Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Grand Theft Auto

Neil O. Jones

At eight, I aimed to steal my first car. Since I was five I hankered for it, but it took me a while to put a plan together. I was a much better schemer in third grade. I’m not altogether sure I didn’t think about thieving that car even earlier, but danged if I can remember anything clear before five. David Williams owned it, and all I knew was, I had wanted it since the first time I saw it, whenever that was. If my plan fell right, that car would soon transfer to my little hands. I was going for the big one.

I envied David Williams. Not just for his car, either. He lived with his mom and dad in the first house on the left on Shellhorse Road, one street over from me on Arden Road. Mr. Williams was some kind of deacon or something at the local Baptist church, and he never drank liquor. They didn’t even have it in their house. When he played church music on their piano, I would be drawn to his side to watch and listen as his large, clean hands and long fingers spread across the keys, filling the house and his end of Shellhorse Road with a little local heaven. He sold insurance and was the only man in the neighborhood who wore a suit on times other than Sunday morning. I didn’t know what insurance was, but I figured he musta sold a whole lot of insurances for him to spruce-up like that. His wife was a second grade teacher at my school, Elisa M. Pease Elementary. Her dresses always looked flat, with no wrinkles, and she had a nice smell like baby powder.

The car was not a real one, and it was not a toy. It kind of fell somewhere in the middle. Near-about a foot long and rusty-red, it was cut from the heart of a cedar tree. There were lines cut where the doors and hood fit, and the curves, even down to the round headlights and spoked wheels that moved, were carved out neat and sanded smooth. Grandpa Williams had made it for David’s father, and it had been passed on to David when his turn came. David, who was three years older than me, never played with it like he should have, and that made my car heist right. He would just pull it down from the shelf in his room and look at it—look at it? That didn’t ‘mount to much. He would never take it out and drive it. That just seemed like a waste of good kid-car to me. One time I asked him about it.

We were playing with our small metal cars in his front yard when I poked at him some. “Why don’t you bring out that wood car in your room so we can play with it?”

“What? Are you stupid or something?” he asked, leaning into my poking like I hoped he would. “I ain’t gonna take it out and mess it up and get mud and stuff all over it.”

“Well,” I told him, “it ain’t rained in this part of Texas in a coon’s age, so mud ain’t likely, and I just don’t see what good it’s doing up there holding your wall shelf down beside that dopey picture of you in your baseball uniform,” I retorted, ‘cause he showed a better picture of a baseball player than he was one.

There were a few seconds as he looked at me and didn’t say anything. Then he said slow and deliberate, “It’s my car and it’s my picture, too, and if I wanna leave the car there forever, or till you finish grade school, which ever comes first, well, I reckon I can do it if I’ve a mind to.”

David said it just like I knew he would. “Sure. It’s your car.” So the car stayed in his room, up high on his shelf, above us all.

Since the Williams went to church every Sunday night, that’d be my time to hit the place. Just like the rest of the homes in the neighborhood, the house would likely be unlocked. They would be gone for a good hour or so and that would make it easy for me. Just go in, pick it up and leave.

Moseying around for a good half hour, I cased the target house from a ways down Shellhorse until the three Williams left in their car. When they were out of sight, I sort of ambled toward the house, zigging back and forth and slowly advancing, kicking rocks in the road and booting the heads off dandelions in the ditches. In front of their house I stopped and looked around one more time to be sure. There across the road was Mrs. Johnson on her porch staring at me like I was about to do something. I kicked rocks again toward her side of the road and glanced at her a few times, kind of accidental-like, as she watched me steady. She stood from her rocking chair and leaned over the porch and spit brown snuff juice. With a handkerchief she wiped her mouth and then called out to me.

“They done gone,” she said, adding, “The Williams won’t be back till after church.”

That’s right, I thought, then said, “Oh, okay. I guess I’ll come back another time, when they’re home and not in church and all.”

“That would be good, I reckon,” she said in a trailing-off voice as she sat back down in her rocker—then looked up at me again all hard like I was going to get into something.

Mosey time again, I swung around on Lancaster Road and walked till I was just past the Williams’ house and out of sight of Mrs. Johnson. There was woods behind the house so it was easy for me to curl around to the back yard unseen—or so I thought. Their mutt, Puddin, a funny-looking crossbreed that looked kind of like a wienie dog with long hair, saw me and started yipping, not like a watchdog, but like a lonesome dog that saw his best play-buddy coming. He was wagging his tail, and doing different excited barks as he jumped up on me as I got over the fence and in the yard.

