ALONG ABOUT, OCTOBER 21, 2006, I drove up Route17 out of Warrenton, towards Marshall Virginia. I kind of reluctantly half-heartedly was going for an interview at the Food Lion. Well, I was hired by a fine man, Greg Neff, ( store manager of the Marshall Food Lion.) I would also add that my apathy about interviewing for the grocery store positions was mainly due to the reality of my totally different background in defense electronics; as an electro-mechanical inspector, for the main part of my working life. I was having a hard time thinking that anything would come of this interview. Well looking back I was totally wrong. Little did I know that I was gonna work as a meat cutter and a seafood person for approximately 11 years. I also didn’t know that I was going to meet my Japanese wife around 2007. We met over a piece of Rockfish, as we talked about her school work involving writing a paper concerning Edgar Allan Poe. So, yes, as I was wrapping her fish we were “making eyes at each other.” I gave her my phone number and told her I would be happy to help her with her Edgar Allan Poe paper. ( as I winked to myself.) By the way, my wife is from Yokohama Japan, we married, and in 2008 a beautiful son came to us named Ari’el Shou Payton.

Having laid the background, I will now tell you a quick story about Robert Duvall. The Food Lion store I worked at was close to an area in Marshall called “The Plains.” Robert Duvall and his younger Argentinian wife live in the plains. Robert and his wife would come into the Food Lion as he liked the steaks that we prepared there. All of us that worked in the meat department enjoyed shooting the breeze with him. I would like to say, if you didn’t know that he was famous, you would think he’s your next-door neighbor in nice but modest appearance, yet really interesting to talk to, and very smart.

So, at “that” stage of my writing development, I was putting out excerpts in smaller chunks to get a response from those that purchased from me. One day as I was talking to Robert at the magazine rack, I told him about my writing, as I had prepared 17 pieces of work, and asked would he be interested in purchasing a copy. He bought it for my asking price of ten dollars. I titled the work “17.”

ABOUT TWO WEEKS LATER, I was working behind the seafood pods in the back of the Food Lion, and I noticed Robert Duvall walking down the aisle heading right for me with his buttoned up Navy Pea coat. I was standing behind the Seafood pods waiting on customers. There was a fairly good crowd standing there. I had seafood in one hand and wrapping paper in the other. Robert squeezed through the line of people and stuck out his hand as he said to me, “Coy, you have your own voice.” I tried to maintain my composure as everybody was watching and listening, but it did make me feel pretty good. Frankie The Earthman.

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