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  • Writer's pictureAnthony R. Carrasco

An Overnight Train to Minnesota

The other week Jimmy Valentine encountered an unusual sport. You may know him. Wilson Mizner is a Broadway playwright, fine art forger, fixer of boxing matches, California hotel manager, and above all a professional gambler in all games concerning chance. His God-given talent of seduction enticed Jimmy into a memorable game of cards. The evening prior, the quick-witted 47-year-old Mizner traded a pistol fired by Wyatt Earp at the O.K. Corral for a mint condition 1922 ‘green pea’ Aston Martin, which he swapped for a remote ice-fishing shack on Devil’s Lake. Mizner bet the icehouse on a game of war. 

What would a dilettante like Wilson Mizner want from a plebian like Jimmy Valentine, you may ask? Three years back an uncle Jimmy never knew left the fellow something of an odd inheritance: a snow-white hound by the name of Coolidge. There was only one catch: the dog was as blind as a bat. What’s more, Jimmy received a letter from a veterinarian that morning revealing Coolidge is a full-blooded eastern timber wolf. As soon as word spread across the bar, Mizner demanded to personally inspect the documentation. As the fabricator passed my parchment by candlelight, Jimmy recounted the strange habits of my so-called “dog.” 

Coolidge loves tapping his left paw to any song with a beat, refuses to eat anything that ain’t cheese, bones, or meat, never barks, never growls, and wouldn’t mount a poodle in heat. Yet, Coolidge never fails to leave a bush of red roses unmarked. Jimmy recounted how naturally children were attracted to Coolidge. During weekend strolls, little ones ask Jimmy how Coolidge got his name, why his manners are so peculiar, why Jimmy ought not to lend Coolidge to a public zoo or donate him to a local laboratory, why hasn’t he a puppy, whether he has ever tasted blood, whether Coolidge ever feels lonely, and whether Jimmy has ever heard him weep. 

Believe it or not, Jimmy did once see Coolidge cry. For as long as Jimmy could recall, the lad was inclined to bouts of severe melancholy. Bedbound for a fortnight, Coolidge never left the side of Jimmy, except to relieve himself. One evening Jimmy broke down into a senseless crying fit. Coolidge wept too. If the house caught fire that night, Jimmy wouldn’t have died alone. 

Before the gambit, the fabulous Mr. Mizner asked why Jimmy would ever bet such a miraculous gift on a card game with a notorious cheat. Jimmy confessed to problems in local business dealings. Jimmy recently quit the dream of finding a doctor capable of breeding Coolidge. Maybe a prince like Wilson Mizner could ensure the boy's posterity. Yet, when the last card fell, Jimmy became one icehouse richer. How else would fellas like Coolidge and Jimmy Valentine wind up on an overnight train to Minnesota? 

This short story first appeared on March 29th, 2024 in Literally Stories.

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