This week, to ring the changes, we’re posting a short story by Graham Watkins, one of our associate members. Sunken Treasure is a riveting tale of a Viking burial, greed and poetic justice.
Elwyn Griffiths put down his knife and fork, looked at the bacon and egg congealing on the, grease smeared, plate and retched. Supporting himself with the edge of the table he hoisted himself upright, turned slowly and shuffled to the back door.
Claire scraped his uneaten breakfast into the bin. “Why do I bother?.. Where are you going?”
The farmer, slipped on a shabby overcoat, leaned against the wall to pull into his Wellington boots and opened the door. A dusting of virgin snow covered the yard, spoiled only by Gethin’s footprints leading to the barn. Taking small measured steps the old man walked to his pickup truck and climbed in. He didn’t see Gethin emerge from the barn or wave as he drove away.
The door opened, admitting a blast of welcome cold air. Elwyn surveyed the crowded room looking for an empty seat. There were none. A plump woman, wearing a leather jacket, fanned herself and comforted a child grizzling on her lap. People waited, silently, for their turn. The farmer, stamped the snow from his boots, walked unsteadily across the room to a receptionist’s window and tapped on the frosted glass.
It slid open revealing a smartly dressed woman in her fifties behind a desk. “Yes?”
“Elwyn Griffiths. To see Doctor Khan.”
A telephone rang. The receptionist answered it. “Surgery,” and nodding at Elwyn mouthed, “Take a seat,” before saying to the caller, “I understand but all the doctors are very busy this morning…”
Elwyn found a vacant chair in the corner of the room and picked up a farming magazine. He touched a radiator behind the seat and snatched his hand from the burning metal. Moving the chair away from the radiator, he unbuttoned his coat and sat down again. Sweat ran down his back, cold, uncomfortable, clammy.
Time passed. The woman with the grizzling infant was called. Others followed. The waiting room emptied and refilled as more patients arrived.
A ruddy-faced man, with a large nose, leaned over to look at a picture in Elwyn’s magazine. “Zeta tractors. Do you know why they have two seats?”
Elwyn recoiled from his boozy breath. “No.”
“They’re always breaking down so the driver has to take a mechanic with him.”
Elwyn dropped the magazine on the table. “I had one once. Didn’t break down.”
The man smirked.”It’s a joke.”
A buzzer sounded and a scrolling sign lit up. Mr Griffiths consulting room four, Dr Khan.
Elwyn stood, corrected his balance and focussed on the double doors that led to the consulting rooms. He went through them, lurched along the corridor to room four and knocked.
“Come,” said a man’s voice.
Dr Khan, silver haired and overweight, a man who enjoyed his food, was hunched over a computer keyboard. “Sit down Elwyn. I’ll be just a moment.” He finished typing and leaned back in his chair to study his patient. “How are you feeling?”
“The headaches are worse.”
“Your legs, are they still numb?”
“They tingle at night keeping me awake. And my feet hurt. It’s like red hot pins and needles.”
Dr Khan turned to the keyboard, typed a note and opened an image on the screen. “The results of the scan are back.” He pointed. “Here, can you see? At the back of your head. That area there. It’s a CNS Lymphoma.”
Elwyn put on his reading glasses and leaned forward. “A what?”
“A tumour. You should have come earlier, when the headaches started. The cancer’s spread. It’s in your brain stem. CNS means the growth has reached your central nervous system.” Khan paused. “There are treatments – chemotherapy and I can prescribe steroids to slow the swelling but it’s a grade four tumour,” Doctor Khan took hold of Elwyn’s hand and looked him in the face. “But the truth is it’s inoperable.”
Elwyn took his glasses off and dabbed a watery eye with a grubby handkerchief. “How long?”
“Six months. With treatment perhaps a year… I’m sorry.”
Elwyn’s heart pounded. He wanted to run away. To believe it wasn’t true.
Doctor Khan started to type. “It might be longer. We’ll start you on steroids and I’ll refer you for the chemo. You’ll get a letter from the hospital.”
Elwyn raised himself slowly. He felt exhausted, small, unable to straighten up, as if the news of his mortality had shrunk his body.
“There’s always hope.”
“Thank you doctor,” muttered Emlyn and stumbled from the surgery. Tears came as he reached his pickup truck. An emotional dam exploded. A million thoughts competing for attention and he was afraid. He sobbed and thumped the steering wheel. It wasn’t fair. Why him?
