Even before the rickety old school bus disappeared over the hill a quarter of a mile down the highway, Caleb Jeffers had his shoes off and he was wiggling his toes in the soft, warm dust. He undid the buttons on the sides of his faded bib overalls and tied the shoestrings of his high tops together to hang them around his neck. Over the last few months, his feet had grown so much that the toes pinched something awful, and he wouldn't wear them for a minute longer than he had to. He slung his books strapped together with an old cracked leather belt over his shoulder and headed down the dirt road toward home a mile and a half away.
It should have been a day of celebration, being the last day of school before summer vacation, but it wasn't ... not for Caleb anyhow. He wasn't what you'd call a shining star as a student and he didn't have any real friends among his classmates, but school was still a lot better place to be than home.
So he was in no hurry to get there. All that waited for him was chores and the never-ending, strident harping of his Aunt Meg. Aunt Nag was how he thought of her in his mind, but he'd never call her that to her face. She was mighty quick with the slap, even though he'd grown to tower over her by a good six inches. The walk to and from the school bus stop on the highway was about the only real peace and quiet he got all day and he intended to milk it for all it was worth.
Sometimes in the mornings, Mr. Brennan who owned the next farm down would pick him up somewhere along the road as he walked to the bus stop and drive him the rest of the way. He was a big, middle-aged man who still worked his farm, but he also worked at the grain elevators over in Canton to make ends meet in these hard times. He and his wife were nice folks, and the boy wondered sometimes why he couldn't have been born into their family instead of his. It crossed his mind more than once that the only reason Aunt Nag took him in was because he was free labor; that and the monthly allotment checks she got from the county to help pay for his keep. She didn't like him, that was for sure. But that was OK because he didn't like her either.
Caleb knew if he tarried for too long, she'd bitch and moan about him not carrying his load. But she was gonna do that anyway, so why should he bust his butt to try to please her. She never passed up a chance to tell him how worthless he was, how he was no more use than his drunken mama. Sometimes he wondered if his mom was even still alive, or if the booze finally did her in. Her drinking was why the court took him away from her. He didn't spend a lot of time thinking about her though; he couldn't even remember what she looked like any more.
Half a mile down the road, a wooden bridge crossed over the creek in a little wooded area at the bottom of the hill. He left his books and shoes on the side of the road and slid on his butt down the steep grassy slope to the bank. Aunt Nag would raise hell about the grass stains on his best overalls, but he didn't much care. On the creek bank, he rolled the legs up to his knees and waded into the cool water, squishing the mud between his toes and chasing the minnows and tadpoles into the cattails. He liked to squat down and turn over rocks in the water to find crawdads. He heard they were good to eat, but hungry as he always was, he didn't think he'd want to try it. They were ugly little creatures, but he respected the way they'd raise their pincers to defend themselves as they scuttled away, flipping their tails in impressive bursts of speed.
A little farther down the creek, there was a nice deep pool you could swim in. It was such a warm day, he was tempted to do just that, but he resisted, knowing he was already pushing his luck.
Back up on the road a few minutes later, he hung his shoes around his neck, picked up his books and continued toward home.
Home! he thought to himself as he ambled along in the fine dust, It sure don't feel like no home! If I had five dollars in my pocket, I'd be outta there in a minute. Don't know where I'd go though.
About a quarter mile from the house, as he was passing by Miss Jamison's place, she called out to him from her porch. "Caleb, come over here and help me out for a minute!"
He'd been told a hundred times by Aunt Nag to steer clear of Miss Jamison because "she wasn't nothin' but a cheap floozie", whatever that was. He heard from some of the kids that she used to teach high school until she got fired for getting involved with one of the students. Nobody ever explained what they meant by 'involved', but the implication was that it had something to do with sex.
He stopped and looked toward the covered porch with his hand shading his eyes against the hot, bright sun. He could see her on her hands and knees working on something, but he couldn't see what it was.
"I don't know, Miss Jamison? Aunt Meg says I ain't s'posed to have nothin' to do with ya."
She wiped the sweat off her forehead with the back of her hand and groused, "Oh, Jesus, Caleb! Aren't you ever gonna grow up? You afraid I'm gonna bite you or something?"
"Um, no Ma'am."
Then he thought, 'Course, Aunt Nag don't never have nothin' nice to say about nobody. "Well what is it you need, Miss Jamison?"
