Melvin and the Wallet #4

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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

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“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.

“Melvin.”

“What?”

“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-

“MELVIN!”

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

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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

 

 

Melvin and the Wallet

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His weathered hands still trembled as he held the billfold he had found an hour earlier in the middle of Elm Street. Lately he experienced few pleasures in the long days at home, and walking to Freeze’s Grocery Store for a fresh sack of Bull Durham was the pinnacle. Melvin’s wife was known as a back-slid Baptist for the past ten years but one of the neighbors, Shirley Bassett, convinced her to attend Reverend Dr. Julius P Shoemaker’s tent revival last summer and afterward joined the Iron Creek Holiness Church and adhered to a very strict lifestyle for the past six months. Melvin was also held to a different standard and getting to smoke hand rolled cigarettes was about all that remained of his former lifestyle. Beer and hard liquor was no longer tolerated. Going to the movies or having a television  set was forbidden as well as salty language. Melvin loved Joanne but refused her new rules at first, but then the accident occurred.

Eleven years at Morton Oil Company and he had never missed a day. Melvin toiled in the shipping department and loaded pallets of cooking oil to be sold in stores all over the country. Once he had a New Year’s hangover that lasted three days, plus he caught a bad case of the flu, and still he worked ten hour days the whole week. He winced as he recalled looking up at the full pallets of fifty five gallon barrels of refined cooking oil on the fork lift. This part of the plant took the manufactured oil and sent it to the line where it was bottled and shipped. The pallet cracked loud as the cascade of barrels fell. Melvin felt the bone snap below his knee before he fell into the sea of oil and passed out. The company doctor kept saying the injury was not permanent and his half pay disability would run out in three weeks. Joanne had to return to the diaper factory to help keep a roof over their heads and therefore was entitled to mandate new rules of morality. Joanne hated the fact he still smoked and spent many evenings thumbing to find Bible passages that would come right out and say God didn’t like it either. Melvin agree to quit by the end of the year.

That same morning he rolled over and bed and reached for the bottle of aspirin to quell the pain from his leg. Joanne was frying bacon and calling the children to the table for breakfast. Melvin wet down his hair and combed it into a presentable form and joined them. Guilt stabbed him as he waved goodbye to his wife and children as they walked to school and work. He sat on the porch hoping his leg would heal soon and life would return to normal. As they went out of sight, he reached for the sack of Bull Durham and saw it was almost empty. He reasoned there was enough for about half a cigarette. It still hurt to walk. He slowly moved across Elm Street and noticed the leaves were starting to fall and drift into piles. The air was cooler and that meant the hot summer was gone. He almost stepped into the pot hole, that would have caused even more problems, when he saw it lying there. He crossed the street and stopped, looked back and watched as a car went by. Was that a billfold? It must have fallen from someone’s car. Surely they would be back. Melvin waited and grew tired. He wanted to smoke. It was not his wallet.

He wandered around Freeze’s Grocery Store and was reminded how low they were on food. He bought the fifty cent’s worth of tobacco and begin his way back home. When he got to Elm Street, he was surprised the wallet was still resting down in the crater. He was sure someone would have claimed it by now. Melvin watched himself stroll over the pot hole, scoop up the billfold, and jam it in his pocket. No cars or neighbors were in sight. Melvin limped home and went to the kitchen table. Forgetting his tobacco crave, he pulled a wad of currency from the wallet and sweated as he counted.

Come back Friday for more of this story…

Strawberry Milk

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When I was just a boy, a wee little lad

sometimes when I was gloomy, sorry and sad

my grandmother would smile and wave me close

in the kitchen we would go for a happy little dose

she would slice and cut a big old glass

of red plump berries to pour in fast

good old milk and together they tasted fine

my child’s mood lifted my face to a shine

strawberry milk always did the trick

the concoction got me through even when I was sick

it reminds me of her and all her sweet love

I feel her smiling from the heavens above

 

Hotel

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rooms of people people in rooms

the cleaning maids using brooms

shoe shine in the lobby twenty five cents

over worked desk man sings a sad lament

men in suits ladies in dresses

adultery committed daily by villains and villainesses

tired train travelers seeking a simple bed

penthouse tenant lying there dead

crimes and holidays are celebrated the same

bookies and suckers pay the winless game

the colorful and the drab all check in

the era was segregation by the color of your skin

balls and happy weddings born every day

the welcomed guests were glad to pay

telephone booths were a plenty on every floor

wood was dark and polished on every door

royalty and commoners slept in beds at night

occasional ghosts were witnessed having a friendly right

twelve out of twelve you could always depend

the hotel would reach out and be a memorable friend

 

 

 

Travel Blades

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made of strong metal

snapped and curved

in a factory where

English is not spoken

it takes the body

the areoplane

up…up… into the sky

past birds and clouds

across the watery boundaries

into strange lands

for many years they seek

they travel even at night

carrying people and cargo

fruit and sometimes monkeys

sawing through rainy storms

icy droplets

tornado winds

and perfect skies

fast and in a hurry

where dreams await

and lives are knitted

together

or torn apart by war

and wounded

or killed

or coming home

or changing the course

of one’s life

travel blades

pull the air

and take you there