“Us, you idjit. In th’ future.”
Nick started counting on his fingers. “In fifty years,” he finally declared.
“Tha’s a really long time. My old man ain’t even that old.”
“It’s gotta be for a really long time, to be worth it.”
Boog was not convinced of the logic of that statement, but something else was troubling him more. “So this is for jus’ you an’ me. Nobody else?”
“I think not.”
“Why not Maria?”
“Why would we want for her t’ put somethin’ in our time capsule?
“I dunno. Maybe something from a girl ought to go there, for balance. There’ll be girls in the future, too.”
Nick shook his head vigorously. “A girl would only ruin it. ‘Specially my sister.”
The boys discussed the logistics of this operation for most of that afternoon before arriving at a plan. The selection of meaningful objects for inclusion in the cache was critical. “It’s gotta be something tha’d make a person whistle and say wow when it gets dug up,” was the criteria that Nick recommended. Any contribution also had to be small enough to fit, obviously, and also durable – nothing that was alive or might rot over the years. (That condition eliminated most of what Boog considered to be his best ideas.) Both boys took turns suggesting assorted trinkets, trifles, and knickknacks that they considered to be of potential value to future generations, but when it became apparent that they weren’t going to agree, Nick settled the matter by proposing that each of them should choose three items for the capsule, and furthermore they should place those things in paper bags, stapled, so that neither would know what the other had contributed.
The other vital decision involved where to bury the capsule. Accessibility, privacy, and security were the three essential considerations. It couldn’t be anywhere likely to be disturbed for a very, very long time. But it also had to be close enough for them to keep an eye on it. Obviously, it couldn’t be in either of their yards, for parents always noticed new holes dug in the lawn. Boog suggested the stink-fruit field behind their houses, but that area was really just a couple of contiguous vacant lots, which, judging from the litter and bottles left behind, could not be considered safe over a weekend, let alone for fifty years The next likeliest place was nearby Pumphrey Woods, the mention of which made Boog shiver, because they were reputed to be haunted. Nick didn’t believe in ghosts, although he liked the idea that the mere threat of demonic presences would discourage trespassers. They decided to conduct the ritual burial on Columbus Day, just like the grown-ups.
Columbus Day was a national holiday, so Boog was exempt from classes. Since the Catholic school which Nick attended remained in session, though, he had to play hooky. That morning, he left home with the cache materials hidden in his lunch box. The boys rendezvoused at the Black Witch’s Sycamore in the wilderness of Pumphrey Woods at noon. Crows cawed as Nick marched off a spot. The boys took turns digging with a broken hoe they’d found rusting in the field. Nick insisted that they couldn’t stop until the hole was “deep enough to shake hands with the devil.” (When Boog asked if he meant that for real, Nick cracked up laughing.) Finally, measuring the hole at Boog’s knee depth to as wide as Nick’s butt, they removed the mason jar containing two brown paper bags, stapled shut, one with each of their names crayoned on it. Boog twisted the cap as tight as possible, and Nick lit a Domus Christi candle and allowed the wax to drip over it, forming a seal. Set upright, the jar looked like a large seed.
“Th’ next time we see this, it’ll be th’ future,” Nick whispered.
“We’ll be old men,” Boog added.
When the hole was filled and the dirt was packed in place, they covered the spot with sticks and thatch. Boog wiped his hands on his trousers – done – but Nick shook he head. “We ain’t finished ‘til we sanctify our work.”
“How? With spit?”
“Naw…” Nick reached for his zipper. “With a golden cross.”
Thus the boys pissed a golden cross, their streams intersecting, a more copious volume than either young bladder seemed capable of holding. As ritual dictated, they held their breaths for the entire duration of the sacrament, until shaking loose the last drops. Finally, Boog gasped and Nick saluted their accomplishment by remarking: “Now tha’s a fine oath, for sure.”
“Whatever happens, do not fuck that woman tonight,” Nick insisted, shaking his fist.
“Naw, c’mon,” Burt drawled, shrugging. “Ellie is just a friend.”
“So am I.”
“Therein resides the gist of my concern.”
