..... Grand theft auto is the first crime that Gloria springs on Andy Garver this Friday evening. He's been dating his brother's ex-lover for a couple of weeks and he is still afraid that the slightest discord will kill the fragile relationship, so he doesn't bail immediately.
..... Gloria has shown up at his door in an F-150 pickup that he's never seen before. It belongs, she explains as she pulls away from the curb, to a guy that she dated two years previous. He uses a company car for his evening gig delivering pizzas, so if they get the truck back before midnight he'll never know it has been gone.
..... "You hot-wired it?" he says.
..... "No need," Gloria says. "I always copy the car keys of guys I date."
..... Andy makes a note to be careful with his car keys. "But why would you steal a truck?"
..... "You and I are going to have an adventure tonight."
..... He certainly doesn't like the sound of that. Andy has never been brave enough to break the law, unlike his brother Clete, who is imprisoned for the next five to seven years for trying to cook meth in the back of his van.
..... "What kind of adventure?" he says, unable to keep worry out of his voice.
..... She takes the U.S. 23 exit south toward the Ohio River. "You know Butch Dean?"
..... "The drug dealer?" He knows about Dean. Anyone who grew up on the south side of Columbus knows him as a man with whom you do not fuck.
..... "Well, he fronted me ten grand a couple of weeks ago. I had a deal set up to buy some coke and turn it around for twice what I paid. It was a one time-thing, a slam dunk." She ignores the speed limit, as usual, even though they are in a stolen vehicle.
..... Andy isn't surprised that Gloria is mixed up in dope, since she'd run with his brother, but he is surprised she is in at that level. "Didn't work out?"
..... "Cash is a bad thing to have in your hands when you live in a town with a casino and you have a gambling problem."
..... "You lost the money before you could buy the dope?"
..... "Bingo." She cuts off a school bus coasting toward a red light. "His people have been looking for me for the last week; I'm lucky that very few people know where I live."
..... "So how are you going to get the money to pay him back?" He has longed to share intimacies with Gloria, but the reality isn't living up to his expectations.
..... "That’s where you come in." She reaches over, placing a hand on his thigh. "I need your help to hold up a Boosters Club. Clete always says you know how to keep your mouth shut, so I figure you and me are a perfect team." She gives him a devilish grin, but there is a steely resolve in her big blues.
..... "You want me to help you with a robbery?" Andy takes a quick inventory of his life to date. A crappy job hustling car parts from the warehouse to auto garages. A shitty room in a boarding house, the rest of his income going to pay for smokes and rent for a mother who barely deserves the title. Compare that to the chance to have a dynamite girlfriend and a wad of cash. He knows what Clete would choose, has always chosen. And he is the smarter brother.
..... "You’re full of questions this evening," she says. "But yeah, I want your help. Your size will scare the shit out of them, and I've got a gun. Between the two of us we shouldn't have any trouble. And you could go home with a few grand or so for the effort."
..... He stares at Gloria's profile. He'd run into her dozens of times in the three years since Clete went to prison, and she hadn't even bothered to nod to him. Then one night two weeks earlier she walked into the McDonald's while he was eating his dinner and suddenly she was asking if she could join him, she was talking a mile a minute about the job she'd just lost at K-Mart, as though they were old friends. They've spent every evening since together. Now he wonders if she has just been cruising for a partner in crime.
..... Still he can't help but marvel at her beauty: untamed tightly curled black hair flowing off her shoulders like a wind scoop, a sharp jawline that tapers to a fetching cleft chin, plump lips just made to carry the scarlet lipstick she favors, eyes the color of glacial melt, and knockers that he fantasizes burying himself between.
..... He isn't a bad looking guy himself, according to his grandma. She sees a bit of Bogart in his face, especially when his five o'clock shadow arrives. Most women, however, are put off by his size, six feet six with the build of a linebacker, size that belies his timid nature.
..... "It's just this one time, right?" he finally says.
..... "Just this once, I promise," she says, and slides her hand over slightly. 

..... They arrive at the stadium while there is still fifteen minutes on the scoreboard clock. The host school, Piers High, is ahead, and a pleased buzz is coming from the packed stadium.
