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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Four southern men of various ages and interests discover a common interest in bandleader, Lawrence Welk.

Submitted: March 22, 2018

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Submitted: March 22, 2018





Charles V. Walker, Jr.


"Dat one dere's prob'ly goin' off ta France, Ah bet." Forty-four year old Jesse "Popeye" Garner was sitting on the front porch of his house smoking cigarettes and drinking beer, and enjoying an early fall evening. The cloudless sky had given him an unobstructed view of planes arriving at and departing from Dulles Airport.

For the past fifteen years, he had been a general maintenance worker at the Creston Training Center, CTC, located in Chickahominy, a small, residential subsection of Creston, Virginia. The CTC had been established in 1951 as part of a "Federal Relocation Arc" of underground bunkers built to support continuity of government in the event of a nuclear attack on Washington, D.C. Creston's close proximity to the nation's capitol, it was approximately fifty miles south of D.C., was a contributing factor.

Popeye reached down to rub the head and ears of his black, Labrador Retriever, Blue, who lay on the wooden porch's floorboards beside Popeye's chair. "Whatcha think, Blue? Ya wanna go ta France one day, boy? Fine yo'self a nice French Poodle?" The dog looked up at Popeye and wagged its tail, as a few fireflies blinked and floated under the porch's roof and in the driveway. He could hear the chirps of crickets and the deep-throated croaking of a nearby bullfrog. 

Popeye lived in Marble City, another small, residential subsection of Creston. He and his wife, Eunice, who had gone to visit her aunt in Alexandria for the weekend, had been married nearly twenty years. Their seventeen year old so, Christopher, had gone to a football game at the Lennix High School, and was going to a party afterwards. With an empty house, Popeye was left with his dog and nothing better to do than watch airplanes, smoke cigarettes, and drink beer.

It was almost ten o'clock and Popeye was contemplating what time he should get ready for bed. His bedtime was usually predicated upon whatever time Eunice felt like going to bed. With her absent, he felt a bit out of sync. "Maybe Ah'll have one mo’ beer befo' callin' it a night," he thought, as he rose to go into the house. Blue stood and stared down the road. Popeye stopped to see what had caught the dog's attention. He soon saw a man walking down the road with a guitar case strapped to his back. Blue barked a warning.

As the man got closer, Popeye could see that it was Duncan Fisk. The four feet, ten inches tall Fisk was a mildly mentally ill, but harmless, white man who attended various sporting events at Lennix County High School. He'd sit in the stands, strumming his guitar and singing. Nobody ever asked him what was his rationale for doing this. Additionally, as no one could hear his guitar or singing above the crowd noise and the particular sports venue's loudspeaker system, most of the people in attendance paid him little or no attention. This, however, did nothing to discourage Fisk's guitar playing, singing or enthusiasm for Lennix County High School's sports teams.

"S'okay, Blue," said Popeye in low voice. "Is jus' crazy Fisk." Popeye had seen the man at several high school sporting events. Occasionally, if happenstance placed them near each other in the stands, they had talked about music and the Washington Redskins professional football team in the interludes between Fisk's guitar playing.

It was believed that Fisk came from a well-to-do, Creston family who were descendents of the town's original settlers. It was also believed that his family paid his mortgage and other bills, and provided him with a fairly substantial monthly stipend. But, his manner of dress indicated none of this, as he always wore one of the same three shirts, black jacket, blue bib overalls, straw boater hat and black work boots. He appeared to be in his mid- to late sixties.

Seeing Blue, Fisk hesitantly approached the house and stopped. "A good evening to you, Mr. Garner, sir," he said loudly in his very precise, clipped manner of speaking, as he removed his hat.  "I was passing by after attending tonight's football game, which Lennix lost by the way, and I happened to see your lights were still on."

Popeye laughed. "Yes, sir, Mr. Fisk. What cain Ah do fo' you?"

"Well, you see the game went on longer than anticipated and I missed my ride back to Dumfries. Unfortunately, the gentleman who would normally come to my assistance is a bit under the weather. Nasty head cold. Change of seasons and all." A small gust of wind ruffled his long salt and pepper hair.

"In any event, I noticed the pick-up truck in your driveway, and was hoping I might impose upon you to take me to Dumfries. Of course, I'd be more than happy to compensate you for your troubles, as well as pay for gasoline."

