The Black Pocketbook

I never look in my wife’s pocketbook.  It isn’t mine; it’s hers.  Bless her heart, since marrying me and having children, there is precious little privacy left in her life, and I think I should just honor that one area.  My notions about it seem silly to her, but I am an honorable man especially in situations where I might get caught.  So, if I hear her phone ringing, I take her the whole pocketbook, but I will NOT poke my hand in there.

She could have deep, dark personal secrets in her purse for all I know (and do not wish to know), but there might also be a mousetrap in it, or at least a pair of open scissors and some straight pins.  Even if I needed something that might be in there, to stick naked, unprotected fingers in it would be something less than a calculated risk.  Should I see the object I want right near the surface, I will not reach for it, which drives Brenda to distraction.  All efforts of a man to show respect to a woman will eventually be treated as a worrisome inconvenience.  I’m sure it’s in the Bible somewhere, but I haven’t found it.

Now and then, I’ll see her drag something out of it that seems too large to have been in there in the first place.  The contents appear to not be uniform or monotonous in any way.  Should organization occur, it would replace a filing cabinet.  If I need matches, paper clips, rubber bands, bandages, coupons for pizza or an oil change, or even flashlight batteries, she probably has them.  Quite a variety of tools and objects seem to be at home in there, and in larger quantities than I’d pack in a suitcase.

In the express lane at the grocery store, the lady in front of me sat a huge purse with a pink and green flower pattern on the front of it right down on the checkout counter, and began digging in it.  She dug out a makeup case, what looked like a toy truck, a child’s sock, a bra, an extra pair of panties, several plastic bottles of prescription medicine, a paperback novel, and a can of hair spray while trying to find her checkbook.  Although it was the express lane, her shopping cart was full, but I think her pocketbook had more stuff in it.

It seems that her plastic card had been denied for some reason, and she acted so surprised and indignant about it.  So, I felt sure the check she would write would come back marked as “insufficient funds”, but I didn’t care.  I just wanted them to either approve or deny one way or another so I could pay for my huge purchase (a cantaloupe and a six-pack) and go home.

I’m always in the slowest line.  If I were the only customer in the store, they’d stop halfway through my transaction to either go to the bathroom, or take inventory.  But before doing either, they would have to first find their pocketbook.

I can brush my teeth or blow my nose without having my keys or billfold with me, but a lot of women need their purse everywhere they go, and for everything except a bath.  Even then, some will keep it within reach from the tub in case they need a fire extinguisher; get a fax, a text, a phone call, try out that new bar of soap they picked up at the boutique yesterday, or have need of a ruler to measure the shower curtains.  Some pocketbooks must have a refrigerated compartment because some girls carry bottles of water, diet sodas, and their lunch in them.

The point is, that a woman’s pocketbook is an important item chock full of things a woman values.  Sometimes there is money in them, and up to three or four-hundred credit cards, gift cards, membership cards, and at least one key to every place they’ve ever lived.  But just because they are in there doesn’t mean they can be found when needed.  A police officer friend of mine told me of an incident where he’d pulled a woman over to the curb due to the modern phenomenon of women failing to yield when you might otherwise expect them to.  Men don’t yield either, but then, it isn’t expected of them.

In the time it would normally take to get your driver’s license renewed, she searched diligently for her license and registration.  The officer said he spent less time in line on the last election day.  She never found it, but said it was okay because it was probably in her other purse she uses when dressing up for special events, and had gone to a wedding recently.  She described the bridesmaids’ dresses so the officer would get the full impact of that glorious event, and wondered if the policeman might know the groom.  She also told him of her cousin who was recently divorced, and that he resembled her cousin’s ex-husband a little, and wanted to know if he had any relatives in Marietta or Roswell.  The policeman learned that the lady’s cousin was a nurse, and had a good job, so at least she’d be okay for now.