"I need some help, dammit! Now get your skinny butt over here and give me a hand, would you? Jesus, boy, I'm not after your virginity, regardless of any rumors you might have heard!"
That made him blush. He thought about it some and decided arguing with her seemed a little silly, so he pushed through the creaky, lopsided wooden gate and walked up to the porch, making sure he was on the stepping stones so he wouldn't get any goat head stickers in his bare feet. The little woman, no more than five feet tall, was on her knees trying to pry up some rotted boards. There were some new 2X8 planks stacked on the ground beside the porch.
"What is it ya want me to do, Miss Jamison?"
"I need help prying this board up. Once I get a couple of them up, I can take that hammer to the rest of them from underneath. This old porch is starting to rot away and I need to replace the floor, or maybe the whole damn thing, but I can't tell until I can get a look underneath."
Caleb had a practical mind and he could see solutions to these kinds of problems pretty easily. He saw she wasn't getting enough of a bite with the pry bar and that's why the board wasn't moving.
"Here," he said, picking up the six-pound maul and taking the pry bar from her hands. "Let me."
He wedged the blade of the pry bar between two boards, tapped it a couple of times with the maul to seat it, and pulled it back. He did that a couple of times, then he wedged the maul under the pry bar and leaned on it with all his weight. The board lifted up with a groan and the screech of old, rusty nails. After the first board was up, it was easy to break the rest of them loose with the maul. He removed three boards, handed her the hammer and said, "The rest of 'em oughta come up pretty easy now."
Annie Jamison stood there with her arms crossed, looking down at the boy. "How much would you want to do the whole job, replace the whole floor? I got all the boards and nails ready to go."
"Um, I don't think Aunt Meg is gonna go for that."
"Who says she has to know? Tell you what, I'll give you ten dollars if you'll do it. That's cash money, Caleb."
Damn! Ten dollars was more money than he'd ever had his entire life! He knew there'd be hell to pay if Aunt Nag ever found out, but ten dollars was just too dang much money to pass up.
He looked up at the woman, scratched his head and said, "Well, I reckon I could try to sneak over after chores tomorrow mornin'. I can't do it right now 'cause Aunt Nag - I mean Aunt Meg's gonna be all over me for bein' late as it is."
Annie broke into laughter at Caleb's verbal slip. "You got it right the first time, kid. OK, it's a deal then. Come about eight and I'll even fix your lunch. How's that?"
"Sure. Eight o'clock. Thanks, Miss Jamison."
"Thank you, Caleb. Now you best get on home before Aunt Nag sends out a posse looking for you."
When he got home, he didn't even bother checking in with his aunt. Even before he changed his clothes, he went right to the barn to milk the cow, turn her out to pasture and muck out her stall. He set the bucket of milk on the back porch and went out to the coop to feed the chickens and check for eggs.
In the kitchen, he laid the five eggs he found in a bowl, poured the milk into quart jars to cool in the icebox, and started for his room in the attic to get out of his overalls, although it was a little late because there was already cow shit on the cuffs and grass stains on the butt. He'd hear about that when Juanita, the Mexican lady who did the laundry, picked it up on Sunday afternoon. She charged extra for stuff like that, and that'd get old Aunt Nag griping for an hour, at least.
As he started up the stairs, his aunt called out from the parlor where she was doing her needlepoint and listening to the radio, "Yer late!"
"Bus had a flat!" he called back.
"Like hell! Seems that bus has a flat about every week, don't it? Yer jest wastin' time comin' home t' git outta doin' yer chores. I won't have it, ya hear? You live in my house, you follow my rules, boy! Now git changed n' go hoe the garden! No supper fer you 'til it's done."
"Yes'm!" he called back, but he was thinking, That's fine for you 'cause you just been feedin' your fat face and sittin' on your fat ol' ass all day. You'd likely die if you ever had to do a lick of real work.
He finished hoeing the garden about an hour later and went into the kitchen for his supper. On the table was a plate of lukewarm pinto beans with a little piece of fatback and a chunk of dry cornbread. It took him about five minutes to shovel it down, wash his plate and spoon and set them in the drain to dry. His aunt was still in the parlor listening to her radio programs. She hadn't taken a meal with him since he moved in six years ago, so he was used to eating alone.
