A Hole In The Ground Owned By A Liar
When Lee, a high school shop teacher in Evergreen, Colorado, buys a gold mine off the internet, he’s not looking for gold, but for an adventure to quell his oncoming midlife crisis. With the frequently unwanted help of locals and his volatile ex-con brother, he attempts to work the mine until he runs into a couple of Pakistani-by-the-way-of-Jackson-Hole prospectors willing to kill for its contents.
Owned by a Liar is part mystery and part gold-infused tall tale with a cast of refreshingly quirky characters and one highly unexpected payout.
“Daniel Pyne’s A Hole in the Ground Owned By a Liar will put to rest any idle fantasies the reader may have of setting out prospecting for gold. A harrowingly funny story of brotherly strife, amorous misconduct, and small dreams blown disastrously out of proportion. I loved it.” ––Scott Phillips, author of The Adjustment and national bestseller The Ice Harvest
“Smart, sexy, funny, and a brilliant storyteller. And that’s just me. Wait till you read Dan.” ––Eric Idle
—Hi. Ken Lightfoot. Sorry about the wait.
—It wasn’t bad.
—Don’t worry about it.
—Understaffed and underpaid. Follow me. You want some coffee?
—No, thank you.
—Or we’ve got bottled water here somewhere.
—’Kay. You’ve probably figured out we are not a Jefferson County operation; we’re a private sector contractor. More and more, local governments are outsourcing parole and probation services to for-profit operations like ours.
—So . . .
(shuffling through a file)
—Damn straight. You’re out.
—Out. Out. Am I right?
—Yes, that’s right.
—First time in?
—You don’t want to talk about it?
—Fair enough. A winner listens, a loser just waits until it’s his turn to talk.
—Felony assault. Guilty plea. Three years knocked down to twenty months. Certificates of completion, anger management and substance abuse. No issues inside?
—No. Other than being inside.
—I hear that. You want to talk about the crime?
—I got mad. I hit a guy. More than once. The whole thing just got away from me, and . . .
— . . . drinking?
— ’Kay. It says here you were under the influence.
—Yeah, well. That’s a convenient excuse, but no. The drinking was an afterward.
—So what is the excuse?
—I don’t have one. It was stupid. I was stupid.
—Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought.
(a moment’s thoughtful reflection)
—Between us. The guy you messed up. He deserve it?
—You didn’t even hesitate when you said that.
—I see that you’re from around here.
—Right. Yeah, that’s here too. I’m sorry.
—It was a while ago.
—Your brother’s a schoolteacher.
—And you’re planning to stay with him.
—Until I get on my feet, uh-huh.
—You got a job lined up?
—Um . . . no.
—I see a college degree here.
—The girls’ school.
—Coed since 1971.
—Ha. Yeah. It’s a weird-sounding place all right.
—How the heck’d you wind up at a girls’ school?
—They let me box.
—Seriously. I was Eastern Collegiate Middleweight Champion.
—Bachelor of Arts, it says here. Good for you, man. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest. What’d you major in?
—Is that a joke?
—No. Well, yes. It’s what I really majored in. But I guess the joke applies.
(Lightfoot’s salacious grin as it dawns:)
—There you go.
(requisite forced laughter)
—Okay, Grant. Okay then. You signed the contract of your parole; I assume, college degree, you read it, you understand what we call the parameters but I’ll just go over them briefly anyway: Stay clean, stay sober, stay employed, regular contact with me,
no contact with the victim, you can’t leave the state for 180 days without written permission. Don’t let your victories go to your head, or your failures go to your heart. The only difference between try and triumph is a little umph.
(a perplexed silence)
—How often am I required to call you, Mr. Lightfoot? Or do I come into town for office visits?
—Make it Ken, Grant. Mr. Lightfoot is my dad. And you will be phoning me once a month for the first six months. Unless we, you, got a problem, by all means, let me know, ’kay? Thereafter an email or a text’ll do me, just to let me know you’re there. I will contact you about a yearly review, and I would remind you that I am permitted to show up unannounced from time to time to check on you in your environs. But, this being a for-profit enterprise, I carry a pretty heavy caseload, Grant, and you strike me as a one-off, so you’d be doing me a big favor if I never had to think about you again. If you’re not part of the problem, you’re part of the cure. If you catch my drift.
—I do. You won’t.
(the file closing)
—Women’s Studies qualify you for any particular line of work?
—Ha ha, yeah, that’s another funny variation on that rich double entendre you’ve already mined, Ken.
—What’d you do before you went in?
—Taught some boxing to rich women. Construction. Sales. I biked across Africa, backpacked through Asia, worked in a free clinic in Turkmenistan, couple of winter seasons lift-wrangling at Copper Mountain. Summer camp counselor in Estes Park.
—Follow your bliss.
—I don’t think about it. I’m not career-oriented.
—That sounds like an excuse. The only time you run out of chances is when you stop taking them, Grant. Opportunities slide away like clouds.
—I’ll keep that in mind.
—Plus the job market’s shit right now.
—So I’m told.
—And you got a record. It’s not going to be easy, Grant. What I’m saying is, circumstances don’t make or break us, they simply reveal us. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want.
—Make sure the juice is worth the squeeze.
—You got a girl? Someone special you been thinking about, thinking she’s been faithfully waiting for you to get out?
—Good. Because they don’t. Wait. Typically.
(sigh, stretch, chuckle)
—My old man would of beat me like a redheaded stepchild if I’da come home from Durango saying I was gonna major in Women’s Studies.
—Mine was dead, so . . .
—Plus I don’t like getting hit.
—Mmm. ’Kay, well. I guess that’s it. Any questions on your end?
(sliding back of chairs)
—Good luck, Grant.
(shaking of hands)
—Remember: A winner is a loser who never gave up.
—Um . . . Wouldn’t that more likely be a longtime loser?
(Lightfoot already opening the next file:)
—’Scuse me, what?