She showed him a necklace and a pair of earrings that she’d worn to her husband’s company dinner two months ago, and just knew he would find it hilarious that all this time she thought they were lost.  Several used facial tissues appeared, and were laid carefully on the seat beside her as if some proprietary order would be needed to put them back later.  He said he would not have touched them with rubber gloves.  She offered him a piece of gum, and declared she’d forgotten that pack was in there.  Her cell phone rang.  She looked at it, and then to the officer.  With a sigh, she said she’d just call ’em back later.  She told the officer who it was, and that they probably just wanted to talk.

My friend said the woman seemed surprised and disappointed when he gave her a ticket.  After all, they had bonded so well, and surely had many friends and family in common.  The officer waited for her to pull back into traffic before continuing on his way, but he had to sit there awhile.  Re-packing her pocketbook must have been an ordeal, because he said he could’ve shot and skinned a deer in less time.  Maybe the fact that she was talking on her cell phone the entire time might have slowed her down, he said he wasn’t sure: could’ve been the toolbox full of cosmetic supplies that needed using before she could re-start the engine.

Now, none of this is in any way intended to throw disparity on the value of pocketbooks as much as it is to establish that the value exists.  It doesn’t matter if men don’t understand it because all women understand it, and that is the final verdict.  If a woman’s purse is lost or stolen, all Hell is going to break loose, and will continue to be broken loose until the pocketbook is found, or recovered.   Loud, high-pitched declarations will be heard for miles establishing for a fact that absolutely nothing in it is replaceable.  If it is recovered, an inventory will take place, with each item vocally announced with phrases like: “Yes, Mercy!  Lordy Lordy!  Thank precious goodness!  Oh my God!  Wait a minute, wait a minute!  Oh there you are!  Whew!  I might as well die if I didn’t find these!  Oh, you just don’t know, you just don’t know!”

Now and then, a pocketbook will be stolen.  Thieves will grab and run somewhere to search through contents looking for money, jewelry, and other valuables.  It is rare for a mugger to go to that much trouble without at least stealing something from the purse, and whatever they take will be considered to be the worst case scenario by the victim even if the rest of their stuff is recovered.

Purse snatchers often seem to be in a hurry.  When they finish their evil task, no care is taken for any neat and orderly disposal of the bag or any remaining items.  Likely as not, the bag will be quickly tossed aside in such a rude and disrespectful way that whatever was left aboard will be scattered about unprotected, and in disarray.  To see such a sight as this will be followed by the firm conviction that its proper owner was not the one who placed it there.

Coming home from a nice reception held in the honor of a cousin who was finally being paroled from high school after serving the required time, my wife spotted something on the side of the road.  We had left the party early since we both had much to do in preparation for the next morning, and time was running out.  Any spare moment was then at a high premium, but the object could not be ignored.

The reason it could not be ignored, is because the object appeared to be a large, black pocketbook, and with its contents all scattered around it.  There it was on the side of the road next to a field and woods.  On the opposite side of the road were a couple of businesses, but care had been taken to throw it towards the bushes where it might not get noticed so quickly.  My wife’s sharp eyes (for pocketbooks or any evidence that a man may have done something wrong) thwarted the thief’s (or thieves’) evil intent to make the thing obscure.

I think by myself I might have been able to ignore it (since it was not my pocketbook), but Brenda was with me, thus I had a conscience.  All women are of the mindset that man has no conscience unless being properly supervised by a woman, and that is the principal reason for their suspicions when we’ve just been out with the guys.  Under her insistence and moral instruction, we were to stop and check out the situation.  I pulled out of harm’s way into the commercial drive across the street, and parked.

While Brenda went on about some poor soul that must have had her pocketbook stolen, and how such as that could bring about so much tragedy, I got out of my pickup truck and walked over to take a gander.  Sure enough, it was a pocketbook.  All around it were the remaining former contents: medicine bottles, what looked like an address book with pages torn from it, an empty cell phone case, several cosmetic gadgets, a broken comb, a brush, and a few things that looked like they belonged in a fishing tackle box.  It seemed obvious that someone had hurriedly rummaged through it, then slung it to the ground from a passing automobile probably in violation of state speed law.  I will admit that if I’d recognized a pink and green floral pattern, and seen a toy truck, bra, panties and hair spray in the mix, I’d have walked away and told Brenda it was just trash on the side of the road.  But it wasn’t the same one, so it didn’t matter.

