Shore Lunch

He nodded and sipped his milk.

“Hell with Chicago,” he said.  “We made the right decision.”

A fat squirrel with a bald tail dug fruitlessly in the woodchips and they sat on a bench and watched it.  When they’d finished eating they threw away their trash and started for the car.

He was fishing in his pocket, trying to untangle his keys from a wad of travel receipts, when she stopped and gripped his sleeve.

“Look,” she said.

A brown messenger bag lay on the ground ten feet on.

“Was that there before?”

“Look at that cord coming out of it,” he said.

A steel cable the width of a finger emerged from under the flap of the bag and ran along the asphalt for several feet before curving upward at a sharp angle and trailing up into the sky.

They approached the bag and he nudged it with the toe of his sneaker.

“What is it?” he asked.

“It’s a bag.” “Yeah, but…”

His eyes followed the cable until he lost sight of it high above.

“Do you think it’s attached to a plane or something?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she said.  “I don’t know how that would be possible.”

“The cable must be miles long,” he said.  “I wish it wasn’t so cloudy.”

She crouched and took hold of the bag’s shoulder strap and drew it toward her.

“Careful,” he said.

The flap of the bag was fastened with two thick plastic buckles and she unsnapped them and threw back the flap.

“Oh my god.”

He knelt beside her.

“My god,” she said again.  “My god, my god, my god.”

She thrust a hand into the bag and pulled out a brick of cash bound by a strip of white paper.

“I don’t believe it,” he said.

She ruffled the bills.

“Twenties,” she said.  “There must be a thousand bucks here.”  She bounced the bills on her palm to measure their weight.

“There must be a lot more than that,” he said, nodding at the bag.

She drew it closer.  He traced the cable again with his eyes.

“Maybe we ought to leave it,” he said.

“Leave it?”

She was pulling money out by the fistful and stacking it on the asphalt.  He turned and looked at the empty highway.  The sun was setting behind the cloud cover and night was falling over the countryside.  Evening mist gathered in the shallow valleys of the rolling moraines and the road was hazy in both directions.

“Leave it,” he said firmly.  “We’ll call the cops.”

“Call them?  With what?  We can’t even afford cell service.”

“Maybe there’s a payphone inside,” he said.

He touched her arm.  She locked eyes with him.

“This is the answer we’ve been waiting for,” she said.

“Huh uh.”

“Yes it is.  You’re worried about running the credit card up?  About all the moving expenses?  About what we’re going to eat this month before you’re on their payroll?  This is the answer to all that.”

She overturned the bag, jostling the cable.  Cash tumbled out.

“There’s thousands here.  Thousands and thousands.”

“Where did it come from?  What the hell is this metal cord connected-”

“Look at this.  Just look at it.”

Money was heaped on the asphalt.

“It’s probably marked,” he said.

“It can’t be,” she said.  “It’s used.  They don’t trace used bills.”

“Sure they do.”

She was kneeling now and she held the bag under her arm while she began stacking the cash bundles before her.

“Let’s at least get it back to the car,” he said.

“There’s no one coming.  Let’s count it.”

“Huh uh.”

“Let me make sure I got it all.”

She opened the bag wide and peered inside.

“Hey.”

“What?”  He craned toward her.

“There’s something sewn into the lining,” she said.  She reached into the bag and ran her fingers over the canvas.  “I think it’s connected to the cord.”

She took hold of the steel cable.  The bag under her arm, she tugged the cable hard.

The bag lurched upward.  The anchor-size steel hook buried in its lining caught her under the chin.  Its barbed tip pierced her throat, her esophagus, and lodged deep in her head, nesting in a convergence of gristle, tract and muscle.

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