Saturday morning dawned bright and clear. The house at the Bend was prepared for the upcoming event. The last touches were added as the owner of the Daisy placed votive candles along the privacy fence to illuminate the guests that evening. All business, real estate, drinking, everything was put on hold. Dish Bob arrived about ten in the morning. Mike’s stepfather was making coffee as the doorbell rang. He went to let the preacher in. Bob greeted him warmly at the door. Coffee was poured and the pair went to the rear of the house, through the French doors to examine the set up.
“Now, this little table is gonna be the altar, am I correct?”
“Yes. They’ll stand right here and recite the vows and then turn and walk back through there,” he pointed to the French doors, “and we’ll commence with the party, I mean reception.”
“And how many do you recon will be in attendance?”
“I don’t know. We sent some invitations, but this is a ‘Bend’ happening, so most of the area will show at one time or another. The French doors will be left open so the guests can mingle out onto the lawn. We’ll keep the golf carts ready for those who want to cruise the course at night.”
“Oh, yeah! We’ll keep the back bedrooms ready for those who want to stay over ‘till Sunday, and there is the apartment up at the country club, too. Hey, why don’t you stay over and preach on Sunday right here?”
The preacher smiled, “Well, I gotta be over at the mission Sunday morning, but I recon I could give a few moments of prayer. Considering the style of this reception I would want to hang around a bit to help a few souls, if you know what I mean?”
The other man smiled. He knew that Dish Bob would occupy one of the rooms. They always had a room ready for him. “Prophet’s room” it was known as. All the needs provided, down to a little bible on the night stand for him to read. Claudette always had a Bible, and bell and a small candle for him when he stayed over. Usually, when there was such a big “do” in the Bend people would drink and eat too much, and it was customary to let them “sleep over.”
At noon the refreshments began to arrive. Kegs of beer set up on the lawn, in the shade, hundreds of tacos, burritos, sandwiches, and all the “fixings” it took to throw a proper wedding at the Bend. What was normally considered the dining room table was covered with all manner of liquors, so that no taste was left unattended. Claudette had placed various lemons and limes in the refrigerator waiting to be cut and sucked at the opportune moment!
The fare of the day was prime rib, but the staple was smoked brisket. Mike’s stepfather, and Tommy had all sat up most of the night, drinking beer, and smoking briskets on the two big barrel smokers in the back yard. They had the firebox off to the side of each of them so the meat never touched fire, but only had smoke drift over them all night. One had hickory because Mike’s mom loved the taste of it having been raised in Tennessee, but the other was Mesquite, a true Texas flavor unique to the area. All the pieces of meat were saturated with Italian dressing and then the cheapest bar b que sauce that could be found. The following morning the briskets were finished by putting them in the ovens to make sure the internal temperatures were just right.
The kitchen in the big house was very large. There were actually four ovens and a six-burning gas stove. Pots hung from the ceiling all around, and there was a huge, “butcher- block” island in the center of the room. The briskets would be sliced to use all parts, both the lean and fat to make various sandwiches, plates, and just snacks that would grace the reception. Much more brisket would be eaten than prime rib. Brisket is just about the sorriest piece of meat you can legally feed to a human being in the United States, but it stands to reason that any state that makes a sport out of eating jalapenos would make a cut of meat such as brisket a prime cut!
Keeping the smokers at exactly two hundred degrees was in fact an art. The charcoal increased heat, while the soaked wood increased flavor, and the balance must be maintained between the two if one was to have a successful meal.
Dish Bob reached over and sampled a deviled egg as he continued to talk. “I need to consult with the couple before we perform the ceremony.”
“No problem. We’ll get them in the back bedroom for you.”
“They’ll get there soon enough. I would like to take them onto the porch.”
Mike’s stepfather added, “Oh, no. They’re going to San Antone for the honeymoon. River Walk Marriott! Can’t be no other place.”
The preacher smiled, “You do have style!”
“Oh, yes. They’ll stay there, and eat at the Casa Rio, Lone Star, and all the best places. June’s never been there, you know?”
“Oh, I didn’t know that.”
