“What kind of pervert gives his ex-wife a box of flavored lubricants and a blow-up nun doll for a commemorative anniversary gift?” she shouted. “You are a pathetic pervert!”
“Firstly, that’s nice alliteration!” I said. “But heck…can’t you take a joke? It’s a gag gift!” I had prepared those last lines in advance in case the gift bombed.
“Aren’t you at least impressed that I always remember our anniversary?”
“We were married on New Year’s Day,” Veronica replied. “It’s not too hard to remember. And my sense of humor has been fading since you haven’t paid alimony in eight months and I’m now working two jobs!”
“I love you,” I said. “I want you back. We can have a new start! I am a new man! We can have a new beginning! Our love can be reborn.”
“The only new beginning is that you’re really beginning to annoy me,” she replied.
I dropped to my knees, placed my cheek against her stomach and pulled her close to me. Somehow my hand came to rest on her wonderfully firm, tight butt. Veronica was an accomplished black-belt martial artist, and she had a body like one.
“Please, Hon,” I said, “I know I’ve made mistakes. But I’ve changed. I love you. I need you in my life. Come back to me.”
“Get your hand off my ass and get up, you jerk!” Veronica shouted. “You know, your sad little attempts to get layed used to be kind of amusing. I chuckled when you looked at me and said, ‘Veronica, please make to love me. I’m dying.’ Or when you came running in naked and shouted, ‘I just overdosed on Viagra! The doctor says I need an emergency hand job!’ But now they just irritate me.”
“This is not about getting laid,” I said, “though that would certainly be nice. This is about a new start, about spending our lives together.”
“You are so full of it,” she responded. “There is no way that I’m remarrying you.”
Back in high school my English teacher had always preached the importance of a good topic sentence. I had prepared one that was rather run-on, but that I knew would be effective. Even in the modern age, it was true that sometimes content took precedence over form.
“Uncle Henry died and he may have left us something that could make us both rich and I need you to go with me on a treasure hunt because we could both be millionaires!”
There was silence.
“What on earth are you blabbering about?” Veronica asked.
“I’ve got a proposition for you,” I said. “Please, hear me out.”
“Oh god, I know that I’m going to regret this!” Veronica said.
She sat down at the kitchen table. I pulled out the chair across from her, seated myself, and began my tale.
“Did you know that Uncle Henry died?” I asked.
“Yes,” Veronica responded. “I saw his obit in the paper. Strange, eccentric, poor little Uncle Henry.”
Uncle Henry was a midget with a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup tattooed on his back. After his St. Bernard and constant companion Waldo died, he had started living in Waldo’s dog house. He installed air conditioning, cable TV, a fireplace, a little skylight, and even a little shower. Uncle Henry was not poor. He had made a fortune in the septic tank business, where he was known as ‘The King of Sludge.’ He adored Veronica. He always said she was the best thing that ever happened to me.
“Do you know how he died?” Veronica asked.
“He froze to death,” I explained. “He fell asleep on Christmas Eve at Waldo’s place. When the fire went out. Apparently he got woozy, staggered out of the dog house and collapsed against the roof. They found him two days later.”
“No one noticed him for two days?” Veronica queried.
“Actually, lots of people noticed him,” I said. “He was waving for help and he eventually froze in that position. People passing by just thought he was an animated elf decoration.”
“How sad!” Veronica exclaimed.
I gave her a second to wallow in her sadness. It would soften her up. Then I continued.
“Well here’s the thing,” I went on. “Uncle Henry left me this old family heirloom. A small wooden chest. The chest had a key in it for a safe deposit box that was in my name. When I opened the box, I found a map, and a note.”
I took the note from my pocket and handed it to Veronica. She read it aloud.
“It’s a poem! ‘He who ventures with his wife will start a rich and wondrous life. He who throws the map away will forever rue the day.’ What is that supposed to mean?” Veronica asked.
“Here,” I said as I removed the accompanying map from my pocket, “take a look. It’s a treasure map.”
Veronica looked at the markings and the big “X” that had ‘hidden treasure’ labeled beneath it, and an arrow pointing to a big oak tree.
“Veronica, I need you to be my wife. We will go and find the treasure! Whatever we find we split, fifty-fifty. I promise. I even have a contract drawn up!”
