• Dzama


Cherney was a little guy, smoked a cigar, little mustache, shirt with a busy, abstract pattern. He paced back and forth outside the office, filling the waiting room with smoke and nervous energy. When his name was finally called, his shirt was drenched with sweat and he wiped some off his forehead with the back of his hairy arm. Then he burst into the office and Mr. Brenner told him to have a seat but he only got halfway into his seat before he popped up again. “Do you realize what this little piece of paper is worth?” he said, spittle spraying across the desk. Mr. Brenner regarded him calmly. “Calm down, Cherney. Take a deep breath.”

“Remember when you were a kid you’d get a treasure map in a cereal box? You’d go out and dig up the back yard? Well, this is one of those maps only it’s real! Say hello to an office twice the size of this office! Maybe with two levels!” Mr. Brenner smiled and held out his hand for the paper. Cherney started to give it to him but couldn’t stand still long enough. He circled over by the window. “We’re gonna have piles of money, you and me. I’m bringing you in on this cause you’re the best, Mr. Brenner. I’ve always liked you.”

“Show me the paper, Cherney,” Mr. Brenner said, no longer smiling. Cherney waved it around as he went on babbling and Mr. Brenner grabbed it, tearing it slightly. “BE CAREFUL!!” Cherney shouted.

Mr. Brenner read over the paper. It was ragged, lined notebook paper, wet with sweat. It showed a scrawled map of a penitentiary, with a red “x” in the middle. At the bottom was written $1,000,000,000,000,000. “Where did you get this paper?” he asked.

“Pumpkin. Pumpkin gave it to me and then he was shot in the back,” Cherney said. “Pumpkin?” Mr. Brenner asked. “I’m going risk all my resources for Pumpkin? Even if I could get the men, the equipment together, even then, how on Earth would I get clearance to drill in a prison?”

“You already got it. I couldn’t wait. They’re starting drilling—,” he looked at his watch. “Right… Now!” Mr. Brenner stared at him. He spoke quietly. “You commandeered my team and got approval to dig a big hole in the county prison?”

“Yes, I did. I had to.” Cherney said, still pacing and bumping around. Mr. Brenner sprang out of his chair and lunged at Cherney, knocking him across the room into the wall. He backhanded him and Cherney dropped to the ground. Cherney looked up at him with a weird look on his face.

They stood now just outside the cell. Through the bars they could see the construction vehicle with the corkscrew drill. And through the smoke they made out a deep hole in the cement. Several workers stood around in yellow jumpsuits and hardhats. Mr Brenner and Cherney donned hardhats and went in through the door of the cell. Cherney, with a black eye now and a badly bruised face, rushed over and peered into the hole. Through the haze, water sparkled at the bottom of the pit, emitting a slightly greenish glow. Cherney and Mr. Brenner looked at each other. Then Cherney, cigar still clutched in his teeth, dove some ten feet down into the murky soup. Mr. Brenner and the workers gathered around the edge of the hole, looking down. A few bubbles surfaced.

Suddenly Cherney burst out of the water, holding up a wet leather bag, the soggy cigar falling out of his mouth. Leaning on a protruding stick of rebar for support, he held the bag up and shook it. It had the distinct sound of a bag full of heavy coins.

A few seconds later Cherney’s face melted off. But that didn’t stop him from talking. There’s more where this came from, he tried to say, without the aid of lips to form the words. He tossed the bag up and went back under water. Mr. Brenner poked the bag with his foot. Gold coins spilled out.

An hour later a skeletal Cherney was still piling more and more bags into a small mountain by the side of the hole. The skin was gone from his entire body but he was just as animated as ever. Mr. Brenner stared in shock, gaping. Finally he said, “You–. You should see yourself, Cherney.”

Ah, don’t worry about me! Cherney said. Come on, look at our haul! Mr. Brenner stepped over to the gold, as did the workers. He lifted one of the bags. The workers got on their knees and ran their hands through the gold pieces. Then one by one, their skin melted off too.

Later the four of them drove the cargo van out through the prison gates, the back of it piled with of leather bags of gold coins. As they drove, they cheerfully sang a pirate song at the top of their lungs but you couldn’t understand the words because they had no lips and their tongues were starting to melt. That didn’t stop them singing, however, as the van swerved in and out of traffic all the way back into town.

Copyright © 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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