“She’s really never been much out of the county. That’ll be her first time out like that. We were all gonna go, but we’ll just let them. You know, give ‘em privacy.”
The preacher nodded. He rose and walked around the home a bit. He was familiar with the house, having been there many times. It was the typical ranch style home with the huge living room and even larger kitchen. There was a formal dining area, and a big master bedroom with several smaller bedrooms. Then, there was an equally large upper floor that overlooked the golf course. When the boys had all been home the home was full but now that they, and Dr. Angie were gone, it was very large and empty.
The lady from the Daisy arrived and began to make final preparations. About three that afternoon June came over with her mother. Barbara dropped her off and went back to her home to ready herself for the event. She walked into the house as if she’d never been there before. Indeed this time except for a trip to San Antonio, she would not be going home. She would not be going back to the shack behind Fat Eddie’s. She would live here, at the Bend. For a moment the weight of it overcame her. She sat at the huge formal table and considered what she was about to do. At this moment she truly loved Mike for having brought her to this point. The rich woods of the room, the paintings, even the little things made her stop and think. She’d come here a thousand times in her life, and yet she’d never really been here. Her mother would never live at the Bend. Just then she felt a presence behind her. It was Mike’s mom.
“Taking it all in, hon?”
She turned to see her, and said, “It’s all so grand. I never really looked at it all. Where did you learn all this?”
The older woman sat and smiled. When I was living in Tennessee I used to watch “Dallas” on TV every chance I got. I looked at all them fancy things on that show, and I studied them. One day I knew I was gonna have them.”
June looked down, “I’m too stupid to do that. I could never be a real estate broker, like you.”
Claudette looked her directly in the eyes. “June, I had to take that stupid test thirteen times! Did you know that? Thirteen times to get my license. Now I got it. You can do it.” She took June by the hand and led her to the fireplace. On it was a brass plate with an inscription. “Read it,” she told June.
The young woman leaned and looked at the plate and read, “Rise above every obstacle. Teach the angels how to fly.” She looked at the older lady. “Where’d you get that?”
“The saying, or the plate?”
“My brother Mike told it to me when we were little kids playing on the Mississippi. He always said that man was created to judge the angels, and that it was really our job to teach them how to fly. That’s my motto. Never look up to anyone, or anything. Man was made to teach the angels how to fly. You learn to fly, and then you teach them.”
“Do you ever see him anymore?”
“No, he’s dead. He was killed in a car crash on Christmas day years ago. That’s when I decided to move here to Texas. Senseless, really. He didn’t need to die like that.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring it up.”
“Ain’t your fault. Ain’t nobody’s fault; just is! People die all the time. Some just affect us more than others, that’s all.”
“I’ll bet he was a lot like you. Strong, and kind. I could never be like you.”
Suddenly she didn’t want to crush June. She knew her to be just as she must have been at some point back in Memphis. She was a girl just trying to carve a place in the world. She took her out to the porch. The maid, and the cleaning woman were working, and June and Claudette sat in the lawn chairs and talked.
“June, I grew up poor, back in Memphis. I was so poor, heck; I thought the folks on welfare had government jobs ‘cause they always had a check! I remember one time when this local fat cat’s son asked me to sleep with him. I told him, ‘No!’ He asked me why. He would pay me; make my life easier, what ever I wanted. I still remember him saying, ‘Who’s gonna know?’ I told him, ‘The Lord will know!’ I ran outta there and never went back. You know what the Lord gave me for that?”
“Nothing! Lost my job, went hungry. Had to marry Mike’s no account father! Took me seven years to shed that worthless piece of nothing! What do you feel, June? I mean what do you really feel?”
June felt nervous, but wanted to give the right answer. “Well, all I know is that I love Mike.”
The older woman began to laugh. “Love? You love Mike? Child, you’re too young to know what love is. You’re telling me that you love him? You get rich, and then you’ll have time to love.”
They walked out to the fence and looked over it to the golf course. The older woman asked, “How old are you, really?”
“I’m almost seventeen”
“Then that would make you sixteen.”
“Yeah. That’d be about right.”
“Do you love your husband?”