..... Gloria parks at the far end of the huge parking lot, beyond the coverage of the security cameras. They are almost invisible in the November dark made deeper by overhanging maple branches.  As they wait for the game to end, she explains the heist. The volunteers who run the Boosters' concessions will be busy in the school counting the evening take, which she hopes will be between $15,000 and $20,000. All cash, they don't take credit cards. She plans to intercept the person in charge of the deposit on his way to his car.
..... As Gloria explains her plans, Andy's legs begin to twitch, and he presses down on his knees to still them.
..... "You nervous?"
..... "Yeah," Andy says.
..... "I need you cool, Okay?" she says, eyes locked on his.
..... He can't hold her gaze, fixes on the stadium lights.
..... After a moment she nods, although he has made no response. "Okay, we have time. Let's get you calmed down." She leans over and unzips his jeans, reaches within and withdraws his immediately hard penis. He watches in blissful amazement as she briskly jacks him off.
..... After he comes, he zips up, slumps down in his seat, even more deeply in love.
..... "Better?" she says, chuckling softly.
..... "Oh, my God."
..... "Glad I could help."
..... He wonders if he is expected to return the favor. "You nervous?"
..... She rolls her eyes. "No, thanks."
..... A few minutes later the crowd begins streaming out of the stadium to the sound of the band playing the school fight song. Once the crowd has dispersed and the stadium lights go off, Gloria leads him across the dark blacktop toward the school.
..... They step behind a couple of the head-high arborvitae lining the sidewalk from the school to the parking lot. Gloria takes her hand out of her pocket and squeezes his. "You cool now?" she whispers.
..... "Yeah," Andy says, although doubt and fear are beginning to override his carnal afterglow.
..... She hands him a ski mask and puts one on herself. He dons his and stands quietly beside her, wishing that he had taken a piss before he left the house.
..... They wait in the dark for an agonizing hour. Andy fights his tendency to hyperventilate when nervous.
..... Finally the school doors open. Peering through the branches, Andy watches their prey approach, two of them: a short, plump woman in her 30s wearing a down coat that drags on the ground and a man in his 50s in a chambray shirt that fails to completely contain his enormous gut.
..... Gloria grabs his sleeve and drags him behind her as she steps out onto the sidewalk in front of the two. The school security lights reflect from the barrel of the 9mm pistol she pulls from her jacket pocket. Andy takes his place beside her, blocking the couple's progress.
..... The two stop in their tracks, the woman gasping. Andy watches the man weigh his chances against the gun and Andy. He can read his conclusion in the slump of the man's shoulders.
..... "We'll take the money," Gloria says, waving the gun back and forth between the two.
..... "You can't take this. It's for the children," the woman says.  
..... "It'll go to a good cause," Gloria says, reaching out for the woman's handbag and pulling it free.
..... The woman begins to cry. She reminds Andy of his Aunt Tricia, gone for several years now, who broke down every time the children's choir sang at their church. Although Gloria has expressly forbidden him to talk, he wants to assure the woman that she is in no danger. However, he is more afraid of Gloria and so keeps his lips zipped.
..... Except he hiccups.
..... They all looked at him. He hiccups again.
..... "At least give me my purse," the woman says, turning her attention back to Gloria. "It's of no use to you."
..... Gloria takes out the deposit bag, hands it to Andy, and lets the purse fall to the ground. Andy hiccups.
..... The woman nods a thanks her face doesn't reflect.
..... "Let's go," Gloria says. Andy hiccups as he follows her at a trot back to their truck. Every ten seconds or so he hiccups again.
..... Gloria doesn't turn on the lights of the truck until they are well clear of the school, so the people they've robbed won't be able to identify their vehicle.
..... They exchange the truck for Gloria's car without a hitch. Andy isn't sure what happens next; although he and Gloria have been hanging out together, they haven't reached the point where she's invited him home, and since he rents a room in a boarding house, he really has no discreet place to bring her.
..... This night, however, she drives him to her place without comment. "Help yourself to a beer," she says as she guides him into her apartment, a tiny one-bedroom in an apartment building that has the charm of an absentee landlord squeezing the last nickel out of his property. "Maybe that'll stop your hiccups."
..... He continues to hiccup every ten to fifteen seconds, though. After the first hour, it has grown quite annoying.
