Stephenson Tales

A Found Wallet and Its Tasteless Reward

For two years I was "Visiting Professor of Theater" at Southern Illinois in Carbondale, Illinois, replacing Dr. Sherry Abrams who had suffered a heart attack (see also Irrepressible John and The Harp). Near the end of a very satisfying two years there, one rainy Friday evening Lucy Chase and I were driving from somewhere to our rented house on South Rawlings street. AS we drove along the main street, I saw something flat lying in the road about two car lengths in front of me. As there was no traffic in either direction, I pulled to the center of the street and stopped right by the object, opened the door, leaned out and picked it up. It was a water-soaked thick leather wallet about eight by six inches in size. I tossed it onto the floor and we continued on our way home. When we got there I opened it up and there was $160 in bills inside–along with all kinds of papers: driver's license, credit cards, and other typical things one might find in such a container. I immediately called the telephone number on one of the papers–whose name matched the one on the driver's license. A lady answered the phone and I told her not to worry that I had her wallet with her money and that she could come by and get it.

"Oh, that must belong to my daughter. She was out collecting her concession money from various places downtown–and must have dropped it."

"Well, she will no doubt call you in a few minutes in a panic telling you that she has lost her wallet. Tell her not to worry but just to come by our house and I will give it back to her." and I gave her our address.

Sure enough, in a very few minutes a distraught young woman was at our front door, gasping with excitement. I handed her the wallet and assured her that all the money was still intact. She stuttered several times and tried to reward me with some of her recovered money. I politely refused and told her that I had merely done what any person OUGHT to do. She tried to insist, then said, "I'll tell you what. I make tamales at home and several of the downtown places take them and sell them for me. Let me bring you some tamales on Monday!"

I agreed at once. "I love tamales–we used to have them when I was a little boy. I will happily accept some of your tamales."

Come Monday, sure enough, she appeared again at the door bearing a large bag and thrust it into my hands. I thanked her and she left. I thought, a few of these will go well with what Lucy Chase is making for supper. So I opened the package and there were about fourteen tamales. I took out five and Lucy Chase heated them in a pan with a shallow layer of water in the bottom. I really felt very happy about this.


They were undoubtedly the worst tamales I had ever tasted in my life–the ground meat was greasy and had practically no spicy taste at all, and the cornmeal "breading" on the outside of the roll of meat was dry as sand. I ate one and could not bear the thought of a second. Nobody else liked them either. (I did not expect the children to, anyway. Lucky at least tried to eat one but found it as repulsive as Lucy Chase and I did.)

I called her the next day to thank her and lied, of course–and when she offered to bring us some more; told her that since school was almost over for the year, we had enough to last us until we left at the end of the next week. She thanked me effusively again, and we ended on a friendly (if deceitful) note.

I threw the rest of them out. I guess virtue is its own reward.

Composed 18 September 2009; Transcribed by Robin

© Jim Bob Stephenson 2009

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