Mike’s mom looked sly, just like June when she was hiding something, and replied, “Sometimes. I loved him a lot when we used to go down by the river and have our picnics. That was before that darn fool Stillwell blew his head off right on the very spot I used to eat.” Her eyes narrowed, “It don’t pay to totally love any man! Don’t think you’ll get in my good graces by feeding me what you think I want to hear. You show me you are smart, and that’ll go much farther down the road with me than all the little con games in the world! And don’t you love Mike! He’s got a lot of growing to do. You be smart like the fox.”
“So, you’re sixteen. Are you pregnant?”
June looked at her. She was tempted to act like a little girl whose feelings were hurt, but looking into the woman’s eyes she knew that wouldn’t fly so she simply answered, “No. I had my period last week.”
“Good. I hate pregnant brides. We’re in the chute on this thing.”
“What do you mean?” June had never heard the phrase before.
“Like a bull rider, sittin’ on a bull. They sit there for a minute or so and they’re in the chute. No matter what they think, or feel, that’s not gonna stop that gate from flying open and that bull goin’ crazy! It don’t matter if you’re pregnant or not, me and you, well we’re about to ride this bull! Only with Mike I can guarantee you it’s more bullshit than bull!”
June laughed. “I’ll try.”
“That’s all you can do child, but it’ll be easier to teach them angels how to fly.”
They turned and went back into the house. Mike was coming in just as they walked through the French doors. June ran up and hugged him. He felt strangely different to her after the conversation in the back yard. He put his arm around her and walked over to his mother, “Well, how’s it going?”
“Going good. You pick up the tux?”
“Yeah. Hey, how come I gotta wear white?”
“Because it’s a white wedding, and that’s what my brother, Mike wore to his wedding.”
“Just asking. I thought it was supposed to be
His mother looked at him, “It’ll be pink if I say it will. Take it to the back closet. I don’t want any stains on it before the ceremony.”
Buddy walked in about that time, and his mother asked, “Where you been?”
“Went into town to play pool last night and stayed over at a friends. I told you I’d get here, didn’t I?”
“Well, your sister’s on her way down from Dallas. You need to get with her and make sure Fat Eddie gets the cake over here on time, ok?”
“Fat Eddie will be here. He won’t miss a party.”
A stare from his mother sent him out of the front door.
Fat Eddie arrived with the cake about two in the afternoon. It was a three-tiered thing with the little bride and groom on top. He also brought the groom’s cake, which was small and square. It was set on the formal dining table. June came in and inspected it for the longest time, looking at the various levels, and the little dolls on top. Then Mike’s grandmother arrived to help her prepare for the wedding. She lived in an apartment in town provided for her by Claudette. After the death of her son she had existed poorly in Tennessee until Claudette had sent for her and set her up in her own place. She stayed mainly off to herself, but would come out for an occasional wedding, or funeral if the need should arise. Other people were coming in all the time. The wedding itself was going to be at 6:00 sharp, but the reception seemed to already be starting. The kegs were tapped early in the evening, and Tommy was the first to draw a glass of beer. He began to guzzle, but his girl friend kept him at a civilized level until the actual reception began.
At five June retired to the master bedroom to be fitted into the gown. Mike went to the back to put on the tux he’d rented. Mike’s grandmother came in and helped June. The gown slid onto her form smoothly. She was perfect! The older woman, like Claudette was amazed at the perfection in this young lady. Tommy’s girl friend, Christina, came in toward the last to help. June reached over and opened a box. Retrieving a bolt of cloth from it she handed it to Christina.
“Here, this is for your wedding.”
Christina took the cloth and thanked her.
June stayed in the back of the room until Dish Bob came in to give her instructions as to how the ceremony was to proceed.
“Now, when they come in, you follow the group to the porch. Mike and I will be standing out under the roof. I’ll be behind the coffee table, and you in front, ok?”
“Fine. Now, you’ll do just fine. Just be calm and repeat all that I say, ok?”
The preacher looked June in the eye. “This is a big step for a girl. How do you feel?”
“You just tell me what to say, and we’ll get to the other side of this, ok?”