Popeye fought back the urge to laugh and ask, "Are you crazy?" Instead he thought about the time the school's bus had broken down on the way to a basketball game. He, other parents and team supporters were at a loss as to what to do. Popeye, who was smoking a cigarette near a telephone booth, saw Fisk, who had hitched a ride with Jerry Lacey, step into the booth. He overheard him giving directions to someone on the other end of the line. Fifteen minutes later, another bus arrived. After the team re-loaded, and everyone else returned to their respective vehicles, the caravan of players, coaches, cheerleaders, the school band, and supporters, continued onto their destination. When they reached their opponents' school, Popeye saw Fisk hand the bus driver some money.

He also thought about how his friend, Felton Murrell, who taught music at Lennix High County School, told him that he believed several anonymous donations to the school's music program had, in actuality, come from Fisk.

"Well, Mr. Fisk, Ah wouldn't mine givin' you a lif' innat raggedy truck, but as Ah've had a few beers, we might hafta take de backroads goin' downnair so it might take a bit longa."

Fisk replied, "My good man that would be no problem at all. No problem at all."

"Good. An' one uvver thing, ya gonna hafta ride in de middle, cuz Blue likes de winda."

"I'd be delighted. I'd never want to inconvenience Mr. Blue."

Popeye went into the house to get his hat, a jacket, the keys to his pick-up truck and to leave a note for Christopher. When he came back onto the porch, Blue was standing next to Fisk having his head and back rubbed; his tail was quickly wagging. Popeye locked the house's door.

"C'mon, Blue," said Popeye. "Leave Mr. Fisk alone."

The dog ran to Popeye. "Beautiful dog. He's no problem," said Fisk. "No problem at all."

Popeye smiled. "Okay, Mr. Fisk, lemme give ya a han' gittin' up inna truck," Popeye said, as he began walking towards the pick-up. Taking the guitar from Fisk's shoulder, Popeye put it in the truckbed under some tree branches of varying sizes, weeds and brush. "Dat's some stuff Ah'm takin' down ta George Lawson's tomorra, so he cain burn it fo' me."

Popeye, holding Fisk under his armpit and by his elbow, heped him into the truck's cab. "Seat's kinda busted up in de middle, so watch your back an' butt on dose springs."

Once seated, Fisk said, "Thank you, kind sir. You are a gentleman in every sense of the word." He briefly lifted his hat, then placed it back on his head. "And, as I've told you on previous occassions, you can call me Duncan, if you'd like."

 Popeye shouted, "Les go, Blue!" The dog leapt up into the pick-up truck. After rolling down the passenger's side window, Popeye closed the door. Blue sat, licked Fisk on his moderately wrinkled face, and then stuck his head out of the window.

Popeye got into the truck. He started it, put it in gear and drove toward High Street.  "Is your son going to be okay?" Fisk asked.

 "Yep. Ah lef' himma note an' he has keys," replied Popeye. "How 'bout you, Mr. Fisk, I mean Duncan?"

"I'm just fine, Mr. Garner. Snug as a bug in a rug. As a bug in a rug." He had his hands clasped together and in his lap, and could feel coiled springs from the seat pressing into his back and left buttock.

After driving along High Street for a hundred yards, the truck eventually came to a STOP sign at the top of a hill. There was a loud noise in the the truckbed. Popeye, Fisk and Blue reflexively turned to see what it was; Blue growled. "Quiet, Blue," said Popeye, as he climbed out of the cab with a lug wrench clenched in his fist and walked towards the back of the truck.

"Give us a ride ta town, Mr. Popeye," came a voice from the truckbed. It was Albert "Cabbage" Williams and his twin brother, Braxton.

"You crazy bastards scared de shit outta me," scolded Popeye. "What in de hell y'all doin' prowlin' 'round in de middle uvda night jumpin' in de back o' people's trucks?"

Cabbage replied, "We jus' wanna go fo' a ride, Mr. Popeye. Dat's all. Didn't meanta scare ya."

Cabbage and Braxton lived with their paternal grandmother, Josephine Williams; their parents were deceased. They were in there early twenties, and suffered from autism. One of the symptoms of this was an undeveloped sense of right and wrong; it sometimes made them act childlike in their interactions with other people.

Popeye couldn't help but laugh. "Wair's Miss Josephine at? She know y'all out dis time uh night?"

"She gon ta bed early," answered Cabbage. "We tole huh we was gon go see you. She say, 'Alright, boys. Beyhave ova dere'"

Popeye smiled. He could almost hear their grandmother's voice. "Well, Ah'm takin' Mr. Fisk ta Dumfries. Ah guess y'all cain tag along. Keep y'all outta trouble."