I didn’t touch it.  Before returning to my truck to tell Brenda her suspicions were confirmed, I called 911.  I gave them my name, rank, serial number, blood type and religious preference before we moved on to the nature of the call.  I told them every thing I knew, which did not take long.  Then, I told it again.  Then again to the next two people they transferred me to.  Seems as though the location was right at a county line so some serious debate about jurisdiction began.  Even though they weren’t sure which county would win the prize, I was instructed to wait there for an investigating officer.

“You want me to wait here for the police?  Why?”

“They might want to ask you some questions.” the lady said.

“There is a black pocketbook laying on the side of the road.  It appears that some of its contents are scattered about.”

(more questions)

“No, I didn’t see anybody with it, or see anybody throw it down.  It was already here when we came riding by, and saw it.  (pause)  What difference does it make whether me or my wife saw it first?  It was just laying there not doing anything!  We both saw it.  (pause)  No Ma’am, I’m not hurt.  (pause)  My truck is fine.  I did not run over the pocketbook, it’s just lying on the grass on the side of the road.  If it got run over, I didn’t see it happen.  (pause)  Yes Ma’am, a black pocketbook.”

(more questions)

“Nope, not a soul anywhere near it.  (pause)  That’s right, a pocketbook.  (pause)  Black.”  

(more questions)

“I don’t know what’s in it, I didn’t touch it.  (pause)  No Ma’am, I don’t know who it belongs to.  No Ma’am, it isn’t mine.  (pause)  No Ma’am it isn’t my wife’s, either.  (pause)  Neither one of us knows who it belongs to.  (pause)  No Ma’am, there isn’t anybody else out here.  (pause)  Yes Ma’am, black.”

I waited at least 15 to 20 minutes between each of the next three calls.  Each time I spoke with a different operator, and each time we started all over.  With every new call, I was reminded that I had to wait there for the police even though I couldn’t get anybody to confirm which county was on the case, and if in fact any officer from either county was actually on the way.  Brenda was beyond patiently waiting.

“Why can’t we leave?”

“They all told me I had to wait.”

“Well, you should’ve told them no.  They have your phone number if they want to ask you anything.”

“They shouldn’t need to ask me anything, as I’ve already told them everything I know about it.  But they said I have to wait here.”

By now, Brenda is furious:

“Let’s just go home.  We haven’t had supper yet, and I need to be in bed in a couple of hours because I’ve got to get up at five o’clock in the morning.  They can’t make you stay here!  Tell them you need to go on.  Take me home, and come back if you want, but take me home!  I’ve had about enough of this!  This is ridiculous!”

About then, the voice in my head said it was time to take my pipe and tobacco out to the side of the road for a puff, and try one more time to call the police–any police!  I heard a roar.  Looking up, I saw a man on a dirt bike come charging through the bushes and out into the road.  After a dash here and there, he took off down the grassy stretch adjacent to the pavement, and stopped with his motorcycle right over the pocketbook.  He stared at it for a minute, then yelled across the street to where I was standing:

“Is this yours?”

I walked over to him wondering what he saw in me to ask such a question.  I wasn’t wearing a thing that would have matched up with a large black pocketbook.  I answered him saying:

“No, it isn’t mine.  I never cared for that style.  I think that one is stolen.  We’ve reported it to the police, so they should be here momentarily”  

Now I know my remark to him that they would be here “momentarily” was a wild presumption if not an outright lie.  But with Georgia laws being what they are, I thought he might not want to get caught out there on the road without a helmet, and I told him so.  He smiled and said:

“Oh, they won’t catch me.”  

