Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Broken Heart

A Broken Heart


Short Story – Non-fiction

Bobby was sixteen when he fell in love for the first time. He walked Ruth home after school, took her to the movies, and spent more time with the tall brunette than with his other friends. Bobby was always cracking jokes and having fun, but he managed to stay out of trouble. His father was the preacher of a medium-sized Baptist church, as well as a butcher at the Piggly Wiggly Store. They lived in the small town of Providence, Kentucky, the year was 1956, and everyone knew everyone else.

The center of town was located at the intersection of the two main streets, and it was a common gathering place when anyone was looking for something to do. Bobby went to the intersection one day to meet his cousin, Clarkie. Clarkie and his family recently had moved back from Lakeland, Florida, where Clarkie had his first paying job at a bowling alley setting pins.

When Clarkie met Bobby at the corner, he instantly knew something was wrong. “Bobby, you look like you lost your best friend. Is everything okay?”


“You want to talk about it?”


Clarkie knew at once that Bobby had broken up with his girlfriend. “You want to do something?” he asked, hoping to take Bobby’s mind off his ex-girlfriend. “We can find the guys and play ball.”

Bobby surprised him by saying, “I feel like getting away for a while.”

Clarkie was fifteen and an experienced traveler. He had hitchhiked down to eastern Tennessee earlier that year to visit his sister, saving the bus fare his parents had given him for the trip. He felt confident that he could travel anywhere. “Where would you like to go? Florida is nice this time of year.”

 “Anywhere, I just need to get away.” His girlfriend had just broken up with him, and he did not want to talk or think about it. Leaving home and running away seemed like an easy way to fix things.

“How much money have you got?” asked Clarkie.

“Five dollars. How about you?”

“Let’s see,” Clarkie said as he searched his pockets. “Fifty cents.”

It was early fall, and a cold snap was coming. Clarkie thought about the weather and said, “Highway 41 is only a mile out of town. If we make it down to Lakeland, I could get my old job back at the bowling alley. There is a lot to do in Lakeland.”

“Okay, let’s go,” said Bobby.

Neither boy considered how leaving home would affect their families; they were only excited about doing something new and different.

The mile walk to US41 took less than an hour. Bobby was quiet as they left town. As they passed beneath the city gate, he looked back at the sign and said, “Wonder if we will see that sign again?”

“Yeah, it’ll always be here,” said Clarkie. “Now comb your hair and straighten your shirt. We want to look good so we can catch a ride.”

Their first ride was with an elderly couple who let them off just outside of Madisonville on a quiet stretch of US41. They only had to wait a few minutes with their thumbs in the air before another car pulled over. The driver of a late model black Ford rolled down the passenger side window and asked, “Where you fellows headed?”

The boys ran up to the car’s passenger side and said, “We’re going down to Nashville, sir.”

“I’m going to Clarksville. Will that help?”

“Sure will,” Clarkie responded as he opened the back door and jumped in.

“I think we should try and get a ride past Nashville. It’s almost impossible to get a ride in the middle of a city,” Clarkie whispered to Bobbie under the sound of the country music playing on the radio. Bobby nodded approval as they continued south.

They planned on taking US31 south from Nashville to Montgomery, then US231 toward Tallahassee. The next ride got them through Nashville, Tennessee, but they were not so lucky in Birmingham, Alabama. The young man driving let them out right in the middle of town. It was a bad mistake since they had to walk south to the edge of town before they were able to catch another ride.

In Montgomery the situation was even worse. They were let out on the north side of town and had to walk all the way to the south side before catching another ride. That night they crossed the Florida line and ended up alone just north of Tallahassee on a dark and lonely stretch of road.

An early cold front had pushed south during the evening. Dressed only in light clothes and without coats, they needed to find shelter to stay warm. After a while they found a parking lot full of school busses with all the doors left open. They picked a bus and tried to sleep on the back seats, but it was too cold.

Back out on the highway there was no traffic, so they tried to sleep hobo style. They laid down head to head and used each other’s shoulder for a pillow. After about thirty minutes they gave up trying to sleep and started walking again. Fortunately they found an old abandoned house sitting on a small hill just off the highway. They built a fire in the fireplace and managed to survive the night.

The next day, cold and hungry, Bobby said, “I’ve had enough. I’m ready to go home.”

Clarkie agreed, and so they started hitchhiking back north. They had good luck with the first few cities, getting rides through to the north side of town, but south of Montgomery their good luck ended. A trucker picked them up and headed north with Bobby sitting in the middle of the seat.  When the driver placed his hand on Bobby's leg, well that did it. Bobby and Clarkie were out of that truck in nothing flat.

“Was that ever freaky!” Bobby said as they watched the truck drive away.

In Nashville their bad luck continued when they got stuck in the middle of town again. They went into a diner and spent the last of their money, except for a quarter, which Bobby used to call home. Their dads drove down that night and picked them up, relieved to have them home safe again. Believing that the boys had learned a lesson, their dads did not punish them.

Sometime later Bobby and Ruth made up, and after graduation they married and had a lovely family. One of his sons even became a preacher, following in his grandfather’s footsteps.

Copyright © 2015 Hubert Clark Crowell
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