Elwyn stopped by a track leading onto the mountain and got out of the pickup. Mynydd Du, The Black Mountain, towered above him, snow-cold, impassionate, permanent. He leaned on the bonnet and watched his hot breath steaming in the winter air. He could see walkers on the skyline, small red dots moving against an azure sky laced with the vapour trails of aircraft flying to America.
His breathing slowed and the tightness in his chest relaxed. A calmness, almost acceptance of the demon devouring his body, took hold. Six months Dr Khan had said perhaps longer.
The farmyard was empty when Elwyn got home. He parked by the barn and shuffled across the yard to the house. Gethin and Claire were drinking tea at the large pine table in the kitchen. The Aga, permanently lit, made the room warm – comfortable. And yet he sensed an icy mood.
“I’ve fed the sheep,” said Gethin. “Dad, we need to talk. You’ve upset Claire again.”
“Have I?” Elwyn took a mug from the cupboard, filled it with tea and rested his back against the worktop.
Claire looked at him, her face school-teacher hard. “Where’ve you been?”
“To the doctor’s. I’ve had these headaches and there’s something wrong with my legs.”
“What did he say?”
Elwyn sat down and took a deep breath.” I’ve got a growth.”
“What sort of growth?” asked Gethin.
“It’s cancer, isn’t it?” said Claire.
“Oh Dad!.. Can they operate?” asked Gethin. “Zap it with a laser or something?”
Elwyn pointed to his head. “It’s here and in my spine. It’s inoperable,” he said and glimpsed the trace of a smile on Claire’s face.
The old man placed his mug in the sink, made his way to the front room and sat by the wood burner. The worn leather chair comforted and soon sleep claimed him.
Elwyn thought he was dreaming but it wasn’t a dream. Gethin and Claire were talking in the kitchen. Straining to listen, he could just catch the muffled words.
Gethin was speaking “…so you want to sell the farm? Not that again.”
“The agent says six million including the machinery and the farm’ll sell quickly. You know I hate living here. Nothing ever happens. It’s dull and your dad treats me like a servant.”
“Keep your voice down. He’ll hear.”
“He’s asleep and anyway he’s deaf as a post… He uses you, Gethin. Don’t you see? You’re a labourer and when he’s dead you’ll still be a labourer. Is that what you want for the rest of your life?”
“Claire, I’m forty two. I’ve worked on the farm since I was a boy, the same as my father and his father before him. This is my family’s farm. It is my life.”
“Your life! What about our life? We could go on cruises, travel the world. Don’t you want to do that?”
A chair scraped across the kitchen floor and the kitchen door creaked open.
“I told you he’s asleep,” whispered Claire. “He looks peaceful.” Her voice was closer now. “If I was dying that’s how I would want to go – in my sleep. A pillow over my face, someone with compassion, no pain. They’d be doing me a favour… Gethin, promise me, when he’s gone, we’ll sell the farm. I know he’s your dad but he can’t take it with him. Shrouds don’t have pockets.”
“If that’s what you really want.”
“I love you,” said Claire.
A week later, the post arrived as they were eating breakfast.
“Anything good?” asked Gethin.
Claire tore open an envelope. “A begging letter from some charity – Cancer Carers. Marjorie Wallace, who ever she is, begs you to help. Flippin’ cheek. I bet she does.” She dropped the letter on the table. “I bet the greedy cow pays herself a fortune. All charity bosses do.” Claire opened a glossy holiday brochure. “Jamaica looks nice. Gethin, we could fly to Miami and cruise from there.”
Elwyn pushed his half empty cereal bowl away and picked up the letter from Cancer Carers. “I won’t be eaten by worms,” he said quietly as he studied the letter.
At the top of the page was a picture of a woman, Marjorie Wallace, standing outside a charity shop. She looked friendly, middle aged, somehow reassuring, a caring woman. She reminded Elwyn of his dear wife. Yes, she looked like Jean. Was the accident really twenty six years ago?
“What do you mean?” asked Gethin.
“When I’m dead I’m not going in the ground.”
“You don’t want to be buried with mum?”
“So it’s the crematorium then, is it?” Claire turned a page in her brochure. “We can stop over in the Virgin Islands.”
“No. I want to be committed to the deep.”