"Thank you," said Cabbage. Fisk waved at the men through the cab's back window. "Ain't dat de crazy, white man always playin' de guitar?" He and his brother were staring at Fisk.

"Yes," a smiling Popeye replied. "Dat's him. Stop starin'. Y'all cain ride, but beyhave. Now, y'all need ta sit down and hole on. Watch out fo' dem stickabras." He was referring to the weeds that had sharp thorns. "An' don't mess wif dat guitar backair."

"Okay, Mr. Popeye," both men replied. They moved the contents of the truckbed around and sat on its floor.

Popeye walked back to the front of the truck. As he climbed back into the driver's seat, he began to feel as if he had wandered into that cuckoo's nest movie he and Eunice had seen in Manassas last year. He laughed to himself.

"Everything alright, Mr. Garner?" asked Fisk.

"Yep. Jus' picked up a coupla hitchhikas." He put the truck in gear and drove away.

As he drove, Popeye thought he heard the sound of a harmonica. He knew it wasn't coming from the truck's broken radio.

"Do ya hear dat harmonica, Duncan?"

"Yes, indeed. I thought it might've been the radio playing, but then I realized it was broken." He looked below the dashboard at the radio which was missing a volume knob and three auto-tuning buttons.

Popeye looked through the truck's rearview mirror. He saw Braxton holding a harmonica to his mouth. "Well, Ah'll be damned. Boy don't sound too bad."

"That does sound nice," said Fisk.

Popeye then reached into his shirt pocket for his cigarettes; he patted the other pocket. "Shit!"

Fisk was startled. "What seems to be the problem, Mr. Garner?"

"Ah thank Ah lef' ma cig'rettes back at de house."

"Well, you can pull over somewhere, and I'll gladly buy you a pack."

"Ah was gonna haveta pull ova anyway an' use de bafroom. Too many beers. Ah think dere's a small gas station somwheres on dis road. Needta fill up, too."

Approximately a mile further along, Popeye saw a sign reading, Frank's Gas Open 24 Hours. He guided the vehicle into the gas station lot and up to the two gasoline pumps. An attendant walked out of the glass building.

"You needta use de bafroom, Duncan? Or you want sumfin from de sto'?"

"No, sir. I'm fine. Just fine and dandy."

"Fill 'er up," said Popeye, as he opened the door and climbed out of the truck, with Blue coming out behind him. "Wair's yo' bafroom at?"

"'Round de uvva side uvvat red shack," replied the attendant.

Popeye walked to where the Williams brothers were sitting. Blue ran off towards a group of trees and hedges. "Y'all gotta use de bafroom?" he asked.

"Yessir, Mr. Popeye, sir. Thank you, Mr. Popeye," said Cabbage. Braxton put his harmonica back in his sock, then both he and his brother jumped out of the truck and followed Popeye.

Fisk got out of the truck and bent over to touch his toes and twist his torso. Several minutes later, he saw the Williams brothers returning to the truck. "That was a beautiful song were you playing on your harmonica, young man?"

"Dat was de ending music from de Lawrence Welk show. Ah 'ont know de name, doe," replied Braxton.

Fisk was a bit startled that someone this young knew about Lawrence Welk. "The name of the song is 'Adios, au Revoir, Auf Wiedersehn'. But, how did you hear it?"

"Me an' Cabbage always watch Lawrence Welk wif our granmuvver. Ah think Cabbage jus' likes de way dat black guy tap dances. He almos' broke his neck tryin' ta dance like 'at one time."

Cabbage blushed, laughed and then gently punched his brother on the arm. "Shut up, Brax."

Braxton continued. "But, we missed de las' few weeks, cause dat ole, broken down tv's 'bout ready fo' a trip ta de dump."

"Ah toldju an' nana ta quit beatin' onnit wif yo' shoes. Dat's no way ta git a pictcha," said Cabbage. "Got dem 'tennas so twisted up, look like a piece o' licorice."

"Shut up," replied Braxton, who then laughed.

Popeye came out of the bathroom and went into the gasoline station's store. Blue trailed in behind him until Popeye turned, opened the door allowed the dog to exit and said, "Stay!" The dog sat down outside looking through the door with his tail wagging.

Braxton continued. "Wif music, all Ah haveta do is hear a song one time an' Ah nevva forgit it." He reached down and took the harmonica out of his sock, and began playing "Moon River".

Fisk was amazed. "You certainly have a talent, young man."

"Quit showin' off wif dat Lawrence Welk stuff," said Cabbage. "When you cain do some Earf, Wind and Fire, den you onta sumfin." He laughed, but there was no mistaking the pride in his voice.

