The Car Wreck #2


“It was an explosion like I had never heard. The glass panes in the Barber Shop crashed all over the floor and some little bits got in my hair. Mr. Acuff cut a hunk out of my haircut that took nearly a month to grow out right. The whole shop stayed real still for maybe two or three seconds and then stampeded for the door to see what happened. Mr. Accuff told me to be still and stay there but I ran right behind him and the others. I was so afraid at what would we see out there on the street, but something like a magnet kept pulling me out there, down the sidewalk and out into the street. There was smoke everywhere. I remember some of the  men waving it away to see what had happened. It was clear it was a car wreck, and a bad one.

“One car was upside down and it looked like it was a convertible or had the top sheared off. The other one was sitting upright but was a mangled mess of steel, glass and blood. I remember there was blood everywhere. It was all over the cars and some had pooled in the street. The other thing that I will never forget was the sounds people made as they discovered what had happened. There were moans and groans of horror. There were prayers going up from men who never went to church and a few just shook their heads after getting a front row seat into eternity and how short life can be.

“Inside the upside down car was a dead woman. I didn’t try to get any closer but I could see her twisted bloody legs half sticking up over the seat. A man I didn’t know went over and took off his shirt and laid it over her. A man sat at the wheel of the other car like he was asleep, except he wasn’t. His face was covered in blood and his hair was messed up. His head hung at an angle like a broken puppet. Two men went over to him and tried to talk to him. It was no use. He was dead as well.

“What happened next I will never forget. Mr. Acuff was talking to a few of the men who recognized the deceased. When he heard, Mr. Acuff jerked his head up to the sky and quoted the Bible. He said out loud ‘the wages of sin is death’. I knew he was a deacon at the Baptist church but I never heard him quote the Bible before. I did learn some dirty jokes from him that when I told them, I got into some real trouble.

“Later on when I found out the whole story of the man and woman, I didn’t believe it was a judgement from God Almighty like some did, just a weird coincidence.”

Racine W “Butch” Teeterman Jr. became a plumber by accident. The Teeterman’s are a big family and most stick together, or they used to. While Butch was in High School, one  of his uncles died suddenly of a heart attack. He left his widow with six children and quite a pile of debt. His plumbing business was mediocre but it kept the lights on. She needed the monthly income that her dead husband could no longer produce. She pleaded and hounded the other Teeterman men until it was decided Racine W “Butch” Teeterman Jr., would leave the eleventh grade and take over the dead uncle’s trade. Most of his work would go to support his aunt and his cousins. Since Butch knew nothing about how to plumb anything, it was decided that Monroe Curtis, the uncle’s helper, who also needed his weekly paycheck to go on, would teach Butch everything he knew. Butch’s opinion or feelings were never considered as his family sentenced him to a life of crawling under nasty floors and unstopping tons of human shit. He learned to solder copper joints when they sprung leaks and to tear open walls while the home’s occupant bawled him out. Butch stuck it out.

He bought books on the subject and worked harder that the other plumbers in the town. By the time he was thirty-five, he held the title of best plumber in three counties.

On Friday, August 17, part three will post.


The Car Wreck

Barber shop

When Virgil Cherry was a child, he loved going to the monthly family gathering at his grandparent’s house for a Sunday meal. The small, tidy home bulged with aunts, uncles, cousins, and miscellaneous folk, who showed up, bowed their heads and filled their plates. His grandma, as if by magic, found enough seats for the grownups to eat around her long maple table, but the kids were expected to fin for themselves. The couches, foot stools, and parts of the floor were inhabited by little children, some barely old enough to manage a spoon or fork. On occasion, and when the weather was nice, motorists who drove by saw a dozen of so small relatives eating on the porch and making conversation. Virgil said that many times there were several standing up and eating.

Folks would bring dishes to make the pot luck, but grandma cooked all day Saturday to make the big spread. Ham, chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, cantaloupe, and corn on the cob could be counted on year round. Roast beef made an appearance depending on prices and other factors. Virgil was unlike his siblings and cousins who abhorred the adult gatherings and moved as far away from the main group, to share dirty jokes and tall tales. Virgil Cherry like to hear the old folks’ stories and conversations, and stationed himself as close to the maple table as possible. The men usually bandied around familiar topics such as the local high school football team, town government, weather, and occasional gossip. Grandpa Cherry wouldn’t tolerate some subjects, mainly because Grandma Cherry’s moral standards, and served as a host and moderator for the monthly discussions.

