IN A ROUNDABOUT KINDA WAY

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


Falling in love takes on a whole meaning.

Submitted: April 30, 2018

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Submitted: April 30, 2018

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IN A ROUNDABOUT KINDA WAY

Charles V. Walker, Jr.

 

As the last of seven children, and the fifth of five boys, forty-three-year old Paul Howard Bolden was always forced to wear hand-me-down clothing, including shoes, from his older brothers. Therefore, when, at the age of fifteen, he got a job working on one of the local pig farms in his native Creston, Virginia, one of the first things he purchased was a brand new pair of shoes. Paul was so proud of his new shoes that he took every opportunity to show them off to family and friends, alike.  This resulted in him being given the nickname “New Shoes,” which was eventually shortened simply to “Shoes.”

He owned and operated a small, convenience store in Harrisontown, a residential subsection of Creston, which sold coffee, cigarettes, beer, soda, sandwiches, an assortment of ice cream-related products, and other snack items. In addition to area residents, many of Shoes’ patrons were truck drivers passing through the local community on their way to and from various places in and around Creston.  

On this particular late Saturday morning, the only people currently in the store were Shoes and Larry Franklin. Like Shoes, Larry was in his early forties, came from a large family, and had been born and raised in Creston just after the Great Depression. Shoes was behind and leaning on the store’s wooden countertop, while Larry stood across from him drinking an Orange Crush soda.

Larry and Shoes were discussing the transactions made by their favorite professional football team, the Washington Redskins, during the off-season and how these might impact the team in the upcoming season; the nation’s capital was approximately fifty miles from Creston. A small transistor radio was playing near the ice cream freezer, while a large, pedestal fan oscillated and hummed noisily in a corner near one of the two windows.

“Wair’s Marsha taday?”  asked Larry. Marsha was Shoes’ wife, who was a bank teller at a M & V Bank branch on Creston’s Main Street.

“She’s home gittin’ ready ta go visit her aunts in Alexandria fo’ de weeken’.”

 “Got any plans ta play while de cat’s away?” asked Larry with a wide grin.

“Ah’ll prob’ly jus’ git some beer an’ watch de Orioles game tanight. Dey playin’ de Yankees. You cain come over if ya want to.”

“Ah might jus’ take you up onnat offer.”

Through a window, Shoes saw Ernest “Ernie” Lee Jackson drive up to the store’s entrance and get out of his car. Ernie Lee and his older brothers, Poppa Joe and Loomis, operated an illegal numbers policy game. Bettors chose three-digit numbers and wager that they will match a result appearing in horse-racing reports later that day; the three numbers came out individually.

Fifty-eight-year old Ernie Lee considered himself a “ladies man” and doused himself from head to toe with baby powder; this was supplemented by a couple of splashes of one of Avon’s colognes.  He was wearing a white handkerchief tied around his neck, a short-sleeved, lime green, polo shirt, beige khaki pants and brown penny loafers; his socks perfectly matched his shirt.

“What say, fellas” said Ernie Lee, as he entered the store. “Hot enough fo’ ya?” His clean-shaven, smooth, dark brown-skin glistening with sweat. As with many people in this area of northern Virginia, there was a strong indication of Native American blood in his genealogy.

“Hotta den a firecracka’s fart,” said Larry.

Ernie Lee and Shoes laughed.

“Lemme getta grape Nehi, Shoes,” said Ernie Lee.

Shoes reached into the freezer, withdrew the bottle of soda, opened it and handed it to Ernie Lee, who took a long sip and said, “Ahhh.”

“Damn if you wasn’t one thirsty s.o.b.,” said Larry.

“Dat hit de spot,” said a smiling Ernie Lee.

Shoes said, “Hadda dream ‘bout ma Aunt Charlotte, so Ah thank Ah’ll play huh birfday.”

“Ah rememba huh,” said Ernie Lee, as he removed a small, double sheet of rectangular, yellow, paper from his shirt pocket. “Smart as a whip an’ she was always nice ta me an’ ma bruvvas. Go ‘head, Shoes, give it ta me.”