“Get down, Puddin. Not now, boy. Get on, dang it,” I scolded him in a muffled voice. He must not have understood commands in a low tone ‘cause he kept on like I never said nothing.

“Git on now. I done told you!” I yelled. He hunkered down and looked plum wounded. “That’s all right, boy. You just gotta settle down some,” I said in an easy voice that he seemed to like as he started wagging his tail again. Then I looked around to see if ol’ friendly Puddin had ruined my planning. All appeared okay.

At the back screen door, I paused; I thought about knocking; I thought about turning around; I thought about that car. There were windows in the top half of the door. I was just tall enough to look through the lowest pane. My eyes had to adjust as I looked through my own reflection to see inside. Puddin started pawing on the back of my legs, like he was pulling on me. I thought about that car. A fine car like that should go to the one best able to play with it right and take care of it good. For what seemed like a minute or two, I waited and thought, and thought and thought. Pulling open the back screen door, I wrapped my hand around the door handle of the big door and turned slowly. I felt the door pull in and heard a clunk as the latch released.

It was so quiet I could only hear the tick . . . tock . . . tick . . . of the grandfather clock in the living room. The door hinges squeaked, so I eased the door in no more than needed for me to scrunch through the opening. I was entering in the kichen/dining room and I could catch the aroma of fried chicken that still hung in the air. Puddin must have got a noseful too as he jumped up and slammed the door shut where there was some slack where the screen door meets the wood. I could not have jumped more had there been a twelve gauge go off over my head. “Dagnabit dog, get on, will you!”

Her kitchen always smelled good to me. I ran my fingers along the top of the dining table and remembered. The first time I stayed all night with David I was surprised at breakfast to see what I called Mrs. Williams’ “two-part-eggs,” since there was just the runny yellow part and the white soft part. All I had ever known was “three-part-eggs,” with the hard yellow in the middle, chewy white surrounding, all ringed by the black krinklyee-crispy edge. To me the black part was what you crunched through to get to the white and then the yellow. All I knew was that thick-cut salt bacon, next to the buttered biscuits with home grown, canned peach preserves, held right perfect next to Mrs. Williams’ wonderful “two-part-eggs.” It was the best breakfast I ever had. Lord, it seemed like another part of heaven right there for the discovering. And I was standing where Mrs. Williams stood that Saturday morning when she was smiling and asking, “Do you want a couple of more eggs, honey? You might as well finish off the carton.”

“Oh no ma’am,” I mumbled through a mouthful of biscuit, “These six I had ought to do me.” A couple of more would have been mighty good, but I had to watch my manners some.

I tiptoed and stepped lightly, making sure of each creaking step on the hardwood floors. No one was home, but I was still careful. Going down the hall, I looked at the hanging, framed pictures. There were shots of Mr. and Mrs. Williams on their wedding day, she in her veiled white wedding dress, he in his Army Air Corps uniform. Etched in a flat spot on the frame was “Our wedding, September 4, 1942.” Everyone smiles in wedding photos, I thought, but they looked giddy, like the photographer had just told them the best joke he knew. Also on the Williams’ history wall were pictures of David, from the time he was a little bitty squirrel being held board-upright on his grinning father’s lap, to another copy of him in this year’s baseball uniform, with him down on one knee with his Rawlings glove over the upper knee and a bat standing straight up and in his grip. His hat was pulled low and he had a mean look on his face, like he’d scare the lacing out of the ball. I had seen him swing and field, and I thought it wouldn’t hurt none for him to look a little meaner.

All the rest of the wall people smiled at me. One picture stopped me still. There was an old man standing behind a sitting Mr.Williams, and David, a little tyke then, standing at his dad’s knee. In both hands David held out a wooden car like he was showing it for the camera. It was the car. All three of them had the same lean face and dark eyes, and all with the same smile, slightly higher raised on the right. Many times I had gone down this hallway and never really looked at the pictures. I was sure I had not seen this one before.

To my right I could see in David’s room. At the highest point of his wall shelves was the car. As I stood between the picture and the room, I saw the car on the shelf was turned toward me, like the car in the picture faced toward me. For a moment I felt caught, like they both watched for my next move. My legs felt heavy and I wondered for a moment if I could walk in either direction. The next I knew I was beneath the real car, looking up in adoration. David had always taken it down before; he wouldn’t allow me, like it was some kind of privilege. He could barely reach it on his tiptoes and he was a bunch taller than me.

