As hard as I tried no sleep came for me. Only heavy thinking. At one point I got up quietly so not to wake the Grandparents and snuck out to the porch where Duke was and brought him quietly inside through the living room onto my room to sleep with me. He was always a comfort. If my Nana knew I put Duke in that expensive satin covered bed she would tell me how tacky I had been. But then Nana was a true southern woman and I was only a half breed. Meaning I was raised half my life in Austin and half in Northern Wisconsin. I locked my bedroom door just in case the Grands might open it to check on me and see the Duker on the pink satins. They might lose their cool.
We woke up in the early morning hours to Nana's knock on the bedroom door. Freak me out or what. I told her I would be out after I washed up. She then asked me where Duke was. Freak me out twice isn't nice so early in the morning! I told her I had gotten him in around dawn when I heard him whining. I was sorry but I was afraid he might be sick and wanted to observe him. Nana said she didn't want any dog throwing up in her house. I assured her he wasn't drueling. She seemed satisfied or just gave up and moved on past it to her kitchen.
While I was washing up the smell of bacon in the air called my name loud and clear as it always had at the Bradwood Street home. That time the bacon had to wait as Duke needed to find a new grassy area to relieve himself. I swear he sniffed half the blades of grass and every tree in the yard plus the monkey grass that edged the entire house which seemed the size of a plantation by the time he finished. And then he would start that process all over searching for a poo spot.
I had been unusually impatient that day because I was apprehensive Billy would show up as usual brown nosing my Grandparents..... before I could make my escape. I truly was in need of some solitude. Some soul searching time. Some peace for a change.
When Duke finally finished his podie poo maze about the yard I raced tback to the kitchen, Duke at a close pace beside me, downed a piece of bacon while standing without so much as a glance at Duke who was staring at me with hunger in his eyes. All I could think of was running away. Anywhere Billy wouldn't find me. As I darted past Nana toward the door, she stopped me with a gentle but firm hold!
"What is going on with you child? Now come on back over here and have a sit down and tell me the truth." She asked in that deep southern Texas drawl.
I told her everything as I cried breathlessly huge crocodile tears. I used to think that wasn't possible. That is was an old saying, but I truly whaled some Texas size teardrops as I belted out everything that had happened to me since I left Northern Wisconsin. I told her Granddaddy was going to think I was the dumbest blonde in the midwest and the south. He had his sites set on my marrying the Governor's grandson and living a life of luxury.
She said, "Don't you worry darlin, I'll handle your Grandfather."
I dried my eyes, ate more bacon, then Duke and I left in the Cadi. I wasnt sure which direction to go but soon intended on the quiet nearby Shopping Center. There was a Henderson's Grocery Store, a Camera Shop, a soda fountain, a small dress shop I had purchased a number of nice Ship n Shore blouses at, and a Cafeteria. I parked the Cadi in the shade when I noticed off to the side, sitting on an old bench in front of the camera shop were two elderly men. I had some films that needed developing from my trip so I mosied on over in that direction. I greeted the old fellows with my usual smile, hiding all the noises trapsing through my brain cells no one could hear but me. I asked if they would mind tending to Duke while I took my films inside for developing. Those old fellows were so taken by a pretty young girl in white shorts and pink cowboy boots they're eyes twinkled like stars as they graciously agreed to watch the ole boy. Duke seemed equally happy to be in their charge.
After entering the camera shop I found myself alone. No one in sight. I wandered around for some time looking at all tne different sizes and shaped cameras. Then a man came out from the back of the store pologizing for me having to wait. He told me he didn't hear the bell on the door ring. He took my films and carefully placed them in envelopes with my name and address on each. He told me when they would be finished for pickup and we exchanged thank you's. I was almost out the door when the man, Mr. Litchfield, who turned out to be the owner, asked me if I had seen the new polaroid instant camera's. I stopped, turned around surprisedly to give him my undivided attention. I presumed Mr. Litchfield had a reason for striking up a new conversation with me considering at this point I was on my way out the door, not in the door. He asked me if I would mind if he took a picture of me with the new fangled camera Kodak was marketing. I recall wondering if he might be a bit on the wierd side, but then I figured what could it hurt. I smiled as he clicked the photo button. The boxy camera made a strange mechanical sound and then out came a small square piece of paper from the camera's belly.
I said, "Whoa, now that is nifty. I think."