In the summer following their graduations from The Ohio State University, while Charbonneau was wasting time until starting law school at University of Akron in the fall and Nick was working at his father’s grocery while figuring out what he wanted to do with his life, the two best buddies shared a duplex on Maynard Street, just down the block from Stache & Little Brothers Saloon. With nothing better to do most afternoons, they frequented its happy hours, especially pina colada Wednesdays, which Burt had discovered was Ellie Warner’s favorite drink and that she never missed one. Usually, she went with friends and Burt was with Nick, so the socializing was loose and flirtatious, but never led anywhere. Once, though, Ellie was drinking alone and waved the boys over, sliding her arm under Burt’s while asking him if he’d like to be a gentleman and buy her another drink. Burt immediately shot Nick a look suggesting that he disappear. Instead, Nick cracked his knuckles. When, several drinks later, Ellie excused herself to go to the bathroom, Nick seized the opportunity to state his concerns.
“Don’t do anything stupid.”
“What’s your problem, man?”
Before Nick could respond, Ellie returned to the table, and within the time it took to finish her drink, was playing footsie with Burt under the table. Toeing his ankle, she asked if he would mind walking her home. Inwardly, Burt felt like pounding his chest and shouting hallelujah, but under Nick’s incendiary glare, he shrugged and replied that chivalry bade him to do no less.
“So chivalry isn’t dead after all,” Ellie giggled.
The next day, Burt waited until Nick was supposed to have been at work before he came skipping back to their duplex. The screen door was closed, but the main entrance was slightly ajar, and in his cheerful spirits, he pushed it merrily open… and a bucket full of 40 grade motor oil that had been suspended above the door jamb emptied onto his head. Nick was sitting, arms akimbo, across the room.
“What the fuck?” Burt whined.
“Think of it as sin,” Nick explained. “Sticky and gritty and covering your whole body.”
“You’re seriously sick. What’ve you got against me getting laid?”
Nick rose and stood so close to Burt that his breath felt combustible. “If you intend to see my sister, you have got to behave like you deserve her.”
“Huh?” Nick steadied himself against a wall. “We only went out a couple of times.”
“And you have a date on Saturday. Am I correct?”
“She didn’t tell you, did she?” he stammered. “I mean, like, she made me promise not to tell you. How’d you know?”
“That’s does not matter. Do you hear what I’m saying?”
“I like her, I really do.”
“Do you swear that as long as you are dating her, you will be faithful to her?”
Burt rubbed the oil out of his eyes so that Nick could see how earnest he was when he vowed: “I do.”
One year later, Nick was the best man at the wedding of his sister, Maria Fancelli, and Burton Charbonneau.
As soon as he glimpsed Tess Szabo at the tavern, Charbonneau started caring less about the game and more about what he might contrive to ingratiate himself into her favor. A national championship game was a great icebreaker, especially between two fans of The Ohio State University football team. Charbonneau had not realistically hoped that he might bump into her there, although wanting to view the game in the company of partisans and knowing from their first, brief meeting that Tess was also an alumnus of that institution had figured into his decision to go to McGee’s, which was the place in Chicago where expatriate Buckeyes gathered to cheer for their team. Charbonneau noticed her seated with a boisterous group at a table in front of the gigantic screen TV, and he studied her for most of the first half before determining that she was unattached to any man while simultaneously bolstering his courage with beer and whiskey shots. He was just about to make his move, when he heard…
There was only one person in the world who’d ever called him that. If he’d thought about it at all, he’d have guessed that he’d never hear it again for the rest of his life. But he hadn’t thought about it, so he was numb to any response.
“It’s been a long time,” Nick Fancelli said, extending his hand.
Charbonneau judged his grip to be non-threatening. In fact, it had been a long time, but perhaps not long enough. They hadn’t exchanged any communication since the divorce, ten years ago. Charbonneau’s name was still on a lengthy email distribution list to which Nick occasionally broadcast moderately amusing jokes and anecdotes. Other than that, they’d drifted into mutual indifference, which is what Charbonneau supposed was normal, since even though they’d been friends before becoming brothers-in-law, sides tended to polarize during divorce and blood relations trumped mere friendship. Worse, though, than the awkwardness of this encounter was Charbonneau’s concern that he was missing his opportunity with Tess.
“You look good,” Charbonneau lied. Nick must have gained 100 pounds since the last time he’d seen him.
“I feel magnificent.”
