Friday, May 30, 2014

The Dr. Pepper - Part 3

by Linda Goodman

(c)Linda Goodman 2000

The next Saturday morning, Glenn Allen and his friend Roy Allen were sitting on the steps in front of my building with me and my baby sister Evelyn.  It had rained the night before and we were surrounded by a gigantic mud puddle. 

“Williams Court is sure one ugly place!” I exclaimed.  “There’s not a blade of grass to be seen.”

“And look at that baby puke green building yonder, the one with the missing shingles.  That black tar paper looks like evil eyes staring at us,” Roy Allen added.

:”Well, we might have to live here, but that don’t mean we can’t go somewhere else and admire some beauty,” I suggested.  “Why don’t we take a hike over to Afton Parkway and look at something pretty?”

Normally, Glenn Allen and Roy Allen would not have been interested in accompanying me and my baby sister on such an excursion, but both of them had missed the early morning bus that took the rest of the boys in the neighborhood to the track and field meet across town that day.  So they agreed my idea was a good one.

We took off down Shiloh Place, hung a left on Garrett Street, and continued on about a mile until we reached George Washington Highway.  Once we crossed the highway, we were on Afton Parkway, in the heart of the Cradock community.  Down the street we walked, admiring the well-manicured lawns and the artistically maintained and colorful flower beds.  The houses were huge and painted lovely colors:  rose, pale yellow, slate blue, oyster shell.  We could not even imagine what it would be like to live in one of them. 

At the end of Afton Parkway, we came to a house that had an arched trellis covered with yellow roses at the entrance to the walkway.  We were gathered around it oohing and aahing, when a man opened the front door and came outside to smoke a cigarette.  When he saw us he hollered, “What are you young'uns doing out here walking around on a hot day like this?  Don’t you know it’s one hundred and five degrees out here today?”

Until he said that, we had not realized how hot it was.  Once he brought it to our attention, we started to feel the sweat flowing down our necks.  We could feel the stifling heat envelop us in its stranglehold.  Not long after that, we started to get thirsty.

I am pretty sure that if we had knocked on a door and asked someone for water, we would have gotten it.  Back in those days, not many people would have refused such a simple request from a child. But we were too shy to ask.  Instead, we decided to start for home.

We hung a right on Prospect Parkway and crossed the James Hurst Elementary School playground to Gillis Road.  After a few minutes, I remarked, “I’m so thirsty, my throat feels like sand paper.”

“I’m so thirsty, I can’t even work up any spit to swallow,” said Roy Allen.

“If we don’t get some water soon,” moaned Glenn Allen, “we’re gonna end up being buzzard food here on Gillis Road.”

All of a sudden, my frightened baby sister started crying.  That was more that I could handle.  I stopped in my tracks and announced, “That’s it!  Everybody stop! I’m gonna get us some water.”

“How are you going to do that?” asked Roy Allen.

“I’m gonna pray for it,” I answered.

“Well," groused Glenn Allen, “If you’re gonna go to all the trouble of praying, don’t ask for water.  Ask for something good, like Dr. Pepper.”

I paid no attention to him.  I got down on my knobby knees on Gillis Road and prayed, “Heavenly Father, You are a wonderful God and we thank you for all the blessings that you have bestowed upon us.  But our parents would never get over it if we ended up buzzard food here on Gillis Road.  So if it’s not too much to ask, would you please quench our thirst?  In Jesus name I pray.  Amen.”

I stood up and said, “Come on,” and we continued our walk home. 

“What do you think is going to happen, Linda?” asked Roy Allen.  “Do you think that God is going to send a cloud over our heads and rain water right into our mouths?”

“Oh, no!” teased Glenn Allen, “Linda’s gonna to strike a rock like Moses, and water is going to pour out of it.  Like as not, it’ll flood the whole city of Portsmouth.” (This remark made me realize that Glenn knew more about The Bible than he let on.)

I ignored them and just kept walking. There was no doubt in my mind that God would answer my prayer. When we came to George Washington Highway, we turned left, and there, standing in front of a mom and pop grocery store called the Turn Table, stood a pretty dark-haired woman in a crisp white apron.  In front of her was a card table covered with three ounce Dixie Cups filled with a brown liquid. 

“Well, hello, children,“ she called to us.  “Y’all look so hot!  Why don’t you come on over here and sample some of my Dr. Pepper?”

That evening, Glenn Allen came over and sat on my front steps with me.  “How did you know that God was gonna answer your prayer like that?” he asked.

“It’s like I told you, Glenn Allen, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead,” I said. “If he can do that, I reckon he can do anything.”

When I walked into my Sunday School class the next morning, I was surprised to see Glenn Allen among the children sitting there.  He came to Sunday School every week after that.  He also attended both the Sunday morning and Sunday evening worship services, the Wednesday prayer meetings, and the Thursday Junior Choir rehearsals.  On the first Sunday evening of each month, he and I would fight over who would get to be the first in line at the covered dish supper. 

When we were in high school, Glenn Allen was elected president of Asbury’s Methodist Youth Fellowship.  After receiving his college degree in Accounting, he became the church treasurer.  And, just as I helped bring Glenn Allen into the family of believers when we were children, he helped bring me back when I had my own crisis of faith in my mid twenties. 

In 1983, I decided to get married and move to Michigan with my new husband. The Saturday before my wedding, Glenn Allen and I met for lunch.  Inevitably, our conversation came back to that hot August Saturday in 1960 when I had prayed the Dr. Pepper Prayer. 

“You know,” Glenn Allen told me, “there I was, just one little fish swimming around in this big sea of humanity, and I had no intention of God ever catching me.  Then again, I didn’t know he was going to be using Dr. Pepper for bait.  I guess I’m the only Christian I know who owes his salvation to a soft drink.”

“I like I always said, Glenn Allen,” I responded, “If Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead, He can do anything.”

“Raising people from the dead is no big thing,” he said seriously.  “Why, I saw three people raised from the dead in church last week.”

“What are you talking about?” I questioned.  “I was at that church service. I don’t recall anyone being raised from the dead...”

He shook his head.  “Don’t you remember, Linda, that when the alter call was given at the end of the service, three people went forward to give their lives to the Lord?  And don’t you know that whenever that happens, a dead person has been given life?”

Then he laughed, and I laughed with him.  It was laughter filled with joy, wonder, and awe that we had been embraced by a church whose members considered themselves to be ambassadors for Christ; Christian disciples who had the patience, faith, and love to nurture throw-away children into becoming witnesses for Jesus.  That, my friends, is the best investment any church can make.


  1. I love this story...I always laugh!

    1. It makes me cry, but the tears are for joy.
      Thanks for reading, Mel.

  2. I was so anxious to read the final chapter, what a wonderful story!

    1. Thanks for being a loyal reader, Victoria, and thanks for letting me know how much you enjoyed the story.

  3. Wonderful! So entertaining and uplifting... I didn't want it to end!!! (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  4. Sandi, this story will never come to an end. I am now in a church that is very similar to Asbury, just the place I need to be.

  5. Linda! I just finished the last installment of the Dr. Pepper story. I felt as if I were growing up beside you as I read your words. I really loved it and look forward to reading more of your stories as you make them available. Also such a treat!

    1. Susan, I am so glad that you enjoyed this story. Thanks for letting me known. God bless!