Upstairs in the attic, there was enough light coming through the dormer windows for him to read by. He lifted up the thin mattress and pulled out two well-used Superman comics he'd been given by a kid at school. His aunt disapproved of comics, but there wasn't too much chance she'd ever find them because she could hardly get her fat old butt up the steep stairs to the attic. That suited Caleb just fine because that made it his own private place. Of course, it was hotter than seven hells in the summer and colder than a well digger's butt in winter, but at least it was some place he could shut her out and pretend she didn't exist.
As the sun set, he opened the two windows wide to let the light breeze blow through, cooling the place down and blowing out some of the musty smell. He stripped naked and lay on his cot thinking about what he could do with the ten dollars he was going to earn. He'd buy some new comic books, that's for sure. Of course, he'd have to catch a ride into town with Mr. Brennan to do that. He might even go to the ice cream shop and get him a double or even a triple scoop chocolate cone. Lordy, won't that be something!
As he lay there thinking about all that money, he was absentmindedly brushing his fingers through the new growth of hair sprouting above his penis. Like always, that stirred up some nice feelings and he started stroking the underside with his fingertips, causing it to grow and thicken. Over the last year, since he'd discovered this pleasure, it was how he liked to end his day. Soon, his dick was sticking up like a flagpole and he was starting to get that wonderful feeling in his belly. He teased himself for as long as he could stand it before taking a firm grasp of himself with both hands and bucking his hips in the instinctive motion of mating. It only took a couple of minutes to bring himself to that fleeting ecstasy, those few seconds when the sensations overwhelmed him and he couldn't contain it any longer. Punctuated by a series of grunts, his issue leapt out and sprayed his chest and belly as his dick pulsed and his balls pulled tight against his groin. All too soon, it was over, and he lay there basking in the sexual relief. Sometimes, he could do it twice before he went to sleep, but not tonight. He was too tired.
He groped around in the dark until he found his drawers on the floor and wiped himself off before turning onto his side and slipping into a deep sleep.
After his morning chores and a bowl of grits with milk and sugar, Caleb told his aunt he was taking a gallon of milk to Mrs. Brennan and headed out the back door before she could saddle him with a half dozen more errands. If he hung around, she'd fill up his day with stupid stuff, anything to keep her from having to lift a finger.
He dropped off the milk and pocketed the twenty-five cents she gave him for it. It had to be close to eight o'clock, so Caleb ran all the way to Miss Jamison's house to get started on the porch. Mr. Brennan had already left for work at the elevator, or he would have happily given the boy a ride.
Annie Jamison was sitting on the steps sipping a big mug of coffee when he arrived at her front gate, red-faced and panting from the half mile run.
"Jesus, Caleb!" she laughed, "When I said eight o'clock, I didn't mean eight sharp! It doesn't make any difference if your a few minutes late, you know. Now sit down here and catch your breath. You want some coffee?"
He smiled and asked, "With milk and sugar?"
"As much as you want."
"I like it almost white and sweet as candy."
"Of course you do. Well, the pot's on the stove, so go fix it yourself. Cups are in the cabinet by the sink."
"Yes'm. Thank ya."
"There's some biscuits and jam on the table, too. Help yourself." She added that last comment because the boy was so thin, she wondered if he ever got enough to eat.
"Thanks, Miss Jamison, I will!"
It took him over an hour to finish knocking the old boards loose. The frame looked to be in pretty good shape; at least it wasn't eaten up by termites or dry rot. He figured he probably ought to nail in a couple more floor joists anyhow.
When she answered his knock on the door, he told her he thought it might be a good idea to rebuild it from the ground up, but that the frame was still good for a few more years. Since she hadn't bought enough lumber for a new frame, she said he should just go ahead and replace the floor.
"How about the steps?" he asked. "You want those replaced too if there's enough lumber?"
"Sure, why not?"
She called him inside for lunch a little after midday. He could hardly believe his eyes when he went to sit at the table. There was some cold fried chicken, potato salad, and green beans, the best meal he'd sat down to since he couldn't remember when!
Annie grabbed his wrist as he reached for a chicken leg. "Don't you touch a bite of that food until you've washed your hands and face. You look like you've been rooting with the pigs!"
It was getting on to late afternoon when Caleb nailed the last step into place. He was tired and achy when he knocked on the door to tell her he was done. She stepped onto the porch and walked around, kind of bouncing up and down to check for any movement in the boards. There was none, thanks to the added joists. Then she tried the new steps and walked out to the gate to turn around and look at the whole picture.
