Peculiar Impartations

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bringing Faye Home

The newlyweds, Henry and Faye Johnson, sped down the highway toward Dallas. They would spend their honeymoon night there and leave early the next day for the long drive to Pensacola. Faye was on cloud nine. She sat next to Henry and couldn't stop herself from looking at him and wondering if he was too good to be true. She had never met a man like Henry. He treated her like a queen. He didn't have much money but he made up for that in looks. And he was a hard worker. She had only met him 6 weeks before but they had spent every night together since their first date. Henry rented a room at the Harper Creek Hotel until they got married but he was rarely there. He traveled during the day selling his bibles and he got along great with her kids. Even Tabitha got along with him and that was something because nowadays she hardly got along with anybody. And he was the most handsome man she had ever gone out with.
Henry was quiet as he drove down the highway and seemed to be thinking about something. Faye asked what was on his mind but he just told her he was thinking about their new life together. She wanted to talk but could tell he wasn't in a talking mood. She had noticed that about him before; sometimes he became very quiet and would hardly talk to her. Faye knew that some men were like that and she didn't mind. He didn't seem to mind or even notice that she stared at him a lot.
Faye noticed a sign that read “Quannah 17 Miles” and told Henry she would be ready for a potty break by the time they got there. Henry said that would be fine and they could fill up with gas and maybe find a bite to eat. There probably wouldn't anything but a Dairy Queen there but he promised her a real nice dinner once they were in Pensacola.
About 15 minutes later they drove into Quannah and found the Dairy Queen. Faye really had to go by then and didn't even tell Henry what she wanted to eat before she ran into the bathroom. He sat a a booth and waited for her and noticed the stares of the locals who sat nearby and ate their burgers. He was used to the stares because he was a salesman and spent most of his days visiting small towns and eating in Dairy Queens or little cafes. He noticed that a couple of ladies weren't just staring at him but also whispering to each other as they stared. They seemed peculiar and were making Henry nervous until Faye finally came out of the bathroom. They ordered their dinner and sat in the back of the restaurant away from the staring eyes. Henry noticed the ladies left in what seemed to be a hurry.
As it turned out, one of the ladies was the wife of the county sheriff. Her husband had called her that afternoon to tell her he probably wouldn't be home for dinner because of police business. He also told her to keep her doors locked and don't open them for anybody—especially a bible salesman. She had taken a sack lunch to the sheriff's office and while she was there she saw the fax that had been sent about the traveling bible salesman/murderer. Because it was a fax, the picture wasn't a very good one but when she saw Henry and Faye come into the Dairy Queen, she thought there was a resemblance. When she left the Dairy Queen she drove straight to the sheriff's office.
Henry finished his burger and fries and Faye noticed that he had practically inhaled them.
“Sugar, did you even chew?” she asked.
“I'm just anxious to get back on the road Baby. The sooner we get to Dallas and find a hotel room, the sooner we start our honeymoon.” Henry grinned and winked at Faye when he said that and she wrapped her burger up and grabbed her tater tots and said, “Well then, let's get on the road Tiger!”
As they drove out of town Faye reminded Henry that he needed to stop for gas but he said he had decided that they could make it to Wichita Falls. The two women at the Dairy Queen had made Henry nervous. He prided himself in staying at least a step ahead of the law. He chose small towns for his crime sprees because there was usually no more than a small sheriff's department that protected the small town's citizens and Henry knew he was smarter than those yokels. Still, he caught himself glancing in the rear view mirror as he drove toward Wichita Falls. He was glad that Faye turned the radio up so she would listen rather than talk all the way to Dallas. He was already growing tired of her lovey-dovey talk and goo-gooing eyes. He had an ability to make women melt in his presence and that, in itself, was a fun game. But once the game was won the fun was over and he really had no use for them. He was always amazed at how quickly he could make a woman fall in love with him. He had known Faye for less than 2 months before she was eager to say “I do.”
He was anxious to get to Florida and start his business all over again. There would be a lot of lonely widowed women in Florida who had plenty of money to spend. Of course he had to deal with Faye first; she wouldn't be making the trip to Florida. She would only go as far as Dallas' Trinity River would carry her. Henry laughed to himself and glanced at Faye as she bobbed her head and sang along to “My Baby Loves Lovin'” on the radio.
They drove into Wichita Falls and Henry pulled into the first convenience store he saw. The sooner he gassed up and got back on the road the better. Faye already had to use the bathroom again so she went inside the store to pay for the gas while Henry pumped it. He didn't notice the sheriff's car pull into the parking lot behind him but he heard the wail of sirens that grew louder as they got closer. He looked around nervously and spotted the sheriff's car. As he pulled the nozzle out of the car and put it away he noticed the sheriff standing behind him.
Faye finished in the bathroom and as she walked out she noticed people in the store gathered at the window watching something outside. Just then she heard the approaching sirens and saw the lights.
She made her way to the door and stopped suddenly when she saw that Henry was handcuffed with his face down on the back of their car. She ran out of the store yelling at the police officers and 2 of the officers quickly grabbed her and held her back.
“Henry, what's going on?” she yelled.
Henry just looked over at her and grimaced as the sheriff grabbed his arm and pulled him to the patrol car.
The police officer that was still holding Faye by the arm asked, “Ma'am, are you Faye Watson?”
“Yes! What the hell is going on? That's my husband!”
“Your husband is under arrest ma'am.”
“Well I can see that! What's he under arrest for?”
“Murder and larceny.” The police officer took Faye to his squad car where a female officer was waiting to talk to Faye and explain what was happening.
They had already called Sheriff Joe Barton in Harper Creek to let him know that Faye was alive and well.
Back in Quannah, the sheriff arrived at his house to find his wife sitting at the kitchen table.
“It's all over, dear. Thanks to your keen eyes, that man is in custody and the lady is safe and sound.”