Claire put the holiday brochure down. “You should be committed.”
“It’s not funny. Don’t sneer, Claire. I’m serious,” shouted Elwyn. “I’m going to be buried at sea. It’s already arranged.”
Gethin glared at his wife. “Claire, stop it.”
Claire pouted. “Arranged?”
“Yes,” said Elwyn firmly. “I’ve arranged an undertaker and ordered a coffin.”
Claire raised an eyebrow and held a finger up to her temple to indicate to Gethin that his father was mad.
“Can you still be buried at sea?” asked Gethin.
Claire picked up her brochure. “Yeah and pigs can fly.”
Green hedges and new-born lambs signalled the approach of spring and with the change came an appointment letter from the hospital. Since the doctor’s visit Elwyn’s health had deteriorated. The headaches were worse and his temper shorter. “I’m not going,” he announced and threw the letter in the grate. “Chemotherapy’s a waste of time. People go to hospital to die.”
Elwyn spent the days dozing, in his chair, or staring at the fire. He rarely went outside and used a Zimmer frame to move around the house.
One morning an engine in the yard woke him. He heard a man’s voice. “..a delivery for Mr Griffiths.”
“What is it?” called Claire.
Elwyn grabbed the Zimmer frame and pulled himself up.
“It’s your dad’s coffin,” shouted Claire.
The old man shuffled through the kitchen. Claire was in the doorway. He pushed past her out to the yard.
Gethin and a young man with a pony-tail were standing beside a van sign written Zany Coffins – Original Coffins for a Stylish Send off. Beneath the words was a picture of a beer bottle with feet protruding from the neck.
Gethin nodded at the side of the van. “What’s that?”
“It’s a bottle coffin. We’ve done a few of those,” said the driver.
“I’m Mr Griffiths,” said Elwyn breathlessly.
The driver opened the doors of the van and stood back.
“What the?” gasped Gethin.
Jammed against the van’s roof was a dragon’s head with a red forked tongue. Green luminous eyes stared out at them.
“I’ll need help. Where do you want to put it?”
“It’s a boat!” exclaimed Gethin. “He said it was a coffin.”
Elwyn rested his back against the wall and watched the driver undo the securing straps. He waved to Gethin. “Help him, boy. Put it on straw bales in the barn.”
They tipped the dragon’s head to one side, to clear the door frame and slid the coffin out of the van.
“Look at the paintwork on those shields.” Elwyn shuffled over and rubbed his hand on the side. “She’s a beauty.”
Gethin gripped the dragon’s neck and slowly walked backwards towards the barn.”I don’t understand. What is it?”
“It’s a Viking coffin-boat. First one we’ve made,” said the driver.
Claire followed them into the barn. “Are you going to sail into the sunset like Kirk Douglas in The Vikings?”
Elwyn scowled at her. “Don’t be stupid.”
She sniggered. “We’ll set you alight with flaming arrows.”
“Does it float?” asked Gethin.
“Course not,” said the driver. “It’s a coffin. There are holes in the sides and you add weights to make it sink.
Gethin stood back. “Weights? Where?”
“Under the deck.”
Elwyn lowered himself slowly onto a straw bale and looked up at the dragon’s head.
“The head, it unscrews to fit in a hearse,” said the driver and went on his way.
“I’ve got work to do,” said Claire and returned to the house.
Elwyn looked at Gethin and wondered what he was thinking. Between them on its straw plinth stood the coffin, a symbol of the barrier that had grown between them. He waited for his son to speak, to challenge what he was doing, to put everything right.
Gethin glanced at his father and averted his eyes.
“What’s happened to you?” asked Elwyn. “You’ve changed. We used to do everything together. You loved the farm.”
“Did I?” Gethin went to the barn door and looked out. “I suppose I grew up.”
“Will you sell the farm?”
“I don’t know. What should I do?”
“She doesn’t love you.”
“You don’t know anything about Claire.”
“I know she’s a gold digger.”
“How dare you insult Claire. She’s my wife.” Gethin walked back and stood over his father. “You hate her don’t you? She’s right. You’re a nasty old man.”
Elwyn leaned against the coffin-boat. “I’m dying, Gethin.”
“Are you? Or are you playing some sort of evil game?” Gethin jabbed a finger towards the coffin-boat. “That is obscene. You’re obscene. I despise you and since you ask, yes we’re going to sell the farm.”
