"What?" Farmer Earl rolled over and tried to open his eyes, but the art of sleep and the mysteries of physiology contrived to make them curiously unresponsive.
"Earl, there's a noise in the kitchen!"
Well art and mysteries be darned to heck, nobody messed with Earl's abode, which he lovingly called Chateau Jones. His eyes flew open and without needing to think his body left the bed and his hand reached towards the antique box under his nightstand. The box was black except for some gouges and chipped edges that it had acquired through more years of service than Earl even knew. The box and its contents were the one thing that the cranky old farmer had received when his pappi had died so many years ago. There hadn't been any money and the land had passed to his older brother Josiah who had quickly sold it and used the proceeds to move to the city, a longstanding dream. That golden dream had turned to pyrite within a year when the bottom fell out of the real estate market after the dumb government forced lenders to make bad loans to underqualified applicants. No matter to Earl, who had never cared for his elder brother's self-indulgence (or his explosive flatulence for that matter). And anyways, Earl had gotten what was of real value, the worn black box, his father's treasure and his grandfather's before that.
He silently reached inside.
(to be continued)