Flash fiction = 90 minutes from reveal of theme until posting online at AW. Not that speed is the goal, it’s intended to be the restraint, but I whipped this out in 45 minutes. I think that was a record for me. It’s easier when the story is based on real-life events though.
My grandfather, whom we affectionately called “Daddy Frank” used to sit on a park bench in downtown Griffin, Georgia, and regale the passersby with a variety of stories and tall tales. He had quite the reputation in Griffin and within the state of Georgia since he had served as a state congressman for several years.
He claimed he was great friends with Jimmy Carter’s daddy, that his grandmother was a full-blooded Creek Indian, and the chief’s daughter no less, that his grandfather and LBJ’s grandfather were brothers and that he could predict the weather.
I remember many of his stories, especially the ones that tickled him so much he had a hard time getting them out. A few of them were rather racy but my older cousins would tell my sister and I those stories in the hushed hours after we’d all gone to bed.
One of my favorite stories was about a dog he’d owned named Jesse.
“Jesse was a good ol’ dog,” he’d always begin when my cousins and I begged him to tell the story. “He couldn’t hunt and wasn’t much of a watchdog but, I tell you, that dog could talk.”
This was where we’d all say, “No way, Daddy Frank. Dogs can’t talk.”
“I know that most dogs can’t talk but ol’ Jesse, he could. He could talk up a storm. He’d talk about the weather, talk about the other dogs. Why he could even tell you what the neighbor lady said to her husband over breakfast.”
“What happened to Jesse?” one of us would ask.
“One day I took Jesse downtown with me, just to sit and watch people pass and it just so happened that a young feller was passin’ through and he heard Jesse carrying on about Judy Winthrop’s beagle. Jesse was quite smitten with Lucille, ya see.”
This is where he’d usually pause and take a sip of his coke that he called a co-cola. Sometimes he’d peel each of us a peach as he talked. There were always bushels of them on the back porch during the summer because he owned a peach orchard. By this point, he would have peeled at least two, possibly three, he was so fast with his knife.
“So anyway’s this feller says to me, ‘did that dog just talk?’ and I says ‘yep, he sure did,’ and he says, ‘That’s amazing! How much would you sell him to me for?’ But I says, ‘Oh, he’s not for sale.’ ”
“But you did sell him didn’t you, Daddy Frank?”
“Yeah, I did. He kept offering me more and more money for Jesse until finally he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Ol’ Jesse he didn’t pay us much mind at the time, he was busy noddin’ and sayin’ ‘howdy’ to the other dogs passin’ by as this feller and I talked.”
“How much did you get?”
“He offered me three hunna dolla’s for him. But ol’ Jesse, he didn’t take too kindly to my sellin’ him when I told him. I said, ‘Jesse, you been a good dog but that feller that I was jus’ talkin’ to, he made a fine offer for you.'”
“What did Jesse say?” This was always our line.
“He said, ‘What’d you git for me?’ and I says ‘I got three hunna dolla’s,’ but then Jesse looked at me with his sad ol’ eyes and said, ‘That’s too cheap. Just for that I’ll never speak another word.'”
Now we knew this was a tall tale and that he’d never owned a talking dog but assumed that there was some kernel of truth or inspiration somewhere in the story. My grandfather was a shrewd negotiator, made a ton of money selling cotton to the government during WWII, and being the way he was, we had no doubt that somewhere along the way, he probably had owned a dog named Jesse and he probably had sold him to some Yankee sucker passing through town. That was just the nature of the beast that was my grandfather.
This one is dedicated to my grandfather who really did tell my cousins and I this story because it was one of our favorites.