After the argument Elwyn became stoic, taciturn, enduring the pain with grim determination and there was another change. He put the Zimmer frame away, started walking with a stick and driving again.
“That’s my business,” he would reply curtly when asked where he was going.
“I’m telling you,” said Claire. “That bloody boat’s like Dorian Gray’s picture. You’re not dying. It’s all an act, playing the invalid for sympathy. You’re going to live forever.”
Her barbed commentary strengthened Elwyn’s resolve and filled him with anger, a hidden rage which burned in his heart.
One morning, Elwyn drove to town and parked opposite the Cancer Carers charity shop. It was smaller than he’d expected, selling second hand knick-knacks and other household goods. “Dead people’s stuff,” he muttered but, as he sat there and the summer sun warmed the truck, his mood lifted.
Mrs Wallace was behind the counter, serving an elderly lady, laughing and talking as she wrapped a parcel.
Elwyn thought of Jean’s laugh and remembered happier times. He wanted to go into the shop, to chat with Mrs Wallace, perhaps make a donation, but there wasn’t time. He had an appointment to keep with an old friend; his solicitor Frank Pollard.
The solicitor, a tall gaunt man with sunken cheeks, received Elwyn in his office. “Forgive me for saying so Elwyn but you don’t look well.”
Elwyn flopped on a chair and stood his stick against Pollard’s oak desk. “I’ve got cancer, Frank. I’m dying.”
“Bloody Hell! Are you sure? I don’t know what to say.” Pollard looked Elwyn in the eye. “Come on now. You’re tough. You’ll beat it.”
“No Frank. It’s like an express train coming down the track – unstoppable. It’s alright.” Elwyn sniffed. “I’ve come to terms with it and I want to change my will.”
“What sort of change?”
“A stipulation. My body must be buried at sea.”
Pollard frowned. “Really? Are you sure?”
“That’s easy, just add a codicil.”
Elwyn explained what he wanted then said, “I’m considering leaving some money to charity. He showed his friend the letter from Cancer Carers. “But it must be an anonymous donation.”
“A legacy. How much are you thinking of?”
“I haven’t decided how much.” Elwyn rested his chin on the handle of his stick. “A legacy’s no good. Frank it must be, anonymous, untraceable.”
“Because I don’t want my grasping daughter-in-law to know.”
Pollard placed a finger against his lip and considered Elwyn’s request. “There is a way. What you do is buy a pay as you go phone and…”
The old man listened carefully to his friend’s proposal. “I don’t know. Are you sure it would work?”
“I don’t see why not.”
“It sounds complicated.” Elwyn tapped the floor with his stick. “Will you help me?”
Pollard gave a small reassuring smile. “How long have we been friends?”
During the summer, Elwyn’s headaches grew more intense, his speech began to slur and his eyesight deteriorated but, although Elwyn knew it wasn’t safe, he continued to drive. He had to, time was running out. By October there was one final journey he had to make.
A light drizzle was falling as Elwyn shuffled across the yard to his truck. He pulled the door open lost his balance and staggered backwards. His walking stick dropped to the ground. Elwyn pulled himself into the cab, gunned the engine and shot out of the yard.
A dark damp autumn fog was settling as he returned. Pushing open the driver’s door he gave a long blast on the pickup’s horn. He was pale, soaked in sweat and gasping for air.
Security lights came on as Gethin ran from the house.
“Help me,” whispered Elwyn. He pulled himself out of the truck and pointed to hessian sacks in the back. “Put ’em in the coffin.”
“What are they?”
Elwyn wiped his forehead on his sleeve and gripped the side of the truck. “Weights.”
Gethin lifted a bag. “Christ.” He read the label. “Washers – Twenty kilos.” He counted. “Ten bags! You’ve bought a quarter of a ton of bloody washers.”
“The boat.” Elwyn’s voice was hoarse.
Gethin swung the bag onto his shoulder. “You want them in the boat?”
“Don’ ‘rop it.”
Elwyn screwed his eyes shut and concentrated. “D o n’ t d r o p…”
“What are you doing?” called Claire from the kitchen door.
“Dad’s been buying washers.”
Elwyn turned to face her, let go of the truck and crumpled to the ground.
“Dad! Dad! Claire, help me get him up.”
They lifted Elwyn and walked slowly towards the house, supporting him, dragging his limp feet across the yard.
