Photo Prompt Story: A visit to Uncle Julius

This is a short story, in 1025 words.
It was prompted by the above photo, sent to me by Ed Westen.
https://deartedandjody.wordpress.com/about/

Marlene was adamant. “We just gotta go, Clyde. Uncle Julius was so good to us girls and Momma after Daddy passed. Least I can do is go and say goodbye to him”. Although he didn’t relish the long drive to Jackson, Clyde admitted defeat. Once Marlene got a notion fixed in her head, there was no shifting her.

He wasn’t at his house any longer. They had taken him into some kind of rest home to await the inevitable. Luckily, it wasn’t too far from his place, so they found it after only asking directions twice. Clyde was already tired, and hungry too. The two waffles he had for breakfast hadn’t been enough to last the four-hour drive north.

Uncle Julius looked to be dead already, at least as far as Clyde could tell. He found himself watching the old guy’s chest, to see if he was actually breathing. Marlene did all the talking, which was just as well, as Julius was in a coma, with only hours to live. The sisters-in-law had been pleased to see them, if only so they could vacate the bedside, and go for lunch.

Even for Marlene, having a one-way conversation with someone who was as good as dead soon got boring. She heaved her bulk out of the chair by the bedside, and kissed her uncle’s head, avoiding the large oxygen mask as best as she could. “Well, Uncle J. Got to go now, but I hope to see you soon”. Clyde wondered what nonsense she was talking, but knew better than to make a remark.

When she climbed into the old pickup, the springs groaned in complaint. Clyde was concerned that his old truck might not stand the four-hour trip home without expiring in sympathy with Julius.

“Now listen here, Clyde. I might well have a nap on the way home, so don’t you go getting yourself lost, y’hear?”

Biting his lip, Clyde pointed the truck south, and started for home. He hadn’t been in Jackson for years, and things had changed around there. He knew he had to head for Hazlehurst on the ’55, but that was easier said than done in the late afternoon traffic.

An hour later, and Marlene was snoring, her head slumped against the window. Clyde felt his face flushing. He knew damn well he had missed a ramp, and there was no way he was on the ’55. But sure he was heading south, he just kept going. It was the old road, he told himself. The interstate couldn’t be too far, and he would just be running parallel to it. There would be a sign soon, and he would find a ramp before Marlene woke up. All being well, they would be home in three hours or so.

It was getting dark, but Clyde spotted the Hazlehurst Lodge Motel, closed down years ago, by the look of it. That improved his mood. At least he was heading in the right direction. He started to look for signs to Brookhaven, which would confirm he was doing okay. But there weren’t any so far.

The blowout made him jump out of his skin, like a shotgun going off close to his ear. The truck slewed left, and dropped hard into a gully. The impact woke Marlene, who squealed like a baby rabbit. “Oh my Jesus! What’s happening, Clyde? Oh my Jesus, I think I have done gone and broke my leg honey!”

By any reckoning, Marlene was a large lady. There was no space between the seat and the dash that wasn’t filled by her four hundred and fifty pound frame. The truck was hanging at a strange angle, and Clyde got out to walk around to his wife’s door. When he tried to help her out, she screamed loud enough to affect his hearing. “Don’t touch me! Oh dear God, don’t touch me! My knee’s broke for sure. Clyde. Go get an ambulance!”

Not long after seeing the old motel, Clyde had noticed a phone booth close to the road. “I just have to walk back to the phone booth, Marlene honey. You wait there while I go call the paramedics”. He set off, walking along the side of the deserted road, hoping somebody would come along, so he could flag them down. The phone booth was further away than he remembered, and he was pleased when it finally came into view.

The light was out, but he didn’t need a light to dial 911.

“I need an ambulance. I am on the old Brookhaven road, not the ’55. South of Jackson, between the closed-up motel, and before Brookhaven. You can’t miss me, I’m next to a pickup and it’s light blue. I think my wife has gone and busted her leg”. The lady at the other end sounded kind, and elderly. “Okay, sir, the ambulance is on the way. Make sure to look out for them, but don’t go standing on the highway now, y’hear?”

When he got back close to the car, Clyde could hear his wife screaming before he saw his pickup. “Now calm yourself, Marlene dear. The ambulance is on the way”.

