Somewhere In the West Texas Sand
The days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months after Ray was buried. The little town drifted back to normal and Ray was mentioned in passing at Fat Eddie’s over coffee every now and then, but soon he faded and it was as if he had never been there. It was a little odd at first when he didn’t show for catfish, or eggs in the morning, but time made the entire episode fade into history. Lives moved on, and the little grave began to grow weeds here and there. June went to the little real estate office every day, and put in her time, taking in all that she could about the operation. Mike continued to work with his stepfather, and tried again to take the real estate classes, but he was simply no good at it. He wasn’t much good at other things either, and he and June began to drift farther, and farther apart. She put him in the same category as the man she’d met in Vegas, and like him, she soon lost all respect for Mike. She began to resent him more and more, and oddly enough, she began to identify with Claudette. At the funeral she’d seen a softer side of the broker, but she’d also noticed that she knew just when to stiffen her back and walk away. Also the advice she’d gotten just before the wedding had taken root and June had actually kept a wary eye on Mike at all times.
June was walking away from other things now too. She really was seventeen now, and not just saying it. She really was married, and she really did live in the Bend. It was almost becoming her usual habit. Before, it was as if she was visiting and would shortly return to those shacks behind Fat Eddie’s once again, but now she began to feel as if she belonged there. There was a spiritual attraction between her and the land of the Bend. It made her feel as if she, and it were actually one!
The day-to-day operation of the real estate market began to interest her. Real Estate was never boring to her, but alive and exciting. She was amazed by the details and little “in’s and out’s” of the business. Claudette told her she needed to seriously begin taking the “fast classes,” and be ready to test for her real estate license when she became of age.
Claudette’s reading disability let June into some very private maneuvers and she learned every time she saw one of them. One such move came one afternoon when a former client called and blasted June out on the phone, admonishing her to have Claudette call him back.
“Oh, him,” Claudette said, “I won’t call him. He wants his ‘V. A.’ back on the house he sold and he can’t get it.”
“Why,” June asked?
“Well, I put in paragraph eleven that the new buyer would apply for the loan to be transferred within a year of the closing. Well they applied.”
“The mortgage company said, ‘No.’ They won’t let the seller off the note. He’s on it until it runs out.”
“Isn’t that dishonest. You said the people would assume the note in full within a year?”
“No, it’s not dishonest. I never said they’d assume, I said they’d apply. They did apply. The answer was ‘no.”
“Slick as scum on a hot rock, child. In this business, every comma means something. Never take anyone at their word, especially a real estate agent!”
June became used to the open house duties that her job entailed. She’d fix the food, and sit in the mansions of the Bend, or a shack on the north side of the little town with equal enthusiasm! She was a local celebrity of sorts and her open houses were real events. She began to learn the history of the dream that became the Bend. Claudette showed her this history in the documents that filled the cabinets of the office. When viewed in that aspect the Bend seemed so absolutely normal, and natural, but when perceived from a realistic standpoint it was an impossible thing. June began to understand that perhaps the main reason there was only one bidder that day on the courthouse steps was that no one in the little town thought the land was worth anything! It certainly wasn’t worth braving the cold wind on the north porch of the county court house. It was Claudette’s vision that made the Bend come alive. June began to realize Claudette’s genius as she studied the plot maps, and the ideas that sat silently in the office of the little west Texas real estate company now gathering dust.
June could also see how the very advent of the Bend, while bringing some construction to the area, had actually left a vacuum. There were no more homes to be built there and all the plans to expand were scrubbed. The Bend had been built and all of the construction money that could be made had been made. This very fact was what had driven Ray to Killeen. There was no work among the fat wallets of the Bend. There were very few sales, and no expansion. The Bend was settling down into exactly what Claudette had planned for it to be all along. It was a place for the privileged few to retreat when the world became too much and the west Texas deserts would keep them safe.
She could see how the wise old broker had effectively neutralized the town, and it’s city officials to achieve her ends in the construction of the Bend. What June could not see was that this had led to some bitterness. When the money was new, and the excitement was still in the air, the old men who ran the town were happy, but with the winding down process they resented the lady from Memphis who had insinuated herself so dramatically in their town. The Subdivision wasn’t just a mass of brick and streets, but an idea, a concept; indeed, it was Rome in its entire ancient splendor! When one turned from the interstate highway into the Bend, they turned back into time. Within its walls were the privileged few. No one dared penetrate this inner sanctum, for it in its own way was a very holy ground, sanctified by blood, and sealed for time, and eternity! It was not just a subdivision, implying that it was a part of a greater whole, but it was the whole, and it sustained itself. Its inhabitants would truly wonder why it was a “sub” division at all! It was actually larger than the little desert community it had sprang from. The Bend would recreate itself again, and again, at the will of its masters, the elite few who lived within it, and who empowered it, compelling it to greater heights.