He then throttled off towards the woods and disappeared as quickly as he’d appeared just moments before.  As I watched him ride away, and feeling a slight touch of envy, I re-lit my pipe and dialed 911 for about the fifth time.  Once again I was talking with an operator that needed to be brought up to speed having missed out on all of the earlier conversations.  While she was telling me about my right to remain standing in the hot sun, I interrupted her:

“Forgive me Ma’am, but I’m not able to wait any longer.  I’ve been here an hour, and no police from either county around here has shown up.  All I’ve seen is a black pocketbook laying on the side of the road, and it looks as though its contents have been scattered about.  That is all I know.  I don’t know who did it, and I don’t know who the pocketbook belongs to.  My wife is not feeling well right now (which was the honest-to-God truth), and I need to take her home.  I’ve got to go to the bathroom (which was also true).  We live less than two miles from where I’m standing, so if the police do come and want to ask me to identify the pocketbook, or tell him what day of the week it is, or anything like that, have them call me, or have them come by the house.  They can have supper with us if they like, but I gotta go.”

After a pause, the operator said:

“Do you need to go?”

“Yes” was my quick and uncluttered reply.

“Then go ahead.  If the police need anything, they’ll call you.”

I should’ve told them that an hour ago, but I didn’t.  Brenda was kind enough not to call me a stupid idiot when I told her how easy it was to get a reprieve from mandatory guard duty.  I’ve studied on this.  The few (and very few) “Good Samaritan” moments in my life have always resulted in me being tied to the whipping post.  I cannot think of exceptions.  That night when we got home, Brenda was careful to use no words to condemn me.  Words were not necessary.  It was the looks, and then the avoidance of looks.  It set a tone to make me pray for tomorrow, and hope the subject would eventually be dropped.

There was probably no identification left in the pocketbook, so when the police finally got there (if indeed they ever did), it probably turned out to be just a time soak for them including filing a report.  No criminal is likely to be aprehended, and no suffering lady will be reunited with her precious stuff.  An anonymous criminal  and an anonymous victim.  But the police do have a name: mine–I gave it to the operators five or six times.  I’m sure it will be cross referenced with other law enforcement and regulatory agencies, and they will all be keeping an eye on me from now on.

So if you intend to behave in such a way that harms yourself or anybody else, do it when I’m not looking.  If you kill somebody, don’t leave the body lying around to trip up some innocent passersby–take it to a cemetery and bury it.  And please, out of kindness for my aging heart and other body parts, take a moment to put your evidence in a trashcan or other proper receptacle so that no circumstance should occur that either me or my wife might see it.

If you are a man, and intend to do a charitable act, always check with your spouse.  She will insist upon the good deed by intention, but not necessarily the action, unless it is her idea.  If it is her idea, it will cost you.  But if it is yours, and she suffers from it, you will be put through an ordeal.  No one will thank you, and you will not be left with any feelings of exhilaration for having done the right thing–instead, you will feel stupid, and also feel you have been a bit of a burden to others.  Also, if you are ever in need of calling 911, go to the bathroom first.


20 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by BB on May 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    This is one of your best, and most of it is really true.


  2. Posted by Betty on May 29, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    I will not call 911. Thanks for the advice.


  3. Posted by Wayne on May 29, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    I heard an elderly gentleman telling this SAME story at the Beacon last week.


  4. Posted by Jane Leonard on May 30, 2011 at 12:19 am

    Love your stories!!! I am weak from laughing – got to call Dorothy!


  5. Thanks for clearing up the mystery of what happened to my black pocketbook! One of my children must have thrown it out of the car window when they were little and we were trying our best to get out of Georgia. Never did call 911……..couldn’t find eleven on my phone dial.


  6. Posted by Christopher Owens on May 30, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Great story Van. It shows the full measure of your kind heart and your sense of humor! Really good stuff!


  7. Posted by little d on May 30, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Interestaining VanTwain…… I wonder if you would have gotten a better response if by chance, or fate, the pocketbook would have been white, instead of black ? BTW, it is my understanding that initially the stuffed pocketbook was used as a counter weight for Women while typically holding a comparable weighted child on the other side, that said, its not without reason how latter it involved into the material warehouse you described, the other side did……..

