Nighttime Babies

by Piper Davenport

"Moral filth is such a problem with this country, and to celebrate on such a night," said the television evangelist. Josiah shut off the television and rolled his eyes but then he thought about what the man said. He hadn't had a night off on Sundays in a very, very long time and couldn't understand the big deal about a couple of high school kids. Other than greeting tourists, lost travelers, moving mannequins and nighttime babies, Josiah sat at his plastic Formica counter, listening to music such as Brahms' Hungarian Dance No.6, reading National Geographic and watching everyone else celebrating the local high school's BIG football win. Something else was bothering Josiah. He though to himself, 'Why is our town always being singled out?' Detroit was a two-hour drive up I-75 cutting through I-24 and down toward Toledo. That was miles away from where he was at and Josiah said to himself, "Oh, I wish someone would push me away from boredom," he said. The town folks listening to him would just nod their heads.

With those thoughts tucked loosely on his tongue, waiting for the next traveler to arrive, Josiah quietly fell asleep. He tried to remember later if it was the putter of soft gas circles that wafted through the chilled air and tickled his crusty nostrils or if it was the putrid sound of a car clunking, the annoying bird-like screaming of a woman's accented voice and the cursing that followed that jolted Josiah out of his sleep. Her heels smashed into the crunch of gravel as her head bobbed and her lithe body darted in his direction. The town was nowhere near this and Josiah felt his heart racing. She slammed open the door. "My husband's after me," she said. Yellow eyes beckoned him to respond. Josiah did what he thought best. He handed her a tissue. Patches of smeared makeup dripped down onto her black raincoat. "Well, I hope it's not about money 'cause that's usually what people fight about in these parts and I don't make enough to move out of this seat unless you have a key," Josiah replied. She rolled her eyes. "You're a wise one. Do you come with an instruction manual?" she asked. Josiah chuckled and shook his head. " No but I should have been a hitchhiker. Read On the Road eleven times in high school. Didn't do shit for me," Josiah said in a whisper. "Oh, don't worry. I won't tell the dry balls in town that you speak more than the King's English."

"Great, darling. Now all I need is some of those football game baked beans and a little Pepto Bismo for afterwards."

"And all I need is a little male protection while I go over to that farm beyond yonder and get back the bag that my husband took. Lot of money," she said. With the exception of her two bridged together eyebrows, and the mouse-looking facial hair on her mouth, cheeks, and chin, she was an attractive-looking woman. "I don't know. With road people . . ." his voice trailed off. "I'll make it financially worth your while, " the woman said. "How much?" Josiah asked. "Oh, about half," she said and smiled. "Half? Of what? A dollar," Josiah said. He straightened out his glasses and returned to his magazine. "No, man. Half of ten thousand dollars. Won't take you that long and if my husband shows up, you just hold his arms while I kick him in the balls," she said. Josiah straightened up his pants. His slight belly felt smaller. "I can't leave," he said. "Oh, you really do belong in this town," she said and continued, "Look, I'm giving the money to you and once you touch it, it's not dirty anymore." "Hon, I've eaten dirt sandwiches before. My issue is we haven't

been introduced. I don't go anywhere with strangers, just mannequins," Josiah said. "Yeah, yeah, sure, sure. By the way, I'm Tequila." "Spanish or from the South?" He asked. "Neither. From Detroit. And you are?" Tequila asked. "Josiah. Josiah Tuttle," replied. "That's some name. Biblical aspirations to be the second Jesus?" she asked. Tequila bent over to straighten her fishnet stockings. "Some might say," he said. Josiah reached behind him to put a sweater on. "I like you. Come on," she said.

