The House on Persimmon Tree Road, Part I

The house on Persimmon Tree Road.

Last Friday I got a heaping dose of southern hospitality when I visited a very old house on Persimmon Tree Road.  The first time I saw the strange house with the porch piano was when I went with my Mom-and-Dad-in-love to Loretto, Tennessee.

“Did you see that old house?” I gasped. “It had an upright piano on the porch!”

“Want me to go back so you can take a picture,” asked by husband’s dad.

“Would you mind?” I asked.

My sweet Dad-in-love turned the car around so I could take the picture.

Upright piano on front porch.

Piano keys stripped of ivory.

I Couldn’t get the House on Persimmon Tree Road out of My Mind.

I was obsessed with the house, so I went to the county probate office as my first step in researching the place.

I had 3 questions:

1. Who owned the house?
2. When was it built?
3. Why was there an upright piano, decaying on the front porch?

I got the name of a family who lives nearby and searched their name on Whitepages.com.

Nervous but determined, I punched the number into my iPhone. You never know when you make a cold call. You can get told off or you can uncover a fascinating story about the past.

I was thankful that I got the latter.

Gabled roof.

Front porch with upright piano.

The Whites from Persimmon Tree Road.

Not only were the nearby homeowners (Ray and Glenda White) related to the original home owner, they invited me to their home to talk about the house on Persimmon Tree Road.

I brought my mom-in-love along, who lives in the same county. She conversed with Glenda while I talked to Ray.

Like most southerners who live in a small town all their lives, Glenda and my mom-in-love discovered multiple people that they both knew.

Glenda gave me a big hug when I walked through the door. The consummate extravert, she reminded me of my paternal grandma, but she is about my mom’s age. Ray and Glenda have been married 50 years.

Like myself, Glenda loves to visit flea markets, estate auctions, yard sales, antique malls, and the like.

Ray is quiet and unassuming. In the 1980s, he nearly lost his life from a sun stroke when he was working at his un-airconditioned gas station.

His great-grandparents had the house on Persimmon Tree Road built in the late 1800s.  I’ve got some more to say about the Persimmon Tree Road house, so watch for it in up-coming posts!

Meanwhile, do you have an old house you’d like for me to research and write about?  Let me know, because this has been one fun writing project!

Eaves surrounded by hundred-year-old oaks trees.

 

Do you believe that houses have eyes?

***
#oldhouse
#1900s
#southernlife
#southernfamilies
#ruralAlabama

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In from the Cold — A short story

Is it just me, or is anyone else a little creeped out by the Christmas song, “Baby It’s Cold Outside?”  In my short story, “In from the Cold,” I flesh out the characters from the song and add a context to the plot.

Let me know whether you love it or hate it!

Merry Christmas!
Stephanie

***

In from the Cold
By: Stephanie L. Robertson

It was the night before Christmas Eve, and Whitley was the only other customer in the diner.

 She squirmed on the vinyl diner seat in irritation. Where could Dean be? He was an hour late for their date. She swirled the dregs of cold coffee and watched the cream congeal at the bottom of the mug.

Why on earth did Max buy the cheap stuff instead of real coffee? He’d always been such a cheapskate, even when Whitley was working the counter back in high school.

“Want some more,” Max asked, his thick fingers holding the coffee pot over Whitley’s mug.

Whitley shrugged, “Sure, why not. As long as it’s leaded and not decaff.”

“Always,” grunted the owner of the diner, simply known to the locals as Max’s. The sign on the front listed the store as “Main Street Diner.” Max’s ex-wife had put that up years ago in hopes of changing the place into something more elegant. Like a tea room. But she couldn’t change Max’s any more than she could change the man, so she took off back in the 90’s. Her sign had faded and pealed. Max’s food remained the same.

Nonetheless, it was the only place to eat in Beehive, Tennessee, an unincorporated town of roughly 2,000 residents.

Two-thousand plus one, if you counted Whitley, who was home for Christmas break from Hiwassee College in Madisonville. She always told people she was from Memphis, which wasn’t that much of a stretch. Memphis was only one-hundred miles west of Beehive, and she was not about to tell anyone that she was from Beehive. That would just be embarrassing.

“I hate to tell you, Whit, but I think you’ve been stood up,” said Max in that gravelly voice of his.

Whitley stared at her former employer. “I have not been stood up. Dean is just late.”
Just the same, Whitley pushed the coffee aside and placed a $5 bill on the counter for Max. “Keep the change,” she said and reached for her heavy coat.

As she was turning around, the bell on the diner door jangled, and in walked Trevor Dewey—Beehive High School class of 2012, captain of the BHS Yellow Jackets’ football team back in the day. Whitley would know that killer smile anywhere.