Popeye came out of the store carrying two sodas. He and Blue walked over to the attendant. "How much Ah owe you," he asked.

"Dat white guy in de straw hat already took care uvit," the attendant answered, reaching down to pat the dog's head.

"Beautiful dawg."

"Thanks," replied Popeye, as he walked to where his three passengers were standing.

 "Which one o' y'all wanted de grape Nehi an' which one de orange?" asked Popeye, extending his arms. Cabbage and Braxton took their respective sodas. "Thank you, Mr. Popeye," said Cabbage. "Thank you, Mr. Popeye," said Braxton.

"Okay. Y'all ready ta roll?"

Fisk said, "For this part of our journey, I'm going to ride in back with the Williams brothers, Braxton and Cab . . ." Fisk hesitated, then said, "I'm sorry, what's your real name, son?"

"It's Albert, sir."

"Okay. I'm riding back here with Albert and Braxton. My two newest, mutual Lawrence Welk admiring friends."

“Lawrence Welk, huh?” said Popeye.  “Me an’ Eunice like ‘at show. Ah really like de tap dance guy.”

“You mean Arthur Duncan?” asked Fisk.

“Yeah, dat’s him. Arfur Duncan.  He cain really move.”

“Can you dance too, Mr. Garner?” Fisk asked.

“Not like 'at fella on de show, but afta a few beers an’ a few shots uh whiskey, Ah might do some steppin’,” he said with a large grin, as he did a heel-toe-heel-toe movement. "But Ah like 'at Lawrence Welk show, too."

Fisk laughed.

"Anyway, you sho ‘bout ridin’ in de back?" asked Popeye. "Gits kinda cool backair."

"I'll be fine. No need to worry. Besides, I want to get a better listen to Braxton's harmonica playing. It's wonderful."

Popeye lowered the door on the cab, while Cabbage and Braxton stood on both sides of Fisk, and lifted him into the truckbed. Popeye closed the door. Braxton climbed in, followed by Cabbage, who farted as he climbed up.

"I certainly hope that is not a song we'll be hearing again," said Fisk. All four men laughed.

"Okay," said Popeye. "Duncan if it gits too cold back hair, jus' knock on de glass."

"Will do, sir. Will do."

"C'mon, Blue," commanded Popeye. The dog ran and jumped into the cab. Popeye got in and after making sure everyone was safely and securely seated, drove out of the gasoline station's lot.

They had traveled five miles, when Popeye heard the harmonica again. Only this tiime, it was accompanied by the sounds of a guitar. A few miles later, he heard someone singing "Moon River", and they had a beautiful voice. Looking in the rearview mirror, he was surprised to see it was Cabbage. "What comes out dat boy's front end sounds much betta den what comes out his back end," thought Popeye, chuckling to himself.

The harmonica and guitar playing, as well as the singing continued, while Popeye listened and drove. After approximately another forty minutes, Popeye saw a sign reading, Dumfries City Limits. There was a knocking on the glass. "Please make a right turn at that yellow house, Mr. Garner." Popeye followed Fisk's directions. There was another knock on the glass. "Follow this fence until you see a mailbox with a large, plastic rooster on it. That's my house."

The truck finally reached Fisk's house, and when it came to a stop, the Williams brothers each jumped out. Popeye and Blue got out and walked towards the back, where Popeye lowered the reardoor. Fisk held out his arms, and with one brother holding each side, was lowered to the ground. Popeye raised the door into place. After several tries, it latched back into place, but hung slightly askew. He kicked it a few times before it straightened and shut.

"Gentleman, this has been a pleasure beyond my imagining," said Fisk. "Albert and Braxton, you are rare talents and should pursue your music as much as you can."

Cabbage and Braxton blushed. "Thank you."

"Lennix has another home game in two weeks, and I'd love to have you join me in musically motivating them to victory!"

The brothers laughed and said, "Ah like de way you talk, Mr. Fisk," said Cabbage. "If you mean you want us ta meetchu at de game, we will."

Fisk continued, "Now, Mr. Garner, can we step over here for a moment? Excuse us, gentlemen."

Popeye, accompanied by Blue, followed Fisk a few feet away from the truck. "In terms of compensation for your driving skills and the use of your truck, I . . ."

Popeye held up his hand; Fisk stopped speaking. "Duncan you already paid fo' de gas an' Ah wasn't doin' nuffin 'cept decidin' what time ta go ta bed."