In the kitchen again I started to get a dining room chair when I saw the piano in the living room. That piano bench seemed a better choice. It was heavy but I knew I could tote it to David’s room, even if I had to stop half way for a second. Turning to leave, I stopped and stared at the hymnal on the piano. I remembered the time we were building a car from a crate and we had chalked the front wheel with the book when we were hammering on the back, causing the wheel to crush the edge. David had put it back on the piano as if nothing had happened. Later that day I was there when Mr. Williams sat at the piano, and without saying a word, he picked up the book and examined it. He looked at the crushed spine and ran his fingers over it, then he looked at David and then me and then the book again. Reaching in his back pocket, he pulled out his handkerchief and rubbed the book.

In a low tone he seemed to be speaking to himself. “It’ll still play the same.” Then louder to us he asked, “You boys finish that car you were building?” as he continued rubbing the book.

“Yes sir. Well, nearly, anyway,” David said and then he got up and headed to the front door and signaled to me with his hand to move also. We were two houses down Shellhorse before we dared say a word. After talking about it, we still could not figure out how he knew.

In the hallway I set the bench down, sat on a corner and studied the picture. Was that the day Mr. Williams had given it to David, I wondered. Then I thought “No, probably not.” It was best if I didn’t think that way, ‘cause it would make me feel like I was doing something wrong. Taking a thing from somebody because you know how to use the thing better, well, that wasn’t wrong. That was just fair.

I put the bench in front of the shelves, climbed up on it and very gingerly pulled down the car. Since it was now mine, I determined, I had to be extra easy with it. Holding at eye level, I turned it around and upside down and examined it all over as if this were the first time I had seen it. It felt heavier than I had remembered.
Suddenly a clap of thunder cracked and made me jump and juggle the car, but I held on. I heard rain pelting the window, slowly at first then drumming down hard on the roof.
With a finger I spun each of its wheels. Then I poked my finger in the driver’s window and rubbed the driver’s head and felt the pointy nose. I used the palm of my hand and fingers to rub the roof and sides, which had been worn smooth by three generations of admiration. Making my best V-8 rumbling sound, I drove the car a little up and down through the air roads in front of me, then stopped it quick with my squeaky brakes. The car felt solid and strong; it made me feel solid and strong.

Gently I set the car down. When I hefted the bench, I noticed it too felt heavier this trip. I got it back to the hallway before I had to set it down. Not wanting to look at the picture just meant I’d look sure. Just as I figured, their eyes were square on me. The smiles now looked mean and accusing. I knew every time I passed the picture in the future, the three people would gawk at me like I had done something wrong. No time for thinking like that—I had to move on. Struggling with the bench’s weight and awkwardness, I managed to get it to the piano and slide it under.

It was dark when I had the car cradled against my body to protect it from the pounding rain as I used my other hand to pull the back door closed easy. Puddin was on me again jumping and yipping and scratching at my legs with now-muddy paws. I talked to him softly as I made my way to the back fence. As far as I could reach over the fence I dangled the car and then let it drop so I could have both hands to get across. There was a splat sound as it landed. Once on the other side I pulled back the wet grass, felt around, and found the car had landed nose-first in the mud and tipped over on its side. I could see no more than the shape of the car in my hand. The moonless night, overcast sky and canopy of trees shut out even the starlight. I wiped it off the best I could on my blue jeans.

Into the woods a ways I heard a scraping sound in the brush behind me. Although I was never one to be afraid of the dark, I felt the heebie-jeebies when I looked around and saw the close-set red eyes of some animal. No more thinking now, I was up and running at full speed though I could see nothing. The only sounds were my pounding steps on crunching branches and brush and the swishing of limbs I pushed through. The increasing rain stung my face. Suddenly the ground gave way as my left leg sunk half up to my knee. My momentum flung me forward hard on my arms and belly. The car had bounced loose from my hand as I made my crash through the brush. Panic was twisting me. What was I doing there, how ridiculous was I, belly-down in the mud, leg aching and forearms stinging, groping in the blackness for the object I coveted? I reminded myself about my right to take the car, and how I knew how to handle the car and David didn’t. Then I wondered how many minutes had I owned it before I dunked it in the mud, lost it, and busted myself up in the process?