“What c’n I get for you, Trevor?” asked Max.

Trevor looked over at Whitley and said in that slow southern drawl, “I’ll be having whatever this pretty lady is having. Do I know you, gorgeous?”

Whitley felt herself blush to the roots of her hairline. “I-I graduated a few years after you at Beehive,” she stammered.

“Oh, no,” Trevor took her hand. “I’d of remembered you. I’m Trevor Dewey.”
“I’m Whitley Kincaid,” said Whitley, angry at herself for being all a-flutter as her grandma used to say.

“Oh-h-h, well look at you all growed up, Miss Kincaid. At least I hope you’re still a ‘miss.’”
“Oh, brother,” Max groaned.

“What are you doing back in Beehive, Whitley?” asked Trevor, ignoring Max.
“I’m a first-year student at Hiwassee College,” answered Whitley. She always thought her roommate was silly by saying they were first-year students rather than freshmen. And here she was using the same terminology to this much older, very good-looking man.
“I don’t believe I’ve ever met anyone around here who goes to Hiwassee. What made you decide on that college?” asked Trevor.

Max grunted. Trevor’s specialty was getting women to talk about themselves while staring at them with rapt attention. He hoped this young lady had more sense than to fall for a guy like Dewey. In disgust, he turned to go back into the kitchen.

“Hey, Max, how about getting this lovely lady a drink?” Trevor turned back to Whitley and asked, “What will it be, Miss Whitley? We’ll just have a little date of our own.”
Whitley smiled, “I wouldn’t mind a diet soda.”

“Oh, please tell me you aren’t on a diet?” teased Trevor with an enduring dip of his head.
“Just for the taste,” giggled Whitley. This guy Trevor was just adorable!

“One diet soda coming up,” said Max.

“And I’ll take a regular soda,” said Trevor. He winked at Whitley and added, “On the rocks.”

Whitley heard herself giggle again. What had gotten into her? She was not usually so giddy around guys!

 ***
Max served the young couple their sodas and then made his way back into the kitchen. He rolled his eyes at the sound of Whitley’s giggles. He’d heard it all from notorious Trevor Dewey. It was if time had stood still for Dewey. Good ol’ “Dewey Can Do” from his high school football glory days. The worst thing about it, the women all loved the ne’er-do-well. The guy worked at his father’s feed store, at least that’s what he claimed. With his bright smile and stunning green eyes, he was determined to make it as a country singer in Nashville.

Problem was, in Max opinion, Trevor couldn’t sing a lick and didn’t know how to play an instrument. So, Trevor lived in Beehive and supposedly worked at the feed store. In reality, he spent most of his time roaming the streets and regaling all who listened with story of his football glory past and bright future to come.

Well, it was none of Max’s never mind. If Dewey’s parents were willing to pay for a grown son to sit around and do nothing, it was no skin off Max’s nose. But Max took no pleasure seeing the guy sweet talk a new, unsuspecting target. Especially since she had such a good, upstanding family.

“Oh, well,” said Max out loud. Wasn’t any of his business.

In thirty minutes, Max went back to man the counter.

Trevor was helping the Kincaid girl into her coat and guiding her toward the door.
“Thanks, man,” said Dewey, who slapped down a $10 bill and gave him a wink. “Keep the change.”

Max stared as Dewey held the door open for the girl.

A gust of frigid air blew into the small diner.

Max thought about calling Mr. Kincaid, but he didn’t know the man very well, and he didn’t want to intrude. Maybe Dewey was just offering the girl a ride home on a cold night.

Max shook his head.

It was none of his never mind.

 ***
“I’ve got several Beatles albums, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Guns ‘n Roses, you name it!” said Trevor.

Whitley’s eyes grew wide. “That’s so great, Trevor! I’m just beginning to start my collection. In fact, I’ve asked for an Audio-Technica professional turntable for Christmas. And I’m hoping my sister will give me some albums.”

Trevor smiled.

Whitley loved how he seemed to focus on every word she said. “My, how could anyone have such beautiful green eyes,” thought Whitley.

“Hey, why don’t you come over to my place, and I’ll show you my collection?” asked Trevor. “I’ve got a few doubles that I’ll let you have.”

“Really?” asked Whitley. “I’d love it!” What a nice guy!

“Great, let’s go. Yeah, don’t forget your coat. You’ll need it. It’s freezing out there.”

Trevor helped Whitley into her coat and turned to pay old Max, who scowled at him from behind the counter.

“Keep the change,” said Trevor before placing his hand on the small of Whitley’s back and leading her outside.