    I remain, in the upright position



  8. Thanks, Van, for another thoroughly entertaining and insightful piece.
    This thought is not original, but I finally figured out what I am religiously. A Frisbeetarian. I believe that when you die, your soul flies up on the roof and gets stuck there for all eternity.


  9. Posted by su watson on May 31, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Dear Van:
    Excellent….and funny. My Mother’s pocket book was always filled with everything she or anyone else needed. Once when I was with her at the beach I wished I had some of her fabulous pound cake to take my mind off my burned skin. She pulled a whole pound cake AND sun poisioning medication AND a beach towel out of her pocketbook.

    Love and appreciation,


  10. Posted by Bonnie on June 1, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    This is great! Sorry it took me so long to read it, one of the better life stories as can only be told by Van Brown!


  11. Posted by TK on June 1, 2011 at 11:11 pm



  12. Posted by fran on June 11, 2011 at 1:10 am

    I think you should have waited. Sure, blame it all on Brenda.


  13. Instead of dialing 911 sometimes I dial 119. nothing happens


  14. Posted by Robin Leonard on August 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Hysterical! I laughed until I had to go to the bathroom, even though I wasn’t even considering dialing 911.
    By the way, my mom’s pocketbook, which always smelled like Doublemint gum, was always sacrosanct. I tried (only once!) to go into it ( for gum), and found out she couldn’t have been more appalled had I casually asked, “So, mama, how’s your sex life?” It was a lesson that I apparently took to heart, because if you were bleeding out, you’d have to ask me if I by any chance had a tourniquet and gauze in my pocketbook, which, at this moment, weighs about 15 pounds. And thanks to little d, I now have something upon which I can blame my back problems. I’m physically as well as mentally unbalanced! It’s been some considerable time since I tried to balance either of my offspring on my hip (both of which have become fairly substantial). This story is, indeed, one of your best.


  15. Absolutely hysterical. Love it – thanks for sharing 🙂 Now let me go find my big purse which despite being dangerously close to the size limit for carry on baggage I always seem to misplace. I think you must have peeked inside, because you described the contents to the T (minus the fax machine – thats so 90s)


  16. Great story! It is such a pleasure to read something that is not only an entertaining story but also well-written. I’m tired of reading posts filled with spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. It slows me down considerably. Now, I hope I don’t have any spelling, grammar or punctuation errors in this comment or I’m going to look pretty silly! 🙂

    I had to down-size my pocketbook this summer after having cataract surgery. You aren’t allowed to lift more than 10 pounds for the first week or so. I switched to a very lightweight tote bag and placed in it only the bare essentials. I’m still using that tote more than 3 months later, and, surprise!, it hasn’t deterred my life one little bit.

    Thanks for sending me the link to this story. I loved it.


  17. Posted by Marlene Humberd on January 4, 2012 at 2:48 am

    Brenda’s pocketbook sounds very similar to mine …still think I have a pacifier and cherrios in a zip lock in there …even though my child is 28 now . Ya just never know when something might be needed ! Why just today… I pulled out a sewing kit and sewed on a man’s coat button at Chick- fil- A ( don’t understand why the lady didn’t like it on her silk blouse) , grabbed my scissors and snipped a dog’s leash as I walked by their yard ( the poor dog was obviously NOT happy there ) , and as I was running down the street to escape the dog’s owner( a 95 yr . old on a Hoverround) , snapped on my Wonder Woman bracelets and got away ! Goodness knows what might have happened if I had left my pocket book in my car ! ; ) Love your stories , Van . They inspire me to use MY imagination!


  18. Posted by Anna M. Soria on June 7, 2012 at 12:36 am

    Have you considered turning this into a screenplay? 🙂 Funny!
    Good that you accept that Brenda uses a pocketbook–
    I broke up with a man several years ago, and one of the reasons for our discord was his dislike for the fact that I carried ANY handbag, whatever, declaring it was a nuisance–although I’d certainly never asked him to carry it for me. Go figure!


  19. Posted by Betty on May 3, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Mercy !?


  20. love it, Always enjoy your stories.


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