“One o eight,” he said. “Dat’s it. One oh eight. January eighf.”

Ernie Lee quickly scribbled the digits on the paper, tore off the bottom sheet and handed the copy to Shoes. He then turned to Larry. “You gon play anythang?”

Larry gave Ernie Lee some three-digit numbers and money. In return, as with Shoes, Ernie Lee gave him a copy of what he’d recorded.

“Didjall hear ‘bout what happened ta Linwood Grayson a coupla days ago?” asked Ernie Lee.

 “Naw. What?” asked Shoes, who with Larry, had gone to the same racially segregated high school as Linwood.

“Dey said he was tryin’ ta trim down summa dem trees ‘round de side of his house. So he pullt down one tree an’ tied it ta de front bumpa of his truck. Den he sat down on de tree an’ wentta cuttin’.”

As Ernie Lee was relating the story, he started laughing and could barely speak. He coughed, drank some soda, composed himself and continued. “Anyway, when he cut through de tree, it flung his black ass ‘bout thirdy yards into the bushes near de back o’ de house.”

All three men began laughing.

“Well, Ah’ll be damned,” said Shoes. “What happened afta dat?”

“Cornell Morton heard him out dere hollerin’ an’ went over,” replied Ernie Lee. “Cornell calt de Rescue Squad an’ dey came an’ got Linwood’s crazy ass.”

“Did he git hurt bad?’ asked Larry.

“He jus’ broke his leg,” replied Ernie Lee. “Docta set it, put ‘im inna cas,’ an’ sent his ass on home.”

“Guess dat’s what boredom gits you,” said Larry. “Boredom an’ tryin’ ta do thangs yo’self.”

“Cain’t wait til Ah see his black ass,” said Shoes.

“Alright den, lemme git on down de road. Runnin’ late as tis. See y’all later,” said Ernie Lee exiting the store.

“Ah’ma head on out, too,” said Larry. “Elaine wants ta run downta Culpeper ta buy some ham fo’ huh church picnic tomorra.” Elaine was Larry’s wife. “Maybe me an’ Elaine’ll stop by an’ see Linwood on de way back.”

“Okay,” said Shoes. “Tell ‘im Ah said, ‘hey’ an’ Ah’ll catch up wif ‘im later.”

“Alright. Ah’ll holla atchu when Ah git back.” Larry exited the store.

Now alone, Shoes thought to himself, “Needta start stackin’ up dem empty soda pop bottles, so when dey come in on Monday ta pick ‘em up an’ Ah won’t haveta worry ‘bout it.” The store, like its counterparts in some other parts of the state and country, redeemed customers’ empty soda bottles for five cents apiece. In most instances, it was local kids who redeemed them. Every so often, however, an adult, who was hard-pressed for cash, would exchange them to buy beer or cigarettes.

Shoes crossed to where empty soda bottles were grouped together near the store’s open backdoor.  After setting up a metal folding chair and sitting down, he began placing the bottles into thick, plastic racks. As he looked at the sticky residue left inside some of the bottles, Shoes thought to himself, “Ah sho wish folks would rinse out deese damn bottles befo’ dey bring ‘em up in hair.”

While he worked and listened to the radio, Shoes’ mind drifted back to Linwood Grayson’s mishap with the tree. He chuckled and shook his head, as he mentally pictured Linwood flying through the air. Fifteen minutes later, Shoes heard the screendoor open and close, and looked up to see his nephew, fifteen-year-old Poncho, walk in. He had a large afro haircut, and was wearing a pair of cut-off blue jean shorts, a gray tank top and a pair of high-top Converse sneakers. A plastic afro-pick with a small fist protruded from the back of his large afro haircut.

“Hey, Uncle Shoes.”

“What say, Ponch,” responded Shoes. “Whatchu up to taday?” Poncho was the youngest son of Shoes’ brother, Jimmy.

