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lit by the flickering flame. “When I die I’ll go to Heaven ’cause I’ve spent my time in Hell.” Nodding, he said, “Amen, brother. The clink of the cover snapping shut sounded like a shot.
        With the aroma of last night’s roast chicken tickling his nostrils-one homey touch in his strange new house he drank, smoked, and thought. The letter was on his desk in his library. He could almost see it through the walls.
        His wife wanted him to tear it up. As if the thought of her were a summons, he heard her on the stairs. Now I’m in for it. Here comes the wicked Witch of the West.
        “Dan?” she called. “What are you doing up? Are you smoking?
        The woman could smell cigarette smoke in a hurricane. Here she comes -Judgment Day in pink flannel and fuzzy slippers- Beauty and the Beast all in one package. I don’t need this shit now. Why can’t she leave me alone?
        The overhead lights snapped on. The sudden brilliance hit his pupils like a fist.
        “Yeah, I’m drinking, too.” He squinted, temporarily blind. “So?”
        “Don’t get snotty, Daniel. It’s three o’clock in the morning The kids have school tomorrow.”
        “If the kids wake up,” he said, “it’ll be because of you. I was as quiet as a mouse.”
        “And as sneaky.”
        “Don’t start with me.”
        “Okay.” She threw her hands up, her sign of truce. “Let’s start over. What’s wrong?”
        “Nothing.
        “Nothing? You’re slinking around the house in the middle of the night, sneaking cigarettes, and drinking beer, and you expect me to believe nothing’s wrong?” With her arms folded, she leaned a hip against the counter. “It’s the letter, isn’t it?”
        “No, I-” He clenched his fist, tapped it three times on the counter, and said, “Yes, it’s the letter. I’m upset, okay? I admit it Let’s not get into it now, though. Just go back to bed. I’ll be fine. Just needed a few minutes to think, okay? I’m fine.
        “Honey,” she said, “talk to me. I want to help. Please, talk to me.”
        “We’ll talk tomorrow, babe. Right now I need a little solitude

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