“Ok. You’ll be fine.”
A couple of her friends from high school were there as maids of honor. They all giggled like little girls, which indeed they were, as the whole thing proceeded. Then, there they were, all alone in the master bedroom, in the big house at the Bend. June had made it. She’d jumped the fence. She was in the Bend! Then, a woman came in to tell them to get ready.
“Now, there’s gonna be some music. Ray’s gonna come in to get you, June.”
This surprised her. She didn’t see Ray arrive. Just then he came through the door. He was dressed in a suit, with his hair neat, missing his ever-present cowboy hat, and wearing low quarter shoes.
“You ready, princess?”
She looked at him and said, “Yeah, I guess, if you are.”
Ray took her hand and said, “I’ll never be ready to walk you out that door. In my life nothing has ever been nice, or easy. I thank God every day that He gave me you, June. I always thought that I had more time, but I guess the prettiest flower on the hill always gets picked first, now doesn’t it?”
“How’s it feel to be in the Bend daddy?”
“Heck, been here before.”
“Yeah, but how does it feel to be here as a guest?” Ray’s eyes squinted as he smiled and he said, “Heck, hon, these people are just like anyone else. They ain’t no different. We are all the same. I don’t really look down on them, or hold it against them ‘cause they are rich. They can’t help it.”
They both laughed. Then he gave her his arm with much dignity and led her through the French doors in the master bedroom to the porch. The music was playing, but she didn’t hear it. Mike was standing there in his white tuxedo with Tommy slightly drunk on the side. Claudette was just off the porch. She looked around at the people. There must have been two hundred, and they were all looking at her. They were all looking at June the Cat. She deliberately looked down at her shoes and took steps toward the altar/coffee table. Dish Bob was holding his bible in his right hand as he reached for her with his left. Then, there she was standing before the altar, in the Bend, beside Mike, with the whole town looking on.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here, in the sight of God to unite this man, and this woman in holy matrimony.”
The crowd hushed and relaxed.
“In as much as a man must leave his father, and mother, and cleave unto his wife, this man has chosen to leave his father and mother and unite with this woman in the bonds of love, and marriage. Michael, do you take this woman to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, to be your lawful wedded wife?”
“June, do you take this man, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, to be your lawful wedded husband?”
She heard the words, but they seemed distant to her. They seemed as if spoken through a veil; a veil she could not see, yet it was there, as real as that fence she’d just jumped. Dish Bob went on, and on about the fidelity of marriage, but she didn’t hear. She was amazed at how this was a lot like an execution. It seemed to move slowly until the rifles went off, and then it was done!
“And so, by the power vested in me by the state of Texas I now pronounce you man, and wife. What God has joined together let no man put asunder!” You may kiss the bride.”
At this point Mike did not kiss her, instead he said, “June, I pledge my undying love to you for ever and ever. I will defend you against all others, and I will lay down my life for you. You are the love of my life.”
The people were stunned that such a declaration of love could come out of Mike. June, stood back and looked at him, but he pulled her to him and kissed her. Tommy stood there gapping at the whole scene, wondering when it would end so he could get back to the beer keg. And then, just as quickly as the wedding had begun, it ended, and the reception began.
The kegs having already been tapped, and the liquor was out, the only thing left to do was break out all the food. There were no formal plates other than the plates Claudette had made with their pictures on them for wedding cake. There were the paper plates that grace most back yard cookouts, which was what this thing really was anyway. The prime rib was cut and served by Fat Eddie himself, but as soon as that formality was finished the brisket was pulled out of the ovens and the real eating, and drinking began in earnest.
June slipped into the master bedroom and put on some jeans and a nice top and rejoined the party as fast as she could. Mike stood around in his tux. Tommy stood near the beer keg in his tux. Christina looked disgusted. There had been placed several cafeteria- style tables in the yard, with metal folding chairs for the guests to sit and eat and drink. Soon all were talking in various little groups about this or that. As soon as Fat Eddie had served the last piece of prime rib he went to the kitchen and fetched a mason jar. Returning to the beer keg area he filled it and began to drink beer with the rest.