"Well, I gotta say you've done a fine job, Caleb. It's worth every cent of the ten dollars and the lunch. Fact is, if you're up to it, I could probably find several jobs around the house that need doing this summer. You interested?"
The boy beamed at the compliment, something he never heard from Aunt Nag. "Sure, Miss Jamison. You just tell me what you want done an' I'll do it, if I can."
"Well, let me think about it and I'll come up with something. Come on in the house now and get your pay. You earned it."
Caleb had been thinking about that all day, but now that he was about to have cash in hand, it presented a problem. "Uh, could I ask a favor, Miss Jamison?"
"Sure. What's on your mind?"
"Well, um, could you just keep the money here and I could come by and get some of it when I need it? If Aunt Meg finds it, it ain't gonna be mine no more. I can't tell her where I got it neither, 'cause she'll get all mad n' slap me silly."
Annie stopped and looked at the boy. "Are you serious, Caleb? Is she really that mean-spirited?"
"Miss Jamison, she thinks I oughta be payin' for my keep. That's why she works me to the bone every day. Heck, I bet she wouldn't even let me go to school if the law didn't make her."
"Are you sure you aren't stretching the truth a little? I know Meg's a contrary old broad, always has been, but I wouldn't have guessed she'd keep a child in slave labor."
"Well, Aunt Meg never wanted me here to start with. She hates my mama, and she says I'm just as worthless. If I had somewheres else to go, I wouldn't stay in that house for another minute! So, could you? Could you keep the money here for me?"
She looked up into the boy's eyes for several seconds, trying to get a read on whether he was telling her the honest-to-god truth. She decided he was. "Of course you can keep it here, Caleb. Tell you what, I'll put it in an empty Crisco can over the stove. If you need some of it and I'm not here, there's a key to the back door under the rock by the rain barrel."
He grinned and reached out like he was going to touch her shoulder, but changed his mind. He didn't want her thinking he was a fresh, sassy kid. Instead, he dipped his head in a little bow and said, "Thanks, Miss Jamison. I better get goin' now, 'cause I'm already late gittin' started on my afternoon chores."
"You go on and shoo, then. Come back here in the morning and we'll talk about those other jobs, OK?"
"Yes'm. I'll come over as soon as I'm done with my work. And thanks for the lunch. It's the best food I've had in a long time."
As she watched Caleb trot down the dirt road, Annie thought to herself, What on Earth has she done to that child?
Aunt Meg was screeching at him before he even stepped foot in the house. Where had he been all day? Why wasn't he ever around when she needed him? There was a cow to milk and chickens to be fed. If he had so much free time on his hands, why wasn't he out patching the roof on the chicken coop or fixing the front gate? And where was the quarter for the milk? It just went on and on and on.
He did his best to ignore it, but as he went about his duties, he couldn't help but compare her with Miss Jamison. There was no comparison. He couldn't remember anything nice ever coming out of his aunt's mouth. He couldn't recall ever having a single conversation with her when she wasn't cutting him down or demanding that he do something. For about the thousandth time, he wished he'd been place in an orphanage when he was taken away from his mother.
Even after he climbed the steep stairs to his retreat in the attic, she continued to rant and rave about how useless he was. Her last words before the house finally settled into a blessed quiet was, "I don't know why you don't just pack up your things and leave. You're driving me to an early grave, you bein' so damn lazy!
I sure wish you'd go to an early grave, he thought to himself as he lay on his cot staring up at the bare rafters. He didn't know for sure, but he doubted other kids had to listen to such crap from their folks. If Aunt Nag hated him so much, why didn't she just kick him out? The work, that was why! For two cents, he'd walk out that door in the morning and never come back. How would she feel then when she had to milk the cow and feed the chickens and hoe the garden? Hell, in two days she'd be screaming for him to come back. He wouldn't though, not in a million years.
I ought to just do it! he thought as he lay in his bed. I ought to just leave and never come back. I can make my own way. I can work. I proved that today over at Miss Jamison's. She said she had jobs for me, so I could maybe get a room in town.
The more he lay there thinking about his aunt's screeching and complaining, the angrier he grew. No matter where he went, no matter where he wound up, it couldn't be any worse than living with that nasty old maid! God! No wonder she never got married! Who'd have her?