The shivering chill of a November evening entertained them into the night. Josiah glanced down at her ragged fishnet stockings and sleepy eyes. If she was deceiving him, he would take the blame. He clutches the motel keys and locked the front door. Josiah placed the Be back in a minute sign that his boss had given him to use in the event of an emergency in the window. Tequila scurried across the parking lot like a scavenging squirrel. Josiah commenced to point at the green monster sitting in the obscure and mostly empty parking lot, among rows and rows of superior-looking cars. Josiah stowed the keys in his pocket. But Tequila gripped his arm and pinched him. Josiah appeared to turn around again. He thought he saw a shadow moving behind him. They darted in between a car in the middle of the two-lane highway. A white 1980 Chrysler parked on the other side of the road was their safe haven. It was lying partially in the sewage strewn ditch, and partially on the side of the road. Josiah was surprised that the car had not fallen in. Tequila snuck by the passenger door and opened the car. She insisted on him being on guard for her husband.

"What's his name?" Josiah asked. "Teddy," she replied. She was pulling an oversized black duffel bag from between the seats. At one point, the bag seemed to be stuck and Josiah had to come around and yank the bag out, which caused him to fall feet first into the ditch. "Shoot," he said, as he looked down at his almost-ruined penny loafers. "Them things are ugly. You can get new shoes," Tequila said and when she saw the crumpled look on his face, "Big baby. Baby need a pacifier. Waah!" she laughed. "What's so funny?" he asked. Josiah climbed out of the ditch. Tequila tossed the bag to him and Josiah barely caught it. She took off her red pumps and went barefoot into the ditch. Josiah found himself almost lifting her out of the ditch. They bumped into each other. "Thanks," she said. She gave him a half-smile and put her shoes on. "What's so funny?" Josiah asked again. "I'm going to call you Baby. Sounds a hell of a lot better than Josiah," she said. "What will Teddy say?" he asked. Tequila motioned for him to give her the bag. She began walking through the bristly grass that tickled his skin. Josiah stopped. He heard a car horn or no, maybe it was a truck horn, and then, the bright lights of the truck were staring him down. "That's Ted. Gotta go. Been swell, baby," she said. He heard her voice but when he departed, he saw nothing in front or behind him. The truck lights were on him and then off him when the person behind the wheel of the truck, whom he assumed to be Ted, saw that he was moving back across the street. He ran, leaping over the ditch, barely able to prevent himself from being hit by the truck. Across the street, a few motel patrons were standing outside their rooms. 'I should go back, right?' Josiah asked himself. He patted both sides of his pants. "She took my keys. By golly, I've been had by a woman named Tequila. Now, here's a story for afternoon tea time," Josiah said, this time, out loud, even though he knew no one was really listening.

"Wait!" he called out. The truck stopped. Josiah ran up to the driver's door. "What do you want?" the man asked. He had a scruffy-looking face along with scruffy-looking hair and a snarl for a smile. "Your wife, sir. She stole my keys and I desperately need them back." Josiah coughed as cigarette smoke swirled in the air. "Desperately? Can't you just get another pair?" Ted asked. "Those were my keys and they are very expensive to replace. A master set. Very expensive." "At that fleabag?" the man named Ted said. He briefly nodded his head and continued, "You don't

have squat for money in the desk or anywhere?" "Your wife has the money. I could report you both," Josiah said. He rested his hands on the inside of the passenger side window. "I could shoot you. Ain't nuthin' to me," Ted said. He sighed. "Was plannin' on hangin' out here couple of days. I kind of like it out here. Reminds me of a Hallmark movie. Figured with the town celebrating the football game, we could remain anonymous." "That's the exact opposite of how I feel. I need some adventure, new friends. I was only kidding about the tattling. I won't tell," Josiah said. "All right. Hop in," Ted replied.

The two new friends drove across the scattered prairie. The rain had begun to fall. The field was a maze of wild flowers, elevated grass, and excessive twilight that carried on with the presage of an ancient map. Ted lit a cigarette and played country music softly. Glass beer bottles were thrown all over the dashboard, along with Monopoly and counterfeit money, strewn in between the seats. As they rode along, Josiah kept his window partially down. Silence saluted them and Ted flashed his headlights but the woman they both were looking for was nowhere to be found. The answer came as Ted's tire marks crushed the corn stalks, knocking them down as the truck dragged over the fields. Tequila was standing on the porch, her rain-soaked hair in a ponytail. Her makeup was clumped; her face was ashen brown and Josiah thought that perhaps she had been crying and deliberately smeared her makeup. He gave her a sympathetic look. Josiah hopped out of the truck before Ted braked and rushed up onto the porch. One sole porch light hung dimly from the entryway.