The years of wanting the car and not having it now faded to a much worse feeling; it was owning the car and having it jerked from me. At that moment I searched harder and faster, crawling through one muddy spot, then another, sweeping with my outreached hands and forearms, feeling with my knees and feet. Feeling more frantic, I lunged out wildly like an animal, my arms swinging out, my outstretched fingers raking the ground in all directions. My right hand hit a tree, scraping my knuckles. As I instinctively drew my hand back, I dragged it across something smooth. It was the underside of the car. I pounced on it, like it would roll away from me. With it held tightly with both hands to my chest, I got to my feet and headed out in a quick walk.

Puddin greeted me with as much excitement as ever. I was able to work my way through his jumping on me and barking until I was standing before the back door again. My wet, muddy clothes dripped puddles of water around my wet, muddy shoes. It became clear to me I could not drip water and drop mud all over the house. I took off everything but my underwear and put them in a pile on the back porch. Inside, I saw the bathroom light, unnoticed before, lit the hallway. As I passed the picture I saw my own mud-face-reflection that startled me. I looked different, older, like I was short guy pushing ten or eleven.
After I cleaned the car in their bathroom sink with water and my fingers, I cleaned the mud off the sink, poking the last of it down the drain. Then I put the car down on the floor in David’s room, and returned to the piano and pulled out the bench for the trip back, yet again. The hard rain had stopped and all was quiet. I heard my own breathing as I struggled with the bench as I turned down the hall. It was then I heard the crunch of the gravel under their tires as the Williams pulled in their driveway.

Never before had I felt the flooding sensation of terror. Setting the bench down, I felt the thumping in my chest and a ringing in my ears. My life would be destroyed in the next ten seconds. A few feet from the piano, I grabbed the bench and waggled it over and slid it under. Then I flew down the hall to David’s room. It was not until I had picked up the car that I remembered I could not reach to put it back. I heard talking and cars doors closing. Halfway back down the hall, I stopped when I heard the front door open and David speaking.
“Yeah, I know, but since church let out early, cain’t I watch Milton Berle tonight. I never get to see him,” he pleaded.

“You can ask your daddy. Maybe he’ll let you,” Mrs. Williams explained.

I eased my foot down and tried to control my shaking, which made the wheels on the car in my hand rattle. Any second David would come bopping ‘round the corner square into me, eyeball to eyeball in my mud-caked face, and he’d see this wild thing in underwear holding his car and we would both let loose ear-busting, simultaneous death-screams and collapse in piles. I remember feeling light-headed and foggy as my feet pulled me to the only cover available—David’s closet—where I pushed through the hanging clothes and stood in the corner to one side. I could just reach out and get the doorknob and pull the door nearly closed as I heard David’s footsteps in his room.

With my outstretched arm I steadied the swinging clothes so I made no sounds. Something spongy was under my feet but it was dark and I dared not make a move or any noise to rearrange my position. David’s closet had shelves in the top half and hanging clothes in the lower half. Bent at the neck, my head was getting creased by the clothes-hanging pipe. I couldn’t see anything for the dark, but I did feel the car still in my hand. Not only would I be caught in David’s closet, but I would be nabbed red-handed with the goods. Being in my skivvies in his closet would take some explaining too. How much time would I have to spend in kid-jail for first time car theft, I wondered. Worse yet, I would be labeled in the neighborhood as the car thief I was. If kids ever did play with me again, they would count their army men before I left and act like they always counted them when I knew they didn’t. Under the smells of mothballs and gym shoes and the draining heat, I was afraid I was going to be sick, but I held it.

It was not long before the pain in my neck became unbearable. To ease it, I ever so slowly bent my knees and lowered myself so I could staighten my neck. After a few minutes, my knees quivered so much I was afraid I would make too much noise. There was no room to squat. So I slowly straightened my knees and bent my neck again. And so it went, switching from one pain to another.

David was playing with his army men judging by his sounds of artillery and small arms fire.
From the living room I heard the piano bench being pulled out.

“Dear,” Mr. Williams said to his wife. “Did you put this bench back backwards? I always have it turned so the lid swings toward the piano. Now it’s opposite.”

Mrs. Williams answered. “It wasn’t me. I know how you like your bench.”

“David!” Mr. Williams called.

“It wasn’t me, Dad,” he said. “I haven’t been around the piano.”

To no one in particular Mr. Williams said in a low tone, but loud enough so everyone could hear it, “Well, this is strange,” adding, “I guess this ol’ bench just did a round-about on its own then.”

