Saturday morning Mike put the suitcases in the pickup and June climbed in, wearing her “501’s” and her red cowboy boots. Claudette waved them goodbye and the truck disappeared around the curve and headed out for the nearby interstate that would take them to El Paso, and out of Texas. June was excited. She was just as excited about the trip itself as meeting her father. Here she’d been married only a short time and she was taking her second trip to a fantastic place! She eased back into the leather “captain’s” chair of the truck and listened to the radio as the miles rolled off. The desert became more, and more barren, if that were possible, and soon they were through El Paso, and heading across New Mexico. After about eight hours they stopped at a motel for the night. Mike had brought some beer, and some strawberry wine coolers for June and they settled into a night of HBO.
The next day the trip continued and by that evening they were in Vegas, looking for the casino where June’s father dealt Blackjack. They checked into a hotel, but found that actually going to the casino would be hard, as both of them were not twenty-one years old as yet. June found the casino, however and asked one of the people who worked there to ask her father to come and see her.
The man appeared shortly at the door. He was dressed well, as were all of the employees of the establishment. He had the same blonde hair that June had, and even had blue eyes. He was shorter than Mike, but stocky.
“You wanted to see me?”
“I’m your daughter. I’m June.”
She just stood there staring. This man was her father. He was her real father. She waited for some great emotion, some bolt of lighting to strike her, but none came. He was also a stranger.
He stood there and stared. “And?”
“And I’ve come to see you.”
“Hon, you’ll have to excuse me. I gotta work right
now. Are you staying here in Vegas?” “Yeah, over at the Sands.”
“Ok, good. I’ll give you a call there.” He reached in his pocket and gave her a piece of paper and a pen, “Write you room number down.”
She wrote the number and returned the paper to him. “You’ll get off soon?”
“About two in the morning.”
“I’ll be up.”
He looked surprised, “Uh, yeah. I’ll call.”
At about two-thirty that night the phone rang. June seized on it. “You up?”
“Ok, I’ll be there in a few minutes, ok?”
“I’ll be waiting.”
About three o’clock the knock came at the door.
June opened it and the man walked into the room. He had loosened his tie and appeared more relaxed than he was at his casino. “Mind if I sit?”
“No, not at all.” She was still captivated by him and sat in a chair opposite the one he chose.
He looked at Mike just coming into the room. Mike shook his hand, and said, “I’m June’s husband. I didn’t have time to introduce myself when we first met.”
“Oh, no problem. I was kinda rushed myself, working and all, you know.”
“Hey, I’m gonna go down and get a sandwich, and let you two get to know each other, ok?”
“That’ll be great. We’ll just sit here and get to know each other.”
Mike left the room and the two looked at each other. There were no words for the longest time and then June spoke, “I’ve thought a lot about you.”
“Well, I wondered about you, too. Never seen you. Didn’t know you were so cute.”
She blushed, “Aw, I’m cute in a Texas way. I ain’t near as good looking as these ladies out here.”
“These women are phony. You are not. You have a freshness to you.”
“Well, what do you think? Are you glad to see me?”
“Sure, I’m glad. Just kinda stunned, that’s all. How’s your mom?”
“Good. She is getting on just fine.”
“She still looks like you?”
June laughed, “No, she’s done got fat, but don’t tell her I told you that, she’ll be mad at me. They tell me she used to look just like me.”
He leaned back, “Yeah, she did. She was real cute, just like you. Pretty as a picture. She still living with that plumber guy?”
“Ray? Yeah, and they are married now.”
“No foolin’? How long?”
“Right after I was born. Ray wanted me to have,”
she trailed off trying to avoid what she was just about to say.
“A last name? Hey you can say it. I kinda took off on ya, didn’t I?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You didn’t have to. So what’s your last name now, being married and all?”
“Fine name. Nice name. They built that neighborhood out there, didn’t they?”
“The Bend, yeah. Big houses.”
“Heard Willie Nelson played golf there.”
“Lot’s of people play golf there. They’re always coming through the area.”
He looked her up and down. “So, what do you want to do while you’re out here?”
“Well, just found out today that I can’t do much. I’m only seventeen and I can’t do much of anything.”
“Well, you can see Hoover dam. You can watch some of the shows. There’s a few things you can do. I’ll get you some tickets so you and your husband can do a little something. Can’t have you coming to Vegas and going to the library.”
“Why’d you leave?” She was surprised that she’d blurted it out like that. Suddenly, without warning.
He looked shocked. He’d been trying to be so cosmopolitan, and now this little girl had put the question right out there in front of him. It was a question she’d wanted to ask for a long time, and now it had to be answered.
“Can’t we talk about that another time?”
“No, let’s talk about it now. Why’d you leave my mom when she was pregnant?”
He leaned back, “Well, first off, I didn’t know for sure if she was pregnant. Second, I wasn’t real sure if it was mine.”
June felt her face get hot. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying your momma was a west Texas firecracker. You think I was her only boyfriend? She was out every Saturday night, heck, every Friday night too, for that matter. Girl, we weren’t together more than two or three times.”
June could feel her heart speed up. “Are you my real father?”
He laughed, “Well, there’s at least a chance. I mean you got blue eyes, but heck, so do half the people in town here. I think I’m you’re father, but to be honest, I just don’t know.”
She started to well up to cry, and he said, “Aw now, don’t cry. You just gotta grow up. You come busting out here wanting to meet me without no invite at all. Hon, I was just the most exciting person your momma ever met. She told you I was your father because it made her feel better. I was just the one who was gone, that’s all. She probably didn’t want to face the fact that she was pregnant by some broke-ass cowboy in west Texas. Heck, she even had an affair with that old man Stillwell about the same time. His wife had cancer and was dying and she was cleaning up his house for him. I heard she had a little fling with him. He might be your father for all I know!”
June reached for a tissue and wiped her eyes. “I guess I got a lot to learn. I’m sorry.”
“Hey, don’t be sorry. If I ever did have a little girl, I’d want her to be just like you. I wish I were your father. Now the offer of seeing the shows still holds, ok. If you and your husband want to then I’ll show you around when I’m off, ok?”
She composed herself, “That’s ok. We’ll just look around town and go back to Texas tomorrow.”
“Oh, c’mon now, don’t be like that. You came out here for the truth, didn’t you?”
“Just leave.” She was surprised at how firm she was, and how much she sounded like Claudette now.
He sat up and looked at her, “Yeah. I guess I should.”
She looked him in the eye. “I never want to hear from you again. I never want to see you again. You are nothing to me. You are a user. That’s all you are, and that’s all you’ll ever be. My momma was beautiful! She’s a sight better than whatever you got now. I’m sorry if I bothered you at work. I am June Montgomery! You are a piece of shit!”
He looked into her eyes and said, “June, everyone’s got to have something to believe in. Your mother had nothing but a sandy patch of west Texas, and no future. She was messing around with old man Stillwell, and his wife was dying. She knew that the situation would end, and she’d be right back where she started. I’m not a family man. I’m not evil, hon; I’m just a man who knows I’d never be able to put up with kids, and a regular job, and all that goes with it. If your mother is happy with that plumber, and has been all these years, then she’s a damn sight better off than she would have been with the likes of me.”
He stood up and reached to hug her, but she drew back and said, “Don’t touch me! Don’t you ever touch me!”
Mike was coming back into the room just as the man was leaving, “Going so soon? I brought some food.”
“Gotta get home. Hope you and your wife have a nice visit to Vegas, son.”
He left and Mike looked at June, “What’s wrong?”
“Just take me home, Mike. Let’s just go home.”