Sheriff Barton left for Wichita Falls as soon as he got the call that Faye was safe and sound and Henry was in custody. The sheriff in Wichita Falls offered to put Faye on a bus but Joe thought Faye would need a familiar face for such a long ride home. He felt sorry for Faye. A single mother in a small town rarely got a break from the usual gossip. When he ate at the cafe, he tipped both Wanda and Faye a little more than he would any other place.
While Faye waited for Joe at the Wichita Falls police station, the shock of Henry's arrest began to wear off and she began to get mad. Of course it had all seemed to be too good to be true, because it was too good to be true. How could she fall for somebody she hardly knew? She still had a hard time believing that Henry or whatever his name was, was a murderer. She never felt like she was in danger. If it was all true about those other women, maybe she was different. Maybe Henry really loved her. As she sat there trying to figure it all out she glanced up just in time to see Henry being escorted by a police officer to another room. He looked right at her but seemed not to even recognize her. She noticed a crooked smile on his face and his eyes were locked straight ahead of him. He looked like a crazy man. She sat there in a room full of strangers; she had never felt so alone. She was relieved when a police officer told her that Sheriff Joe Barton was driving from Harper Creek to pick her up.
Joe finally arrived and Faye was happy to see him. She knew he wouldn't give her a hard time about this foolish mistake, but she dreaded what she was bound to face once she got back to Harper Creek. If she could get her job back at the cafe she would have to face her customers, mostly men from around town. Most of them liked to tease her and Wanda and give them a hard time. She could handle an occasional slap on the rear and she could tease and joke with them but this might just be unbearable. Now she would be the joke. She wished she could just go to another town where nobody knew her.
Joe put his arm around her and squeezed her shoulders. He didn't need to say anything and neither did Faye. Finally, after talking to some of the policemen, Joe told Faye it was time they headed home. One of the police women had taken Faye into the ladies' room to freshen up and fix her make up. She didn't realize that she had been crying. Her mascara had run down her cheeks and onto her white blouse. After she had finished with her make up she changed blouses and carried her suitcase out of the bathroom. Joe took it from her and they walked to the car without saying a word to each other.
Faye stared out the window at the full moon as they drove out of Wichita Falls. She chuckled as she quietly told herself it was a “FOOL moon.” Not being in the mood for a conversation, she wished she hadn't said anything.
Joe didn't really know what to say to her. His wife had taught him, after 34 years of marriage, that sometimes it was best not to say anything when you didn't know what to say. Still, the silence became even more awkward when he heard Faye chuckle and mutter something about a full moon.
“Are you alright Faye?” As soon as he said it, he knew it was a stupid thing to say. Of course she wasn't alright.
“Oh, Joe,” Faye continued to stare at the moon, “It's never gonna be alright. I'm such a fool.”
“Now Faye,” Joe wished he hadn't said anything, “You couldn't have known about that guy. He's a clever con man. Been at it for years. You're pretty lucky, you know.”
“Lucky? Really Joe?” Faye was angry now but realized that Joe was just trying to figure out what to say to her. Usually she liked to put men in this position but she didn't like doing it now. Joe was a good guy and she knew he looked out for her and Wanda.
Then the tears started and she couldn't stop them. Joe glanced over at her and looked back at the road. He felt like an idiot telling her she was lucky.
He started to pull over but Faye put her hand on his shoulder and told him to keep going.
“I'm alright Joe. Really, I appreciate you coming to get me.” She put her purse in her lap to look for a tissue and discovered that someone had put a travel size package of tissues on top. Probably the lady cop who took her to the bathroom to wash her face and fix her makeup.
“I thought I was getting out of Harper Creek for good this time. I thought life was finally turning out right for me.
“Now I've got to face all those old biddies who'll look at me when they pass me on the street and just shake their busybody old heads at me.
“And my kids are going to hate me because the other kids at school are gonna make fun of them for having such a fool for a mother. I wished Henry had of just killed me...”
“Now you just hush up right now, Faye.” Joe couldn't believe what he had just heard. “Your mama and those kids have been worried near to death about you. When I told them you were okay they were all so happy they cried.
“Forget about those old women that don't have nothing better to do than gossip and your kids can take care of themselves at school. Hell, kids can take a lot more than you think.
“You got people who care about you and you just think about them right now and don't ever let me hear you say you wished that man had killed you.”
Faye wiped the mascara off her cheeks and wished she hadn't let herself cry. Joe was right. She wouldn't let those old Harper Creek hags get to her. She couldn't wait to see her kids and her mom. Then, she thought about Wanda. Wanda would be glad that she was back in town. She felt bad about leaving now. She said to herself, “If I ever do get out of that town I'm taking Wanda with me.”
They didn't talk any more for the rest of the trip and finally they came to the familiar curve in the road and knew that they were home. They rounded the curve and saw the flashing yellow light ahead and the few street lights that lit up main street. It was almost midnight and the little town was quiet. They turned onto Main Street and they were the only car on the road. Faye was glad it was late so that the kids would be asleep. She knew her mom would be waiting for her with a hug and a shoulder to cry on. Her mom had never criticized her for the choices she had made and she knew she wouldn't now.
In front of the house she turned to Joe and told him, “Joe, really, thank you for getting me home. I sure was glad to see you walk in the door at the police station.”
“Glad to do it Faye. Give us a call if you need anything.”
Joe carried her suitcase to the porch and they said goodnight. The porch light was on and the door was unlocked. Her mother was asleep in the recliner and Faye covered her with an afghan from the back of the sofa. She looked in on the kids who were all fast asleep and she took a blanket and pillow from the hall closet and lay down on the sofa. It felt good to be home, even though she had only been gone a few hours. It seemed like she'd been gone for ages.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Harper Creek Part I

