Wednesday, January 30, 2008

You Never Know Who You Will Meet

Years ago I lived in a small West Texas city and worked a residential facility for mentally handicapped adults which was twenty-five miles out of town. I had a bad Dr. Pepper habit in those days and had to get a fix every morning the same way a lot of people have to have their coffee. In order to feed my fix, I stopped almost every morning at a convenience store about half way between my home and work.

The convenience store was in a little community and was frequented by a certain cast of characters. There was Neon Leon, the store manager and the only black person for at least twenty miles. There was a guy who bought dozens of scratch-off lotto tickets at a time and kept the table in the booth where he sat covered in silver plastic confetti. I called him the Gambler. There were a couple of guys who had invested heavily in ostriches and sat around talking about the $30,000 a pair they had spent on their birds and how much money they would make when the birds started reproducing. I called them the Birdmen of Grape Creek (the name of the town where the store was).

I never knew what would be going on in the store. One morning, I walked in to find a birthday party being held for one of the hairdressers who worked next door. I guess that they couldn't find a birthday cake because they had put a candle in a huge cheeseburger at 7:30 am.

One morning I walked in to see an old man leaning over a woman's baby and talking about how she should raise him and what kind of things she should teach him. The mom did not look too happy about the situation. The old man was wearing green jeans, an old sport coat and something on his head that at one time probably had been a fedora. It was a little too crusty and mishapen for me to be sure.

On the table at the nearest booth was an old brief case which was open to display a lot of old magazine and newspaper clippings from the 1960s and '70s. They mostly featured people like Jackie Kennedy, Jane Russell, Howard Hughes, etc.

As I paid for my drink, Neon Leon asked me to take that old guy to work with me since the consenscus was that he problably belonged there. I declined.

The next day one of the Bird Men, who also worked where I did, told me that the old guy had kept hanging around the store until Leon got fed up with him and called the law. When the deputy got there and started questioning the guy, he opened his brief case and pulled out a cashier's check for two million dollars. The deputy could not find any reason to arrest him so he didn't.

Here are the lyrics to the song I wrote about it. This is who the man claimed to be.

I saw Howard Hughes at the C&W Store
When I stopped to get my caffeine
He had a briefcase full of old magazine pictures
And he tried to tell us all just what life means
He kept hanging around there until someone called the cops
He showed them a check for two mill
They did not arrest him, they just told him to move on
I think he’s somewhere out there still
On the edge of a highway
Real close to the line
Trying not to step over
Waiting for a ride.

I’ve been reading Walt Whitman
Sitting here in the park
Waiting for the flowers that bloom in the dark
If you want to see them you have to have some light
So I’m wearing my sunshades here in the night
I’m thinking in circles
Going nowhere
Sometimes I fell like I’m standing out there
On the edge of a highway
Real close to the line
Trying not to step over
Waiting for a ride.

Back there behind me now
The sky is turning red
Sunsets never last too long
Like some old movie that’s playing in my head
It fades to black and then it’s gone
I’ve been living in limbo
It’s getting crowded in here
Sometimes I feel like I’m standing out there
On the edge of a highway
Real close to the line
Just about to step over
Waiting for a ride

I saw Howard Hughes at the C&W store.

I think this happened in 1992 or 1993. All reports of Howard Hughes' death are dated 1976. The guy was OLD, but I don't know that he was that old. The family of one of my coworkers owned an answering service and he opened an account with them. They got to know him a little bit and said that he knew a lot of things about the Hughes family that were not widely known so he had to have had some connection. (I don't recall how they knew these things.)

Play theme to the Twilight Zone here.


TammyVitale said...

You tell a great story - it helps that life is always stranger than fiction! Thanks for stopping by and visiting!

The Minstrel Boy said...

i love those little country stores. you really get to see raw, unwashed life. so, the guys a derelict until he pulls out a check for 2 mill. . ain't that the truth.

seventh sister said...

Yeah, Tammy, I think it was Tom Clancy who said that the difference between fiction and real life is that fiction has to make sense.

MB, I don't miss much about West Texas but some of those characters were a riot. I do miss those long lonesome West Texas highways where I could drive for hours and clear my head.

Anonymous said...

What a great story. I've been watching the haunted series on the discovery channel. Its my afternoon fright. But its filled with this kind of stuff. I like my afternoon coffee and creep show time. :)

sexy said...
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