For The Love Of Money

loner

One man’s silver is another man’s gold-Claudia Van Gee

 

Money can’t buy love, but it can improve your bargaining position-Christopher Marlowe

 

I looked at the check in my hands. It was a fortune. I giggled at the realization that now I could have anything I desired.  A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G.  Life would now be served to me on a silver platter.

On an impulse I grabbed the phone and called Wayne. Why not?  Wayne was the man who got away, the prize stallion who escaped; the man I dreamed about.  When he answered I quickly told him about my fortune and my upcoming trip to Portland, Oregon and subsequent leisurely drive back across the country to Louisiana.  Did he want to join me and my fortune?  I knew he was an opportunist and could never deny himself the good life, no matter what form it was offered to him.  He quickly said yes and we made plans to meet at his home in a week.  He was still single, he told me.  I was sure he was not alone though.  But no woman, no matter how beautiful could compare to my fortune.

A week later I pulled up in front of his town house in a brand, new silver Maserati Quattroporte GTS. The opulent car did not match my dowdy appearance.  My drab brown hair fell around my shoulders, my skinny, shapeless figure and my broken fingernails a sharp contrast to the over one-hundred thousand dollar vehicle.  But Wayne did not look at me longer that it took to give me a cursory hug.  Then he circled the car, swearing and saying, you’re rich, you’re rich, oh my God, how rich are you?  I looked down at the ground shyly.  Does it matter?  I have enough money to drive a new Maserati off the lot.

The next day we were seated in the Maserati heading south on Interstate 5 towards California. As I wrapped my stubby fingers around the leather steering wheel, I occasionally stole glances over at my prize, Wayne, with his soft blue eyes, thick sandy blonde hair, and sexy stubble on his chin.  Then I glanced down at his athletic torso covered by skin-tight worn jeans.  I smiled at my good luck and pressed down harder on the car’s gas pedal, pushing the car to easily go faster and faster through Oregon’s lush central, green valley.

From time to time during the next twenty-four hours we caught up on our past, those days since we’d worked together a decade before. He had married but then quickly divorced.  There was nothing in it for him, he shrugged.  I told him that I had survived disastrous relationships.  In my mind I knew but did not reveal that no one could compare with Wayne, my ideal, the perfect man.  When my last boyfriend started to cheat on me I sensed his lies and wandering ways and dumped him, sidestepping grief and tears.  My downfall is falling in love with the wrong men.  My ability to sense when to fold and step away, never getting hurt, always saved me though.

As we drove past Redding toward Sacramento, we stopped at the best hotels and shared special evenings over wine and expensive dinners, the best my money could buy. In return he showered me with attention, finally wrapping his strong arms around me at night.

One morning as we headed toward Sacramento and the Highway 99 exit sign loomed in the distance he suggested we drive over to Tehachapi. He wanted to photograph the windmills that dotted the town’s hills as well as the desert.  Photography was his passion, which he believed was his ticket to fame and fortune.  But after driving from Tehachapi east into the desert, instead of taking Highway 395 and dropping down to San Bernardino and Palm Springs, our next stop, he suddenly yelled at me to stop the car.  I pulled over at one of the few spots that would not end up with the Maserati’s tires stuck in the deep desert sand.  He turned to me and put his hand on my arm, saying words I never really expected to hear from him.  Would I marry him in Las Vegas?  Stunned, I started crying.  Yes!  I threw my head back and screamed and without looking back for oncoming traffic I turned the car back onto the pavement, the tires screeching as I pushed the gas pedal down to the floor.

After a quick ceremony in the tiny Las Vegas wedding chapel and a photograph, we started walking back to the Maserati parked nearby. Hey, he said, let me drive. I coyly told him no, that soon he would have his own Maserati.  His eyes got big and he gaped, his mouth stuck open.  He started choking, tears streaming down his face as he tried to compose himself and catch his breath.  Where should we honeymoon, I asked him?  He shrugged and was deep in thought.  An hour later he sat up in the seat and said, The Grand Canyon…for our honeymoon.  Let’s go there.

I drove the sleek silver car into the mountains and finally found the turn off to the Grand Canyon. Ignoring the jealous glances from tourists, I parked the silver rich-man’s car and, holding hands, we walked over to the edge to admire nature’s gift, the panoramic Grand Canyon.  We walked along the edge where there were few railings to protect the public from falling miles to the bottom and a painful death.  But I felt safe next to my handsome, muscular husband, with his perfect face and dark sunglasses covering his blue eyes.  Let me take your picture against the Canyon, he said.  He grabbed my hand and pulled me away from the crowds to a secluded spot.  Here, he positioned me next to the edge of the abyss and moved back with his camera to create a photograph we could cherish for years to come, a honeymoon memory.  Step back, he commanded.  I started to move but my left foot slipped on the sand.  Looking slightly over my shoulder I realized the drop off was inches behind me.  Wayne took off his sunglasses and stuck them into the top edge of his t-shirt.  He lowered his camera.  Step back, he said, urging me with his chin.  It was then that I saw his cold blue eyes, his handsome face set in stone.  He moved quickly toward me, reaching out to touch my shoulder and push me over the edge.  But I had seen his foot rise and sensed his intention.  Dropping to the ground in front of me I ducked just in time. Wayne’s momentum thus unstopped propelled him over the edge of the peaceful, deep, multi-colored Grand Canyon’s walls.  His camera fell to the ground by my face.  I got up and looked over the edge.  The gravel was still falling but there was nothing to see, the river at the bottom a tiny speck.  Wayne had been swallowed into the earth below, invisible, gone.  I looked around but Wayne had chosen the spot well.  There were no witnesses.  I ran back to the Maserati and jumped in, leaving my honeymoon spot forever.

Days later as I steered the glistening, silver, sleek, expensive Maserati up to a sprawling Louisiana ranch house, I saw my Uncle Donnie open the front door. He was still confined to a wheelchair.  His broken leg wouldn’t heal for at least another month or two.

Sweetie. You did it.  Thanks for driving my boss’s car from Portland.  Did you have fun?  See any of your old long, lost friends?

Oh, yes, it was wonderful, I gushed.

Did the ten grand I gave you pay for everything?

Oh, I felt rich, that’s for sure, between the cash and the car. The whole time I felt like royalty.  I could finally do anything I wanted, have anything I wanted.

Well, he smiled, you look radiant. I think there is more to your story.  Come inside and relax and tell me all the details.

I gave him the keys to his boss’s car and looked over at my dirty, aging Subaru parked over by my Uncle’s barn.

Oh, he said, and by the way, I put another ten grand in your bank account. With this bum leg keeping me at home and parked on my butt there was no way I could deliver the Maserati to my boss’s daughter for her birthday.

Wow, I shook my head. Ten thousand more dollars?  I’m rich, I gushed, shaking my head.  A fortune!

NOTE: Now ya’all know this is fiction, right?  My Uncle’s name is Gene, not Donnie.  The rest of the story?  Well, I’m not saying what is real and what is make-believe, just that the line between maybe and maybe not sometimes is kind of thin.

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