“Nuffin much. Ah was thankin’ ‘bout goin’ downta Marble City ta see what Jeffrey an’ ‘em was doin’.” Marble City was a small, residential subsection of Creston. One of Shoes’ sisters, her husband and their six children, including sixteen-year-old Jeffrey, lived there.

When Poncho said this, Shoes had a thought.

“Couldja do me a favor an’ drop sumfin off at Linwood Grayson’s on yo’ way downnair?” asked Shoes, as he stood and walked towards the store’s cigarette rack.

“Okay,” answered Poncho. “Ah like Mr. Grayson. He don’t git mad when we cut down through his yard as a shortcut between hair an’ Marble City.”

Shoes took three packs of Pall Mall cigarettes from the rack, put them into a bag and handed them to Poncho. “You cain grab yo’self a soda or sumfin fo’ yo’ troubles.”

A grinning Poncho went to the freezer and took out an ice cream sandwich. “Thanks, Uncle Shoes.” He headed towards the door.

“Oh, yeah,” said Shoes. “One mo’ thang. Tell Linwood Ah said stop tryin’ ta be black Superman.”

Poncho looked at his uncle quizzically.

“Don’t worry. He’ll know what it means,” said a smiling Shoes.

Poncho returned his uncle’s smile, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “Okay. See ya later, Uncle Shoes.” He left the store.

A few days later, Shoes, who was bent over waist deep in the beverage refrigerator, heard the store’s front screendoor open and shut. He looked up to see Linwood, on crutches, hobble into the store. “Ah’m lookin’ fo’ de crazy summabitch what owns dis rundown shack.”

Shoes laughed and said, “Well, Ah’ll be damned if it ain’t Dudley Do Wrong.”

Both men laughed.

Shoes walked to where Linwood stood and firmly, but gently, put his arm around his shoulders.

“Ah wanted ta pay ya back fo’ dem cig’rettes ya sent over wif yo’ nephew las’ Sat’day,” said Linwood, as he reached into his pants pocket and withdrew a ten-dollar bill.

“Man, shit,” replied Shoes, as he moved away. “If givin’ you a coupla packs uh cig’rettes meant Ah’d haveta go outta bidness, den ain’t no point in me bein’ hair. Put dat money back in yo’ ragg’dy ass pants, ya crippled bastard an’ sit yo ass down.”

Linwood laughed and said, “Thanks, Shoes.” He sat in a small chair adjacent to the entrance door, placing his crutches behind the chair and against the wall. “Hadta cut off one leg of deese jeans ta git ma damn pants on. Afta Ah leave hair, Ah’ma haid upta de dolla sto’ Main Street ta buy some cheap shorts an’ pants.” Main Street’s Dollar General store sold an assortment of bargain items, including clothing.

“Did Larry git a chance ta see ya?” asked Shoes.

“Him an’ Elaine came by ta see me on dere way back from Culpeper,” said Linwood. “Brought me some scrapple from dat place dey wenta.”

“He said he was gon stop by,” replied Shoes. “How long you gon be innat cast?”

“Jus’ a few weeks,” responded Linwood. “Docta said de break wasn’t too bad. An’ plus it’s ma lef’ leg, so Ah cain still drive.”

“What’d dey say downnat yo’ job?” Linwood was a civilian employee at the nearby Fort Belvoir military base.

“Dey said take all de time Ah need,” responded Linwood. “But like Ah said, Ah cain still git back an’ forth, so’s Ah’m goin’ back on Monday.”

“Good,” said Shoes. “An’ now dat you hair, please tell me what in de hell you were thankin’ when you decided to cut through dat damn tree.”

Linwood blushed with embarrassment. “Ah ain’t sure. It seemt like a good idea at de time. For some reason, dem deadwoods just seemt like dey needed some trimmin’. Ah guess Ah jus’ fo’got what part of de tree Ah was settin’ on.”

“But, Ah bet you remembered fast enough when yo’ ass was flyin’ through de air.”

Linwood laughed. “You got dat right.”

“Was a good thang Cornell heardju.”

“Man, shit. Ah was nevva so glad ta see Cornell in my life.”

