Whenever the ground was nice and soft from recent rains or high humidity, that’s when Deborah’s metal detector came out.

She’d generally run the thing–a 13-year-old MinenPlatzen 3200 that had been top of the line once upon a time–over the side yard before heading off to the park. She’d always dress well, in the same sort of clothes she’d wear to church on Wednesday–not Sunday, she wasn’t crazy enough to dig in the dirt in that!–just to reassure folks that she wasn’t some weird bum. Not like those hoboes she saw in Florida at her half-sister’s place on the beach, heavens no. Still got some odd looks, but it was worth it for the thrill of the hunt.

Alcorn Park was frequented by college students, and they frequently lost things there. Rings, earrings, bits of jewelry, and plenty of coins. Bottlecaps too, from late nights drinking under cover of darkness. Deborah had done the same in her student days, after all. She turned in anything that was personalized or seemed sentimental, like the class ring from that young man who’d written her the nice thank-you note, disposed of the trash, and turned the remainder in across town at a cash-for-gold shop run by an old sorority sister.

The money was nothing to write home about, a few dollars a week on average that went into the snack fund. But detecting was fun, even when she found nothing. And, more importantly, it got Deborah out of the house–away from the infernal whine of Kenneth’s TV programs. Ever since he retired, that’s all he’d done, and as much as Deborah couldn’t stand him when she only had to do so nights and weekends, being in the house for any length of time when he was there 24/7 was enough to give digging through wormy dirt for bottlecaps a certain allure.

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