The Death of Jeffery Franks
Dead People Series 1
Jeffery Franks was a high school dropout, and five days after his seventeenth birthday, he stole a bicycle and got arrested.
The judge told Jeff that if he returned the bicycle, he would be set free, and the charges would be dropped. Jeff told the judge that he wanted to think about it, so the judge allowed Jeff to sit in an 8x8 cement cell while he did. It took Jeff twenty-seven hours and thirty-two minutes to tell the officer on duty where he had the bike stashed.
Jeff was set free with a stern warning and told that “stubbornness never helped anything,” by the portly officer that walked him to the street.
Jeff never intentionally broke the law again.
Not to say that his remaining years were dull. Jeff married three times over the next eight years, but if you were to ask him, he’d say he’d only been married once, and it was to his second wife, Dolly.
Dolly was the true love of his life, but Jeff wasn’t hers, and his heart never recovered when he found a note pinned beneath the windshield wiper of his 1974 Ford Galaxie 500.
At the time, Jeff was working as a tire buster at an auto shop on Seventh Ave. A little place called Cheapies Tire & Wheel. He’d been working for Ben Chapman A.K.A. “Cheapy” for just over nine months when he took an early smoke break. It was a Tuesday, and it was cold, and the night before, Jeff ate four beef hot-dogs for dinner and hadn’t felt well since. He told Cheapy that his guts were bothering him around 11 AM and that he figured a smoke would help.
Jeff walked to his Ford, packing an unopened pack of Camels on the back of his wrist when he saw a little canary yellow envelope beneath the left window wiper.
At first, he thought someone confused his car for someone else’s and that he shouldn’t open it, but curiosity and the cat and all that. Jeff lit his smoke, and his dirty fingers opened the little yellow envelope. Inside he found a small note and a polaroid photo. The photo was of Dolly, of course, and she was nude and reverse cowgirling a bald man with a mustache. The bald man’s face was contorted, and he appeared to either be climaxing or confused as to why someone would have been taking a photo during this personal moment with another man’s wife.
Dolly’s face, however, well, she was smiling, and her eyes were closed.
Jeff tucked the photo back into the envelope and opened the note. All it said was: That’s my husband and your wife. Put a leash on her, or I’ll kill her.
Jeff walked to the payphone mounted to the telephone pole right in front of Cheapies. He laid the yellow envelope on the top of the phone as he dug a dime and some lint from his back pocket and dialed his home phone, but Dolly didn’t answer.
He spent the rest of the day in a daze, but Cheapy didn’t notice, and at the end of his shift, he left his Galaxie parked at Cheapies and walked to a bar called The Hambone. It was a bar that he passed by a thousand times in his life but never entered.
The door was heavy and old, and when he opened it, his hair blew back with a puff of air-conditioned air and cigarette smoke. The place was dark and nearly empty.
“Welcome, friend.” The bartender said while drying a pint glass. “What can I get you?”
Jeff planted himself in the stool closest to the door and ordered: “the cheapest tequila you got, and keep ’em coming.”
Over the next few hours, Jeff felt at home at The Hambone. The bartender’s name was Lee, and Jeff made friends with an older couple that sat at a nearby table, named Vera and Vern.
Jeff left The Hambone shortly after Lee called ‘last call.’ Vera and Vern were gone, and the only people remaining in the bar were Jeff, Lee, and a short man and tall woman drinking bottled beers in a back booth. Lee held up the bottle of cheap tequila and asked if Jeff wanted one for the road, but Jeff knew his limit, and he passed it about an hour ago.
As Jeff stumbled his way back to Cheapies, he wondered if Dolly was worried that he hadn’t come home. He also wondered if she had the bald man over, and he wondered if he’d find her in his arms.
Jeff decided right then and there that he wasn’t going to go home. He decided that he would get in his car and drive to Los Angeles. He’d wanted to shake things up for a while anyway, and it was right about then that Jeff crossed 8th Ave without noticing that the light was red.
A delivery driver named Benjamin McMichaels had been looking down at an old wrinkled map that he had strewn across the passenger seat of his overloaded box-truck.
Benjamin was lost and running late, and his full cup of coffee splattered all over him, the map, and the interior of his truck when he struck Jeff at 52 miles per hour.
Benjamin never stopped; in fact, he sped up. He thought he’d hit a big pothole until a man unloading Benjamin’s truck at the Cemex Cement Plant noticed the dent and blood and even some hair on the grill and fender.
Jeff laid dead in the middle of the 8th Avenue for over an hour before another delivery truck driver, named Toddy Stevens, came across the body. Toddy was afraid that Jeff would be run over again, so he left his truck parked right there in the middle of the road and walked to the nearest payphone, which happened to be mounted to a pole in front of Cheapies Tire & Wheel.
Toddy admired the 1974 Ford Galaxie 500 while talking to the dispatch woman at the Sheriff’s department, and just as he hung up the phone, he noticed the canary yellow envelope resting right where Jeff had left it.
Toddy Stevens opened the envelope, read the note, and then looked at the picture. Toddy rubbed his chin whiskers, then crumpled the letter and envelope and dropped them to the sidewalk. He then tucked the photo of Dolly into his shirt pocket and walked back to his truck to wait for the Sheriff.
— Jason Hallows is a writer, filmmaker, and post-production master. He writes fiction regularly and has just completed his third novel. His work has also appeared on Sesame Street, The National Geographic Channel.