Virgil remembered his Uncle Jimmy being the silent one at most gatherings and never made comments or led a topic. He might mutter “pass the pickles” or “the gravy was real good this time”, but that was all. For years. He was single and ran a small gas station that seemed to eek out a profit. The relatives had given up on fixing him up with a woman as he, oddly enough, functioned happily as a solitary man.

Virgil said he was thirteen when the story of the car wreck was told.

About this age, he began to lose interest in family things and his mother had to goad him into those Sunday gatherings. It was when Uncle Jimmy turned sixty and they were celebrating with a sheet cake and tons of candles. After the obligatory song and the candles had served their purpose and everyone was deep in cake, Virgil said Uncle Jimmy laid down his fork and looked at him. For some reason, there was space at the maple table and Virgil was planted between his grandpa and Uncle Jimmy.

“I was about your age when I went to Acuff’s Barber Shop for my birthday haircut. Momma made us get a fresh cut around our birthday back then. I was old enough to go by myself and had already started pumping gas for Mr. Cartwright on the weekends. I waited my turn as the older men talked and gave their opinions about how high gas was. One of them, who knew me, kind of blamed me for being part of the conspiracy he had to pay twenty one cents now for a gallon of the stuff. They tried hard to have fun with me and talk about girls and make me blush. Finally, they did when it was my turn to hop in the chair. Back then, there was a certain group who just hung out at Acuff’s and read the newspaper and talked to Mr. Acuff. I never understood how they made a living or what they did? Just as I sat down and he put the apron tight around my neck, it happened, Bang!”

Come back Wednesday for more…

Melvin and the Wallet #5


Melvin felt in a daze as he looked into his wife’s eyes. They carried a wild look like a tigress that stood before a dead prey and had a hungry litter.

“One question, Melvin, just one. Did you do this?”

“Do what honey?”

“The money, the wallets.”

“Of course not. How could I?”

Joanna paced the room and nodded. “I didn’t think you could. How could you get this much money and make up such a story?”

“Hey, what’s going on?” Melvin inquired.

Joanna went to her lunch box that she had put on the dresser along with her purse. She handed it to Melvin. “Open it.”

Melvin undid the latches on her metal lunch box with plaid squares painted on the sides, expecting to see her leftovers. Instead he beheld the familiar wallet stuffed with cash. He gaped at it for a full minute and then looked up at his wife.

“You kept it.” He reasoned.

“NO. I told you how they mocked me and made fun of me for turning it in. I went to the lunch room with Shirley and Mona like usual. We sit over at the side near the window where the big flower bed was. I sat down and we all said the blessing. I opened my lunch box and under my sandwich was that there wallet. I nearly  went to the bathroom in my pants. I shut it fast after I pulled my sandwich out. I could barely eat.”

“Did you count it?” Melvin asked.

“In the rest room. Seven hundred and eighty.”

He sat on the bed in silence as she continued to pace the room.

“I thought all afternoon about this Melvin. I could barely wait to get home.”

“What are we going to do honey?”

“Ruth 2:16.”

“Huh?” Melvin was throughly confused.

“It’s in the Old Testament. ‘and let fall also some the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not’. You see Melvin, this was God all along, you were right baby. Ruth worked for Boaz as a field worker, kind of like you and me. Most owners were mean and cruel. Not Boaz. He took pity of Ruth and let her eat and drink with his maidens. He tells his field bosses to leave some grain on the ground for her, some “handfuls of purpose”. Melvin, this here wallet is a gift from God.”

Melvin sat in shock at his smiling wife. “You think?”

She sat beside him and kissed him warmly. “Let’s go downstairs and eat those beans and cornbread. After supper let’s go to Goldbricks and get ice cream. Then we’ll go to Freeze’s and buy a load of groceries, I’ll get their man to deliver so we don’t have to carry it. Honey, get plenty of Bull Dirham and even a quart of Macon’s Beer, heck get two, one for me too. I already too the day off tomorrow and told the school the kids had to be absent. After we go down to the bank in the morning, I thought we could ride the bus over to Dalton and visit the amusement park.”

Melvin sat in dumbfounded and began to cry. Joanna wiped his tears and tilted his chin up to her eyes. “Promise me you will start going to church with me.”
“Sure, but the beer?”

“Melvin, I love the Lord but I think he wants us to enjoy life sometimes.”