“He’s a good man. Always has been,” said Shoes.

“Yep. Damn sure is,” responded Linwood. “A few days afta Ah got home de hospital, Ah brought ‘im over a bottle uvvat rum he likes.”

“Dat was thoughtful of you.”

“Speakin’ uh alcohol, Ah guess ma advencha mighta been caused by sumfin else, too.”

“Like what?”

“Well ya see, Ah also had a few shots uh Brian’s Kool-Aid-flavored vodka he lef’ at ma house de week befo’,” said Linwood. “Thank it was de cherry one.”

Brian Kenneth was Linwood’s former brother-in-law. After Linwood and his wife, Sharon, had separated, he remained friends with some of her family members, most especially Brian, who was fifteen years his junior. Brian had served in the army and been stationed at several locations around the world. More importantly, and to Linwood’s delight, he still possessed the youthful exuberance and willingness to try unconventional things as a means of keeping life interesting on many levels and in many ways. This included making Kool-Aid-flavored alcoholic beverages.

Shoes laughed. “So dat stuff gave you de idea an’ de nerve ta tie ‘at tree ta yo’ bumpa an’ den climb up on it?”

Linwood blushed, smiled and slowly shook his head. “Ah guess you could say dat.”

“Musta been some mighty pote-nent stuff.”

During the course of their conversation, a few customers came into the store, and Shoes handled the transactions; he then returned to where Linwood was sitting.

“Didju tell Brian what happened?”

“Yeah,” said Linwood. “He came by ta see me when Ah got outta de hospital.”

“What’d he say?”

“Nuffin much. He apologized. But Ah tole ‘im it wasn’t his fault. Dat Ah was a grown ass man an’ shoulda known betta. Den we laughed ‘bout it.”

“Brian cert’nly is a character,” said Shoes.

“Yep,” replied Linwood. “He said he had uvver mixes uh vodka an’ stuff.”

Shoes laughed. “Man, shit. Brian ain’t gotta bitta sense. Ah wouldn’t fool ‘round wif whatevva concoctions he puts tagevver in his basement.”

“But, ya gotta love ‘im fo’ tryin’ out diff’rent thangs,” replied Linwood.

“Ya damn sho’ do,” replied Shoes.

“One uvva thang,” Linwood said with a grin forming on his face.

“What?”

“Evva since dis thang happened, Sharon’s been comin’ by ta check on me an’ brang me food. An’ she even stayed over one night.”

Shoes raised his eyebrows and grinned mischievously. “An’?”

“Nuffin happened,” said Linwood, as he gently slapped Shoes on the leg. “Ah slep’ in our old room an’ she slep’ in de guest room.”

Shoes laughed. “So y’all thankin’ ‘bout gittin’ back tagevver?”

“Ah ‘ont know ‘bout dat,” replied Linwood. “But every now and den Ah see a look in her eyes dat tells me she’s jus’ as lonely as Ah am.”

“Hell, Ah coulda toldja dat,” said Shoes. “Marsha said all she does is go ta work uppat de dolla sto’, play bingo an’ go home ta Mar’gret’s house.” Since their separation, Sharon had been living with her maternal cousin, Margaret, and her family.

Linwood smiled. “Ah havva feelin’ you right.”

Shoes thought for a second and then said, “Wait a minute. So dat’s why your Cap’n Ahab ass is goin’ upta de Dolla Sto’, ya slick bastard,” said a laughing Shoes. “Ah oughta break yo’ uvver damn leg.”

Linwood laughed, reached for his crutches and stood. “Okay, den, Ah’ma haid on uppair ta see what Ah cain fine.” 

“An’ Ah know it ain’t jus’ some pants,” said Shoes with a wink. “Ah’ll ketchup wif ya later.”

Linwood hobbled to the door, and just before he exited, he said, “Thanks agin fo’ de cig’rettes.”

Shoes waved at him and Linwood exited the store.

Later that day, just as he was preparing to close the store for the evening, Shoes saw Brian enter the door.