Veronica grimaced. “I have to marry you and be your wife in this venture?” she asked. “Why?”
“Because that’s the way Uncle Henry set it up in his will,” I explained. “The poem says ‘He who ventures with is wife.’ Mr. Finkle, the lawyer, laid it all out for me. I think it’s Uncle Henry’s way of getting us back together.”
Veronica was skeptical, but she also needed money badly.
“I don’t know how you come up with the crap that you do,” she said. “And this whole thing is kind of fishy. I want to talk to the lawyer! You set up a meeting. If I like what I hear, then maybe we can work something out.”
Veronica was hooked! My heart was pounding. I was excited. But she was also hurting. A death always aroused a complex blend of feelings of tenderness, compassion, humanity, loneliness, and fear in Veronica. It was a time when she needed to be held, to be touched, to have human contact, to be loved. It behooved me to do the right thing.
“Veronica I took too much Viagra and the doctor says you have to give me an emergency hand-job.”
I felt a sharp pain in my side where she elbowed me. “Get out of here before I do much worse!” she said. “Call me when the meeting is set up.”
I left, wincing a bit. She was pretty feisty. You have to be careful when you’re dealing with a black belt!
Emblazoned in bold black letters on the door was ‘Abraham Finkle, Attorney at Law.’ Three days later we walked through that door. Three hours later Veronica’s cross-examination was finally over. She had been cross-examining the lawyer! She was now doing her summarizing as we sat in our swivel chairs near Mr. Finkle’s desk.
“O.K., Mr. Finkle”, she said. “Let me make sure that I understand. We have to be married to do this, but we can get married anytime before we do, and we can get divorced anytime afterwards.”
“That’s correct,” was the response.
Veronica continued. “For example, we could go to Vegas tomorrow, get married, go on this treasure hunt, get divorced the next day, and we would be in compliance.”
“That’s also correct,” came the answer.
“And jurisdiction doesn’t matter. For example, right after we do this, I could go to, let’s just say, Haiti and unilaterally get a divorce decree where I just happen to know that it can be done in five days.”
“You can do that in Haiti?” I asked.
“Yes,” Veronica replied.
“Yes, Ms. Rogers. You would still be in compliance.” The gentleman rolled his eyes.
It hurt that Veronica had painstakingly researched how to get the quickest divorce possible. But what came next was even worse.
“And let’s say,” Veronica continued, “just for the sake of argument, that we find the treasure. I leave our hotel room, and I return and find him lying dead with his face smashed in. And I call the police and there is no evidence against me and they don’t charge me, or I am subsequently acquitted in a trial. Then I would still get to keep whatever we find?”
“Yes, Ms. Rogers. You would.”
“Hon,” I said, “could you just be a tad more optimistic about how another marriage might work out? Am I really that horrible of a husband and lover?”
Veronica had more scenarios.
“Or let’s assume,” Veronica went on, “that he just disappeared and that no one ever found his body and he was declared legally dead. Or better yet, they found just a part of him, like an arm or an ear or a head, but nothing traceable to me, and they used the DNA to identify him and declare him dead. I could still keep what was found?”
“Yes, Ms. Rogers,” came the response. “But if they don’t find a body part it could take years to have him declared legally dead.”
“Good things come to she who waits!” Veronica quipped.
Enough was enough! Next I would be hypothetically shredded through a meat grinder and made into hamburger.
“O.K.” I interjected. “Enough with the hypotheticals! You wanted to see the lawyer. You’ve seen him. You wanted to ask questions. You asked them. Are you in or out?”
Veronica was silent. But I could see the wheels turning. Then she looked at me and smiled this special smile she had that always scared me. It was actually one of the things that attracted me to her, and kind of turned me on.
“I’m in, of course,” she said, “my precious wittle wovey-dovey poo.”
She stood up, walked over, leaned down, slapped her left hand against my right cheek, her right hand against my left cheek, pulled my face close to hers, and squished it between her palms.
“That hurts!” I said.
“Oh, let me kiss it and make it better,” Veronica cooed. She gave me a sloppy, wet kiss…..on my right eye.