"Where's the mistletoe and eggnog for the party?" Josiah joked. Tequila shook her head. "Ain't no party here. Money's too tight." Her arms were folded across her scanty chest. "Well, perhaps, I might hire you as my trainer. You got here very quickly," Josiah said. He came up on the porch. Tequila raised her eyebrows. Ted's truck rattled past them and onto the side of the house. He got out of the truck, spitting tobacco on the ground. "Why in the hell you run away like that, girl?" he asked. "You damn near woke up the whole goddamn town with all that racket?" Ted asked. "Oh, would you just simmer down, Teddy Bear? I made a mistake, okay? I thought that by being l-o-u-d, no one would notice us? And no one ever really has, except your friend here," she nodded in Josiah's direction. "Who, him? That rat don't play on my team," Ted spat. "Well, he's here now. I picked him," Tequila said. She came over and gave me a little tuck on the arm. "We stole your motel keys," she said softly. Josiah nodded his head. His eyes beamed widely. "I thought I saw a shadow behind me," he said, turning to Ted. "You knew? You knew, huh? How 'bout that?" Ted picked up a duck that had flown onto the railing on the porch and threw it out into the yard. He contemplated this new discovery in his head and walked back and forth on the porch.

Tequila reached from off the ground and picked up a glass beer bottle, took a swig of the sweet, brown liquid and then quickly spat out the substance. "Tequila, that beer tastes flat. Damn, girl, did you leave it out on the porch? I'd rather drink fresh milk from a cow's utters than that cheap crap." Ted slinked down to the ground. "Crap? I don't buy crap. It's the town," Tequila said, glancing sideways at Josiah. Ted held up a green bug between his two fingers that he had picked up off the ground. Josiah watched as Ted studied the bug with one eye closed, as if he were a scientist. "Put that thing down," Tequila cried.

Ted popped the green bug into his mouth, and then stuck his tongue out. Tequila began to cough. "Bug killer," she said. She began to pound her arms against him until she stumbled into his arms. They fell into a pile on the ground, laughing and him cursing under his breath. Ted finally looked up at Josiah. "My apologies, sir. To you and Mother Nature." Ted offered Josiah a piece of tobacco from his pocket. Josiah shook his head no. "I'm sure the other bugs are planning the

wake now," Tequila muttered. "Hey! Who remembers to buy bread to feed the birds when we go to the park? I do!" Ted shouted and then gawked at Josiah. "I ain't got to justify myself to you. You're getting paid too. A motel clerk," Ted shook his head. "I stumbled upon this job, sir. Yes, this situation reminds me of a famous quote. I believe it goes, 'Remorse is memory awake.' Came here when my car broke down. Stayed at the very same motel that I work at now. Lived for awhile in the room right in front of my eyes. The owner had a 'Help Wanted' sign in the window. Long story short, I was young and on the road. My dull existence had found meaning: Long hair, long road trips, longing for a drink. Only it was the '70s. So, I went into town, this town, got drunk, and then my wallet was stolen. All on the same night. The job seemed sane. Kept me from hitchhiking. But the car broke down."

"What's wrong with hitchhiking?" Tequila asked. "Yes. But I didn't want to leave my things behind. I thought I was ready to go for broke, but I began to look forward to my weekly check. Was tired, damn tired of relying on other people's scraps. Finally, car died and after that, I stayed. The grieving widow, I am," Josiah said. "Why?" asked Tequila, "That seems so dumb."