Charbonneau scooted over so that Nick could squeeze next to him at the bar. They exchanged platitudes about the irony of their meeting and superficial commentaries about the game. When Nick finished his beer, Charbonneau sensed that he was teetering between continuing their conversation or making an excuse to leave, so he finished his, too, and wiped his mouth in a gesture of conclusion. Nick, however, ordered two more beers. “How do you like living in Chicago?” he asked.
Catching up, in the manner that two people do when they are suddenly and unexpectedly reunited, is a selective business in any event, even more so when they are obliged to gloss over major issues and episodes in their lives. Charbonneau let Nick take the initiative, nodding politely while he declaimed about how his family-owned grocery had expanded into the import/ export trade (he was in Chicago on business) and how proud he was working with both his father and sons, not to mention employing numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins, too. For his part, Charbonneau stuck to the facts: he was now a partner in a firm specializing in business law, living in a downtown condominium, and owned season tickets to Cubs games.
“Still single?” Nick asked, drumming his fingers on the bar.
From the corner of his eye, Charbonneau noticed Tess standing and backing away from her table – damnit, she was getting away. Looking for something expeditious to say, he blurted: “Uh. Look. I’m sorry. So sorry. About everything.”
“Maybe, if we’d been able to have children, like Maria prayed so much for…”
“That was not God’s will.”
“That’s what Maria said, too.”
Burt said nothing but nodded. It was the least he could do to ask: “How is she, by the way?”
“She is content living among the Dominican Sisters at Saint Mary of the Springs.”
Having an ex-wife who became a nun was troubling to Charbonneau, both because of confused guilt and injured vanity. He considered asking Nick to convey his best wishes to her, but that seemed like going too far. “Whatever makes her happy,” he said.
That sentiment incubated between the two men for a couple of seconds. Then, Nick put his hand amicably on Charbonneau’s shoulder, saying “It was good to see you, Boog. But I came with some folks who’re probably wondering what happened to me. Hey, though, let’s stay in touch.”
“Sure,” Charbonneau agreed, while silently calculating the angle of Tess’s egress and a path by which he could intercept her.
Months later, shortly after Burt and Tess had moved in together, she retrieved the mail one day in October, waving a hand-written envelope addressed to Boog Charbonneau. He took it from her, chuckling while he kissed her cheek. Inside was a Columbus Day card – where on Earth had Nick found one of those, seriously? Inside the card, the caption was: “Onward to brave new worlds;” and Nick had additionally written: “Remember the future?”
Charbonneau knew better than to let Nick pick him up at the airport. Even though this was just a one day turnaround, he wanted to preserve his freedom of movement by renting a car. The last time that he’d gone back to Columbus, to play in a charity pro-am at the Memorial Tournament two years earlier, Nick met him when he landed and immediately conveyed him to Stan’s Restaurant – one of their old haunts – for lunch. While the gesture was full of nostalgia for days when greasy burgers were a guiltless staple, Charbonneau suspected that Nick had ulterior motives when he directed his attention to their comely waitress and remarked to him that she was Ellie Warner’s granddaughter. “No way,” Charbonneau replied, although upon second glance, he observed a resemblance. More perplexing to him was that he assumed that Nick had brought him there just to point her out to him. Charbonneau had no inkling how he was supposed to feel about her, or the situation, or why it should matter to Nick. (He did, however, leave her a large tip – it seemed chivalrous.) So, in the event that Nick might have some similarly unwelcome digression in mind, Charbonneau decided that it was best to leave himself an exit strategy.
Nick and Charbonneau had agreed to rendezvous at “high noon” (which was also the exact time when, on the lawn of St. Francis of Assisi Church, Nick’s 95 year old father was participating in the similar exhumation of another time capsule). Arriving early, Charbonneau killed time by traversing the old neighborhood, where everything looked familiar and foreign at the same time. What he remembered as a comfortable but coarse working class, white trash neighborhood was now racially integrated, but otherwise looked as gritty as he remembered. Limp American flags sagged from poles above driveways where junk cars were parked. Unleashed dogs roamed the alleys, turning over garbage cans for chicken bones. A couple of barefoot boys sat on a curb playing with matches. Two double-wide trailers now occupied the lots in the stink-fruit field where he and Nick had played as boys. Charbonneau reckoned that if the land had any development potential whatsoever, Pumphrey Woods would’ve no longer existed; however, the owner bequeathed the small, two acre lot to the city, which put up a sign designating it Pumphrey Park. There wasn’t even a parking lot.