..... Andy notes that Gloria isn't much of a housekeeper. The coffee table is piled high with unopened packages of socks, stacks of DVDs, a dozen workout suits with the tags still attached, a new-in-the-package Xbox and bras and panties in a laundry basket. On the floor against the far wall sit two flat-screen televisions side by side.
..... Gloria takes a seat at the kitchen table. She opens the deposit bag and carefully unloads the cash, separated into bundles of singles, fives, tens, twenties and a couple of hundreds.
..... Andy sits across from her and picks up a stack of twenties, fanning them for the pleasure of the ripple.
..... "Don't play with it," Gloria says. "Count."
..... It takes them fifteen minutes and forty-five hiccups to confirm what the deposit slip reads. $11,543.
..... Gloria sits back, smiling with satisfaction. "Not bad." She counts out $1,500 and hands it to Andy.
..... He has been so nervous about taking part in the actual holdup that he hasn't taken the time to dwell on the cash that is to come his way. As he fingers his new fortune he wonders for the first time about fairness. Why not a 50/50 split?
.....  Gloria, as though reading his mind, says, "I did all the planning, so I get the bigger share. After all, all you did was stand there."
..... He is intimidated by her now after seeing how deftly she handled that gun. He is also hopeful that he will be invited to spend the night, so he decides to live with her decision.
..... Their heist is, to her delight, the lead story on Channel 10's late Friday night news. The reporter, standing in front of Piers High, refers to the crime as the hiccup holdup, a joke that doesn't strike Andy as the least bit amusing. His hiccups grow worse as they watch the coverage.
..... He is glad that they live in Columbus, over 50 miles from Piers, so that even with his size he won't immediately come under suspicion as a potential culprit. If he can just shake the damned hiccups.
..... Whatever second thoughts about the situation he has dissolve that night when Gloria invites him into her bed.
..... He doesn't stay there long, though. Making love with her is better than he'd even imagined, but his continued hiccups have her sending him to sleep on the couch afterward. Since his car is ten miles away at his boarding house, he has no choice but to spend the night on the dilapidated futon.
..... He is awake all night, though, hiccupping and replaying the crime.

..... The first thing Gloria does on awaking the next morning is step out into the hallway and swipe her neighbor's Columbus Dispatch. Their robbery makes the front page, this time tagged as the hiccup heist. The paper estimates one of the assailants at six foot five or better.
..... As they eat their cereal, the milk on the verge of spoiling, Andy asks when she's going to give Dean his money.
..... "I'll catch him at the casino tomorrow night," she says. "He takes weekends off to spend with the family. I don’t want to hand the dough to one of his goons, because I can't be sure it will get to him.
..... "In the meantime, your hiccups have got to go. Big as you are, anybody you talk to is going to make the connection. And I don't want you hanging around here forever, either. It's best if we aren't seen together for a while."
..... Andy is unclear if she is blowing him off or not, and doesn't want to pose the question for fear of receiving the answer he doesn't want. "I don't have anywhere to go," he says. "Hic. If I go back to the boarding house they're going to expect me at every meal--I never miss one when I'm there--and when I stay in my room they'll be suspicious."
..... "Then we'll have to get rid of your hiccups."
..... "How?" he says.
..... "Well," she says, "how about..." She suddenly screams and lunges across the table at him with her table knife.
..... He falls out of his chair as he evades her attack.
..... She leans over until she can see him on the floor. "Did that work?"
..... "Hic," he says.
..... "Damn."
..... They spend the morning trolling the internet for cures. Andy tries holding his breath in a variety of body contortions. He drinks glass after glass of water upright, upside down, sideways. He stands on his right leg, puts his left thumb in his left ear, and takes a drink of water. He has Gloria press lightly on his closed eyes as he takes a drink. He drinks a glass of water while holding a pencil clenched in his teeth. He has her pinch his nose shut while he drinks.
..... He takes a tablespoon full of brown sugar and dissolves it on his tongue. He bites into a lemon wedge drenched in hot sauce. He swallows air until he burps. He downs a teaspoon of peanut butter without chewing.
..... "Hic."
..... Gloria even ducks out for a quick run to the convenience store, returning with a couple of helium balloons. He cuts a small hole in one, breathes in the gas. All it does is raise his hiccups a couple of pitches.