He then put the small square piece of paper between his legs. Again my mind took off with the instantaneous word wierdo. I did ask him what he was doing and he responded by telling me it was in the instruction book to put the paper in a warm place which would enhance the development process of the photo. For instance,
Under your arm, between your legs, or to sit on it. Within about sixty seconds or so he pulled out the paper from between his thighs, rubbed a stick of oil on it and showed me a perfectly developed photo of myself. I was giddy and giggling. I told Mr. Litchfield I would have to have one of those fancy smancy Polaroids. Then he asked me if I would mind him taking some shots of me and the old fellows out front of his store. And so out we went. Those old fellows had one of the best times of their lives smiling and laughing with me and Duke and Mr. Litchfield. He ran out of room between his legs to develope all his shots. I followed him back into his shop like a puppy dog chasing a bone. I wanted to see all those fun immediately developed pictures. And I did, and they were wonderful. They exuded sheer happiness and fun. Mr. Litchfield reached under the counter bringing up a piece of paper and setting it on the counter. He asked me if I would sign a release form for these photos to be used in a nationwide advertising campaign for Kodak's new Polaroid Camera. I did not hesitate a nono second. I signed on the dotted line as did the older gentlemen. I also had to sign one for Duke being his owner.
Mr. Litchfield told me he would be working on enlarging one of the photos to be presented to the Kodak people and if I would like to return later in the day he would have it ready for my viewing. I was so excited of course I said yes. I figured he must have his own developing room. Most camera shops did. And then I realized how hungry I was.
Duke and I went to 2J's Hamburger stand. As I was standing in line I noticed Duke looking at me with a different look then his usual. It was then that I realized in my fit of overwhelming stress that morning, I had forgotten to fill his food dish. Guilt racked me for a minute or two until I ordered us each two hamburgers, fries, a Dr. Pepper for me and cup of water for Duker. He was one happy dog needless to say. We sat under a big old tree a ways away from the picnic benches full of people. I was yet to find that place I needed called alone. My brain needed a rest.
When we finished eating I stuffed the hamburger and fry wrappers inside the bag and stuck it behind my back as there was no way I would be rising from this spot for a while for any reason other then a fire. My tumbelly was full, Dukes was full, and we had finally found a quiet spot in life under a tree. I fell sound asleep sitting up leaning on that tree. I had never fallen asleep in public before. I may have done other things under a tree in public, but not that one.
I was woke to the sound of a man's voice saying, "Maam, is this here dog yours?"
I rubbed my eyes and apologized for falling asleep. Who apologizes to a stranger for falling asleep under a tree? Me! He proceded to tell me he was afraid Duke might run off or he wouldnt have disturbed me. Once again I apologized and thanked the man even though I knew Duke would never run off from me. Actually he just went off to pee. Again I thanked the man, got up onto my feet, threw our trash in the can marked trash, and checked my watch. I had slept a long time. Its a wonder no one called the authorities to check to see if I was dead. It was because most people don't imagine a person sleeping under a tree might be dead, like I do.
We drove back to the camera shop, stopping for a gas refill for the Cad. The young man that filled my tank and washed my windows was decked out handsome. I couldnt beleive I was staring at another man when I should be planning a wedding that no one asked to me to be in. If I hadn't stopped my mind right then and there I would have lost my cool and taken to bawling as I had with Nana earlier in the day.
I pulled into the shopping center not far from the Grandparents, parked the Cadillac, got Duke out, and as we walked over to the Camera Shop I saw my smiling face, the old men, and Duke's picture all blown up big in the front window. I started screaming and running to Mr. Litchfield camera shop door. He heard me coming and greeting me with a big hug.
He said, "Do you like it dearie?"
I said, "Are you kidding, is this for real?"
"Oh yes, Miss Julianna, and I have a sneaking hunch Kodac will pick this photo for its nationwide advertisment promo for the new polaroid camera."
I screamed again. Duke was dancing around trying to figure out whether to be scared or happy. He hadn't ever seen me act like that before. Maybe I hadn't ever seen me act this way before either.
Mr. Litchfield handed me the initial polaroid photo for my keeping. I could hardly wait to get back home to show Nana and Grandad. But when I arrived no one was there. Nana had left me a note saying Grandad was waiting for a phone call from me as soon as I returned home.
I called and when he answered I could hardly contain my good news. He listened but his demeanor was off. He hardly responded at all but added he would be picking me up shortly. To get myself ready.
I said, "For what?"
He did not answer before I heard the click of the receiver.
He arrived and told me we were going down to his office. He opened the car door for me and I slid onto the leather seats of his new Oldsmobile which he traded every year for anther new one. On the drive he was very quiet. I told him about the ad with Kodak and the only thing he said was, "What are they paying you?"
I told him I had signed a release for Kodak to use the photo.
He said, "Humph. Figures."
