The old man belted out a laugh. “Ha! She used to say that too.”
“Who?” Stank asked.
“My daughter,” the old man replied. “Your friend here reminds me a lot of her.” His eyes shone with memory. “A few more moments with someone like her. Well… It’s done me good.”
“What’re we gonna do now?” I asked maturely and not at all whiney-like.
“Your call, Mavis,” Stank said.
Mavis dropped the gun. “That meal still a possibility?” she asked.
“Planning a robbery sure makes a feller hungry,” I said stepping away from my personal puddle.
Old Man Cooter looked at each of us in turn, sizing us up, then made up his mind. “For Zarah’s sake, Yes,” he said. “A meal and a good night’s sleep looks like it’ll do you all some good.”
Stank got contemplative for a second, “Why you helping us? We just held you at laser point and tried to steal your stuff.”
“I’m not your daughter,” Mavis said. “And I won’t be.”
“I’m not askin’ you to be,” Old Man Cooter said, “but you’re somebody’s daughter. And if my little girl showed up like you done, I’d want her taken care of too.”
“My Pa’s been dead a long time.”
He smiled a warm invitation. “If you want to stay, you’re welcome.”
“What about Stank and me, Sir?” I asked. “We wouldn’t know what to do without Mavis, Sir.”
He smiled like a grandfather at his teenage grandson. “On one condition.”
“What’s that, Sir?” Stank asked.