"Took it as a sign," Josiah replied. "Oh, man. Don't tell me you're one of those holyrollers. Here we go with the signs," Ted said. "You don't believe in anything, do you?" Josiah asked. "Nope. Ain't got time. Neither does Tee," Ted said, nodding in Tequila's direction. The night air was filled with the breathing sighs of whiskey coming from Ted's breath. He was drinking from a flower vase. The three of them stood there, passing the vase around until their throats were sore. Just when Josiah was about to faint, Tequila said, "We stole your motel keys. And now, you're coming with us." They both laughed at each other. " I followed you out here, boys and girls because you said that you were having car trouble. How ironic, huh?" Josiah asked.

"Ironic? Don't believe in that either," Tequila said.

"I do believe, dear, that you are a natural comedienne. Now, back to the keys. Why did you take them?" Josiah asked and when she stared blankly at him said, "Surely, somewhere in town. A restaurant . . ." his voice trailed off again. "Do we look typical to you? I mean, are we studying art or making a drawing?" Tequila asked. "Yeah, I thought reading was your pleasure," Ted said, with his arms folded. Tequila tilted her head to the side. She kissed her fingers and then wiped smeared lipstick on Josiah's cheek. "Halloween on a Sunday night. You think God can protect you?" she asked. "Should I start singing? Or dancing?" Josiah asked. "Not funny, motel clerk. And stop dancing with no sound, baby," she replied. "I just want the keys back. I was wrong. Wrong adventure, wrong lifetime, wrong everything. Took a chance. Like playing the lottery," Josiah said. "A gambler? Not smart, baby. I mean, gambling? Never pays much. This is more fun," she said. "How? The register doesn't have much money," Josiah said.

"We were not looking for you. We were looking for them," Tequila said, shaking the motel keys in her hand. "You see, Josiah," said Ted, "people are going to keep their most valuable possessions on or near them. Plus, one thing I know about travelers. They are not going to have their guard up at a motel or at a home. But in town, they will. That's why we dress up." Ted unzipped his jacket to reveal a custodian's uniform. Tequila unzipped her jacket to reveal a maid's uniform. "Uniforms? I don't understand why would you need them?" Josiah asked and took another swig of whiskey. "Keys get us into the rooms. The uniforms are just a front," Tequila said. "Once we get into the rooms, we look for valuables. Then, once we've gotten enough, we move onto the next town," Ted said. "But how did you get into the house?" Josiah asked. "Which house?" he asked. "This one," Josiah said. "We were told to come here. But don't

worry, we won't be staying long," Tequila said. "Yeah, we're planning on going on. As soon as we rob your motel. That's why we needed your keys," Tequila said. "My keys? And how were

you planning on getting into the rooms?" Josiah asked. "With our costumes," Ted said and continued, "Which ones would you like to see? Daytime or evening?" Tequila asked. "What's the difference?" Josiah asked incredulously. "Oh. You'll see," she said. She went into the house and produced two uniforms, covered in plastic. Through the plastic, Josiah could see a maid and janitor's uniform. "These are our daytime outfits," Tequila said and tossed them on the swinging porch bench. "And nighttime?" Josiah asked.

She held up one finger, and then her thumb, almost as if she were motioning to shoot him. Ted ran past Josiah, sticking his thumb out and tongue at the same time. They opened the door wide, and it banged shut. Josiah could hear the soft scratching sound of animal feet clawing at the pebbles on the ground. He could hear them moving around inside the house. Whistled, folding his arms across his chest, and then placing them behind him. Kicked the ground as if he were kicking a man, and walked over by the cornstalks. A scarecrow stood up on a metal stake, his straw arm pointing in an easterly direction. Josiah brushed these items aside, the whip of wind tickling his face, urging him to take a nap. He found a meager pile of old, discarded cornstalks, their tips were broken, and the outer layer felt rubbery. But he was sleepy, and strangely, Josiah needed them, Ted and Tequila, to find them. It was his test for them. "I should get them back," Josiah said, yawning, thinking of the master set of keys. However, his body yearned for rest. "First, though, a nap and then a little sherry or perhaps bourbon. Anything but tequila." Josiah closed his eyes.