And it would do it at the expense of anyone who dared to stand in the way! During June’s tenure as secretary of Claudette’s little real estate venture, she met with Juan. Juan had been around so long that no one could remember when he wasn’t there. Juan was an aspiring homeowner, hoping to put a house together in the most prestigious subdivision in the state! The Bend! He submitted his plans to the “committee” which actually amounted to Claudette, and her husband, and was initially approved. He had paid for his lot in four payments. Then he gathered his clan around him to build the house a little bit at a time. He would pay in food and help to various members of his family who helped with the project. He’d skip over a lot of red tape by doing this. In skipping over the bureaucracy he attracted more than a little attention. One night a visitor came to Claudette’s home.
After dinner, when the scotch was poured liberally, and the “visitor” made his pitch.
“Claudette, you know that Mexican that’s putting up his place, out there on the point?”
“Why hell yes! You think I’d have a house going up out here that I didn’t know about?”
The man poured a bit more whiskey and continued, “Well let me ask you this; wasn’t this supposed to be an ‘exclusive’ area?”
The wise old broker sat her drink on the oak table, “Jim, I don’t know what you’re driving at, but you know as a broker with the state of Texas, I can’t be a party to any such shenanigans as what I know you’re leading up to.”
“Ain’t askin’ you to, hon, ain’t askin’ you to. Just askin’ you to appoint a few more ‘committee’ members to help you with this heavy load I know you must be carrying by now. We could hold meetings; enforce deed restrictions, and such things as that. He’s out there using his family to pour concrete, frame, put in septic, hell, everything! I don’t think the word ‘code’ is anywhere in their vocabulary.”
She stared at him. “Juan’s money is green. That’s the only color I see. I’m from a sand bar in the middle of the Mississippi, and I don’t give a damn about your codes.”
About that time her husband cut her off, “Now, hon, just let Jim continue. He’s not trying to hurt you. He’s trying to help you.”
“That’s right, Claudette,” Jim said, “We’re just trying to help you smooth things along. I’m not interested in what that Mexican is putting up out there. All I want to do is make sure the code is adhered to, and that our property values stay right where they are. There are a lot of people with a lot of money invested here in this little neighborhood of yours, and you can’t let us down, now.”
“Oh, I see.” Claudette saw a way out of this little trap. “Then let’s go ahead and have a little vote, and form a new committee, right?”
“Yeah, that’s it. Now ol’ Juan out there, he can even run for the committee if he wants to. We’d be proud to have him.”
“Naturally. I can see how you’d be overjoyed for him to sit on the committee.”
Jim smiled, “I knew you’d see it our way.”
In point of fact, Claudette had written the so-called “code” with her husband, Bill, but had never actually taken it seriously. With the caliber of buyers she’d had she’d have felt like a fool trying to steer them this way or that if they decided to do something with their property, and in truth that’s the very reason most of them were there in the first place is to live in peace and solitude and not be tampered with. In her mind Juan was one of the least offenders. All he wanted to really do was build a house!
Within a month Juan had more complaints against his construction than he ever imagined possible. His septic tank wasn’t up to state standards, it spite of the fact that it was exactly the same as the one on the adjacent lot. (That land is higher elevation than Juan’s land. His must be a spray type unit!) Juan’s deck wasn’t in conformity with the specs on the original plan. (We have the plan right here. That deck sits on ground that was hauled in and is very unsound. Why it would just slide right off into the river at the first rain!)
After such delays, and hearings, the little man was simply disgusted and left his unfinished house to be host to the tumbleweeds that blew across his property. When the fines mounted for that Juan disappeared from town, and the only reminder left was his daughter, Sabrina, still serving drinks down at the little bar that Buddy frequented. The last house to be built in the Bend was at that time a foundation with gray two by fours reaching for the west Texas sky. With his friend, Ray now dead, Juan’s trips to the town became fewer and fewer. Those who did know him thought they saw other worries in his eyes, but they could never quite put their fingers on it.
The Butcher Shop
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