Story opens, Mr. Redding is coughing in a cafe by the Yocona River, really whamming it out between his knees. He’s got on penny loafers with pennies in them, yellow socks, madras shorts, a reversible hat and a shirt that’s faded from being washed too many times. His wife, Flenco, or Flenco, as he calls her, is slapping him on the back and alternately sucking her chocolate milk shake through a straw and looking around to see who’s watching. She’s got a big fat face, rollers in her hair, and she’s wearing what may well be her nightgown and robe. Fingernails: bright red.

“Damn!” Mr. Redding coughs. “Godamighty . . . damn!”

Flenco hits him on the back and winces at his language, sucking hard on her straw and glancing around. Mr. Redding goes into a bad fit of coughing, kneels down in the floor heaving, tongue out and curled, veins distended on his skinny forearms, hacking, strangling, and the children of the diners are starting to look around in disgust.

“Oh,” he coughs. “Oh shit. Oh damn.”