Max eyed Trevor with a deep frown.

“Dude, that guy’s a real grouch,” he muttered to Whitley as he opened his car door to let her inside.

“Oh, he’s really just a Teddy bear. He and my dad went to high school together. And I love that diner! It’s my favorite place to eat when I go home to Beehive.”
“Yeah, the place definitely has atmosphere. By the way, my car heater is broken. I know it’s cold. I’ll just hold your hand.”

Whitley smiled a little and passed her left hand over with a shy glance up at Trevor. She shrugged a little and said, “Okay.”

Whitley was surprised at how the evening was progressing. Trevor’s hand was so warm. He really acted as though he liked her! Her! She wasn’t used to this much attention from such a popular guy—at least he was popular in high school. All the girls had a crush on him, and now she was the sole subject of his attention!

Trevor kept the conversation flowing the entire ride home. Kaitlyn didn’t even feel the chill, even though it was snowing. What a magical night!

Back at Trevor’s small studio apartment over the retail space of his dad’s feed store, Trevor invited Kaitlyn in and brought out a box of albums.

“Can I get you a beer,” asked Trevor, walking into the kitchen area.

For a moment, Kaitlyn panicked. She didn’t drink.

“No!”

Trevor paused. “That’s cool. I’ve got soda, too.”

Kaitlyn breathed out in relief. “Sure, that sounds great.”

Trevor busied himself with the drink while Kaitlyn perused his vinyl record collection.
“Oh, you’ve got Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. I love that album!”

“Keep it,” said Trevor and brought the sodas out to Kaitlyn.

“Trevor, I couldn’t keep this,” said Kaitlyn. “Where did you get it?”

“It’s yours,” said Trevor as he sat down near Kaitlyn. “Look, I’ve got two. I was going to give it to my girlfriend for Christmas. But we broke up.”

“I’m so sorry. Right before Christmas? That’s awful.”

“Here’s your drink, be careful…don’t spill it.”

“Thank you,” said Kaitlyn. Trevor was sitting very close to her, and she liked it. He looked so sad, and he began talking about how his girlfriend broke it off in a very cruel way.
“That’s so sad!” Kaitlyn exclaimed.

“It’s okay, really. I realize now that she was right. We weren’t meant to be. She wasn’t nice—like you.”

He leaned into Kaitlyn and she found herself cuddling against him.

He tipped his glass toward hers. “It’s all good. Let’s toast to new beginnings.”

“To new beginnings,” said Kaitlyn. They clinked glasses and both took a drink. “Mm, this doesn’t taste like regular Sprite…”

“I added a twist of lime. Do you like it?”

“Yes, I do,” said Kaitlyn as she took another sip.

***
The door of Max’s diner flew open, sending a gust of wind and snow into the diner.
Max looked up from where he was pulling the tape from his register. “Sorry, Dean, we’re closed. I’ve got to lock up.”

Dean Langston’s face fell. “I don’t suppose you’ve seen Kaitlyn Kincaid around here, have you?”

Max set the tape on the counter. “You’re late. She’s already gone.”

“Great! I tried to text her…my grandmother fell while taking out her dog tonight. We had to take her to the emergency room.”

“Is she okay?” asked Max, concern on his face.

“She’s fine. They’re keeping her overnight for observation.”

Max leaned over the counter. He usually stayed out of folks’ business, but the Langston boy really was a good kid.

“Her cell phone was dead,” said Max. “And if you want to do her a favor, make sure she got home okay. The last thing I know, Trevor Dewey was leading her out that door.”

“Dewey’s Den?” asked Dean, who had heard the stories about Trevor’s studio apartment.

“Who knows. It’s none of my never mind.”

***
Trevor’s apartment was so delightfully warm. Somehow, Kaitlyn and Trevor had gone from talking about albums to—a very cozy kiss.

Kaitlyn glanced at her watch. The numbers blurred, and she could barely make out that it was nearly 11 p.m.

“Is it nearly 11 already? I’ve got to go,” said Kaitlyn.

“Nah, stay just a little bit longer,” said Trevor, and he pulled her into another kiss.

“No, I’ve really got to go. My parents will think something happened to me.”

Trevor traced Kaitlyn’s cheekbone with a finger. “Just text them.”

“My phone died,” said Kaitlyn. She felt so drowsy.

“You can use mine,” crooned Trevor. He seemed to be fading in and out.

“My sister and I were going to stay up late watching movies,” said Kaitlyn.

“Come on, honey, it’s cold out there.”

“Are you sure you just put lime in my drink?” Kaitlyn murmured.

“Did you like it?” asked Trevor.

