The Great Pop Machine Heist

From my unpublished book of short stories Cruising the Acropolis

The Great Pop Machine Theft

Raymond Delbarton sneaked out his bedroom window, ran to Aristotle’s pick-up and slid under the steering wheel. He gently let off the emergency brake. The truck rolled down the hill and far enough away from the house to avoid detection before he popped the clutch and sped off to pick up his buddies. A faulty solenoid forced the Delbartons to always remember to park their truck heading downhill. On level places the motor was left running. When the Delbartons parked on flat parking lots and got out of the truck to buy something they couldn’t tarry long for fear of running out of gas.

At one o’clock in the morning Raymond and his buddies drove over to Ruby Darling’s filling station. Raymond took a swig of home brew and passed the quart canning jar to his friends in crime. The brew helped them ignore the danger and stupidity of what they were about to do.

Ruby was the richest person in Sarvice. During the Depression she and her husband had a small but steady income teaching school. They bought up houses and land at public tax auctions. Up and down Indian River and in nearly every hollow coming off Sarvice Mountain they rented out run down trailers to unfortunate people. Ruby was a miserly, slumlord. Raymond’s band was going to get rich off Ruby’s riches.

Raymond backed the beat up pickup past Ruby’s gas pumps and too close to the pop machine. They got out and realized they were too close to let the tailgate down. They repositioned the truck to leave room to lower the tailgate. Besides the bad solenoid there was also a rusted out muffler. It was a noisy operation. They tipped the machine forward and pushed it onto the bed of the truck.

Ruby Darling had sugar. The roar of the truck outside and her need to relieve herself woke her up. She looked out the bathroom window not twenty feet away from the great pop machine heist. She was sleepy and too groggy to immediately realize what was going on. Ruby was not really sure she could believe her eyes and ears. She fumbled around for her glasses but couldn’t find them so she turned up her hearing aid. Some fuzzy looking boys were stealing her pop machine. They laughed and talked loudly like it wasn’t early in the morning and they weren’t stealing a pop machine.  Ruby was very careful to lock up anything of value. She never figured she had to chain her pop machine to the building. Who would steal a pop machine? Raymond of Aristotle would steal a pop machine.

The alcohol-fortified geniuses took the machine up Sarvice Creek, past Juicy and Buster Emmons’ tilting home and busted the quarters out with a crowbar. They rolled the wounded machine into the creek. Their greed knew no bounds–they hit three more pop machines that night. Unable to wait until the heat blew over, they went the very next night to Ron’s Carry Out and bought a case of beer. A corpulent Deputy Sheriff stood there picking his teeth and talking with Ron about the pop machine robbery of the previous evening and lamenting the condition of today’s youth, when he heard forty-eight quarters pour out on the counter.

The sheriff carefully explained Raymond’s options.  He could go to jail for up to five years. “And son you don’t want to go to no jail, your young ass would get no rest.” The fat deputy warned him and added, “You know what I mean?” He picked at his teeth and spit some splinters onto the dirty floor and waited for the sheriff’s offer to Raymond. Raymond promised cooperation in a certain investigation and the Sheriff recommended leniency to the judge.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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