He played a few songs on the piano, and when he went into a snappy version of “I Saw the Light,” I couldn’t help moving my big toe up and down to the time. “What the heck am I doing? Thumping good time to the music while I’m wedged in this closet like a pickle in a jar and about to be found out and arrested and dragged in chains to kid-jail for fifty years sure?” Mr. Williams finished the song and said, “Well that ought to do me.”

From the kitchen area I heard Mrs. Williams say, “Good playing, Daddy. You still get me to dancing with my broom.”

Mr.Williams laughed a little and said, “Thank you, Mother. It’s good to know I can still stir you some.” Then I heard him push the bench in. “Okay, son. It’s time for Uncle Miltie.”

Listening close, for one thing to keep my mind off my pain and for another there wasn’t much else to do, I determined they were all going to watch TV. They would have to sit together on the couch and face away from the hallway. Mrs. Williams was the last to join them. It took all my courage to slowly push the closet door open. I waited, still, listening for any sound other than the TV show. Very slowly I moved forward. There was a slight swish of the clothes as I pushed them aside to get out. Free of my cell, I unwound into full height and stretched even beyond and felt extra good in the doing. I was not sure what I was going to do with the car that was still held tightly in my hand.

I had to tiptoe softly and slowly to spread out the squeaks. At David’s bedroom door I eased my head out enough for one eye to see down the hallway. Mr. Williams was sitting nearest the hall. I could see his arm on the arm rest of the couch. There was no way I could get to the back door.

Plan two came to me. Very slowly I inched down the hall to pick up the phone and bring it back ever so easy to David’s room. There was just enough phone cord to make it under his door that I pushed almost closed. Laying flat out on the floor I called my buddy T-Bone’s number, praying that he would answer. To cut down on the sound, I had to turn the dial slowly and hold back on it some as it returned. The phone rang four times before Mr. Green answered. “Green’s Celestial Retreat.” Then I heard Mrs. Green in the background getting on him. “Will you hush up that foolishness.”

“Mr. Green,” I whispered. “Could I speak to Gerald [T-Bone]?”

“What’s the matter, son?” he asked. “I can barely hear you.”

Two words rolled from my mouth, “Sore throat.” Then I asked again, “Can I speak to Gerald, please?”

I heard the Williams laugh in the other room. At the same time over the phone, I could hear Mrs. Green and Gerald and his sister Jeanene laugh. “In my Watkins stuff I got a good treatment,” Mr. Green said. “You want me to get Gerald to carry some to y'all’s house now? It’ll make you feel better.”

“No, no, don’t do that.” And in my excitement I almost got too loud. “Mother’s got me full of stuff now. Can Gerald talk a minute?” I whispered getting near frantic.

“Sure,” he said. “I’ll get him.” Then there was a pause . . . until Mr. Green added, “Something else that’s good for a sore throat is hot salt water, hot as you can stand it on that throat? You ever tried that?”

“No sir, but I will, right after I talk to Gerald.”

“Hold on and I’ll get him,” he said. “And you best not talk too much either. That don’t help it none.”

“Yes sir,” I said, “I’m trying not to.”

“I’ll get him.” Then I heard him say aloud, “For you, Toots.”

It seemed an eternity until T-Bone came to the phone. “Green’s Mule Barn,” he said. I heard Mrs. Green scolding him. “Just like your daddy. You make us sound like hicks. Answer the phone right or don’t answer it.”

“T-Bone, I need help. I cain’t talk now but you gotta think of something like I’m spending the night with you or something. Talk to my mother and cover me. If you have everything set up, leave that plant on your front porch like it normally is. If you cain’t get things set up, then turn that plant on its side. If everything is set, just have me a pallet set up on the floor. You got it, T-Bone?”

There was a pause of a few seconds before he said, “Do what?”

“Help me out and I’ll explain later. Bye.” Then I set the receiver down gently.

Back at the area where the phone sat, I was trying to coil the cord underneath like I found it, when I hear David say, “Tell me what happens. I gotta run to the bathroom.” The sound of the words made me jump. I let the cord drop loose and I took giant tippy-toe steps to his room and just made it before he entered the bathroom there off the hallway. There was no way for me to go but back to the cave, hunkered over in the rack and again standing on something mushy.

It must have been another hour before I heard them turn off the TV and start their evening getting-ready-for-bed-ritual. David was messing around in his room and talking to himself, and me it turned out, though he didn’t know that part. His mother told him to lay out some clothes for tomorrow and not forget to put his dirty clothes in the hamper. The closet was pulled open and I saw David’s hands, not a foot away from my face, moving through the hung up clothes. As he scooted shirts along the rod I saw that if he slid three more, he’ be grabbing my nose next. I was afraid to breathe. He spoke loudly to his mother who was in the other room, “I got jeans but there’s nothing but Sunday shirts left.” Then he shut the closet.