Gethin opened the kitchen door. “Should we call a doctor?”
“No. He’s just tired,” said Claire. “Get him to bed. He’ll be alright.”
Elwyn mumbled incoherently as they undressed him. He struggled to raise a hand but it didn’t move. Drool ran down his chin.
“Gethin, go and turn the engine off,” ordered Claire. “The truck’s engine, I can hear it.”
As Gethin hurried downstairs she bent down and whispered, “You’ve had a busy day. I’ll tell you a little secret. I’m going to burn your boat and while worms are eating your rotting corpse I’m going to spend all your money.”
Elwyn’s mouth moved but no sound came.
“Lost your voice? Shame.” Claire stood and smiled. “Are you hot? Shall I turn the radiator off? What you need is fresh air.” She went to the window. “The fog’s thick. It’s going to be a cold night.” She threw the window open and returned to the bed. “Still hot!” She gripped Elwyn’s duvet ripped it from the bed and let it drop to the floor, exposing his naked body.
Elwyn’s eyes, wide with fear, stared up at her.
“It’s for your own good. You do understand, don’t you?” said Claire as she turned off the light and closed the bedroom door.
Elwyn heard her footsteps on the stairs. He heard their muted voices.
“No. He’s asleep leave him,” said Claire.
He tried to call for Gethin to come, to close the window, to cover him but could manage only silent screams for help.
Frank Pollard wasn’t surprised when Gethin Griffiths phoned to say he and his wife wanted to make an appointment to discuss Elwyn’s will. As his solicitor and executor it was Pollard’s job to apply for probate.
When they arrived Gethin was subdued but his wife was chatty, in good humour and wearing more makeup than suited the occasion.
Pollard dealt with the pleasantries, opened Elwyn’s will and was about to read it but changed his mind. “You already know what’s in it Gethin. Everything is left to Claire and yourself.”
“Good,” said Claire. “We can put the farm up for sale.”
“Of course but you’ll have to wait for probate. I’ll start work on it. There is one change. Your father added a codicil. It’s a rather odd condition. Elwyn came to see me and, I must say, he seemed excited…”
“I told you he’d change his will,” interrupted Claire. “He was mentally ill, had a brain tumour. We’ll challenge it.”
“Why?” asked the solicitor. “I’ve just told you, he’s left you his estate. I wouldn’t advise challenging the will although it is an unusual condition.” He read the codicil. “In order to inherit my estate my son Gethin Griffiths and his wife Claire Griffiths must accompany my remains in the Viking coffin to its final resting place and read a prayer for my soul as I’m committed to the deep.”
Pollard covered a grin with his hand. “A Viking coffin. He said it was in the barn and I believe he’s paid for a marine funeral.”
“What happens if we refuse?” asked Claire.
“The codicil is clear. Elwyn’s entire estate goes to charity. I advise against contesting the will because it would slow things down and could be expensive. The court would be involved. There would be delays, years even.”
“Can’t we just cremate him and scatter the ashes off a pier or something?” asked Claire. “No one would know.”
Before Pollard could say, he would know because he would be at his friend’s funeral, Gethin angrily told her they would do what his father wanted.
She glared at him in a most unpleasant way as they left.
The three mourners, Claire, Gethin and Pollard waited in the house while undertakers placed Elwyn’s body in the bottom of the Viking boat-coffin and screwed the deck down. Eight men carried the coffin from the barn. They removed the dragon head prow, slid the coffin into the hearse and drove to the docks.
A crowd gathered on the quayside as the dragon prow was reassembled.
Straps were placed around the coffin and it was hoisted into the air where it dangled in the wind, beneath a leaden sky. Then, it landed with a crunch on the deck of a rusty trawler.
A fisherman wearing sea boots, yellow leggings and a souwester greeted the mourners. “Ow’s yer sea legs? There’s a blow in the channel. Winter storm’s comin’. It’s gonna be choppy.”
The trawler rolled with the swell as it cleared the harbour. Off shore the sea was rougher lashing the mourners with stinging spray.
“I’m going to be sick,” shouted Claire as they cowered, behind the tiny wheelhouse, watching the dragon’s head nodding with each gigantic wave.
The boat plunged crashing into the valley of a wave swamping the deck with water.
“The coffin, look!” shrieked Gethin.