Part I

Bessie Cowan lived in a small farming town in the Texas panhandle. The town was called Harper Creek but there was no creek in sight. There was a creek about 17 miles west of town and, according to local historians, that was the site of the original township. When the state put in the highway back in 1903 the town was moved next to the highway with the hopes of becoming a thriving city. That never happened. The population of Harper Creek was 437 and everybody knew everybody whether they wanted to or not.

Bessie was a stout farm wife and mother of 9 grown children. Her husband Bill was a cotton farmer and handyman. They grew a nice garden and had a small peach orchard along with a few cows and some chickens. Bessie made a little “mad money” by selling eggs in town and some of the peaches and vegetables to one of the produce stands along the highway. Because he could build, fix and paint just about anything, Bill often hired out his services in town and in a few of the other little towns nearby. Now that Bessie and Bill's children had all grown and moved out of the house they lived a comfortable life on their little farm.

Only 2 of their children still lived near the little town of Harper Creek. Darla lived on a farm with her husband and 3 children about 5 miles out of town and Wanda lived in town with her 4 children. Wanda was a disappointment to Bessie but she never told that to anyone. Wanda had married right after she finished high school. She married the first guy that came along. He was an Air Force man who was stationed in Clovis, NM when they met. Wanda's senior class had gone to Clovis on a field trip to visit the Air Force base and they met in the commissary. Bessie tried her darnedest to talk Wanda out of marrying that man. She knew Wanda just wanted to get out of Harper Creek and thought that Air Force man would show her the world. They were married 5 years and they never got out of Clovis. Well, he got out alright. He took off with another woman and went AWOL when Wanda was pregnant with his 4th child. Wanda divorced that lowlife and moved back to Harper Creek to have her baby and raise her children. She got a job waiting tables at Nan's Highway Cafe.

Bessie and Wanda didn't have a great relationship. Wanda worked long hours and she kept a clean house but she spent a lot of Saturday nights at a bar over in Willis County. Harper Creek was in Jackson County and Jackson County was dry. Bessie thought it wasn't fitting for a single mother to be out gallivanting around. She should be home with her children and if she wanted to find a husband she should be looking at church, not at a bar.

One Friday morning Bessie had just gathered the eggs from the chicken coop and was standing at the kitchen sink washing and drying them off and putting them in the egg cartons that her customers and friends dutifully saved for her. As she washed the eggs she sang "Muskrat Love" and wished she could get that song out of her head. She heard it on the radio earlier in the morning and she'd had it in her head ever since. Then she heard a knock at her front door. She laid the egg in the sink and dried her hands before she went to the door to see who was there. She cocked her head to one side and squinted her eyes as she approached the screen door to see who was standing there. Standing on the front porch was a man in a brown suit with his hands in his pockets and facing the yard. She called out, "Hello there" to get his attention.