Nick appeared at what Charbonneau was certain was precisely noon, honking his car’s horn and summoning him to the passenger side window. Through it, he handed him a spade and a military-issue collapsible shovel. Charbonneau felt conspicuous holding these implements while waiting for Nick to extricate his considerable girth from the vehicle.
“Don’t be nervous,” Nick panted, catching his breath. “Nobody ever comes here during the day.”
“I can’t believe that we are here.”
“I had my doubts about you.”
“What if I hadn’t come?”
“Well…” Nick paused to wipe his brow. “I wasn’t sure, until I convinced your wife to persuade you.”
“What?” Charbonneau had a fleeting urge to whack Nick across the face with the shovel. “You spoke to Tess?”
“I told her that this was something that you had to do, because you’d taken an oath.”
“That was a very long time ago.”
“But today, now, it is finally the future. Let’s do this thing.”
To Charbonneau, nothing whatsoever about Pumphrey Park resembled the fearsome sylvan of his childhood, until Nick led him to the massive, peeling sycamore tree, some ninety feet tall with burnt red leaves and tangled branches hiding spiky seed balls. It was unquestionably the Black Witch’s Sycamore, unchanged, still haunted. “I know the exact spot,” Nick assured Charbonneau before he could ask. He counted steps, checked the angle of shadows, and stopped over a nondescript section of lawn. “Right here,” he announced.
After stripping off the layer of sod with the spade, Nick became dizzy and had to lean against the tree for support. “Let me dig,” Charbonneau offered. It was good dirt for digging: loose, loamy, and well-worked by worms, like most of terra Ohio. He took small shovelfuls, worried that he might inadvertently break open the jar. When he hit something solid, he knew from the hollow sound that it was their cache.
Lowering himself to his knees, Nick reached into the hole and, as gingerly as any archaeologist might unearth a lost idol, lifted the dirty, fogged, but still intact mason jar that the two of them had interred half a century ago. He held it in both hands and showed it to Charbonneau.
“To tell the truth, I didn’t think we’d find it,” Charbonneau muttered.
“I never doubted,” Nick said. “Let’s open it.”
Nick used a pen knife to cut through the wax around the jar’s lid, then grunted trying to twist it off. Kneeling next to him, Charbonneau took the jar, tapped the lid a couple of times with a stone, and got it to turn. Inside were two brown lunch bags, stapled shut, with “Nick” written in faded crayon on one and “Boog” on the other. Each man took his own.
“I can’t remember what I put in here,” Charbonneau said.
“You go first,” Nick encouraged him.
Charbonneau felt a shiver in his sinuses, a precursor to a sneeze that never materialized. Suddenly anxious to get this over with, he ripped apart the bag’s staples and plunged his hand inside.
The first thing that he pulled out was a Wham-o Super Ball, made of pure, compressed Zectron rubber. “You can’t buy these anymore,” Charbonneau proclaimed while, rearing back, he heaved it onto a bare spot of ground and braced for the bounce. It broke in perfect half upon impact. Nick chortled with laughter.
As if he had something to prove, Charbonneau retrieved the second item from his bag, a plastic egg containing a blob of petrified Silly Putty. “I thought this stuff was supposed to stay soft forever,” he commented, which triggered even more sloppy hilarity from his companion.
To Charbonneau, this was more anti-climactic than amusing, so when he reached for the final article, he steeled himself against further disappointment. It was something light and thin, wrapped in a child’s handkerchief. He tried to open it discreetly, palming it so that he’d see what it was first, but it was Nick who recognized the two squares of embroidered fabric, one with an image of Jesus, the other with Mary, connected by a band of ribbon.
“Why would you have put a devotional scapular into your bag?” Nick asked.
Charbonneau pressed the sacred object between his hands. “It was Maria’s,” he finally explained. “She gave it to me and said that I should wear it, because even if you’re not Catholic, if you die with one on, you go to heaven.” He stretched it out and considered, for just a moment, putting it over his neck. “Even back then, she was worried about my immortal soul,” he sighed.
Nick rolled his eyes. “Let’s see what I’ve got in mine.”
