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Win’s voice was firm. “Oscar Madison would never wear a rug. Never, I say. Felix, maybe. But Oscar? It simply cannot be.”

“It is,” Myron said. “That’s a hairpiece.”

“You’re still thinking of the last episode,” Esperanza said. “The one with Howard Cosell.”

“Yes, that’s it,” Win agreed with a snap of his fingers. “Howard Cosell. He wore a hairpiece.”

Myron looked up at the ceiling, exasperated. “I’m not thinking of Howard Cosell. I know the difference between Howard Cosell and Jack Klugman. I’m telling you. Klugman is sporting a rug.”

“Where’s the line?” Win challenged, pointing at the screen. “I cannot see a break or a line or a discoloration. And I’m usually quite good at spotting lines.”

“I don’t see it either,” Esperanza added, squinting.

“That’s two against one,” Win said.

“Fine,” Myron said. “Don’t believe me.”

“He had his own hair on Quincy,” Esperanza said.

“No,” Myron said, “he didn’t.”

“Two against one,” Win repeated. “Majority rules.”

“Fine,” Myron repeated. “Wallow in ignorance.”

On the screen, Felix fronted for a band called Felix Unger and the Sophisticatos. They rambled through an up-tempo number with the repeated phrase “Stumbling all around.” Kinda catchy.

“What makes you so sure it’s a rug?” Esperanza asked.

“The Twilight Zone,” Myron said.

“Come again?”

“The Twilight Zone. Jack Klugman was in at least two episodes.”

“Ah, yes,” Win said. “Now, don’t tell me, let me see if I remember.” He paused, tapping his lip with his index finger. “The one with the little boy Pip. Played by …?” Win knew the answer. Life with his friends was an ever-continuing game of Useless Trivia.

“Bill Mumy.” It was Esperanza.

Win nodded. “Whose most famous role was …?”

“Will Robinson,” Esperanza said. “Lost in Space.”

“Remember Judy Robinson?” Win sighed. “Quite the Earth babe, no?”

“Except,” Esperanza interjected, “what was up with her clothes? Kmart velour sweaters for space travel? Who came up with that one?”

“And we cannot forget the effervescent Dr. Zachery Smith,” Win added. “The first gay character on series TV.”

“Scheming, conniving, gutless—with a hint of pedophilia,” Esperanza said with a shake of her head. “He set back the movement twenty years.”

Win grabbed another slice of pizza. The pizza box was white with red-and-green lettering and had the classic caricature of a heavy-set chef twirling a thin mustache with his finger. The box read—and this is absolutely true:

Whether it’s a pizza or submarine,

We buy the best,

To prepare the best,

And leave it to you for the rest.

Wordsworth.

“I don’t recall Mr. Klugman’s second Twilight Zone,” Win said.

“The one with the pool player,” Myron answered. “Jonathan Winters was in it too.”

“Ah, yes,” Win said with a serious nod. “Now I remember. Jonathan Winters’s ghost shoots pool against Mr. Klugman’s character. For bragging rights or some such thing.”

“Correct answer.”

“So what do those two Twilight Zone episodes have to do with Mr. Klugman’s hair?”

“You got them on tape?”

Win paused. “I believe that I do. I taped the last Twilight Zone marathon. One of those episodes is bound to be on it.”

“Let’s find it,” Myron said.

It took the three of them almost twenty minutes of sifting through his vast video collection before they finally found the episode with Bill Mumy. Win put it in the VCR and reclaimed his couch. They watched in silence.

Several minutes later, Esperanza said, “I’ll be damned.”

A black-and-white Jack Klugman was calling out “Pip,” the name of his dead son, his tormented cries chasing a tender apparition from his past. The scene was quite moving, but also very much beside the point. The key factor, of course, was that even though this episode predated the Odd Couple by some ten years, Jack Klugman’s hairline was in a serious state of retreat.

Win shook his head. “You are good,” he said in a hushed voice. “So very good.” He looked at Myron. “I am truly humbled to be in your presence.”

“Don’t feel bad,” Myron said. “You’re special in your own way.”

This was about as heavy as the conversation got.

They laughed. They joked. They made fun of one another. No one talked about a kidnapping or the Coldrens or business or money matters or landing Tad Crispin or the severed finger of a sixteen-year-old boy.

Win dozed off first. Then Esperanza. Myron tried to call Jessica again, but there was no answer. No surprise. Jessica often didn’t sleep well. Taking walks, she claimed, inspired her. He heard her voice on the machine and felt something inside him plunge. When the beep came on, he left a message:

“I love you,” he said. “I will always love you.”

He hung up. He crawled back onto the couch and pulled the cover up to his neck.

21

When Myron arrived at Merion Golf Club the next morning, he wondered briefly if Linda Coldren had told Jack about the severed finger. She had. By the third hole, Jack had already dropped three strokes off his lead. His complexion was cartoon Casper. His eyes were as vacant as the Bates Motel, his shoulders slumped like bags of wet peat moss.

Win frowned. “Guess that finger thing is bothering him.”

Mr. Insight.

“That sensitivity workshop,” Myron said, “it’s really starting to pay off.”

“I did not expect Jack’s collapse to be so total.”

“Win, his son’s finger was chopped off by a kidnapper. That’s the kind of thing that could distract someone.”

“I guess.” Win didn’t sound convinced. He turned away and started heading up the fairway. “Did Crispin show you the numbers in his Zoom deal?”

“Yes,” Myron said.

“And?”

“And he got robbed.”

Win nodded. “Not much you can do about it now.”

“Plenty I can do about it,” Myron said. “It’s called renegotiate.”

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