Honeymoon over the couple found their way back at the Bend, and in Claudette’s office the following Monday morning.
“So you want to work here,” Claudette asked?
“Yeah,” June replied, “I want to be a real estate person, like you.
The old broker looked at the sixteen year old. “You don’t have high school. You are not eighteen yet, and you need to be eighteen to test for the license, and you don’t know anything about our business.”
“I hate school. I know how to type, and I learned to ride my first bicycle on your streets!”
“Then you aren’t going back to school?”
“No. If you won’t let me work here then I’ll just work at Fat Eddie’s and Mike and I will live in an apartment.”
Claudette looked at Mike. “When are you taking your courses to test?”
“Thought you wanted me to go to college?”
“Not anymore! You got a family now! You take the real estate core and test! You need to work, not study, Socrates! You’re to god damn stupid for college!”
Inwardly Claudette admired June’s grit. She had more grit than Mike would ever have. She wished she could convince the girl to finish high school, but being from the old school, she knew that when June was eighteen she’d have enough “under her belt” to breeze through the courses and test for the real estate license and that would be as good as a west Texas high school diploma.
“Tell you what, you work here for a while, just to see how you do. Mike, you start the weekend classes. June, I really want you in school, but I’d rather have you here than in Fat Eddie’s slinging catfish.”
Mike went out to the golf course and June went right to work that very day. Her duties started simple enough. She answered the phone, kept messages, and that freed up Claudette a bit to get around town a little more than she could before. She was pleasantly surprised at June’s abilities. She really could type, and fast! She quickly learned that the girl was quite a scholar at school, and hadn’t quit school because she could not make passing grades, but because she was simply too bright to sit there. She loved the world of west Texas real estate more. She learned all about real estate by just being in the office. One afternoon a rancher came in and was very disturbed about his closing not happening on time. The man had wanted to sell his ranch and move out to L. A. and a discrepancy in the survey kept the closing from happening.
“What is the problem, Claudette?”
“Well, it’s simple. Your original deed says the land is fourteen hundred and fifty and eighteen one- hundredths acres.”
“The new survey says it’s fourteen hundred and fifty and eight one-hundredths acres. You’ve lost some land somewhere!”
The rancher rolled his eyes, “Well get it straight! I gotta get out to L. A.! My old lady’s out there on Rodeo drive and she’ll bankrupt me before I get there if you don’t get this straightened out!”
He stormed out of the office and left them sitting there. Claudette told June, “Get Chip on the line for me.” June called the county taxman and gave the phone to Claudette.
“Chip, I got me a problem. There is a tenth of an acre difference in a survey on a ranch I’m selling and I can’t close until I find that dirt!”
“How old is the original survey?”
“Hell, I don’t know,” she rummaged through the closing documents, “about the time of the Alamo, how do I know? Here, about nineteen sixty-nine. How’s that?”
“Ok, here’s the problem. Back then; they used the old chain survey method. You remember. The boy would run along with a long chain like a football first down chain. Now, they use lasers, and satellites. Now combine that with one may be done on a wet day, and the other on a dry day.”
“Ok, ok, so what. What do I do to close?”
“Put in the contract on page one under ‘lot description’ this; ‘such and such amount of land plus or minus,’ and that should take care of it for Marge over at the Exchange.”
Claudette was correcting the contract even as the man spoke over the phone. “Never heard of that one, Chip, but I’m gonna try it. Thanks.”
The next day the closing went ahead as planned with the revision on the contract. Little things like this stuck in June’s mind. The dealings with land had dignity to her. The logic of it all made her feel as if everything was right in the universe.
Claudette impressed her. More than anything she knew that the old broker had risen above a lot of obstacles to make her angels fly. She also was made very aware in private that the broker had a severe reading problem. Soon, June was reading all documents to her, and was actually becoming adept at understanding the subtle “in’s and out’s” of real estate and she hadn’t darkened the doors of one class yet!
Mike did go to the classes, however. The preliminary classes were three ten hour days of “study” in which the candidate would pass a “test” and be awarded thirty hours of credit. Actually, what it consisted of was two days of memorizing the answers to the test and the last day of testing. The questions, and answers were given in the exact order and verbiage on the test. In fact, if you could memorize numbers the math part was totally easy in that one could simply remember a few numerical answers and zip through the math part of the test. However, Mike was never very studious, even with the deck so stacked and after the first three-day class there was an explosion in the little real estate office.
“Only by about five points, momma.”
“You failed a fast class?”
“I’ll do better next time.”
“Mike, they give you the answers. That’s all they
do for two days is give you the answers and then they ask you the same blasted questions back and you fill in the blanks! People on LSD can pass these stupid classes! I passed those classes, and I can’t READ!”
He stormed out of the office and ran out to the golf course to play a round and get his nerves under control. June was learning that Mike was not the most intellectual of the brothers in the controlling family of the Bend. Tommy was brighter, but now that she was in the family she was becoming aware that he was more than a little fond of not only smoking the smoke that June smoked with Ray, but having access to money such as he did, he also did something June had never seen; cocaine! She caught him doing a line in the rest room at the mansion one evening when he thought everyone was in bed.
“What are you doing?”
He looked up surprised, “Just a little coke, that’s all. Don’t tell mom.”
She walked over and looked at the line on the mirror. “Never did that stuff.”
Tommy saw a chance to make sure that his new sister in law kept the secret and raised the mirror to her nose. She drew back slightly, “I don’t know how.”
