"I only stole good stuff. Cash, jewelry, cameras. I worked alone, so I never bothered with
anybody’s TV or computer. Don’t know how to work ‘em, anyway. Too heavy to carry. I was so
good at pickin’ locks that most of the time they ain’t even know they’d been robbed.
I never left a mess or nothin’. I broke in, got what I wanted, and left. I was good. I was
damn good. I think that’s why I ain’t never got caught."
"Never got caught? You must be good."
"I don’t know why you ain’t heard of me. I was sure I was famous. Don’t you read the papers
or listen to the news or nothin’?"
"Well, Curly, you said it has been a few years. We probably just don’t remember."
"I forget I ain’t been out in the real world. No TV, no papers. I don’t know what’s going on
anymore. And that’s OK by me. It was time for me to lay low for a while."
"You sure found the right place for doing that!" Violet slurred.
"I worked odd jobs over the years whenever I needed to let things cool off for a while. This
one I kinda liked. And besides, there was no background check or drug test. That was always
high on my list. Jobs without them ain’t easy to find, let me tell you. I used to threaten my
mother that I was going to run away with the circus. I was a bad kid. She always told me, ‘Go
ahead. Go, you dumb kid.’ So as an old man I sure as shootin’ got my chance."
"Call Tiffany about initiating background checks, first thing in the morning," whispered
Butane Bob out of the corner of his mouth.
"When the parking lot started filling up, fellas started dropping like flies. I had nowhere to
go, and I figured the cops were still looking for me, so why mess with a good thing? I couldn’t
go no place, anyway. My car is rusting away in that mess of a parking lot. I ain’t been able to
find it nowhere."
"We saw it on our way in today."
"You did? I miss my Bessie. She got me out of many a tight squeeze. That she did. Think
you can find her again for me?"
"Once we start clearing out the trucks, she’ll appear on her own, I’m sure." Butane Bob
seemed nonplussed by Curly’s tale.
"So, Mr. Butane, what’s your story? By the looks of that hair, I figure you must have a
"Well, Curly, I’m glad you asked that. Most people are afraid to. Where should I start? I
have a fascination with fire. It all started when I was a child. I saw my first fireworks display at
five and was hooked. I was enthralled with blowing things up."
Curly, Mandy, and Violet were hanging on his every word. Butane Bob had never before
opened up to anyone about his personal life.
"My parents were so afraid that I was going to burn the house down that they sent me away
to boarding school. What they didn’t know was that the school had a terrific chemistry
teacher—Mr. Mueller. He was my friend and mentor until the day he died. He took me under his
wing and I blew up all kinds of things. He was a really cool guy."
"Like I love to pick locks, you love to blow things up?"
"I love it. Gives me such a rush. Then I grew up, and reality set in. I needed to support a
wife and children. Then I found this job, a perfect mix of fire, fun, and explosions. I’d give my
eye teeth to be shot out of a cannon, you know."
"You have a wife?" Violet cocked her head in disbelief.
"See Violet, there’s a lid for every pot. There’s hope for you yet!" Mandy got a chuckle out
of Violet’s expression.
"Yes, a beautiful fiery wife named Ruby. And two wonderful kids named Blaise and Sunny.
We live in a red house, drive red cars, wear red clothes—we all love the color red. Life is good.
Life is really good."
"Well, if everything in your house is red, then I guess you don’t have to worry about your
undies turning pink when you do the laundry." Violet guzzled another glass of wine after she
heard that Butane Bob was married.
Through all of this, Biglar sat with his arms crossed in the corner of the sofa. He sat staring
at his guests while they were engaged in lively conversation. He wanted no part of it. They were
having too much fun.
The dinner bell rang. Biglar got up and showed them the way to the dining room. The table
was set with fine china and crystal. Each place card had a name and they all took their assigned
seats. Biglar, of course, was at the head of the table. Butane Bob to his right and Mandy and
Violet on his left. The table sat sixteen, and Curly’s place was at the opposite end, all by himself.
Violet kicked Mandy under the table. "What’s going on?"
"I think he’s getting ready to snap," she whispered in Violet’s direction. "Curly, why don’t
you move up here next to Butane Bob?"
"Mandy. I am the host, and that’s his seat."
"Curly’s a very interesting conversationalist, Biglar. I’d love to hear some more of his
"Not in my house you won’t."
Butane Bob gave a firm yet stern look that said, "Enough, just roll with it for now."
A lovely meal of steak and lobster was served. Each place had its own sterling silver butter
warmer. The Caesar salad was created by the chef tableside. The steamed vegetables were
cooked to perfection. The fine wine flowed freely, much to Violet’s delight. This was far nicer
than being in any restaurant, except for Curly’s banishment.
They hadn’t realized how hungry they all were, and that they ate in complete silence was
barely noticed by any of them.
After the last bite of decadent caramel pecan cheesecake was finished, Curly said, "Mmm,
that was good. Thank you, Mr. Biglar.
That was one fine meal. The finest I’ve had in my life. I appreciate your hospitality. Thank
you." It was obvious that Curly was trying to show his most sophisticated side.
"You’re welcome, Curly. Thank you for your many years of service to my family’s business."
It was late. They said their good-byes to Biglar. The yellow limousine pulled up to drive
them all home. Mandy couldn’t contain herself once the door was shut.
"Butane Bob, what was going on in there? Making Curly sit at the end of the table all by
himself—that was rude."
"I was surprised by that myself. I have never known Biglar to treat guests in his home that
way. There were rumors when he left that he was having a nervous breakdown, but they were
just rumors. He’s stressed out, that’s all. Curly, please don’t take it personally. Biglar has a very
kind heart. He’s under a lot of pressure these days. Please accept my apology on his behalf."
"Apology accepted, Mr. Butane. That was one fine spread, and I enjoyed the hell out of it.
After the first bite, I didn’t really care where I was sittin’. I’ve been living on pizza and potato
chips for a long time, you know. Somehow the guy still comes to fill the vending machine every
day. If not for that, I woulda starved to death a long time ago."
"Tell Biglar he’d better get a grip." Mandy was just plain disgusted.
"He’s been sucking down too much helium." Violet’s drunken comment was followed by
uncontrollable giggles. Her laughter was contagious, since they had all had a little too much to
drink. They all laughed and joked the rest of the ride home, and it felt good.