..... "How long can this possibly go on?" he asks.
..... Gloria, reading up on the topic on her laptop, says, "Apparently, for years."
..... "Well, damn. Hic."
..... Early that afternoon, Andy turns on a golf tournament and, despite the hiccups, immediately falls asleep.
..... He awakes as Gloria returns around 4 p.m. with a bucket of fried chicken and a bottle of pills.
..... "What's that?" Andy says, pointing to the bottle.
..... "It's what doctors prescribe for hiccups," Gloria says. "Thorazine. It's usually a med for schizophrenia, but it works on the hiccups too. I gave a grand of your money to this girl I know works in a psych hospital."
..... Andy immediately rues leaving his wallet on the coffee table as he slept.
..... Having no desire to join Clete in jail, Andy crosses his fingers and takes the pills. An hour later, his eyes are twitching, his face swollen, his hands shaking, and drool occasionally escapes from the corner of his mouth. But he still has the hiccups. When Gloria's mom calls to chat, Andy has to retreat to the bedroom so his hiccups won't be heard in the background.
..... Later they watch as Channel 10 follows up the hiccup holdup. They even interview a doctor who walks them through the causes of hiccups, and tells them more than they ever wanted to know about the vagus nerve.
..... "Hic," Andy says. "Your mom suspect anything?"
..... "Naw, she's been in denial about me since I won a beauty pageant as a 10-year-old. I can do no wrong."
..... "Must be nice. I was more of a 'can't do anything right' child."
..... "I imagine it was tough, growing up in Clete's shadow."
..... His brother had been the quarterback, the prom king, which makes his current situation all the more perplexing to those who don't know him the way Andy does.

..... Sunday they stay home. Andy usually calls his grandmother on Sunday afternoon, and he knows she will take offense if he fails to. However, he can't, not with the hiccups. So he sends her a text message, claiming he has a sore throat and can't talk. Of course, she wants to take him to the hospital immediately, and it takes quite a few exchanges of messages before he can convince her that he isn't that seriously ill.
..... He spends most of the afternoon hiding in the bedroom closet, pillow to his face to muffle the hiccups, when Gloria's mother shows up unexpectedly and insists on cleaning the kitchen--cabinets, refrigerator and all.
..... Finally, after her mother leaves, Gloria comes into the bedroom and dons a black silk pants suit and red heels, carefully arranges her hair, applies some makeup.
..... "You look fantastic," Andy says.
..... She undoes a button of the top, unleashing another inch of cleavage. "It never hurts to look good when doing business."
..... Never having done business, Andy takes her at her word.
..... "While I'm gone, stay here; don't go wandering away, OK? We don't need you to get caught."
..... "There's one thing," he says. "If I don't show up at work tomorrow without calling off they'll fire me. And I can't call, not with the hic hiccups."
..... "You want me to call off for you?"
..... "That's not acceptable unless you're in a coma."
..... "So I tell them you're in a coma."
..... "Right. Then I hic show up the next day."
..... "Then deal with it," she says. "I have other things to worry about."
..... "You sure you don't want me to come along? I could be your driver hic if you need a quick getaway."
..... "I don't want us to be seen together and end up in the slammer because some crime nut hears you hiccup."
..... The solution to his work dilemma comes to him when he picks up his iPhone and remembers the recording app. After experimenting for a few minutes, he is able to record part of a call-off message, stop the recorder, hiccup, turn the recorder on, and complete his message. He has to try it several times before he gets the timing right so there isn't an awkward pause in the middle. Since no one is in the office before 7 a.m., he will be able to leave his message on the answering machine.

..... Gloria calls an hour later. "He's not here yet, and I'm just killing time. So I had this thought. You could visit a doc-in-a-box clinic in Indianapolis for your problem and no one would suspect anything. Why don't you get your car and drive there tonight? It's only a four hour trip."
..... "I don't know," he says. "My car's ten miles from here, and I don't know if it's up to a 400-mile round trip."
..... "Jesus," she says. "Do I have to hold your hand every step? Just do it."

..... After hiccupping through the next hour, he decides that Gloria's idea has some merit, although it will require him to hike to his car, and he'll have to do it after dark so he's not recognized. He hasn't walked ten miles in a day since Boy Scouts, but he can't see any alternative.
