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 Category:  General Fiction
  Posted: June 21, 2020      Views: 136

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Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
Marv: a person to avoid. Levi: someone you would like to be.
"Marv and Levi" by Ric Myworld



(This conversation/story is primarily Marv telling Levi’s life history as he rambles in run-on paragraphs, which should explain why there aren’t any closing quotation marks at the end of most.)
 
A little over a half acre, encased by a twelve-foot-high metal fence strung with four rungs of angled barbed-wire on top, Marv’s liquor store and depot had become a compound coven of misfits. 

The back-parking lot, and both side lots usually bustled with an influx of deadbeats gambling chump change on craps, cards, or cornhole when weather permitted. Otherwise, the quiet homeless dwellers tended to congregate around blazing fifty-gallon drums to keep warm, surrounded by rag-tag clusters of tents, plastic tarps, and tied together garbage-bag shelters.

Snowflakes fluttered outside the liquor store as brisk winds intermittently whistled underneath the front-door awning.

A car wreck about a quarter-mile up the road had slowed traffic and was playing havoc on sales at the drive-through window.

The front door opened with a gust of blowing snow, and frigid wind whistled through sending in a chill to make butts pucker. The chimes announced a big ol’ burly customer who straggled in stomping the slush off his four-buckle galoshes.

“Hey there . . . what can I do you for?”  Marv asked, as he jumped up from behind the counter where he sat on a barstool, chuckling, having amused himself with his intro.

“Yes, I’ll have three two-liter bottles of Stoli vodka,” the man replied.

“Coming right up . . . Can’t remember seeing you around here before, mister. So, are you new to the area?” Marv watched the man closely and waited for a reply that never came.
  
Then, being his typical over-talkative self, he kept pushing the conversation, as he said, “Oh, by the way, my name is Marv, and this here’s my place. Big Al’s bar and liquor store, previously called Bubba’s dispensary. Now, I betcha you’re wondering why it’s Al’s bar and not Marv’s?” Marv waited . . . the man’s anticipated question never asked.
 
“It’s been a long forty-years standing behind this bar and I’ve witnessed a little bit of everything. But I don’t suspect very much that anyone would care to hear about.

“There have been fights. Shootings and knifings and even a few killings. Some between men, women, women against men and vice versa. Heart attacks, robberies, circus clowns, and even the Cisco Kid once brought his horse, Diablo, inside the tavern for a brew.” Marv walked back up to the counter and set the bottles down beside the cash register with a series of thumps, his diarrhea of the mouth never missing a word as he jabbered on.

“Most times, though,” he rambled, “there were just a bunch of old drunks, smoking, drinking, and telling lies. Yep, some whoppers, I mean to tell ya.
 
“Then, back about thirty-years ago, the city decided to spruce this area up a bit and try to make it look respectable.
 
“They started by pouring new sidewalks. Set some trees and shrubs, put up new streetlights, painted over the graffiti-covered buildings, and even paved the roads.

“They came back for a year or two to trim and maintain the greenery, dug up flower beds and planted assorted flowers, but as expected, we ain’t seen ‘um since. 

“That is T-Bone Alley turning off Lyle Street in behind the left-rear side of this building,” Marv said, as he pointed to show the path. “It circles behind in an L-shape from left to right rear and comes around to the right-front corner at Fourth Street. The road that runs in front of this store.” Marv kept pointing, motioning, and waving like a traffic cop on crack.

The man just stood with a look of exasperation.

“Out back, just off T-Bone Alley’s asphalt, the homeless have made up makeshift camps, new ones going up every day. Within hours of someone leaving, another takes their place.

“Customers used to be skeptical about driving back there, but these days, our regulars honk and exchange pleasantries with a smile, howdy-dos and a how are you, too.
 
“I’m sure the vagrants look more than a little scary to those who aren’t used to seeing them. But we know most of them, and all but the couple who won’t stay on their antipsychotic medicines are harmless.

“Most are just normal people down on their luck, needing a place to be. And, long as I own this place, they will never have to leave. I used to worry about where they might go when I die, but not anymore. I have Levi listed as my sole beneficiary. 

“Levi Ledbetter came here about the same time as the upgrades, in the early 1980’s. He left a time or two, but only once for more than a few days. That was when he went to collect his huge inheritance.

“It shocked us all to find out that he was born into one of the wealthiest and most prominent families in the country. He himself invented a slew of patented products that yield endless royalties.

