The Storyteller: On his way to hell

The day was coming to an end and he felt as if his life was headed in the same direction. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford

He bore a terrible curse. He was out telling all kinds of lies and trying to convince strangers that he was telling them the truth.

It’s a tough life.

That’s what he said as he waited for the train to come rolling into the Mineola station.

The sun was hanging low in the west.

It was the end of another day.

He thought it might be the end of all days.

The day was becoming as dark as his mood.

He was a surly little man with a head of full brown curly hair.

Clean shirt.

It was blue with green checks and had been both starched and pressed.

His trousers were black and had a lot of rayon mixed with the wool blend.

His blazer was brown.

From a distance, it looked like leather.

He looked out of place.

Train riders were wrinkled folks.

Caleb Pirtle III

“What’s tough about it?” I asked.

“My job.”

“What do you do?”

“I generally need to keep it a secret.”

I arched an eyebrow.

He shrugged.

“It’s my mama,” he said. “She doesn’t want anybody to know.”

“Why not?”

He leaned forward in his chair, pulled a chunk of chewing gum from the sole of his shoe, and said, “I’m a writer.”

“That’s an honorable job,” I said.

“Not for mama.”

“What do you write?”


“What’s wrong with fiction?”

“Mama’s a real religious woman,” he said.

“Most mothers are.”

“She’s a ten commandment woman,” he said.

“The ten commandments don’t say anything bad about writing,” I told him.

“Have you read them lately?”

I shook my head. “It’s been a while.”

“I break the wrong commandment,” he said

“Which one?”

“I told you I write fiction,” he said.

I nodded.

He sighed.

“I tell lies,” he said. “I tell lies, and people believe them.”

I thought he might cry.

He did, too.

“Where you headed?” I asked.

“To prison,” he said.

I must have looked surprised.

“I’m on my way to visit mama.”

“I thought she was a religious, God-fearing woman,” I said.

“She is,” he said. “But when I wrote my first book, she went a little crazy,” he said.

“What happened?”

“She read it, went out, and robbed liquor store.”

“Why would she do that?”

“I’m her baby boy,” he said.


“She didn’t want me to go to hell alone.”

I’ve met a lot of interesting people during my travels. You can meet a bunch of them in my memoir of sorts, The Man Who Talks to Strangers. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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