I could not understand the coldness in the air. His sudden detachment from me. Maybe Nana had told him everything and he did not take it well. What was I in for?
We arrived at the office. I had always enjoyed going there. The smell of the leather chairs, the imaculate walls and floors. Fireplaces in the waiting room and his executive office. The western theme was a theme I had always preferred. My childhood bedroom wasn't a princess room, rather it was six guns, teepees, and cowboys and Indians.
Duke laid down quietly in a corner as if he knew to pretend to be invisible. Grandad pointed to a burgany wingback chair across from his desk for me to have a seat. When he sat in his very much larger brown leather office chair, he seemed to tower over me. Personally I believe that was an intentional interior forethought design to maintain his power and authority. Basically it kept him in control.
We sat. And when he opened his mouth in his firm southern gentleman's way, what came out would forever remain in the cells of my brain's life memories. A more condensed version could be summed up in one word. Shock! My Granddad, as he towered above me in his big leather chair, while looking into my eyes more deeply then I had ever experienced, sternly asked why I had not told him about the million dollars in my bank account.
I said, "WHAT. Where did you ever hear such nonsense?"
He told me Governor Connally came to him with this news earlier that day.
It was at that point that I stood up and he firmly ordered me to sit down.
I said, " How would he know such a thing, if I dont know such a thing, even though it is not true."
Granddad said, "Because he was doing a background check on you after his grandson, Billy, shared his intention to marry you."
I said, "Granddaddy, he didn't even ask me! He introduced me as his finace at a Negro funeral of his best friends father yesterday. I havent even known him for but a month or less."
I could tell what I had just said hadn't sank into my Grandfather's head yet.
"Okay. fine. But don't sit there and lie to my face about the million dollars Julianna."
I squeeled, "But Granddad I don't know anything about a million dollars."
"Well apparently Joseph Justice deposited a million dollars in your bank account for taking care of his son Roger. Maybe that will ring a bell in your head." My Grandfather informed me coldly.
That is when I broke down sobbing while blubbering the entire story through tears and a half a box of kleenex tissues. I told Granddad how I picked up a thumber in Illinois who turned out to be what I thought was kidnapped, helped him escape from two truckers named Uncle Biggs and Becker, ran into a ghost from the "Outer Edge," passed out from fear, crossed a horrible bridge and you know I hate bridges over water Granddaddy, and then I got arrested and put in the pokey with twelve hookers. Bambi took care of me but I fell and got a concussion trying to see out the window at the big city lights. They took me to the hospital and impouded put my Pink Cadi in a big car cage. The judge saw all those girls and let them go but kept me for a long time. It wasn't legal but Rogers dad paid them all off to keep me away from Roger because he was wanted by the feds for fleeing from Michigan or Minnesota because he is spoiled and refused to wait for his family to pick him up. That is when I picked him up and all that happened to me plus a lot more. I even stayed at the JBJ Cattle and Oil ranch in Tulsa until I recovered from passsing out again because the concussion wasnt healed when JBJ picked me up in his limo while I was on my way to get my car out of the impound. And I didnt want to disappoint you by not marrying Billy but I dislike being controlled by him. I cant think for myself, dress myself, have any time to myself. And all this has made me very nervous."
He reiterated what a good life I would have if I married Billy. I reminded him of his life. How Nana could have married Gene Autrey, the moviestar and singer, and had an amazing life. But she chose him instead. Him who didnt have two plug nickels to his name. But who had an amazing sense of humor and explicit manners. And probably a few other things I wouldnt know about or even want to.
Granddad quietly apologized for his demeanor and mentioned how he thought I had signed off Kodak because I knew I had million dollars. After a momentary understanding giggle, I told him how I enjoyed making people happy. Laughing and meeting all sort of new and different people. Just like he did. I got a laugh out of him at that one.
Then I stood up again, at which time he let me and I spouted off asking how can people just get into my bank account? Then I sat down and said nevermind as long as they are depositing and not taking out I guess its fine. And we laughed again.
Granddad unlocked the bottom drawer of his desk and pulled out his fifth of Canadian Club. Poured us each a shot and we toasted to the end of the confusion and the beginning of the end of Billy. As the whisky went down I could feel the burning cleansing of all that had tried to take me down. That is when Granddad poured another shot for himself and a half a shot for me.... I looked over at Duke who sat up and groaned as if to say enough now. Grandad and I laughed til we had tears. Then we toasted to the much earned one million dollars in my bank account.
He then added, "Although I will miss not being part of the Texas royalty honey."
I told him he was the King in my world and always would be no matter who my Prince charming ended up being.
Now all I had to do was face one more difficult task. Telling Billy who never listened.