Mike’s aunt, his stepfather’s sister in law was there. She was a scorching blonde beauty, but nowhere near June in rank, but her entire desire was to hold everyone’s attention for as long as she could. Someone was always trying to “rape” her, or “couldn’t keep their hands off her.” She slid up to the liquor in the kitchen and began to drink Black Velvet and coke until her eyes turned red. Then she eased back to the guest restroom and soon, right on cue, a scream was heard from that area.
Everyone raced to the room to find Luke Schultz, a local construction worker friend of Ray’s, staring in amazement as the woman trembled and wept and cried, “He just clutched me! He just clutched me!”
Deputy Dog came out of the crowd and put his arm around her and said, “Now now, little lady, just calm down.” The old deputy knew this woman and her game. He looked around the crowd and spotted Judge Potter refilling his glass in the back yard. “Somebody go get the judge.” A boy about fifteen ran out to the judge and told him Deputy Dog needed him.
“How can I be of assistance,” the judge asked as he came into the restroom.
“Well, your honor,” the deputy began, “Luke here seems to have ‘clutched’ Rhonda, and she’s beside herself with fear. I suspect charges will be filed.”
The Judge, who by the way was into his fourth mason jar of beer looked sternly at the woman and asked, “Is this true? Has this happened?”
Through her tears she cried, “Yes. I was just trying to relieve myself, and he came through that door and tried, “she lost control for a moment, “tried to touch my private parts!”
The judge looked at Luke sternly. “Rhonda, cover yourself! Young man, do you know how serious this offense is?”
The boy was shaking visibly. “Your honor, I was just trying to take a pee, and here she was on the toilette. I didn’t mean no harm. I was trying to get out of the room.” Actually he was lying. Rhonda had a way of making sure that she displayed herself at every opportune moment, and had opened the door slightly when she heard the young cowboy approaching.
“Silence! Madam, will you prefer the charge?”
“Yes, your honor. I will.”
The judge turned to the lad. “Court is hereby
convened. You stand accused of molesting Rhonda here. What do you plead?”
The boy was positively white. “Hey, ain’t I gonna get a lawyer or nothing?”
The judge snapped his fingers and cried, “Thomas! Come over here.” A young lawyer in the back of the now gathering crowd came forward. He too had his mason jar full of beer. “Thomas, you are hereby appointed as this young man’s council. Plead him!”
The young lawyer looked at the boy, and then at Rhonda still zipping up her jeans, and said, “In light of the evidence I suggest you plead guilty and throw yourself on the mercy of the court, son.”
The boy looked at all the people standing around and bowing his head he said, “Ok, I’m guilty. But I only wanted to look at her.”
“Done,” the old judge cried. This court finds you guilty of looking at Rhonda here while she sat on the privy. Rhonda, before the court imposes sentence did he hurt you?”
“Well, no, not actually. He really didn’t ‘clutch’ me, just kinda fell into me.”
“Ok, then. This court finds you guilty of ‘clutching without a license,’ and hereby sentences you to ten hours of community service, that service consisting of serving drinks at this here reception. Now both of you get out of this bathroom, I gotta take a piss!”
With the legal proceedings out of the way the crowd retired to the back yard once again. Claudette asked Deputy Dog what the problem was in the house, having not gone in herself and he told her, “Oh, Rhonda got molested again.” They both laughed. The young man under sentence eased over to the beer keg and began to fill glasses, the judge’s first. Ray came up and made like he was going to hit the boy but leaned over and asked very quietly, “Well, was she a real blonde?”
The lad looked around for Rhonda and said, “No.”
Both laughed and the beer flowed. Soon Tommy was sitting beside Mike crying like a baby. “I love you. You are the best brother I ever had. I never thought you’d do this to me. Oh, Mike, what are we gonna do now?”