He tossed and turned for hours trying to get to sleep but it wouldn't come. It was probably after midnight when he made up his mind. He got up in the dark and packed his few belongings into a rolled-up blanket. He pulled on his overalls and hung his shoes around his neck. Creeping down the steep stairs, he remembered to step on the outside of the third and seventh steps so they wouldn't squeak. He tip-toed through the kitchen, eased through the back screen door and sat on the stoop to pull his shoes on.
He could only think of one place to go, one place where he thought he might be welcome, but when he got to Miss Jamison's house, he couldn't bring himself to wake her. He didn't know what he'd say at this time of night to explain why he was standing at her door. The night was still warm, so he lay on the new porch floor, using his bundle for a pillow. As he lay there on his back with his ankles crossed and his hands folded on his chest thinking about what he wanted to say to her, his eyelids drooped and sleep found him at last.
"Caleb Jeffers! What on Earth!"
He jolted awake and sat up, looking around, trying to identify where he was. There stood Miss Jamison, morning sunlight behind her, outlining her legs through her thin robe. She had a large mug of coffee in her hand.
"What in heaven's name are you doing sleeping on my porch?"
He couldn't have been asleep for more than three or four hours, and he was slow getting the cobwebs out of his brain. He scrambled to his feet and said, "Oh, uh, well, Aunt Meg laid into me when I got home, so I decided I had enough and run away. I didn't wanna wake you up when I got here, so I just laid myself down on the porch. Is that OK?"
"Are you saying she hit you?"
"No Ma'am. I try not to get that close to her when she's bein' like that. I mean she just started in yellin' at me about never bein' there when she needed me and so on. I had to listen to it all evening long and I finally decided I couldn't take it no more. After she went to bed, I got dressed an' snuck out the back door. I couldn't think of no place else to go but here, 'cause of you bein' so nice to me an' all."
Annie rolled her eyes and sighed, "Oh dear. Well come on in the house and I'll cook you some breakfast. I can't imagine what you were thinking coming here, though. What am I suppose to do with you?"
Caleb had no answer to that. He followed her into the kitchen and took a chair at the table. She poured him a mug of coffee and set out the milk and sugar.
"Eggs and bacon OK, or would you rather have some oatmeal?"
"Um, eggs and bacon sounds real good, Ma'am. I can't remember the last time I had any. Some oatmeal would be fine too, if it's already made. Don't go to no trouble on my account."
"Too late for that, Caleb. Now tell me what your plans are, now that you've decided to make your own way in the world."
He took a deep breath and shook his head. "I guess I don't have no plans yet. I was hopin' maybe you could help me with that. If you got work for me, I s'pose I might have enough money to rent a room in town for a while."
She laid down three strips of bacon and broke two eggs into the cast-iron skillet. Over her shoulder, she asked, "How old are you?"
"I'm fourteen, Ma'am. Be fifteen next month. But I'm big for my age, and you already know I ain't afraid of work. I can make my own way!"
Annie chuckled at his youthful bravado. "I'm not as sure of that as you are. For one thing, the Sheriff will be out looking for you when your aunt reports you missing."
"But what if she don't call 'em? She already said a thousand times that she wished I'd leave. Well, now I have, so why would she want 'em to bring me back?"
"Caleb, you're old enough to know that what people say and what they really mean are often two very different things. You don't really think she wanted you to leave, do you?"
"Yes, Ma'am, I do! Accordin' to her, I ain't been nothin' but a big pain in her backside since the court turned me over to her. Well, I'm just tired of hearin' about it day in an' day out. I don't care if the Sheriff does come after me and take me back. I'll just run away again the first chance I get!"
She turned the bacon over with a fork and said to herself, "Well, I believe that."
Caleb sipped his coffee while she finished cooking his breakfast. As she slid the plate of bacon, eggs and buttered bread in front of him, she sat across the table and suggested, "Let's give it a day or two to settle out, shall we? I have enough work to keep you busy and that'll give you some time to think over what you're doing. You might see it differently tomorrow. For tonight, I guess you can sleep on the couch."
Through a mouthful of food, he mumbled, "Thank you, Miss Jamison. I won't be no trouble, I promise."
"Too late for that, too. Now finish your bacon and eggs. I think the oatmeal's done."
