the true stories
When I was just twenty I met a gal by chance down in North Las Vegas while attending a Texas friend's wedding. I had been summoned to play guitar at the reception. She was pretty, jolly and played guitar too! I heard her sing by chance and she had the voice of an angel. Her songs were all her own compositions and her rhythmic strumming combined with her haunting sweet voice wove a bind-rune around my young heart.
Her father was a retired Colonel who managed a department of the MGM Grand Hotel. I didn't much like hotels or motels and my first paying job as a child had been cleaning display houses, so it really didn't impress me much. Her mother was a secretary of the law firm of Jack Lehman, Esq. That name meant nothing to me at the time. They had a horse in the backyard but the backyard was desert as far as one could see to Sunrise Mountain. None of that stuff impressed me much but I was sure stuck on that blue-eyed blond-haired gal.
Her elder brother tried to scare me with high speed night driving on a long wash-board road into the city. The Caddy got big air on each bump and the shocks began to bottom out. Like the character Dwayne in one of Woody Allen's movies, he asked if I had ever felt like just ending it all and driving into an oncoming car. I told him no but that there were plenty of other people out there who did. I didn't tell him that my father used to suddenly swerve into the wrong lane, smash the dashboard, hit the brakes and shriek, “Christ, we're going to hit!” during our obligatory Sunday drives.
Big brother couldn't find my scary-button and got flustered when he'd exhausted his repertoire. We were out of desert and coming into the city lights. He wound up nearly losing control and scared himself when he knocked over a traffic sign. The Caddy got hung up and a crowd of Vegas street urchins came out of the neon night and rocked the big green boat off the bent metal before the cops could arrive. I just held the girl's hand who was genuinely scared and suggested that he take us home. I'm pretty sure he reported to his Daddy that I had kept my cool.
The girl had been born in California and I decided to just overlook that but she had lived most of her childhood in Panama. I had two Colombian born half-sisters I'd never met, so I scored that jungle time in her favor. One day, during the week I first met her we were sitting at a Taco Bell in her father's Caddy and she said we ought to get married. I hadn't even kissed her except in my mind and I immediately said, “Why Not?”
I drove her home and made the announcement to her folks and her siblings. A carton of Marlboros later, the Colonel put an end to the questions that I had been fielding from his family. I vowed I would go to Canada, get a job for $800.00 per month at a restaurant I knew, rent an apartment and send a one-way ticket to their eighteen year-old daughter ASAP. We shook on it and next morning I was off to McCarran International early.
My plan went as almost as outlined above and I sent a ticket to the gal. She arrived with only a guitar and a Navajo blanket. I got a second job so I could get out of my step-father's extra bedroom sooner than later. The immigration officials had told me that I would have to marry her within six months or she would be deported. I rented a nice flat in Deep Cove with a view of Panorama Park.
I made wedding rings from some big hex nuts which I ground smooth and filed the threads and four of the points off. I later had custom gold rings made to my own design by my new sister-in-law who was a budding jeweler. On a lunch break from my cooking job, I got married by a justice of the peace on Lonsdale Ave. It cost ten dollars with the single photo. I went back to work and the gal went to my step-father's place to share the news.
The Dane got her rip-roaring drunk and she was sick all over me and the taxi on our way home to the apartment that wedding night. It was nothing like the movies. During our brief marriage of thirty months we had many trials. My father committed suicide, her sister was killed in a motorcycle accident and we lived in a haunted house. I went through a dozen jobs and we moved many times. We hitch-hiked across Guatemala for our honeymoon.
My mother left the Dane and her and my sister came to stay with me. My mother went back to the Dane and my new wife let my sister stay. I brought my sister back to her mother. I prayed she would understand why someday. I was having trouble finding career type employment and my wife wasn't allowed to work due to the immigration rules in force at that time.
Eventually I got hired as a manager trainee by a big bank. I put my pipe-threader in storage and dressed up and cut off my hair. This was coming along fine and we got a nice basement suite in Lynn Valley way up Mountain Highway on Kilmer Road. The owners and landlords were newly arrived Scots with a bright baby boy and I loved living there. Then it happened one Saturday.