The mild kick against his head awakened him out of his sleep. Two peculiar-looking creatures were standing behind him. They both had bronzed skin, silky, black hair, snaggled, prominent teeth, bird feathers adorning their wrists, painted-on eyebrows, gold scarves, and brown shirts with matching pants. The woman blinked her eyes twice and Josiah realized who she was. "Sleeping like a baby. So sorry to disturb you," Tequila said. "Also, dreaming like one. A baby," Josiah replied. "We've been looking for you. Thought perhaps you decided to slither like a snake," Tequila said. "Or dressed up for a party. What's the celebration?" Josiah asked. "That's what we like about you. Your radio antennae is wired," Ted teased. Ted tossed Josiah a beer. Josiah, who had been lying down, leaned into a sloped position on his elbows to catch the can. He chuckled and sipped half the can. There was an awkward pause for a few moments. Tequila finished her drink, belched, and tossed her can in the air behind her. "There, now. That business is finished," she said. Josiah looked at her with a questioning gaze, so she continued, "This is our nighttime business. Devoted to being ourselves, devoted to our warrior race and each other."

"Yourselves? So, you both just parade around in costumes, huh? Is this how you get your kicks?" Josiah asked.

"This isn't a joke. We're waiting to be taken home. We read in the Weekly World News that this town is where our masters will appear when they come back to Earth," Ted said, "They'll beam us up into their ships and light will appear all over the galaxy." Josiah began laughing. Giggling poured out of him as if he had been holding it inside of him for all of his life. "You dare to laugh at us. You, who works at a motel. A minimum-wage motel clerk," Tequila said, her voice spiteful, and raised with a snarl. "That beats what you're doing. At least I'm honest and at least I don't sneak around and hide behind some ridiculous costume," Josiah spat. He was howling with delight. Wanted to clap his hands, ignore the pained looks on their faces, throw pennies at them, tell them that the three of them should join the circus. Didn't realize that he was on their farm, on their territory. Tears began streaming down Josiah's face. "Sounds like someone doesn't

appreciate our efforts. Probably wants to steal our costumes too. Like we'd make him wear it. Perhaps a trip to the doghouse should do it," Tequila said. "Yeah. It isn't often that we find someone worthy to be in our company," Ted interjected. "Your company? You stole my keys, could cost me my job, and I can't leave this stink of a place without it. Besides, this is my town and you people are just sojourners. That's right. Visiting little twerps that quite frankly, are being overly sensitive. Do you really think that extraterrestrials from another planet are coming here, to this dumpy little farm to rescue you?" Josiah asked and when they both nodded their heads, he continued, "I mean, why you two? Wouldn't a great king or Jesus' brother be better?" Josiah asked.

Her hand pinched his nose. Felt the slap of four pairs of hands against him. Tequila held onto him as if they were a couple holding hands, and Josiah were about to stumble. Blood trickled down his meaty arms and off his backside. What had they wacked him against the head with? A shovel? A gardening ho? He whispered goodbye to Mr. Scarecrow as the sky dimmed to a frightening black ray of hope. Hours later, Josiah awoke with pieces of catfish in his mouth. Garbage was strewn all over the enclosed space. Only he was lying on top of a pile of discarded eggshells, brown paper scraps, a half-empty bottle of ketchup, leaves covered with syrup, an old pair of tennis shoes, and a broken mixer. "A well? They threw me into a well?" Josiah asked himself. He chuckled a little and looked up. Scanned the sky, a tiny spot, miles away, and crushed a fly buzzing past his head. Josiah picked up an eggshell and threw it up to see if it could make it over the top of the well. It did not and instead, landed in the space between his legs. "I guess I'm all alone now," Josiah said, "Hmm? What shall I do for the rest of the evening? Digging for trash? Oh, the possibilities . . ." Josiah began digging through the trash as if he were looking for China. He kept digging until his arms were waist-deep and then Josiah happened upon a magnificent find: a crossword puzzle with only a few marked pages. He yelped with delight. But then, he realized that he had no pen or pencil. Also, some of the puzzles seemed foreign to him. Particularly, the entertainment puzzles with their questions about television shows that he neither watched nor cared for.