“Fashion replaced with faddish jeans torn and sliced to shreds. Messy waxed bedhead looking hairstyles. Who can possibly tell who’s who? A crowned prince dresses like a pauper. An adorned princess parades the streets in skimpy rags of a harlot tramp. This homeless crowd’s attire fits right in.” Marv guffawed. The man stared in a blank expression.
     
“There was a woman named Shirley Dowry who moved to town back about 1989. She and Levi must have sensed the other's regal bloodlines as they took up and started hanging out together. They became close. Then, she died. Froze to death one night when the mission house was full. Levi had been gone a couple days when he came back to find out the bad news. He took it harder than anyone could have imagined.” Marv pulled a stained handkerchief from his back pocket, blew his nose and wiped his eyes. In that order.

“Levi stayed to himself for a few years after that. And from then on, he never talked much anymore. Whenever I would ask him if he was okay or question why he didn’t talk anymore, he would just say, ‘Oh, it’s all good, I’m okay; I just don’t reckon there’s too much I care to talk about.’

“More resembling a destitute bum or beggar, you would be surprised to know that Levi is still one of the wealthiest men in America.

“The board at the bank manages his estate and investments. Once a month they reinvest or deposit his income into sixty-plus different accounts. He makes money faster than he can spend it.

“Levi is a very rich man who can buy whatever he wants, but he chooses to give his good fortune away. His pledge to the needy has always been his biggest joy. Although he prefers space and the outdoors, his two, full-time programs continuously search to find the homeless suitable housing. 
  
“Four times a year he gives the bank a list of his chosen recipients and each receives the amount that Levi designates. To tell the truth, he has even paid a few times to get this here liquor store out of repossession over the years. Before I bought it of course.

“I guess you might understand why I have these feelings of indebtedness toward him for his kindness. Of course, I really don’t know why I worry about it, since he ain’t never mentioned it the first time in all these years.

“Now, I don’t have to worry any more about all these people when I’m gone. But you know, I wonder more what might become of them when Levi’s gone.

“I guess you could say Levi is a very important person, and he doesn’t even know it.

“Oh, by the way, what did you say your name was, newcomer?”

“Bill . . . Bill Ledbetter, I’m Levi’s brother. We haven’t seen each other since we were youngsters.”

“Sorry, mister, I apologize for meandering. They say I’m a little windy; but there just ain’t too many walk-ins around here anymore. Uh, and I don’t hear very well either. What did you say your name was again?”

“My name is Bill Ledbetter, and I’m looking for my brother, Levi. Do you know where I might find him?”

“No, sir . . . no, sir, I can’t say as I do,” Beads of sweat broke out on Marv's forehead, wringing his hands, flustered and fidgiting.

“It’s obvious you know my brother well,” Bill Ledbetter bristled, red-faced, his eyes boring into Marv. “So why won’t you say where I can find him?”

“Well, to tell you the truth, Mr. Ledbetter, I’m a figuring that if Levi had cared to be in contact with you, he would’ve done it long before now. Of course, I will be happy to tell him you stopped in and relay any message or information. Then, Levi can decide what he wants to do from there.”

Obviously frustrated, Bill Ledbetter’s mouth fell wide open and he stood slackjawed, drouping like a willow tree, and said, “But, you don’t understand—” 

Before Bill could say another word, Marv retaliated in his sternest voice, “Oh, I understand perfectly. Levi’s my friend, and whether he sees you or not will be his choice. Feel free to leave a phone number, if you’d like. But other than that, end of conversation.”
 
This story is a fictional conversation, with fake names and location to protect the real-life characters who made it possible. We didn’t learn the truth until many years later, but as children, Levi kept Marv stocked up on Bazooka bubble-gum, pixie sticks, jawbreakers, grape and orange Crush, and Yahoo chocolate drinks. Us kids could always count on a free treat when we could sneak off to the corner liquor store. Thanks to the scruffy old man who sat on his five-gallon bucket waving to passersby and sharing a kind word and a smile with everyone. 
 

Thanks for the memories, Levi, my friend. You are never forgotten. Your kindness and example of all the traits a fine man should possess. And, I’m forever indebted to you for the understanding instilled within a young boy, your knowledge of the important things in life. Although, I have swayed greatly from the righteous path; thanks to you, it has never been without guilt, or for long.          
 

Recognized

Author Notes
Well, remembering back to a conversation I witnessed as a boy, I started writing for that one-sided, all dialog contest. Then, I ditched that idea and wrote it this way.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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