Buffeted by swirling water, the coffin was moving, straining to break free.
They sailed on until the fisherman idled the engine. “We’re ‘ere. You’re gonna ‘ave to ‘elp me!” he shouted and scrambled to the back of the boat. He beckoned and undid the ropes holding the coffin. “Wait for the next wave. When the stern goes down…”
As he spoke, a wave lifted the bow, the stern dropped and, with a rasping screech, the coffin slid overboard into the churning water.
The fishing boat rose up on the crest of a wave and pitched forward. The coffin vanished from view but, as the trawler lifted again, the dragon’s head reappeared, its green eyes incandescent against the foaming grey sea. Then it was gone.
A week after the funeral, Pollard received the paperwork from Elwyn’s bank and invited the Griffiths to his office to discuss the details. They came the next day, shortly after he got back from posting a parcel.
“There’s a complication,” said Pollard. “I’ve got everything from the bank. Apparently, before he died, Your father signed the farm over to them.”
“He can’t,” snorted Claire. “He wasn’t of sound mind.”
Pollard told her Elwyn was never certified as of unsound mind by a doctor and even if he had been, the bank would still want repaying or they would repossess the farm and sell it.
“That’s absurd,” said Claire. “They can’t. The farm’s ours. He left us everything. It’s in the will.”
The solicitor produced a copy of the debenture. “It’s for six million pounds secured against the farm.”
Gethin looked bewildered.
“So where’s the money?” asked Claire.
“Here are his bank statements,” said Pollard. “There are dozens of transactions. For months he’s been buying gold bullion, mostly coins, Sovereigns and Krugerrands. It seems, he spent every penny on gold.”
“It’s not at the farm. We would know.” Claire snatched the bank statement from Pollard. “He spent our money on gold… So where is it?”
Claire’s face washed blank with confusion then her eyes flashed with anger and she erupted. “You’re an idiot, Gethin. It’s all your fault.” She looked accusingly at Pollard. “What does six million pounds worth of bullion weigh?”
He googled the answer. “One kilo costs thirty thousand pounds sterling. So six million would be two hundred kilos.”
Claire stood up and poked Gethin in the chest. “Washers! You put the sacks in the coffin, didn’t you? God, you’re a fucking moron. Why did I ever marry you?”
Marjorie Wallace was in a good mood as she entered the shop. Despite the bad weather, the caravan holiday at Tenby had refreshed her, reinvigorated her. She was ready for work. Greeting her volunteers, she walked through to the little office where she did her paperwork and saw the unopened letters on her desk. “Bills. They can wait.” She hung up her coat and went to help in the shop.
At lunchtime she made herself a coffee and set to work on the post. Near the bottom of the pile was a curious parcel addressed to Cancer Carers and marked ‘Private and Confidential’. She carefully slit the parcel open and removed a sheet of paper. It was the standard letter she’d sent out pleading for donations.
“Curious,” she said and noticed a hand written note on the back. Put this wallet to good use. Here are the keys, said the note but there were no keys; just four numbers and, beneath them, a line of letters and numbers.
Inside the parcel, wrapped in bubble-wrap, was a thin box. She opened the box and a mobile phone dropped onto the desk.
“How odd,” she said, looking at the phone. Remembering her son James understood computers and phones she telephoned asking him for help.
James arrived, glanced at the note and turned the phone on. He tapped in the four numbers, unlocking the phone. A wallet icon appeared on the screen. Clicking the icon opened a crypto-currency page. “I think it’s a password. Read me the numbers and letters,” he said and, keyed them in.
A bit-coin account opened. He clicked on the statement tab. “Wow! Two hundred bit-coins.”
“Do you think it’s a donation?” said Mrs Wallace. “What a kind thought.”
“Mum. You don’t get it, do you? Do you know how much a bit-coin is worth?”
“What is a bit-coin?”
“They’re worth thirty thousand pounds each,” said James. “There’s… Six million pounds in the wallet.”
“The phone. It’s a wallet.”
Her confused, “Oh!” was followed by a long silence. Then she began to laugh and giggle hysterically. “Six million!” she said tearfully.
“Who sent it?”
“I’ve no idea,” sniggered Mrs Wallace.
“Something’s written on the box,” said James and picked it up. “That’s funny.”
“What does it say?”
He frowned and said, “Shrouds don’t have pockets.”