The week wound down to Saturday with the entire town waiting to see the outcome of the marriage of June and Mike. Old ladies gossiped, teenaged boys lusted, and Claudette and Barbara became bitter enemies. Barbara was pushy. She always had been and would be forever. She had no class. She was a liar and a manipulator and she didn’t have the money to manipulate so she was just obnoxious! Claudette had come from a similar background, and didn’t want Barbara to get one bean from her plate that wasn’t given to her willingly. The difference was that Claudette did have a sense of grace and dignity. Life had a spiritual meaning for her, and that had deepened since the death of her brother back in Memphis all those years ago on Christmas day. This was not a union of two great families; it was blackmail, plain and simple. Mike was marrying June to take the gun out of Barbara’s hand. Now it would be dishonest to say that Claudette did not have plans to dispose of June once the vows were read. After a divorce, Barbara would have no hold on Mike anymore, and she could take her little daughter back to the shacks behind Fat Eddie’s before the ink was good and dry on her divorce papers!
Barbara, on the other hand did not intend to let something like this happen. She knew the game. She also knew June. June would be pregnant, if she wasn’t already, and that baby would seal the union, because that particular baby would be the first grandchild, and that baby would be a citizen of the Bend, born and true! She’d let Claudette play her little society game because she knew that while she could toss June back across the tracks that a baby would be far more difficult to get rid of. That would be the first grandchild and all the bullshit and excuses would not erase that! There was a history behind this mental attitude.
Years before Barbara had slept in the Bend, before it was the Bend. John Stillwell’s wife was dying of breast cancer, and he hired the then young and fetching Barbara to take care of his house, and tend to the lady during her final days. Barbara had a room up in the loft of the old house. Days passed and one night Stillwell went to bid her good night and his passion overcame him. He fell into the arms of the eager young woman, and stayed there most of the night.
Mrs. Stillwell eventually died, and the old man found that he could not keep the attentions of the girl. A young man fresh out of prison caught her eye. Ray married Barbara a few months after June was born. Even though Barbara knew who June’s father was, she told the girl as she grew that a gambler who’d come through the dusty little town was her father to keep the sparks between Ray and Mr. Stillwell at a cool limit. Barbara actually breathed a sigh of relief when Stillwell committed suicide that sunny afternoon at the bend of the river where she swam naked with him so many years before. Barbara found it poetic that the house that June would move into was actually on the very site that she’d been conceived. She found it amazing that no one in town had ever told June who her true father really was!
The Daisy was decorating the house, and the cake was in the oven. The blood tests arrived, and to no one’s surprise both June, and Mike had a clean bill of heath. Thursday night the seamstress called and the ladies, June, Barbara, and Claudette went to have the final fitting done. When they entered the shop, it was on a display mannequin. It was all white. There was a modest train behind it, not Princess Diana’s, but a nice train for Texas. As June began to put it on, Claudette was amazed again at how lovely she truly was, and how small. She was so small. She slipped it on and stood up while the seamstress buttoned the back.
Claudette noticed that her stomach was flat. No sign of any bulge at all. Then, the lady came and put the veil on her blonde head. A real blonde! No dye had ever touched that hair! June looked at them. The crystal blue eyes penetrated all in the room. No bride was ever more beautiful. And June was not pretty in a dusty, Texas sort of way, but in a classic way. She was a goddess! She was the girl at the Parthenon!
She looked right at Claudette and whispered, “Thank you.” It was in direct opposition to her mother and everything she had stood for. June was not back at the SPJST hall and she was not down in the bushes with some horny cowboy smoking a joint. She was a member of the Bend now and Claudette had brought her here. At this moment June the Cat became June Montgomery! At this moment she left her past behind.
For a moment, Claudette felt the innermost twinge of sadness. She felt as if she were looking at something that was so precious, so lovely, that God would not allow it to stay. She knew in her heart that there had never been, nor would there ever be, such a creature in this little desert town again. Her beauty was indeed timeless.
She drew a breath and told the proprietor, “Have it delivered to the Bend, will you?” She looked back at June and the two realized the import of the statement. This dress, this woman, was not coming out of the shacks behind Fat Eddie’s. This dress was going to the Bend, and this lady was walking onto a porch at the Bend to be married! No Justice of the Peace would hand her a box of soap and shoo her out of his office; she was to have a reception! And at the same time, the bride would be a debutante! She knew that such an event could not occur and not change this girl. She would be of the Bend. She would! The two thousand year old statue had come to life!
Later that evening Veronica and her spiritual escort sat on a bench at the fourth hole of the golf course at the Bend. The stars were very bright indeed that night. She looked out across the little pond and sighed. “Ever live like this ‘Dr. Angel?”
“No. I worked all my life. I knew no privilege, no circumstance.”
“Well let me tell you. People come in breeds, like dogs. Some are pure bred, some are mutts.” She rested her elbows on her knees and put her chin in her hands. Then, cocking her head at him she said, “I’m a mutt!” Pointing to the houses in the Bend just beyond the golf course she said, “Those people over there who own those houses work very hard to keep mutts like me out. Look at them houses. You see them houses.”
The spirit nodded.
“Well, you see that high fence around them?”
He looked and replied, “No, none. Very few
fences in fact. Seems like a secure place to live.”
She laughed, “Well it is secure, Dr. Angel, but there’s a fence around that place that you can’t see and you’re a ghost! Mutts like me try to jump that fence all the time, and very few make it.” She looked at him
and grinned, “I made it!”
“But you didn’t stay there.”
“A mutt is a mutt, is a mutt. I jumped the fence, but the mutt part of my life followed me. It’s such a shame. I had it all, and wanted more!”
“But didn’t you have it all?”
She looked at him and smiled a wry smile. She was amazed at how naive he really was. For all of his spiritual “wisdom” he really hadn’t learned anything. She began to see why he needed her. “When you build a fence, like the one we’re talking about, how many nails do you put in the top of each board?”
“I don’t know, one, maybe two.”
“Well, some people think one’s enough, but I’ve always been a ‘two-nail’ person myself. Never leave to chance what you can insure.” She shook her head. “You know, for high bred people they sure are dumb! In a lot of ways you’re dumb, Doctor Angel.”
Ignoring the insult he asked, “Did you put two nails in your fence, Veronica?”
“I sure did. I nailed it good and tight, or at least I thought it was good and tight.”
“Did your nails come out Veronica?”
“Yeah, sure did.”
“What happened then?”
“Another mutt jumped the fence in my place.” Veronica walked down by the pond and dipped her fingers into the water. “It gets hot in west Texas, Dr. Angel. You know that?”
“Hotter all the time.”
Veronica smiled, “Yeah, and all the Yankees living over there say every year it’s the end of the world; it’s the end of the world, but you know what?”
“When you try to nail that fence the wrong way; that’s the end of the world.”
“If I had blood it would run cold, Veronica.”
She looked at him with clear blue eyes, her face lost all expression, “It should.” She continued to play in the water. “It should.”The Butcher Shop