..... His cell phone rings again at 8 p.m. He checks the caller I.D., ready to reject any of his friends or relatives, but this one is coming from the state prison. Clete calls him every week or so, to check on life outside. If anybody will understand his situation, he thinks, and give him some wise guidance, it will be his brother.
..... "Hey, little brother," Clete says. "I thought it would be nice to spend three minutes together."
..... Andy knows that the prison limits calls to three minutes, so he doesn't waste time. "I'm in hic a lot of trouble, Clete."
..... "Did you just hiccup?"
..... "Yeah. I've been doing it since Friday. You hic read about the holdup?"
..... "I saw it on television. What the fuck were you thinking?"
..... "I wasn't. It was hic Gloria. Remember her?"
..... "Remember her? What are you doing hanging around with my girlfriend?"
..... "She's still your girl?" Andy closes his eyes and hiccups three times in rapid succession.
..... "No, I suppose not. She's not the kind of girl that has any loyalty. How did she rope you into this holdup?"
..... Andy tells his brother about their relationship, about Dean, about the money Gloria owes him.
..... "And you've been dating for two weeks? Jesus, I always knew you were a little slow, but this time you've been a complete idiot."
..... "What can I do, Clete?"
..... "You're at her apartment? Good. Give me the address."
..... Andy does so.
..... "Now forget about walking across town to get your car. Any cop sees you sneaking around in the dark is going to be suspicious. Just hang tight while I think of something. I'll call you in the morning; I'm allowed two calls a week now."
..... Just talking to his brother reassures Andy. Clete has always been the smart one, the one who can figure things out. He'll know what to do.
..... Andy wakes on the couch at 1:00 a.m. to a pounding on the door. He turns off the television, praying it isn't the cops.
..... A crowbar is inserted between the door and jamb. The door pops open like a champagne cork, and in walk two men. Not cops. Andy scrambles to his feet.
..... The taller of the two is older, perhaps in his late 40s, with male pattern baldness adding to the peeved look on his face. He is dressed in unbleached linen with a mauve shirt, no tie, black patent leather shoes.
..... The younger of the two is dressed far more casually; a hoodie over a black t-shirt, baggy workout pants, red Chuck Taylors. He is short and muscular, with fists the size of banana bunches.
..... Andy stands at the end of the couch, his escape route cut off by the men. The older of two he now recognizes as Butch Dean. "What do you want?" he says.
..... "Where's Gloria?" Butch says.
..... "She's at the casino looking for you. She has the money she owed you."
..... "Is that right? I heard she was hanging around there earlier tonight. Then she started playing blackjack. They say she dropped around ten grand in less than an hour. Did she have any money except what she owed me?"
..... "Not much," Andy said.
..... "I'll be fucked." Butch stares at his shoes for a moment, his hand cupping his jaw. Andy feels a pang of pity for the man. Even a hood, he thinks, should be able to count on the people he deals with.
..... Butch finally sighs, then slaps his hands together.  "All right then, back to business." He points to his companion, then to Andy.
..... Before Andy can prepare himself, the guy takes two steps toward him and unloads a fist to the kidneys that sends a screaming bolt of pain through Andy. He begins to crumple to the floor when the man follows with a left hook to his stomach that takes away his breath and brings that pain to a new quadrant of his torso.
..... Andy doubles over, but he is too slow to the floor to duck the man's right cross to his chin. His jaw breaks with an audible snap.
..... He falls into a kneeling crouch, then rolls into the television stand as the man kicks him hard in the ribs. "Oh, God," Andy mouths, waves of nausea and searing agony passing through him as he waits helplessly for the coup de grâce.
..... Instead, Butch kneels beside him and says softly, "You talk to your brother tomorrow, tell him thanks. We'll find Gloria eventually; she's too stupid to get away, and she's got to pay for what she did."
..... "Clete ratted us out?"
..... "You'd be amazed what a smart guy like Clete would do in prison in return for a few favors. I got a lot of friends I look out for there. No reason he can't be one of my guys."
..... "He told you to beat me up, too?"
..... "Not exactly. He asked us to help you get over your hiccups. Worked, didn't it?"