It was almost twenty minutes before he heard the sirens, and soon saw the lights flashing. “Stay calm, honey. They are almost here”. The two guys were very professional, but Clyde saw them exchange a look as they spotted just how big Marlene was. She screamed enough to wake the dead when they moved her, despite the pain-killing injection one had given her. As they struggled with the stretcher to get her into the ambulance, the older guy turned to Clyde.

“Are you coming with your wife, sir? We will be going back to Jackson, to the emergency room at the University Hospital”. Clyde shook his head. “No, I’ll follow on later. I need someone to come out and fix this flat, I’m sure my spare will be no good. I will use the phone booth up the road, the same one where I called you from”.

The paramedic looked confused.

“That old booth? It hasn’t worked in five years or more. Don’t think the handset is even connected”.

60 thoughts on “Photo Prompt Story: A visit to Uncle Julius

  1. I loved this whole story, Pete. Nothing like an old phone booth to add a little mystery.

    I like to tell the story of how my dad lost a dime at a phone booth. He wrote the phone company a letter (The stamp was more than ten cents) to ask for his money back. Talk about the principle of a matter. By the way, he “won” his dispute and they repaid him his dime.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. (1) “Well, Uncle J. Got to go now, but I hope to see you soon.” And she did. In heaven. It turned out that she was on her last leg of life.
    (2) “Uncle Julius was so good to us girls and Momma after Daddy passed.” So Uncle Julius was definitely heading to heaven. As for Arlene, we’re convinced all heavies go to heaven.
    (3) “The two waffles he had for breakfast hadn’t been enough to last the four-hour drive north.” As for Arlene, she hadn’t been in the mood to eat breakfast, although she did gulp down a couple gallons of Orange Julius.
    (4) “Clyde was concerned that his old truck might not stand the four-hour trip home without expiring in sympathy with Julius.” And that’s exactly what happened.
    (5) Having left Jackson, Clyde “knew he had to head for Hazlehurst on the ’55…” Hazlehurst is a real town, but at first I thought this was a fictional reference to Lee Hazlewood, who sang “Jackson” with Nancy Sinatra.
    (6) ““Now listen here, Clyde. I might well have a nap on the way home…” Meanwhile, Uncle Julius was preparing to have himself a little dirt nap.
    (7) “The impact woke Marlene, who squealed like a baby rabbit.” Unfortunately, she was unable to hop out of the car.
    (8) “She screamed enough to wake the dead when they moved her…” However, Uncle Julius wasn’t quite dead yet. Bad timing, Arlene. Bad timing.

    NOTE: “The truck slewed left, and dropped hard into a gully.” They were lucky to avoid a head-on collision, as the truck obviously crossed the oncoming lane of traffic before dropping into the ditch. As you know, we drive on the right side of the road over here.You folks drive on the ̶w̶r̶o̶n̶g̶ left side.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I did my research on the roads and towns in Mississippi, David. Lee Hazlewood was a long way from my thoughts, I assure you. 🙂
      I was referring to the fact that the pickup crossed over to the left from the right side of the road. It was a ‘deserted road’, as was mentioned, and that’s no doubt why they avoided any oncoming traffic.
      You got the connections with Uncle Julius, but I knew you would. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Another good story, Pete. I was surprised when the phone worked in the first place so the ending was a nice twist for me. It is rare to find a working phone booth these days. It also made me wonder who was caring for his wife.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am reblogging a beetleypete story (post) in his Photo Prompt Series on deartedandjody. I sent in the photo. The booth in that photo had stood, not functioning, for the 13 years we have lived in southwestern Washington State. About a month after I shot the photo in late December, someone knocked it over. I have not investigated to see if they took any of the parts. I suspect they released the ghost trapped inside. 🙂 I did enjoy the twist at the end. Warmest regards, Theo

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  5. Reblogged this on DearTedandJody and commented:
    I am reblogging a beetleypete story (post) in his Photo Prompt Series. I sent in the photo. The booth in that photo had stood, not functioning, for the 13 years we have lived in southwestern Washington State. About a month after I shot the photo in late December, someone knocked it over. I have not investigated to see if they took any of the parts. Enjoy, Ed

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When Ed sent me the photo, he told me that when he went to look inside the phone booth, the handset wire was not connected to the actual phone. That gave me the idea for this story, working back from that point.
      Glad you liked the ending. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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