The rain began to plunge down in torrents. Josiah snatched a long piece of brown paper, and covered his head. Raindrops fell like tapping fingers and Josiah needed something to take his mind off of his growing hysteria for movement. His legs stiffened; he spit into his hands, rubbing his legs furiously so he could feel them. Josiah's eye then caught a shiny, silvery metal object out of the corner of his eye. A whistle. His lips were wet and stiff but Josiah believed that if he could whistle loudly, blow into the whistle's mouthpiece, Ted and Tequila might hear him, might forgive him for his unkind words. Neither one came for him, but the rain stopped. Hours passed. The small, murky puddles of brown water around him sloshed against his legs. Josiah's fortress-home was almost quaint. But he knew that he needed to get out of there. Knew that by morning, he would need a little food in his belly. He continued to whistle, and as the sun began to creep up over the well's opening, Josiah began to feel hopeless. By noontime, he cupped the liquid in his chapped hands. Despite its appearance, his lips tasted a slighty sweet concoction. After all of the water surrounding him was gone, Josiah began digging through the soggy piles of garbage. He discovered an old carton of Kool milds, and kept digging. Still, Josiah found nothing.

Evening came. Josiah blew into his whistle. He laid his head back on the well's wall. Blood seeped down from his head. Black blood. "Must have been from when they threw me in here," Josiah said and sighed. He asked himself one important question: Was this the end? Josiah was snoring when the fire sparkles began dancing over his head. They moved through the air, and the world seemed to stop, waiting for him to reappear. He called out, cried, and the shadow of a woman appeared above him. She looked down at him. "Oh, it's you. We figured you went back

to that motel, baby." "Tequila, dear, how was I supposed to get out of here?" Josiah asked. "Well, let me help you, Josiah. I'll throw down some rope, we'll tie it to the back of Ted's truck and yank you out of there. Just hold on now." This time, both Ted and Tequila kept their promise. True to their word, they helped him escape from the well. Josiah's first inkling of the nighttime sky brought him face-to-face with Tequila. They were still dressed in their costumes and when Josiah's feet finally touched the ground, he cried with the air of a complacent baby. She wrapped her arms around him. "There, there, Josiah, we're here now. We only did it because we love you. You can't be loyal, going around saying bad things about us. Remember, we could have forgotten about you, but we didn't. You should be so grateful, okay? Baby," Tequila said and opened her arms wide. She gave him a soothing rub on his back. Josiah was so overwhelmed that he didn't whether or not to punch and kick the ground as if he were two years old, or if he should start sucking his thumb.

Instead, Josiah found himself bawling his eyes. He allowed himself to have a good cry. Blew his nose into her shirt. She continued to whisper sweet words of kindness into his ears. Ted stood off to the side, nodding his head. A stray dog ran around their little circle. Tequila gently coaxed Josiah to follow him over to the porch steps. She chuckled and said, "That's all we wanted. Get to know you better and help you, help us too. Baby, I'll bet you gotta a lovely gal." Josiah said, "No, I'm single." She replied, "Single? Hmm. What about family? I know we can't be the first ones to make you cry." They were sitting on the porch, arms linked together. Ted ran into the house, brought out a blanket, tucked around Josiah's shoulders, and stood in the background, swatting at flies.

"Actually, I grew up in an orphanage. But they couldn't contain me. Climbed walls but there weren't enough beds. Ventured around. Came to a motel, not unlike this one, one night for a high school party in the banquet room. Fell in love with the atmosphere, you know? I could finally climb walls and walk freely. Wasn't about religion. Just about me," Josiah said, turning to face her. She took a tissue and wiped away his tears. "Family? You and Ted have family? Any little ones?" Josiah asked. "Nope. Just us. Sometimes, Ted gets upset about that. 'Cause I don't want any babies. Least not with him. Hell, we don't even have the same last name and it's lots of things. Mostly Ted's temper. I ain't bringing no baby into this mess. He don't like me saying that. But you can't change a woman's heart. Just don't tell him that. He just goes off . . ." Her voice slightly cracked.

