When aging, balding, copy editor Ernest "Sparky" Hemingway (no relation) gets a call from the daughter of his Vietnam buddy George Washington (also no relation), he is faced with a choice. He can head out to Minneapolis to help her out of a jam or hang up the phone - and this phone call has the potential to turn Sparky's life upside down. He's managed to erect a pretty effective cocoon around himself over the last few years, and no amount of aggravation (or thoughts about his long-gone ex-wife) can get through his very carefully nurtured shell. He's very comfortable living (well, maybe just existing) in the little North Dakota town of Hardwoods, filled with its decidedly odd folks who just do what they have to in order to get along, where everybody knows everybody else's secret but pretends they don't. He's left alone, and that's the way Sparky likes it.
But you don't walk away from a promise. Especially when that promise was made to somebody who pulled your butt out of more unfriendly and friendly fire than a hailstorm of June bugs. You don't ask, you just do.
His fellow vet buddy Doc Holiday (you guessed it, no relation) meets him in Minneapolis and tosses him a .45, which comes in handy when they run into a hard time with some gang-bangers who are after the girl in question. They rescue Washington's teenage daughter, Tenisha, and Doc and Sparky split up, Sparky taking Tenisha and her cat back to his place.
Between dealing with the aforementioned gang-bangers, the Minneapolis police, who are hassling Sparky, Doc's brain tumor, and the mostly white town Sparky lives in taking umbrage at the color of Tenisha's skin - not to mention having to haul a four-month-pregnant neighbor and her baby to his house for safety during a blizzard - Sparky thinks he's handling himself pretty well.
And then things start to get weird.
©2003 Joel Rosenberg (P)2012 Audible, Inc.