"But, Mr. Garner . . ."

"Jus' gimme ten dollas so Ah cain buy some beer fo' me an' Pete Lawson when Ah take-at stuff onna backa ma truck downta his place tomorra."

Fisk laughed. "Surely you're joking, Mr. Garner."

"Ten dollas. Dat's ma final offa," Popeye said and laughed.

"So be it." He gave Popeye a ten dollar bill.

After they shook hands with Fisk, the three men loaded back into the truck. Fisk walked over to Blue and rubbed him on the head. "I enjoyed your company, Mr. Blue." The dog's tail wagged back and forth.

As the truck moved away, the men waved farewell to Fisk, and he turned and walked towards his house.



Several days later, Popeye was sitting on his porch waiting for Eunice to come home from her job at Lennix County Hospital. He saw a new pick-up truck followed by another car come over the small hill on the road leading to his house. "Somebody's got a nice, new truck," he thought to hImself.

When the truck and the car following it turned into his driveway, he and Blue stood up. The truck came to a stop in front of Popeye's porch and the driver got out.

"Good evening, sir," said the man. "I'm looking for a Jesse Garner."

"Ya fount 'im," replied Popeye.

"Great! My dealership was asked to deliver this Ford Courier to you."

Popeye laughed. "Ah cain't afford dat truck."

"No, no, Mr. Garner. You don't understand. It's already been purchased for you. All you have to do is sign these documents."

"Who bought it?"

The man checked the sheet. "Well, that's unusual."

"What?" Popeye asked.

"There isn't a purchaser's name listed."

Popeye smiled. "What's de catch?"

"None, sir. It probably just means that whoever purchased it wishes to remain anonymous. Perhaps it was Santa Claus." Popeye and the man laughed.

"Ah havva feelin' Santa Claus plays de guitar, too."

"Excuse me."

"Nevvamind. Where do Ah sign?"

The man handed Popeye the clipboard and a pen. "Just sign here and here," said the man pointing to blank lines on two documents. Popeye did and handed the clipboard back to the man.

"Thank you, sir. Now I'll be on my way. Have a good evening, Mr. Garner." The man walked towards the car that had come in behind the truck, got in it and it drove away.

Popeye stepped off the porch and began walking towards the new truck. He opened the driver side door and got in. "Smells nice," he said. He turned the radio on and off. "Cab seems bigga. Plenty o' room fo' me an' Blue up hair."

He saw a flat, rectangular object wrapped in brown paper on the dashboard. When he picked it up, he saw that it had his name on it. "What in de hell is dis?" Popeye said to himself, as he began removing the paper. Inside was a small, wooden placard that read:

"I expect to pass through this world but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do any fellow human being let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I will not pass this way again."

- - Stephen Grellet

Popeye smiled. "Gonna hang dis on de dinin' room wall," he thought.

Not far up the road from Popeye's house, a Sears delivery truck was making its way back to the warehouse. It had just left a brand new color television at the Williams' house. Josephine Williams and her two grandsons were taking the television out of the box.

"Nana," asked Cabbage. "What's in dis envelope dat man gave us?"

Josephine took the envelope from Cabbage, opened it, and began reading the note it contained aloud:

Dear Miss Williams, Albert and Braxton

I hope this will keep Lawrence Welk's champagne bubbles floating in your house for many, many years to come.


Your friend,

Duncan Fisk

P.S. This must remain our secret.

 "Dat's de crazy white man we was tellin' you 'bout, nana," said Cabbage.

Josephine Williams smiled and said, "Well, bless his crazy, white man heart."



A little over a week later, Popeye and Christopher were pulling out of their driveway on the way to Lennix County High School's football game. "This is a nice truck, Dad."

"So ya don't mine ridin' wif yo ole man now, huh?" Popeye said, teasingly.

Christopher blushed, laughed and said. "Aww, c'mon. That other truck smelled like old, burnt wood an' stuff. You used it ta take garbage ta the dump. Plus you know it was cryin' for a paint job."

Popeye laughed. He slowed as they reached the STOP sign at the top of the hill. He and Christopher felt a bump and heard a noise in the truck's bed.

"Goin' ta de game, Mr. Popeye? asked Cabbage. "Me an' Braxton need a ride. Gotta meet Mr. Fisk at de game."

Popeye smiled. "Yeah, boys. Ah'm goin' ta de game. Sit down an' holt on."

Christopher looked at him confused. "Dad?"

"Don't worry 'bout it, son. But, les jus' say dat you're in fo' a real treat tanight."



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