“Mike was feeling his beer by this time and he, too began to cry. Buddy saw all of this from the other side of the yard and just shook his head. The waitress from the bar was there with him. She would never come to the Bend on any other occasion, even though her father, Juan, was building a home there, but her dark beauty let her blend in well with the people there. Buddy watched her move among the people and frankly wondered just why he’d never really pursued this lady more earnestly. She was typical of the working class people in the little town. Her father had picked oranges in the “Valley” of South Texas, and they had settled here when she was five years old. He had now expanded his business to include several harvest machines and he worked his circuit all the way from the lower part of Texas up into Nebraska before circling back to the little west Texas town to ride out the winter. Her natural curl to her hair, and her little button nose made her very cute, but not the beauty that June had. She was not as developed as June, even though she was considerably older, but she was friendly and laughed readily, making everyone in her little circle of beer drinkers (most of whom she knew from her job in the pub) smile and relax.
Not noticed by the others, Ray went back into the house and let himself into Claudette’s private office. He had asked her earlier for a private talk about a venture he was considering.
“Ok, What’s the deal,” the broker said.
“Well, Claudette, work’s just about petered out here in the Bend, if you know what I mean.”
“Yeah, getting’ tight, I’ll admit, but what do you need from me?”
The sheet-rocker sat in one of the big leather chairs. “Well, I got this here idea. There are apartment complexes around Texas that need to be built up and fixed up, and I want to come up with a company to do it. I’ll let you in for half.”
Claudette looked at him and didn’t laugh. She developed estates, and built dreams for stars, but she understood that to Ray his dream was just as big as hers, and her Memphis roots would not let her look down her nose at him even for a minute. Still, she didn’t want to be a partner with an ex-convict. He was a good man; she knew that, and she didn’t want him to be hurt. “Ray, I don’t want to own your business. Let me make you a loan, ok?”
“Yeah. I mean, we’re family now, right? What do you need to get started?”
He thought a moment, “Well, a compressor. I know I need that. I got a truck, so I’m ok there. Some attachments. That’ll do it.”
He figured on a little pad for a minute,
“About ten thousand.”
She thought he was being a little soft with his bid, but she didn’t let it show. “Will that do it? Why don’t we give you a running start and give you fifty?”
Ray was taken aback. “I…I don’t know if…”
“Tell me about your idea.”
He fidgeted a bit and then began, “Well, I can get contracts to renovate broken down apartment complexes. See, you take these places they would tear down and you got the shell, and you just outfit ‘em ever how the owner wants, and you do it so cheap that they can’t rebuild it for that.”
“How bad of shape are they in?”
“Well, depends on the building. Some ain’t so bad, just fix up, paint up, but some; man, they look like a war zone, but if a man could fix ‘em then he’d have a good piece of property, and the rentals could come in again. You understand, Miss Claudette?”
She nodded, “Yeah. Me and my husband have always been into new sales.”
“Yeah, but them ‘new’ sales is runnin’ out here lately.”
“Tell me about it. We made good off this mess, but it’s becoming apparent that we’re gonna have to flush a new bird soon or we are gonna have to scout a bit. Tell me something, Ray; why do you insist on these building projects when you have a master plumber’s license?”
“Well, I don’t like plumbing. I only got that dumb license because my paw told me I had to have some kind of license. I’d been working with him a lot most of my life and plumbing seemed to just be the natural way to go, but Miss Claudette, plumbing is just plumb nasty. You ever hear the story about the plumber who dropped fifty cents in a plugged toilet?”
She shook her head and Ray continued, “Well he goes to digging in his pockets and pulling out dollars and dimes and such, and dumping them into the John. The lady who hired him asked him what the hell he was doing and he tells her, ‘If you think I’m a gonna reach down into that for just fifty cents you are crazy!”
The broker laughed and Ray said, “You sure you don’t want to be a partner in this?”
“Nah, that’s your bird. I’ll find bigger fish to fry. I’ll remember you when I do. Do you have a crew?”
“I will have. Just as many out of work around here as me. Finding a crew won’t be no problem.”
“Will the fifty be enough?”
“Yeah, that’ll get me going. I can pay…”
“Don’t worry about it. Just pay as you can. Go out and get all the contracts you can get, ok?”