“Pull out that green short-sleeve-stripe-shirt. You can wear that.” That was the one stuck in my face. I had been using it to wipe the sweat off my brow.

“It’s not in here,” he said, not looking. “I’ll just have to wear the same shirt I wore today.”

“Oh no you won’t,” Mrs. Williams said, and I could hear her footsteps coming down the hallway. I moved the green shirt to centermost, and scooted the others away so it stood by itself. In a few seconds I heard Mrs. Williams in David’s room. “I know that green shirt is in there.” The light flooded in as she opened the closet. “See. There it is, right there in plain sight.”

“It wasn’t there a minute ago,” David mumbled.

As this conversation was going on I thought I was going to faint away, but I thought about how that would go over when they heard the thump, opened the door and saw a wadded-up, half-naked kid in the bottom of the closet.

It seemed like days passed after I heard the last sound and I started my escape. Even after I believed everyone was asleep, it took time to get my courage up. During all that time I studied about what I was going to do with the car. I never wanted to get shed of something so much as that car, that night. Creeping out, I set the car on its nose near the shelves, as if it had rolled off the shelves on its own. Not likely maybe, but it was all I had. With a tiny steps and stretched-out creaks, I was able to make it to the back door. I pulled the big door open softly and eased the screen door out when Puddin hit, doing that excited play-with-me-yipping. It was all I could do to pull the kitchen door shut and softly touch down the screen door.

My clothes were gone! Dang that Puddin. I ran around the yard picking up the dragged-around, chewed-up clothes amid the other dog toys. Puddin yipped and joined in the play. With clothes in hand, I headed for the back fence with Puddin jumping on me and yipping all the way. As I climbed up on the cyclone fence and rolled over, a jeans leg hung. I jerked and tore the jeans loose. Once in the woods I dressed and noticed the hole in the jeans.

I didn’t stop running until I was standing on Arden Road between my house and T-Bone’s. Stooped over with my hands on my knees, I was sure my breathing was so loud I would wake someone. My house was dark and quiet, as was T-Bone’s. I could see the house plant position showing everything was okay. Through his garage I entered the door which led to his single bed on the other side of the wall. Beside his bed was a pillow and a sheet, my pallet, and it looked fine to me. I was wet, muddy, skinned, scratched and sore, and I couldn’t straighten up all the way for the crick in my neck. I stepped back in the garage, undressed and dropped my muddy clothes in a splat on the floor. The last I remember I laid on half the sheet and pulled the other half over me. I adjusted my pillow once and was asleep.

A few days later my wounds had healed, if not my dogged sense of guilt. I even dreamed about being trapped in a closet, unable to move because of a car parked in the doorway. The only momento from that night was my torn jeans that my mother patched up. Wearing the jeans reminded me and made me feel bad, but I had to wear them some as they were one of three I owned. I happened to be wearing them a few weeks later when I was over at David’s house. Mr. Williams was driving David and me to the movies one afternoon with us in the front seat and David in the middle. David still had his Sunday school shoes on. It looked like his black wingtips had been smashed on the toe and then pushed back out again. “What happened to your shoes, Davey-Boy?” I asked.

“It’s good these were my second pair of Sunday shoes, but I wore them sometimes,” he said. “I don’t know what happened. Just pulled ‘em out of my closet one day and they were squashed flat as a flitter.”

I felt the flush run to my head as I looked out the car window. “Sure is a pretty day, ain’t it,” I said. “Wanna play ball later?”

David kept right in stride, “Dad says they’re not worn out on the bottom so they can still be everyday-shoes.”

“That’s how life is, boys,” Mr. Williams said. “Everything takes a beating some time,” he continued, “but some things are better for the wear.” Then he leaned up and looked at me as he said. “Just like that patch on your leg there. It just makes those blue jeans stronger.”

“Yes sir,” I replied. “I sure hope there’s some good left in ‘em.”


Neil O. Jones' works have appeared in various print and online venues, including Perceptions 2005, 2006; Southern; and Southern Hum. He is also published in Muscadine Lines: A Southern Anthology. Neil, his wife Diane, and their menagerie of dogs and horses, reside in the country in Columbia, Tennessee.

© Neil O. Jones

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012