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A Dead Man’s Last Wish

By Grant WhitehurstPublished 2 years ago 6 min read
Photo by Amber Martin on Unsplash

The old man had lain in his crypt for over 60 years, every day listening to those walking by quote the price of cotton for the day. He rested in a shady grove of stately water oaks on the side of a white sandy dirt road outside of the small community called Glendale, Alabama. It’s said that he wanted to be laid to rest there, next to the road, so that he may always know the price of cotton for the day.

By Jill Dimond on Unsplash

He was a very prosperous farmer that had spent his life tending and overseeing his plantation and growing the beautiful white puffs of the fiber. His attention was always on the weather and how favorable or unfavorable it was for the crop. Each year as the bolls matured and harvesting time drew near, he kept an especially sharp ear on the price of the commodity.

“Old man the price of cotton is twenty cents” or “Old man, the price of cotton is twenty two cents” or whatever the price of cotton may be for the day. This is what the people of the community would call out as they passed his grave, knowing his dying wish. Even to this day those who know the story of the old man will quote the price of cotton for the day as they walk past the grave.

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Ty Booming Was a young wisecrack that despised his community for its simplicity. He spent most of his time in the living room of his parents modest home watching television or on the porch listening to his pocket sized transistor radio. As far as he was concerned, this community was “Nowheresville.”

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He despised everything about Glenville and the larger town Eufaula that was nearby. He hated Alabama. He hated the people. They were all so simple! He made up his mind that he would leave as soon as he turned eighteen in another year. He would go to California and get work in the movie industry. He’d leave this ugly area once and for all.

He even hated the tradition of people walking by the old man’s grave and calling out the price of cotton. “How stupid,” he thought. “The old man’s been dead for sixty years! What does he care? He don’t even hear the idiots!”

He never called out the price in passing. It was a stupid tradition as far as he was concerned. This evening, for a lark, he called out “Old man, the price of cotton is five dollars a pound!” The price was actually forty cents.

Al heard the boy, just as he’d heard everyone else that had quoted the price as they passed his crypt over the decades. But this was big news! Just a week ago when Stumpy Waters passed by and called out, the price had been only thirty eight cents! This was an increase of over one thousand percent! His progeny would be rich!

Young Ty froze with fear when he felt the earth beneath him shake violently. He watched in terror as the marble slab that marked the crypt swing up and open on its hinges. A barn owl flew from a nearby tree and looked directly at Ty as it flew by.

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From a beautiful mahogany casket Old Man Al stepped out of his grave wearing the elegant finery he’d been laid to rest in. His eyes shown wide and wild with excitement. He stood at well over six feet tall, clearly a fit specimen of a man for his age.

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He smiled a huge toothy grin at Ty and extended his hand for an uncomfortably firm handshake. “Five dollars a pound? That’s wonderful! We gotta strike now, boy! We’ll be rich! Let’s get busy boy! We got a lot of cotton to pick! We’ll have a full moon to pick by!”

Al grabbed Ty by the arm and began leading him to the field. Ty pulled away violently. “I don’t pick cotton, you crazy old fart! Go pick it yourself!”

Al’s eyes flashed angrily as the smile left his face. “Oh, I intend to pick it myself, and you’ll be pickin’ it right beside me, you insolent little cur!” His face went from a pleasant and childish countenance to that of a very stern and cruel one.

Al grabbed the boy by the shoulder. He cried out in pain. With Al’s firm grip on the back of his neck, they walked together to an old ramshackle shed. Al reached in and grabbed two large sacks to fill with the precious commodity. He quickly showed Ty the most efficient way of picking the crop.

By Sebastian Huxley on Unsplash

When Ty tried to resist Al’s demands, the old man slapped him fiercely on the top of his head. “Straighten up, Boy, or I’ll take my belt off and tan your hide, but good!”

Al was much too strong for Ty to contend with. He quit resisting and began picking. Every time he fell behind, the old man slapped him on the top of his head to motivate him.

He quickly learned to avoid the sharp spikes of the bolls as he picked, but not before every finger of both his hands were sore. He lugged his bag on his young back and managed to keep up with Alfred. The old man worked furiously, grinning the whole time. By ten o’clock the next morning, the unlikely pair had over five hundred pounds of cotton.

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Ty struggled with the heavy bag as the walked the two miles to the cotton gin to sell their pickens’. After weighing the bags they were given tickets to take to the window to receive their cash payments.

Al handed his ticket to Ty. “Get my cash, Boy. I gotta go to that outhouse and take a leak.” Ty collected their money and walked to the outhouse and waited. After fifteen minutes, he banged on the outhouse door and called out, “Al! What’d you do? Die in there?” The door swung slowly open. The outhouse was empty.

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Ty looked around and saw no sign of Alfred. He began walking home. When he passed the old man’s grave, it was just as it had been for years, with no signs of ever having been disturbed.

He walked on home. He patted the wad of bills in his front pocket. He recounted it. It was now well after two o’clock in the afternoon. He took a long hot shower, ate the lunch his mother offered him, and laid down on his bed and slept until five o’clock the next morning. He pulled the wad of cash from his pocket and recounted it. It was real. It hadn’t been a dream.

After washing his face and hands, he prepared a quick breakfast, ate it, and walked into town. At the labor building he joined a crew to help a farmer with gathering hay.

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At the end of the day, tired and dirty, he took his cash pay and agreed to return again tomorrow. He walked the long dirt road home and passed Alfred’s grave.

“Mr. Alfred, the price of cotton is forty one cents,” he called out respectfully, as he patted the growing wad of bills in his front pocket.


About the Creator

Grant Whitehurst

61 years on planet Earth

Graduate of Mercer University

Served my country. Showed a willingness to die for it. U.S Army

I study the paranormal, UFO’s and aliens, cryptids

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