The next day, they did go to the bank and catch up their mortgage and visit Dalton and ride the roller coaster. But, that’s not all. Melvin found the same wallet and money in different places for the next six days. At the end of thirty days, the police dutifully called them to claim to other wallets. Melvin went to church for the next six months. His leg got better and he went back to work. He was hired to work more hours and stopped going to church. Joanna stopped going when they moved to Dalton and Melvin got a job as the assistant manager of a lumber yard. He never found any more wallets, but he remained a believer that the Lord wanted all of us to enjoy life. He employed an act he always called “handfuls on purpose” by being nice to people who never expected anything good to happen.

The End

Reading From California Beat Poetry


Page 29 Boulevard Sandwich #4


chocolate store fantasy

meters blink red

garbage truck bang

yellow blue taxi

movie stars maps

musso frank 1919

black red graffiti

one legged man

gay man smiles

happy hour specials

grocery store girl

tee shirt sale

free stress test

For a copy of “California Beat Poetry” – Number One Hollywood Boulevard, click on:

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Melvin and the Wallet #4


A few cars went by in the darkness as Melvin waited patiently on the porch. He sipped iced tea from a Mason jar as scanned their street for his wife’s soon return. What would she say now? He wondered why life in this blue-collar town wasn’t better? New frame houses were springing up west of town. Two new lumber yards had opened recently. Gas was cheap. There were plenty of churches to go around. Most of the streets were paved now. Yet life seemed to be in a constant state of stagnation.

Joanna moved swiftly up the sidewalk and up the three wooden steps and past Melvin he nearly missed seeing her. The only sound she made was kind of “harump!” as the screen door slammed behind her.

Melvin couldn’t sleep. He lay silently beside his still wife who went to bed without a word. He had put the children to bed earlier and she neither asked about them or acknowledged he had taken care of that nightly ritual. He suddenly realized she was not sleeping either. Finally, she rolled to her back and stared at the ceiling.

“They made fun of me.”

“Who did?”

“The man at the police station.. He asked me if this was a joke or something. Two nights, the same brand of wallet and the same amount of money.”

“What did you say?” Melvin asked as he rolled toward his wife and propped his head up with his palm.

“I told him it was the God’s honest truth and we weren’t the kind of folks who played jokes like this.”

Melvin wondered what kind of folks they must be?

Joanna began to get angry and tear up. “He laughed at me for being honest. He said we must be the dumbest hillbillies in the whole town.”

Melvin reached to embrace her but she resisted.

The next say seemed just like the others to Melvin. He got up still hobbling in pain. His wife was still cold as a stone, his mind was just as depressed as the day before. The only real difference was the mail he pulled out of the mail box. The bank wrote them a letter outlining the reality of what will happen if they default on their mortgage payment. But, it was a different day.

Melvin had cooked a pot of red beans all day and had a pan of corn bread when Joanna and the kids came in the door. Joanna had a strange look on her face. She came in the kitchen without mentioning the hot meal that was ready. She grabbed Melvin’s hand and led him up the small stairs and into their bedroom. She closed the door and motioned for him to have a seat. Melvin did as he was told and waited to discover what the hell was going on?

Come back Friday for the conclusion of this tale. 



Melvin and the Wallet #3



“So you found this on Elm street?” Sergeant A.P. Pillsbury asked Melvin as he pulled the cash from the leather wallet.

“Yes sir.”

And you’re turning this in because it doesn’t belong to you?”

“Like I said.”

“Are you some kind of a Good Samaritan or something?”

“No, but my wife is.”

Pillsbury grunted knowingly and filled out a lost and found form. He pushed it to Melvin.

“Here, sign here. If nobody claims it in thirty days, you can have it.”

“No shit?”

“No shit.”

Melvin limped home in the dark secretly hoping nobody would be looking for their missing seven hundred and eighty dollars. Joanne was still sore at him that night for even wanting to keep the money. She also informed him that it was the devil’s money and they would put it in the offering plate if the police gave it back to them. Melvin accepted this as he had a litany of bad news lately.

After Joanne and the kids left the house, Melvin scoured the sofa cushions for change and found enough to make another trip to Freeze’s for Bull Durham.As he trudged along the sidewalk and watched happy people motor by, Melvin wondered how did life get so wrong? What the hell did he do to offend the gods so deeply? Maybe Joanne was right. Maybe he should get right with God and start going to that holy roller church. The thought of that gave him little comfort as he turned to cross Elm street. There was no traffic as the fall wind blew his hat nearly off. He grabbed to hold it down as he glanced into the still gaping  pothole.

