Staring straight ahead, he said, “I knew all along Billy wasn’t mine. I’m not the fool
Jolene thinks I am. I know more about her than she knows about me.”
“Then the two of you have an understanding about Billy?”
“Oh, she doesn’t know that I know. I never said anything, but I knew it when she told me she was pregnant.”
Martin looked at him with surprise. “How could you know then?”
“I’m sterile, always have been,” Frank answered quietly. “But Jolene doesn’t know that. I never told her.”
“That’s a dirty trick,” Martin dared to say. Then a frown crept across his forehead. He turned to look at Frank again, this time in shock. “But, how . . .?”
“There’s no need to talk about it anymore,” Frank cut in. He turned the key in the ignition and started up the car again. “I need to get you to the station before it closes. I sure don’t want you spending the night in my house too.” He pulled the car back onto the road and drove towards the gas station.
Martin said nothing for a while. Then, “How can you take it, man?” he asked.
“I love Jolene, that’s how. I love Jolene more than anything in this world, and I know in her own way she loves me. Billy makes Jolene happy. That makes me happy.”
They pulled into the station and Frank put the car in park and left the engine running.
“I love Billy like he was my own,” Frank said, looking Martin straight in the eye. “So, there’s no need of you wondering how he’s doing. You’ve got your own family to worry about.”
“I won’t bother you or your family, Frank. I only wish you luck and the strength to go on,” Martin said with pity in his eyes. He got out of the car and closed the door.
Frank had his emotions well under control by the time he eased the Buick into the driveway of his house.
Jolene was waiting for him. She stood before him in the dim hallway, a look of uncertainty and fear on her face. “Frank, I want to explain,” she began. “I . . .”
He stepped forward and put his arms around her as best he could. She was in her eight month and beginning to blow up like a watermelon. He turned her around and led her slowly towards the staircase, his hand resting on her swollen stomach.
“Don’t worry yourself about nothing, Jolene. We’ve got a new baby coming soon.”
They mounted the stairs together.
It was such a pleasant evening and I was enjoying the leisurely walk back to my hotel room. I was in town on business and had just finished my evening meal at the diner two blocks away. Just as I had finished walking the first block and was about to cross the street to walk the second block, someone grabbed me from behind and held me in a tight grip. Before I could scream, a hand was placed over my mouth. As we struggled, I managed to get into a position where I could see that the attacker was very tall and was wearing some type of long black cape with a hood that almost completely covered his face. Somehow I managed to get a hand free and I instantly reached up and pulled the hood back. I stared up into a face that looked centuries old, framed by jet-black hair that formed a widow’s peak at the center of his forehead. His piercing eyes were like black coals. His mouth was turning into a snarl and I could see two, long and sharp teeth protruding from the sides. I gasped loudly, stumbling backward as I said, “But I thought you weren’t real!”
“I can assure you, dear lady, I am very real,” he said darkly, as his mouth opened wider to reveal those horrible teeth.
I began to struggle even more when suddenly I remembered the cross that I always wore around my neck. I reached inside my blouse and pulled the cross out, grasping it in my shaking hand. I thrust the cross forward, holding it just inches from his colorless face. I expected him to recoil in fear and pain, but instead he stood there with a look of disbelief on that terrible face. Then he threw back his head and laughed fiendishly. “Are you for real?” he said, before he grabbed me by the hair and turned my neck towards those teeth.
Something Smells Shrimpy
A friend and I worked at a shrimp factory once right after we graduated from high school. Being Black and living in Mississippi, the chances of getting a good job right out of high school was next to zero. We were desperate for spending money so we decided to give the local shrimp factory a try. You didn't have to fill out any paperwork to work at the shrimp factory. All you had to do was show up and they would give you a tin bucket that you were expected to fill with de-headed shrimp. You had to stand up on a platform where you could grab the shrimp as they passed by on a conveyor belt. You got paid by the bucket so the faster you were able to grab a handful of shrimp and snap the heads off, the quicker you filled your bucket. The more buckets you filled, the higher your tally was at the end of the day. At fifty-cents a bucket, you had to do some serious head-snapping to make some good pocket change.
Well, my friend and I only lasted a couple of days. We decided that pocket change was not worth smelling like a fish house every day and our fingers were pricked and sore from shrimp shells. Not to mention that I only made a little other a dollar each day. I would have to be a shrimp de-heading fool to make five bucks a day!
Whenever I think back on when I worked at the shrimp factory, I cannot help but laugh my head off. Thank goodness both me and my friend went on to furhter our education and had good careers. But that was indeed my strangest and funniest job ever.