The Curmudgeon: Meet the Characters of Magnolia Bluff

He was crippled during the war. He rides a wheel chair. He’s bitter. He looks at life though jaundiced eyes.

The men of Magnolia Bluff – the good, the bad, and particularly the outspoken – meet before daylight in the downtown cafe for coffee.

It’s the same as in small towns from one end of the country to the other.

They solve the world’s problems.

They create a few.

It’s a motley crew.





And there is always one curmudgeon.

In Eulogy in Black and White, his name is Jack Rice.

He was crippled during the war.

He rides a wheel chair.

He looks at life though jaundiced eyes.

Everyone loves him.

The smart ones fear him.


Caleb Pirtle III

We hear Jack coming down the hallway long before he steers his wheelchair through the door and into the back room Lorraine reserves us for us promptly at five o’clock every morning.

Jack Rice is big and burly, yet he’s only the ghost of the man he once was. His face is hard as granite, yet he looks every bit of his seventy-two years. Jack lost one leg in a Viet Cong minefield, and diabetes took the other one a couple of years ago.

He’s blunt.

He’s irascible.

He fought a war.

He lost a war.

He tells me he loses it again and again when the nightmares come, and they sit on his shoulder and taunt him whether he’s sleeping or not. He’s rigged up his old Ford pickup so he can drive it, and nobody wants to occupy the same highway with Jack if it’s raining or he’s been drinking, and you can smell hard liquor on his breath anytime day or night.

Whiskey’s gonna kill you, I once told him.

It’s about time, he says.

Death would have caught him years ago.

 But death is still riding that tired old horse.

Jack’s wearing his old St. Louis Cardinal baseball cap and has his faded combat jacket thrown over his shoulders.

Didn’t keep out the rain.

Kept out the chill.

Lorraine has his cup of coffee waiting on him by the time he rolls to the table.

“Tell me what it was, Buck.” Jack’s voice is loud, his words brittle. He takes a sip of coffee and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand.

Buck shakes his head.

He knows what’s coming.

“Was it murder?” Jack asks. “Or was it an accidental shooting?”

Buck drains his cup and leans back in his chair. His grin is as wide and as crooked as the San Saba River. “Looked to me like an accident.”

“Sounds to me like murder.” Jack’s smile is more of a smirk.

I know Jack. He doesn’t give a tinker’s damn if it was an accident.

Or murder.

He just likes to jangle Buck’s nerves. And he’s one of the few people in Magnolia Bluff who can get away with it. Buck lost a daddy in Vietnam.

Jack can’t take my daddy’s place, he once told me.

But he was there.

He saw what daddy saw.

He crawled through the same jungles where my daddy crawled.

He fought in the rice paddies where my daddy fought.

He drank the same cheap Saki my daddy drank.

He felt the pain daddy felt.

He’s bitter.

I’m bitter.

Jack’s not family.

But he’s damn close.

Please click HERE to find Eulogy in Black and White on Amazon.

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