Caleb spent most of the day scraping old paint off the clapboard siding in preparation for a new coat. It was a job Annie had planned for the end of summer, but since the opportunity presented itself...
Nobody showed up looking for him, but that was no surprise; it would probably be a day or so before his aunt even knew for sure he was missing. She'd probably only get worried when she saw she was going to have to do his chores.
The boy worked up a sweat early and kept it up all day, proving he was all he said he was. She couldn't fault his effort. When she called him in for lunch, his clothes were drenched with sweat and he was flush from the heat. She'd been bringing out tall glasses of lemonade all morning to keep him from dehydrating. For lunch, he devoured two thick Spam and cheese sandwiches and another quart of lemonade. She suggested he take a nap before getting back to work because he couldn't have slept well on the porch, but he declined, saying, "I'm just fine, Ma'am! Anyhow, I'd like to finish the scrapin' today if I could."
She shrugged, "It's up to you, but try not to overdo it."
By late afternoon, the scraping was done and the house was ready for the primer. She'd drive into town tomorrow and buy the paint and brushes. She hoped by then that the boy would have had some second thoughts about running away, although he did seem awfully determined. At any rate, she thought he might be reasoned with after he had time to think it over.
As the sun dipped toward the trees, he sat on the porch and flopped back with his arms spread out to cool off. She brought out another tall glass of lemonade and sat beside him.
"I've got to hand it to you Caleb, you are one hard-working young man. You think you'll feel up to putting on the first coat of paint tomorrow?"
He turned his head to look at her. "Yes'm. I reckon I'll be ready when you are. Ya gonna do white like before?"
"Actually, I thought I might go with a pale yellow, maybe add some dark green shutters. What would you think of that?"
"I think that'd be real nice if we put down a good primer coat first. 'Course, now we gotta paint the fence 'cause it's gonna look all raggedy in front of a fresh-painted house. The gate needs fixin', too."
"Caleb, where did you learn about painting and fixing things? Surely not from your Aunt Meg."
"Um, sometimes I help out Mr. Brennan and he teaches me stuff. He's a real nice man. Mrs. Brennan's real nice too."
"So how come you didn't go to their house when you ran away? You said they're nice people."
"Um, I don't know. I guess I coulda."
"Well I'll have to make it a point to meet them sometime. About the fence and the gate, I expect you're right about that. You up to it?"
He sat up. "You bet I am! Does that mean you're gonna let me stay?"
"It means I want the house and the fence painted. What happens with your bid for independence remains to be seen. Don't be surprised to see a deputy's car heading down the road toward your aunt's house in the next day or two. It's only a matter of time before they come here asking if I know anything about where you are."
"You gonna tell 'em?"
She put her arm around his waist and pulled him to her side. "Well, how can I not, Caleb? You think you can just hide out inside my house from now on? Use your head, boy! We're going to have to face this issue straight on. You're not my child and I have no right to offer you sanctuary."
He looked confused. "What's that? That 'sanctary' stuff?"
"Sanctuary. It means protection from people who want to find you. Like, the law can't break into a church to take someone if the church has offered them sanctuary. Now, that's not always strictly true, but you get the idea."
"Oh. So if a deputy comes here lookin' for me, you gotta give me up. Is that right?"
"That's about the size of it, Caleb. Now that doesn't mean I won't be on your side. I'll most certainly plead your case; tell them what you told me about how your Aunt Meg has been treating you. After that ... well, we'll just have to wait and see how it shakes out, won't we?"
He looked at his shoes and sighed, "Yeah, well I hope she dies before she can call 'em."
"Caleb! You don't mean that!"
He caught her disapproving look out of the corner of his eye. "No, Ma'am. But I do wish she'd just leave me be. She don't like me and the only reason she'd want me back is to do her work for her. That ain't right."
Annie patted his bony knee and agreed, "You're right, Caleb, that ain't right."
They sat in silence for a few minutes. Then she stood, mussed his shaggy black hair and said, "Come in and get your bath. A clean body and some clean clothes will make you feel better. How about a nice meatloaf for dinner?"
He grinned up at her and nodded, "That sounds good to me, Miss Jamison. I'm about half starved!"
She looked critically at his thin body and agreed, "Yes, I think you are."
Caleb's lanky body was too long for him to sleep comfortably on the couch, so they made him a pallet on the living room floor. It must have suited him because he slept like the dead.