"That's what I like about my job. Casual clothes, fast-food lunches, get paid in cash. Simple," Josiah said. " I tried that. But I was always too tired for my real life, this life after. Sometimes, though, I wish things could be different. This ain't even our house. None of them ever are," Tequila said. A sob escaped from her lips. Now, Josiah wrapped his arms around her. He thought to himself, 'You want my sympathies now, you childless bitch.' But he said nothing, stared at her, a deer-in-the-headlight looks. Through the mirror he saw her, broken, vulnerable, and pretty but not beautiful. She picked up on his sentiments and replied, "I hated you the other night. Hated what you said, and yet, even now, I find myself strangely attracted to you." Tequila and Josiah kissed.

"If your name wasn't Tequila, what would it be?" Josiah asked. She was so fascinating to him, all he could think of was how he was going to remember the million other questions in his mind. "I don't know. Something plain like Jane. I don't want to talk about that," she replied and they kissed again, a long, passionate kiss. Josiah pulled away and nodded in Ted's direction. "He's not a bother but a bore," Tequila said. At this statement, Ted burped and ran past them. He gave them the thumbs-down sign with a jealous look in his eyes. Grabbed a fishing pole from the nearby

toolshed, near a field of trees, and headed toward the well. "Where's he going?" Josiah asked. "Oh, just going fishing for treasure. See, when we're traveling around, sometimes we'll go through other people's garbage bags, and put their stuff in our own garbage bags. Since we're here for awhile, figured we'd dump everything over there and then look later. Makes it easier for us to move around."

She nodded her head and then patted Josiah's knees. "I'm surprised no one's spotted us. What will you do if someone from town sees us?" he asked. "Oh, we'll be gone by then. Ain't nothing here. 'Sides, we only squat at night. Life's simpler that way. Ain't got to deal with people, you know? Now, we've met some other characters. Lots of people try to join our club, league. But they're not like us, get it?" Tequila asked. Josiah shrugged his shoulders. "This is the adventure I've been looking for and you people took me, so I have an excuse. Can't rightly blame . . ." Josiah paused. "Not even the Queen of England," they said together in unison. "You want to come along with us. That's what you are saying?" Tequila asked. "I'm not saying anything else," Josiah said. "Okay, then. I like the way you speak. So proper. And you don't whine. But we're characters with costumes, the way you said. A motel clerk ain't a costume."

The words hung in the air.

"I have an idea. When I was inside the well, I found a neat little whistle. Must have dropped it when you pulled me up. I could be a banjo player or a whistleblower," Josiah said. "That might get you in trouble," Tequila said, flatly. "All right, maybe not. Now, there's a neat little Scarecrow out in the fields. He could have my wet clothes, and I could take his dry ones. I don't think he'll mind." Tequila's mouth dropped open. "Hank? Mind? Did you ask him? I mean, should we ask him? Give me a break." The question floated and danced in the air for a few minutes. "Never mind. I've got an idea. Wait here." Tequila ran up the dusty stairs and into the house. She came back to Josiah minutes later with two items in her hands. "What's this?" Josiah asked. She shook his head and motioned for his clothes.

One Hour Later . . .

Ted whistled Josiah's whistle. Twirled a broken necklace around his fingers. Continued whistling until he came to the front of the house. He whistled a hearty, piercing sound through his lips at the sight of them. Josiah was sitting on Tequila's lap. He had no clothes on, except an adult-sized diaper and a matching bonnet. She had him in her lap, spanking him with a wooden spoon. "Josiah, what on Earth are you doing?" Ted asked. "Gaga, goo-goo," came the reply

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