The man quickly turned around and smiled big as he said, "Hello ma'am. I'm Henry Johnson and I'm from the Garden of Eden Bible Company in Kansas City. I would like to show you a family bible that I think you'll be very interested in." As he said this he reached down and picked up a briefcase.
"Well, Mr. Johnson I already have a bible so..."
"But do you have a bible like this?" Mr. Johnson swung the brief case up to rest on one hand and quickly opened the two latches and lifted the lid. Bessie was impressed by his smooth action but didn't want to let on. Mr. Johnson was a handsome man who looked to be in his mid to late thirties. His suit was neatly pressed and his hair was neatly trimmed and parted to one side. Bessie looked at his finger nails and saw that they were neatly trimmed and clean. Mr. Johnson was holding the case with his left hand and Bessie wondered if there was a ring on his middle finger. There was something about this man that she liked. She thought to herself, "Now why can't Wanda find a man like this?"
She hadn't had a chance to look at the bible before Mr. Johnson asked,"May I take a few minutes of your time to show you all the features in this beautiful book of the Lord's word?"
"Well, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to look." Bessie unlatched the hook on the screen door to open it and motioned Mr. Johnson inside. She pointed to the sofa and told him to have a seat.
"Would you like a glass of iced tea or some water Mr. Johnson?"
"No thank you ma'am and please, call me Henry."
Bessie moved her crochet work out of her chair and put it on the end table and sat down.

Henry had taken the bible out of the briefcase and was holding it out to Bessie.
She took the thick bible and noticed the cover had a beautiful picture of Jesus with a slight smile and sparkling eyes that seemed to be looking right at her. The rest of the bible was padded and covered with a burgundy material that felt like leather. It was heavy and much larger than the bible she carried to church. Henry reached over and opened the cover to the first page.
She noticed that Henry didn't have a ring on his wedding finger and smiled. Henry took the smile to mean that she was impressed with the bible so far.
There was an inscription on the page that read, "Johnson Family Bible." Henry pointed to the inscription and said, "We'll inscribe your bible with your family name at no extra cost to you. May I ask your family name ma'am?"
"Why, I'm sorry Henry. It's Cowan, I'm Bessie Cowan."

He contiued to show her other pages where Bessie could record births, deaths and marriages. Then he pointed out the bolder, easy to read print and that Jesus' words were printed in red in the New Testament. He showed her the index and maps of the old world in the back and the color pictures throughout the bible depicting scenes as they were described in the bible.
Bessie liked the bible and had always wanted a nice family bible to set on her coffee table. She didn't really like the burgundy and asked Henry if that was the only color available. He opened his brief case and pulled out a card that had 6 blocks of different colors on it. He handed her the card and told her she could choose any of those colors at no extra charge.
Bessie was sold. Not so much on the bible but she was devising a plan and she had to think quick.
"How much is the bible Mr. Johnson, er Henry?" Bessie was practically beaming.
"This one-of-a-kind bible can be yours to pass along to future generations for years to come for $75." Henry studied Bessie's face as he said this and noticed a frown forming.
"I know that's a lot of money ma'am but it's not just a bible, it's a family heirloom. Not only would it look beautiful sitting right there on your coffee table for everyone to enjoy but it would also hold your family's memories for years to come. This is something that your grandchildren's grandchildren will cherish one day."

The frown was still on Bessie's face but Henry saw a glimmer in her eyes and knew it was time for the hook.
"I'll tell you what Mrs. Cowan, without the inscription I could knock $10 off the price and you can pay it in 3 monthly installments."
Bessie got an idea and asked, "Can you give me some time to think about it and let me talk to my husband?"
Henry shook his head from side to side and said, "Well, ma'am I'm just passing through town and have a couple of other stops but I have to be moving on."
Bessie knew that Wanda was working at the cafe until 7 o'clock that evening so she said, "Oh dear, I guess I'll have to pass then. I just couldn't spend that kind of money without talking to my husband." Now it was time for Bessie's hook, "It's a beautiful bible and I would love to have it but I guess it just wasn't meant to be."
"Well, now Mrs. Cowan I'll tell you what. I'll be coming back through town next Wednesday. Do you think I could stop by and get your answer then?"
Henry's disappointment was obvious but Bessie was very pleased with herself and she beamed, "Why yes! That would be just fine." They both stood up at the same time and Henry gently shook Bessie's hand and promised to see her the following week as he walked out the front door. Bessie stood at the door and watched him get in his car and drive down the road. Now, she just had to figure out how she would get Wanda to come over next Monday.


The stories posted on this blog (Peculiar Impartations) are orginal fiction written by Steve Hamilton.
They are copyrighted on the date they are published on this blog.

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