“Just sniff. It’ll go in. Don’t be afraid. I know you smoke grass.”
“Yeah, but grass ain’t this stuff.” She bent down and very slightly sniffed a little bit into her nose. A small feeling of exhilaration overcame her. Composing herself, she leaned down and sniffed a bit more, and then all of it.
“Hey! Greedy ain’t we,” Tommy joked.
“No, you offered.” She rolled her eyes. “Man! I could get used to this stuff!”
“We all do.”
“Not your mom.”
Tommy laughed. He watched as she let the drug
take control. “How do you feel?”
“Different. Not really high. Yeah, I guess.
Tommy became aware that he was becoming
excited by the fact that June was getting high and “loosening up” before his eyes. She looked directly into his eyes and his heart leaped. He saw that she was very beautiful indeed. Perhaps it was the drug, or the moment, but he could feel her taking control of him. After a long lapse of time, he broke her stare.
“Hey, maybe you better go back to bed,” he finally said.
“This stay’s between us, right?”
“Hey, right here in the crapper. No one will ever know.”
She looked into his eyes for a full minute. Tommy was helpless; then, she pulled back and let him go. For June there were other fish to catch, and this minnow simply would not do.
She smiled and said, “Yeah,” and walked back down the long hall to her bedroom.
Mike continued to struggle with the classes but lost interest rapidly. Inwardly, he was very aware that even if he didn’t pass any class his mother would support him. Claudette became aware that her son would never be an agent. Each week delivered the same result, and with each week in the office June shined a bit more. The awful truth dawned and Mike finally went to work with his stepfather in construction and tried his hand at roofing. He was not a boss in any way. He wasn’t much of a roofer either. He drifted through each day trying to get out of as much work as possible.
One afternoon, when June found herself alone in the office she put a CD into the computer and looked at phone listings. She clicked “state,” and selected “Nevada.”
Then she selected “Las Vegas.” She really didn’t think it would work but she put in her father’s last name, and about twenty people with that last name came up. Slowly her big blue eyes drifted down the alphabetized list of first names until she saw his name, or at least someone with that same name. She looked out the glass windows in the front of the real estate office and almost trembling her forefinger clicked the mouse on “dial.”
“Hello,” came the man’s voice on the line.
Her heart raced. She’s never heard his voice before. She didn’t know what to say, so she just said, “Daddy?”
“Who is this? Do I know you?”
“This is June. I live in Texas. You knew my mom,” and she stopped.
There was a long silence on the phone, and then, “June? Is that you?”
“Yes, where are you?”
“I’m still in Texas. I live at the Bend now.”
“The Bend. You live in the Bend?”
“Yes, I’m married.”
“Girl you can’t be fifteen years old.”
“I’m almost seventeen. Oh daddy, it’s so good to
hear your voice!”
The conversation went on and on, and she didn’t
care who knew she’d made the call. When Mike came in from work she told him right away that she’d called her Real Daddy.
“What did he say?”
“He wants to see us. He wants us to come up and see him.”
“I’ll have to tell momma.”
She looked disgusted, “Why do you have to tell your momma. You have to tell your momma everything. I’ll bet you tell her what we do in our bedroom.”
He got very angry and slapped her. Then he grabbed her by the hair and shook her head and started saying, “Don’t you ever say that. Don’t you ever say that!”
About that time, Tommy came in and ran over to grab Mike. “Hey, man, cool it. What’s wrong with you?”
“She’s being a bitch, that’s all.”
Tommy slung Mike back into the file cabinets and said,” Don’t hit her, ok? Don’t you ever hit June!”
Mike would have swung, but Tommy had been a golden glove for two years before the cocaine took over his life. He was still a fighter, and Mike knew he was no match. He just gave that down stare he always gave at times like this. Just then, Claudette came in from the street. Studying the two boys, and knowing their ways, she asked,
“What’s going on?”
“Mike slapped June,” Tommy said.
Claudette walked slowly over to June and looked at her face. The left side was a bit red, and the tears in the girl’s eyes told the truth. She went back over to Mike, still leaning on the file cabinets. Before he could move she slapped him so hard it sounded like a rifle shot.
“Don’t you ever let me catch you hitting another woman, you hear me? If you ever hit her again I’ll beat you to death. You understand me?”
“Yes, momma.” He rubbed his cheek and shifted his gaze to Tommy, and then back to Claudette, and then to June.
“Why’d you slap her?”
“She’s been calling her Real Daddy.” In his childish world, he thought that this accusation would clear him of the slapping.
Claudette turned to June, “Well, how is he?”
The girl was rubbing her face now, “Oh, he’s ok. He wants me to come and see him.”
“Be careful that you are not disappointed when you do. Where’s he been all these years?”
“He deals blackjack in Vegas. He works all the time.”
“Well, just don’t bet on him, that’s all. He come breezing through this town and was lucky he didn’t get himself shot.” She turned and pointed her finger at Mike and walked out of the room.
As Mike turned to leave, he tripped over something and fell flat on his face. June and Tommy laughed, and Mike got up off the floor, dusted himself off as best he could, and left the room.
“How’d you do that,” the spirit guide asked?
“Wouldn’t you like to know, Dr. Angel,” Veronica answered. “I’ve always been pissed off that he slapped me that day. I finally got a chance to even up the score, that’s all.”The Butcher Shop