“Seriously, Trevor, I’ve had a good time, but I’ve got to get home.”

“But it’s snowing. Don’t you like it in here, where it’s warm?”

Suddenly, there was a pounding on Trevor’s door. Trevor cursed and Kaitlyn felt him lean her down against the carpet.

There was the sound of men arguing. Was that Dean’s voice she heard?

She closed her eyes and then felt her being lifted up in strong arms.

“Kaitlyn, are you okay? Are you okay?” It was Dean.

“What are you doing here?” Kaitlyn heard herself talking as if in a tunnel.

“Saving you from Dewey’s Den!” Dean’s voice was firm.

She looked out from the slots of her eyelids. Trevor was on the floor, rubbing his jaw.

“What about him?” asked Kaitlyn. They passed through the apartment door and Kaitlyn felt icy cold.

“Forget him,” said Dean. “I’m taking you home to your family!”

Kaitlyn closed her eyes once she was in Dean’s warm pickup truck. She didn’t know what was going on, but she felt safe with Dean.

The End.

When the Train Whistle Blows — Short, Spooky Story

When the Train Whistle Blows
By: Stephanie L. Robertson

Folks ‘round here say there’s a ghost that haunts the tracks running through the middle of Athens.

Do you believe them?

I do.

I seen her.

They say it’s the ghost of Perlie Gunn, waitin’ for her beau, Gilbert McCall.

And waitin’.

And waitin’.

Ever time you hear the train whistle on a dark, drizzling night.

1935 and Perlie was the purtiest gal of all at the ol’ wood school house. Just past her eighteenth birthday. Blue eyes and pert nose. Always wearing that blue flour-sack dress. A trip to town for her daddy to get something at that hardware store right over there.

Passed the ol’ Jefferson Street diner, where Gilbert McCall sat at his breakfast of sausage, eggs, and grits. Couldn’t recall ever seeing her before. Jumped right up from his table, fork and knife falling from his high-born hands. Left it to go meet the yeller-haired gal.

Wait!

Was that little ol’ Perlie Gunn, all growed up?

Diner owner, Buzz Henshaw, just shook his head, wondering if McCall would remember to pay the check, but knowing the feller would fergit. There was no stopping true love.
Folks say Gilbert jogged after Perlie and they fell for each other like a fish for a worm, the minute their eyes met.

But Perlie stood no chance with a McCall.

Oh, no ma’me.

She was from the wrong side of the tracks.

Ol’ Judge McCall forbade their courtship, and her folks knew it would end bad. They knew a grimy-faced pig farmer’s daughter couldn’t land a high-falutin McCall.

But folks saw them two sneaking to meet for picnics or out and about Athens. They saw Gilbert, looking all moony-eyed, slipping out of the courthouse where he clerked that summer he was home from law school down in Tuscaloosa. They’d steal a kiss behind the drug store, when ol’ Judge was inside, fannin’ hisself from the summer heat.

Story goes that they were s’posed to meet down by the tracks at dusk. Run off an’ marry, they was, in McCall’s fine, red Ford coupe.

Something put Gilbert late. He heard that train come flying down them tracks and saw her standing and waitin’ on t’other side, her clothes in a beat up ol’ box. Musta slipped in them heels she borrowed from her Cousin Maylene. Ankle stuck fast in a gap twix the metal rail and wooden tie.

Train man near ripped the town apart with the sound of his brakes sliding towards Perlie. It was too late. They say that train drug her nigh forty feet afore Gilbert could blink a eye.
I heard tell Gilbert never went back to Tuscaloosa after that. Ended up somewheres over in Georgia. I never seen him since.

But I seen her walkin’.

Still wearing that blue flour sack dress.

Still looking for Gilbert after all these years.

On wet, foggy nights.

Walkin’ on the tracks when the train whistle blows.

Southern Small Town Style

Art Studio

Art Studio

I recently took these photos from the small north Alabama town of Athens. I composed them with the idea of just giving you a little sample of elements of the town’s style. Feel free to use them if you wish, but I would really appreciate if you give me the photo credit and link back to http://www.thewritesteph.com.

Traditional small town atmosphere juxtaposed with high-tech aerospace company.

Traditional small town atmosphere juxtaposed with high-tech aerospace company.

lion

This drug store serves up delicious coned ice cream for visitors, young and old.

This drug store serves up delicious coned ice cream for visitors, young and old.

Potted Lantana brings curb appeal to busy streets.

Potted Lantana brings curb appeal to busy streets.

Classic. Southern. Character.

Classic. Southern. Character.

entrance
Traditional Greek revival style court house.

Traditional Greek revival style court house.

Lichen on post.

Lichen on post.