Son of a bitch.

He crossed the street and stood there for five long minuted before he turned around and looked. In the street hole lay the wallet. The exact same wallet. Quickly he moved to go back and get it. In his rear pants pocket it felt heavy. Melvin barely recalled going to Freeze’s and buying Bull Durham. He was staring at the money stacked on his kitchen table feeling numb.

Seven hundred and eighty dollars.

After supper, Melvin was aware of his wife and children making small talk and discussing the upcoming revival at the church. Melvin answered questions when they asked him and and chewed his food slowly. It was while he was drying the dishes his wife handed him after she washed them, she noticed he really wasn’t paying attention.



“You tell me.”

“What are you talking about?”

Joanne sat down in a kitchen chair and took on a serious tone. Melvin stared at her for a time and then took a seat across from her. Suddenly he needed to roll a smoke. Smell that raw tobacco stench and light it up. Pull that smoke deep in his lungs-


He looked her straight in the eyes and blurted out “I found it again today.”

“Found  what?”

“The wallet…the money…same amount. It’s upstairs.”

“You’re lying to me. You never turned it in. Do you think I’m stupid? You are hell bent on bringing the wrath of God upon us.”

Melvin tried to respond but it was no use. Joanne made him go get the wallet and hand it to her. She left in a huff and didn’t even put on a coat she was so mad. Melvin knew where she was going. He wondered what A.P. Pillsbury would think now.


Melvin and the Wallet #2


Seven hundred and eighty dollars. All new bills.

Seven hundred and eighty dollars. All new bills.

Seven hundred and eighty dollars. All new bills.

Melvin stuffed the crisp money back in the wallet and rolled a cigarette. He struck a wooden match on the table leg and lit the hand made cigarette.  He blew thick smoke that filled the little kitchen. Nothing else was in there. No license, no business cards, no pictures, no receipts, no nothing. He stared at the full wallet and let his brain get juiced. More than two months pay, at full pay. He shook his head in pain at the thought he knew he couldn’t keep it. Fate was playing another cruel trick on him. He would get in trouble. But more than anything, Joanne would never allow him to have it. Not under these circumstances.

Melvin limped up the stairs to their small bedroom and hid the wallet in his side of the dresser. He wasn’t ready to give up. Not just yet. He went back down stairs and took out his Barlow knife and found a piece of wood. He sat on the porch and whittled. This help calm him down to think of a plan. He knew the odds. Melvin was still sitting on the porch when Joanne and their two kids came home.

Dinner consisted of bologna sandwiches with a little mayonnaise, sliced tomatoes the neighbor gave them, and lettuce from Freeze’s Grocery. Melvin was quiet during the meal and slipped up stairs as Joanne washed the dishes. She was drying the last plate when Melvin reappeared and took a seat at the table.

“Can I talk to you for a minute?”

“What is it? Joanne asked.

“Have a seat?” Joanne took her time folding the dish towel and pulled out a chair. She frowned as she gazed at her husband.

“Is it bad news Melvin?”

“Now why would you think that’s all that happens around here?”

“Because you are acting strange. Wouldn’t say a word during dinner and now I feel like an axe is over your head.”

Melvin took the wallet from his pocket and scooted it across the table until it was right in front of Joanne. Joanne frowned deeper at the wallet like it was a snake.

“What is it?” She inquired. Melvin refused to answer and finally she gingerly picked it up and pulled out the cash. She dropped it on the table like it was a turd.

“Oh my God. Dear Lord Melvin, what did you do?”

“I found it in the middle on Elm Street. Seven hundred and eighty dollars.”

“Well…whose is it?” She demanded.

“I don’t know. There’s no identification in it anywhere. ” Melvin had begun to sweat at this point.

“So, why are you showing it to me? We can’t keep it.”

“I knew you would say that. Why not Joanne?”

“Because it’s not ours. It belongs to somebody, stupid. You want more trouble?”

“No, but think about this. You pray for God to help us, right?”

“Yes, every day, and you better too, Mister.” Joanne got angry.

“Then, maybe he gave us this money. Maybe it’s ours to keep and pay our bills for a while.” As soon as the words left his mouth he knew he was out voted. His heart sank.

Joanne stood up and shook her finger at him. “You go right down to the police station and turn it in. NOW!”

Melvin shook his head and scooped up the money along with its leather home. He left the front door without saying a word.

Part 3 on Monday, August 6