“Hey, Shoes,” said Brian.

“Boy you gon live a hunnert years. Me an’ Linwood was jus’ talkin’ ‘boutchu earlier taday.”

Brian grinned. “’Bout me?”

“Yeah dat shit you gave ‘im ta drink before he climbed up onnat tree.”

Brian laughed and said, “Ohh!”

“Musta been one helluva brew,” said Shoes.

“Well ta be honest it wasn’t jus’ vodka an’ Kool-Aid in de drink Ah gave ‘im.”

“What de hell you talkin’ ‘bout?” asked Shoes.

“Okay, lemme explain it dis way,” responded Brian. “Evva since Linwood an’ ma sista broke up, Ah been tryin’ ta thank of ways ta git dem back tagevver agin.”

“Yeah, Ah’m lis’nin’.”

“So one time when Ah was traveling on wunna dem backroads near Turkey Run, Ah saw a small, hole-in-de-wall store wif a sign dat said, ‘Magic Love Potions’.” Turkey Run was a town approximately twenty-two miles west of Creston.

Shoes looked at Brian curiously and said, “Go on.”

“Well, when no matter what Ah said to dem in public or in private. An’ no matter how Ah tried ta arrange thangs fo’ dem to meet up accident’ly on purpose, it didn’t appear like dey was evva gon git back tagevva.”

“An’?” said Shoes.

Brian smiled. “Ah went back downta dat sto’ an’ bought some uvvat love potion.”

“Are you serious, boy?”

“As a heart attack.”

“Den what?”

“Ah put some innat mix of Kool-Aid an’ vodka Ah gave ‘im.”

Shoes laughed loudly.

“Whatchu laughin’ like ‘at, Shoes?”

Shoes related to Brian the conversation he’d had with Linwood.

Brian smiled. “So Ah guess ma love potion musta worked inna roundabout kinda way, huh?”

“Boy you got any uvvat stuff wif you?”

Brian reached into one of his front pockets and pulled out a small, glass bottle engraved with small hearts and dual images of Cupid; he handed the bottle to Shoes. Shoes unscrewed the bottle’s cap, removed it and poured a few drops of the sticky fluid onto two fingers, then put the fingers to his lips. He stuck out his tongue to taste it and moved his mouth around. Finally, he grimaced and said, “Boy dis stuff tastes like tree sap, sugar water an’ apple juice. Ah’m surprised Linwood didn’t talk about how sweet yo’ concoction tasted.”

“He did say sumfin ‘bout dat. But, Ah jus’ tole ‘im it mus’ be de Kool-Aid.”

Shoes handed the bottle back to Brian, who returned it to his pocket.

“Ya need ta see if you cain git yo’ money back for dat nonsense,” said a smiling shoes.

“Ah don’t thank it’s even worf de trip,” replied Brian.

“You’re probably right, said Shoes. “Well, Ah hope thangs work out fo’ ‘im an’ Sharon, cause Ah know he’s still crazy ‘bout huh.”

“Yep,” said Brian. “An’ from what Mar’gret tells me, she’s still deeply in love wif ‘im.”

“Well, lemme finish closin’ up an’ Ah’ll ketchup wif ya later,” said Shoes.

As Brian was exiting the store, he turned and asked, “Whatchu thank Ah oughta do wif de resta de love potion.”

Shoes laughed and replied. “Ah ‘ont know. But, hol’ onta it, cuz dat is a nice bottle.”

“Okay, den. See ya later.” Brian left.

A few minutes later, as Shoes was locking the store’s front door, he looked around the children’s playground area behind the store and thought to himself, “Maybe Ah’ll git out hair a bit early tomorra an’ trim down some of deese trees.”

He walked towards his truck, got in and looked up. “Yep, dem branches gittin’ mighty long. ‘Specially on dem dogwoods."

Shoes started the truck’s engine. “But, befo’ Ah do anythang else, fo’ some reason, Ah feel like goin’ home an’ givin’ Marsha some good ole fashion lovin’”.

 

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