He looked at the powerful woman across the
expensive desk, but did not hold her in contempt. She was just like him. Same background; same spirit. Ray knew he’d never be like her, but he appreciated the fact that they came from the same mold. Years ago, before Claudette was Claudette, there had been a brief moment, but the two ships passed too quickly in the night, and destiny took over for the both of them. Claudette wondered how Ray put up with Barbara. He was actually a sensitive man. He was a good man with many good qualities. How he retired to that shack behind Fat Eddie’s was beyond her! With the right marriage, and the right chance, Ray would easily have been a great builder, and here he was begging for lunch money on his daughter’s wedding day.
“I don’t know how to thank you Claudette.”
“Just keep me posted as to how your idea works.” She rose and shook his hand. He didn’t expect the check right then, knowing that she would handle all the details after the wedding.
Meanwhile Dish Bob was drinking wine in the kitchen from a paper cup. He didn’t mind people see him drink, but he didn’t make an exhibition of it. He had just about finished off an entire box of wine before he moved to the beer keg in the yard. Since Mike’s stepfather was Catholic, the local priest was there also enjoying the food and drink. Dish Bob eased over to the man and shook his hand. They knew each other, and didn’t bother to even discuss religion at a gathering like this one. The only thing the priest asked him was, “How many sixteen year old girls do you marry in a year, Reverend?”
Dish Bob smiled and looked over at June, sitting at a table with a group of people. She was drinking strawberry wine and laughing and talking. “You see her over there, Rev?”
The priest nodded.
“Well she just married a legacy, my friend. Hope she can live up to it.” He turned to leave, but then looked back at the priest and said, “I believe Mary was fourteen when she was married to Joseph.” The old priest smiled and walked off.
June was sitting at her table drinking wine with several people. They were mainly people from the Bend who wanted to get to know this newest member of their very elite club. The conversation turned from one subject to the next until it settled on the fact that no one was from the Bend, everyone having bought into the development when it was founded some years ago.
“I came here from Phoenix,” one older man offered. “Retired out there, but the price here invited me, and it’s close to everything. I like it.”
“I came here on a job doing a shopping mall. Found this place and was real taken by it. Quiet here, and the police have respect, you know?”
One man asked June, “Didn’t you grow up here in town?”
She was smart enough to know they were evaluating her. It was no secret where she’d grown up; she’d grown up in the shacks behind Fat Eddie’s, but she was married into the Bend now. “I lived in town all my life,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be right here. The Bend is my dream.”
This made the old men glow with pride, to know that their little subdivision was so coveted by this beautiful young lady. June took another sip of her strawberry wine and looked across the table at a woman of about thirty years who was sipping dark red wine and staring right at her. Trying to be in tune with the conversation she leaned forward and in her best west Texas drawl she asked, “Where ya’ll from?”
The woman looked at the young girl with utter contempt and replied, “I’m from somewhere that people do not end sentences with prepositions!”
June was taken aback. Her feelings were actually hurt. She couldn’t understand just why this woman would act like that, but she was also June the Cat. She sized the socialite up physically and saw that basically she was no match. Her age, her slender arms, her frame told June she was a pampered pretty of some fat cat in the Bend.
“Well,” she said, leaning forward and getting about an inch from the woman’s nose, “pardon me! Where ya’ll from…bitch?”
It was a moment of truth for the socialite. She had to swing, or walk away, but before blood could be drawn Claudette intervened.
“Pat, I see you’ve met my newest member of the family.”
Both women broke their stare to look up and see Claudette standing there over them. “She’s feisty, isn’t she?”
“Yes, she is,” the older woman said, without actually looking away from June, who was leaning back sipping her wine through a grin.
The music began to play a bit louder and people began to get up and dance on the little temporary dance floor that had been placed in the center of the back yard. Mike’s stepfather came over and took June by the hand.
“I never miss an opportunity to dance with so lovely a lady. Might I have this dance?”
She broke her gaze from the lady across the table and, looking up at him said, “Certainly sir.” She rose and walked to the dance floor with him. The music was slow country, and invited him to hold her close. She leaned into him and followed his every move. People began to leave the dance floor and let the couple dance alone. She tucked her head beneath his chin, and in the dim light of early evening he noticed a slight tear beginning to roll down her cheek.