For the second time in my life up to that point, I made an unwelcome discovery while perusing some poetry and lyrics. I became rightly suspicious of my little wife. A short time later I stumbled on damning evidence of a broken vow and confronted the girl. She didn't deny my allegations and confessed to cheating with another man.
You can't glue a vow back together but the Irishman in me decided to give her one chance more due to her young age. I asked my wife if she loved me or him. While she cogitated on this the Cherokee in me told her the answer had to be one or the other. She replied that she wanted time to ponder the answer. The Welshman in me asked her how much time. She said about a month and that she would like to go to live at his place while she pondered. The German in me told her she could have fifteen minutes starting NOW and the Swede in me began packing her suitcase. The phone rang. It was her mother calling from Vegas.
“Michael, I have wonderful news. You'd better sit down. Do you have a pen and paper?”
“Well, I'll be brief. My husband and I just concluded some investment deals and had a windfall. You are about to move up quite a few notches in your position in the bank. I have already spoken to your bank manager there in Vancouver. You will be in charge of doing some financial transactions for some people down here on a regular basis. We have opened up trust accounts for you two as well as all our other children. Each of you will have a million dollars. You cannot touch the principal but the interest is yours to do as you see fit. Now first, give me a name for your trust.”
“Cedar,” was all I could think of.
“Fine. Cedar it is. Now, write this down. Mr. *** and Mr. *** will arrive Monday on flight *** at ***-o-clock and you are to pick them up and take them to your bank. They will have all the necessary papers for you to sign as well as instructions for you and your manager at the bank.”
As she spoke, I was doodling on a piece of paper where I had written the information. The interest at the time for savings accounts was over nine per cent and the monthly take of interest was over seven thousand dollars. I was making about seven hundred dollars a month as a trainee at the time. A spiritual owl swooped down and snatched the part of my brain full of ideas which had no means to see them realized, shot up through the Van Allen Belt and kept on going. Cocaine is but a raggedy, feeble, distant cousin to this feeling. I began to drip water from my armpits. I was visibly shaken after being emotionally stirred. I could hear my wife sniffling in the bedroom.
“Mom?”, I said flatly.
“Yes, honey? Not a bad day, huh? Take a deep breath. It's all real.”
“Mom, there is something I think I need to tell you.”
“Sure honey. What is it?”
“It's about your daughter.”
“What about my baby girl?”
“Mom, I think she's going to leave me and that we are going to split up. Does that change all the things you just told me?”
“Michael, Michael. You are honest to a fault! It certainly does change everything. Put her on the phone.”
I called my wife to the phone. She hadn't given me her answer yet and as I watched her face, I saw the sliver of a chance that we might have had to remain together disappear quick time. My owl of dreams and ideas did an abrupt about-face and reentered the atmosphere of my situation. It was like falling asleep on warm sand and waking up on a sheet of sea ice.
I staggered out the door mumbling to myself and went with gravity until I reached the intersection of Lynn Valley Road and Mountain Hwy., where there was a service station. A mechanic had noticed my erratic walking style and rushed out from the service bay.
He grabbed my arm and towed me into the shop. He sat a bucket upside down and made me sit. He yelled at another mechanic to get a mug of coffee. I took the offered drink and muttered something about losing a wife and a million dollars at the same time and all before lunch.
“Talk,” he said.
I reiterated that morning's events and my mother-in-law's call.
“Sweet and holy fook!” said one mechanic.
“She sure pissed on your Cornflakes,” said the other.
I wound my way back uphill after thanking the fellows. When I arrived my gal was gone with the suitcase and the instructions. Three days later, I woke to the sound of my Scottish landlady's voice. She was tugging something out of my grip.
“Makul, up ye gae lad. She'll nae be back. Look, man, ye huv nae luft aff klootchin' her shairt sunce Saturday as uf she'd died. Fling it awa. She's oonly a wee gell. Ye'll soon find anoother. Dinna worrit, aye? I've made ye a posh brekkie aloft and I tole the bank ta guv ye anoother day's grace afore ye show oop. ”
I was told three years later by my ex-mother-in-law when I was signing the divorce papers that there had been no fortune. She said her and the Colonel had been conned by pros and had lost everything.
Copyright © 2019 by Michael A. Hawes. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.