The first thing to come out was a first infantry division shoulder patch from his father’s World War II uniform. (In fact, his father had placed an identical one in the time capsule that he, too, was opening at that very moment, elsewhere in town.) Second was a copper buffalo nickel, with an Indian head, dated 1916. “I used to collect these,” Nick said.
Charbonneau wondered: “Do you think it’s valuable?”
Nick, however, was already grabbing for the final item, which was encased in layers of plastic wrap sealed with very brittle adhesive tape. At the center was an immaculately preserved 1964 Topps Joe Pepitone baseball card.
Charbonneau whistled. “Wow. That’s probably worth… I don’t know – something, for a collector.”
Shaking his head, Nick said: “Joe Pepitone? I doubt it.”
“Well, what do you want to do with it?”
Nick locked his hands together in a way that made it look like he was praying. “These things belong to the future. Now, we have to add one more thing each, and then bury everything again, for another fifty years. Maybe, someday, our children’s children will dig them up.” He slapped himself across the forehead. “Sorry.”
Charbonneau rubbed the fabric of the scapular between his thumb and index finger. “No offence taken.”
Nick had brought something to add to the cache – a refrigerator magnet with his company logo, phone, number and web page. Charbonneau dug into his pocket and found the boarding pass for his day’s first flight. Together, they placed everything into their respective bags, closed the jar’s lid, and used a lighter to re-melt the wax over the seal. They took turns tossing handfuls of dirt into the hole, then laid the sod back over the soil, stomping it down to conceal the scar. Both realized at that moment that they were standing in the precise spot where they had fifty years ago, under exactly the same circumstances, and they knew what had to happen next.
“We need to sanctify our oath,” Nick sighed, almost reluctantly.
“Tell me you’re not serious.”
“C’mon. Nobody’s watching – old man.”
Boog Charbonneau figured that this was more a dare than an oath, but still he couldn’t refuse. He unzipped his fly and took aim, as did his compatriot, and with somewhat more feeble streams but no less flourish than they had fifty years earlier, they showered the ground with a golden cross.
Charbonneau suggested lunch at Stan’s Restaurant, but was dismayed to learn that it had burned down two years earlier. Instead, they grabbed a couple burgers at a franchise eatery, chatting about trivial topics of general interest while deftly avoiding whole landscapes of mutual history that neither wanted to broach. Charbonneau told Nick that he had changed his itinerary to catch an earlier return flight than was the actual case, so when they finished their meal, he apologized for having to make a hasty departure, promised to keep in touch, and gave his erstwhile best-friend/ brother-in-law the goodbye hug that he no doubt was expecting.
“Happy Columbus Day,” Nick said.
“It feels good to finally put the future behind us,” Charbonneau replied, and immediately wished that he hadn’t. Nick didn’t ask what he meant, though. Thus, they parted.
As soon as Nick’s car was out of sight, Charbonneau doubled back and took a circuitous route back to Pumphrey Park. A breeze had picked up, loosening leaves from the Black Witch’s Sycamore. Charbonneau dug with his hands, looking over his shoulder repeatedly, concerned that Nick might return and catch him in the act. As he lifted the jar from its hole, though, he paused, suddenly ambivalent, listening to the scolding of crows overhead. He opened the lid and took Nick’s bag in his hand, but only to set it aside while he opened his own bag and removed the scapular that Maria had given him, along with its promise of immortality. He hung it over his neck, briefly catching it on his nose, and then stuffed it under his shirt. Everything else, he shut tight and re-buried. Having thus preserved his future while honoring the past, Charbonneau was satisfied to return to the present. Ultimately, keeping a secret felt better than fulfilling an oath.
Greg SAPP is a writer, librarian, college teacher and academic administrator who has published over 60 scholarly and professional articles. His first novel, “Dollarapalooza,” was published by Northern Illinois University Press. Since then, he has published stories in several journals, including Defenestration, Kestrel, Semaphore, Imaginaire, Zodiac Review, Marathon Review, and been a frequent contributor to Midwestern Gothic. His just-finished novel, entitled “Fresh News Straight from Heaven,” is about the life and mythology of Johnny Appleseed; it will be published by Evolved Publishing in Summer, 2017. For more information, see www.dollarapalooza.com.