“Don’t ever let them see you cry Cat.”
She looked up at him and winked. She used his shirt to wipe the tear without the guests noticing it. The party drifted on and on until mid evening. The beer flowed, the brisket was eaten, and arguments flared, and went away. All of the forbidden topics were discussed. Politics, women, religion. The priest left early, and Dish Bob sat on the porch sipping beer.
Then Tommy appeared on the porch, “Hey, preacher, you up for a little deer hunting?”
The plump man looked at the lad, “Deer hunting? Where?”
“The golf course. There’s a bunch of us got our golf carts out and we’re gonna go and knock some deers in the head. They are all over the greens.”
The preacher rose and followed Tommy to the front of the house where he found about ten men and boys and five golf carts waiting.
“Now I think a one wood is the best. Pop’s ‘em ‘long side the head and boom! They are gone!”
“I use a six iron myself. Ah, Dish Bob, you got a set of clubs with you.”
“Why no brother, I don’t. Might I borrow one?”
Buddy stepped up and said, “Here Dish, use this three wood. It’s good for beginners.”
The reverend took the golf club and balanced it making a practice swing, but Buddy took it back and, holding it like a baseball bat said, “No, like this.” He swung at the air. “Try to clip ‘em right behind the ear, if you can!”
Taking the club back again he asked, “Might I inquire what we are about to do?”
“We’re going deer hunting preacher. This time of year, at night, them critters go out there and eat all the grass off the greens. We get out there in our carts and try to knock a few of ‘em in the head. You up for the sport?”
“What about the law?”
“Well, preacher, we’re bringing the law along with us. We got the judge right over there in cart number one.” He pointed to the inebriated jurist in the front golf cart.
At that they all climbed in and proceeded down the road to the little concrete driveway that led to the course. Within moments Dish Bob saw that sure enough there were deer all over the place; all munching down on the best turf in the area.
“Get him!” One of the carts commenced to chase a deer across the green. The deer easily outran the drunken men in their golf carts. They had grown so used to the smell of humans that once the cart had missed it’s mark the deer would simply stop, and continue to eat their favorite green, until the next cart came along. They were all whooping and hollering and swinging clubs until a bright red and blue light brought them to their senses.
“Ya’ll just get them carts back up to the house, or I’m gonna haul you all in,” Deputy Dog’s voice boomed over his P. A. system from the car.
Just then he noticed the judge leaning back to get a beer from a box in his cart. The deputy got out of his car and ran to the judge, “Oh, your honor, I didn’t see you.”
The old judge looked up at him and said, “I just imagine you didn’t. Is that boy Luke still serving drinks at the house?”
“Your honor, I believe he has gone.”
“No matter. He’s in contempt of court.” Then the judge yelled, “Ya’ll round ‘em up and take ‘em to the house. I’ll ride with you deputy.”
“Me too,” Mike’s stepfather added. Just as the men were about to get into the car Dish Bob was trying to get the cart he was left with in forward gear. It lurched forward a bit, stopped, and lurched again, throwing the round preacher onto the ground.
The deputy ran over to him, “Dish Bob, are you ok?”
In a drunken drawl the minister burped, “I have been stricken, even as the Philistines!” He got off the ground, remounted his cart and preceded to the house, with the other carts in single file behind him and the Sheriff’s car, lights going, behind them all.
At two that morning the party had all but died. June went to get her luggage that she’d brought from the shacks that had been left in the formal dining room. To her surprise she found it gone!
“Has anyone seen my things,” she whispered?
“I took them to town. Gave them to the church,” Angie’s voice came from behind her.
“All my clothes?”
“You don’t need them anymore. In your room, you’ll find a new wardrobe, and all of your drawers are full. There is new lingerie in the dresser, and you’ll even find a new toothbrush, and make up in the bath. Forget about your past in the shacks. You are one of us now.”
Mike came out of the rear of the house. “We gotta get! We need to get to San Antonio. Mom’s made all the arrangements for us.”
June went with him out to the car and got in. The taillights disappeared into the night. Standing beside a crepe myrtle tree Buddy sipped a beer and watched as they drove away.