“But if this doesn’t work out, I’d sleep with that cute wittle eye open on the way back if I were you!”
And so it was that we found ourselves three weeks later in the middle of a forest somewhere in Iowa. And so it was that what had started out as a sunny, beautiful day had gone sour, and the rain was now pouring down. And so it was that we were now sitting in our rented Jeep which was stuck in the mud near the base of an oak tree five miles from nowhere. Veronica was pissed. I was in the driver’s seat; Veronica was next to me.
“You are a fucking idiot!” Veronica proclaimed. “I don’t know how I let you talk me into this.”
“Come on,” I said, “admit it’s been fun. Wasn’t the wedding in Vegas great?”
“Terrific,” Veronica replied. “There’s nothing more romantic than a neon ‘Get Married Cheap’ sign and a pseudo-honey moon at a Motel Eight.”
I was again hurt. But more importantly, I was again hurting. I loved Veronica, and knew that I always would. I really wanted her back, and things weren’t working out the way I had planned. Even the weather wasn’t cooperating. It was supposed to be warm, clear, and moonlit that evening. I had to do something, to say something to get things on track.
“Veronica, can I tell you something?” I said pseudo-sheepishly.
“Oh, no! Here we go again. Must you?” She was too damn perceptive.
“Yes, I must!” I proclaimed. “Veronica, I’ve always loved you. Don’t you realize that? I know I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve always loved you. It’s important to me that you believe that.”
Veronica twisted in the passenger seat so that she was facing me. I immediately knew I had made another mistake starting this conversation
“Made mistakes! That’s the understatement of the century!” she said with disgust. “Would you call doing that waitress at the bowling alley a mistake?”
“Yes, hon. That was a mistake. I was drunk. It was meaningless sex. It meant nothing to me. By the way, are you upset that she was a waitress at the bowling alley, or that I actually did her at the bowling alley? What you said wasn’t clear.”
“Was Mary’s mother a mistake after Mary’s dad died?”
“She needed comforting badly that night,” I explained. “It just kind of happened. And besides, it was Mary who was your best friend, not her mother. What’s the big deal? It was meaningless sex. It meant nothing to me.”
“Mistakes like that little blond college cheerleader who looked like she was only twelve years old? In fact, wasn’t she from Iowa?”
She had me there. That was neither a mistake nor meaningless sex! I would have died for that girl. Well, maybe not died but I might have killed for that girl. Or at least shop-lifted or embezzled or kited a check. I often envisioned her standing there, her little pouty mouth, here blond hair, her……
“Owwww!” I shouted. “What was that for?” Veronica had poked me hard in the ribs.
“That’s for being a pig!” Veronica said. “I wish you could have seen your face, practically drooling as you were obviously lost in some pornographic daydream about that cheerleader!”
“O.K. Sorry,” I said. I needed to deflect the issue fast. “Let’s focus on the task at hand. According to the map, this is the place. There is the big oak tree. The treasure is buried at the base of it. It’s time to start digging! Everybody out! All digging crews please report to the tree!”
We emerged from the Jeep, sky darkening, shovels, flashlights, and lanterns in hand, rain pouring down, and ground slippery and muddy and wet. And of course, Veronica took three steps and fell on her face in a puddle.
“Damn it!” she shouted after getting up. “You are an asshole!”
“It’s not my fault!” I replied. “I didn’t make you trip.”
“Yes it is,” Veronica said. “You got me here.”
She had a point. I tried to help her up, but she pushed me aside and got up on her own.
“Let’s get this over with,” she said.
And we started digging at the base of the tree. We kept digging. And it started raining harder. And we began sinking into the mud. After a half-hour, Veronica called it quits.
“That’s it,” she said, “I’ve had it. Get me out of here. I want to go back to the hotel.”
I had to keep her there looking for the treasure. My plans depended on it. Our future depended on it.
“Veronica,” I replied, “Do you have any idea how beautiful you are when you’re all sweaty and your face is caked with mud and you kind of look like a raccoon?”
I ducked beneath the shovel she threw at me, but the muddy rock that she followed up with caught me in the gut. I finally caught my breath as Veronica headed back towards the Jeep.
“Wait!” I gasped. “Wait! I know what’s wrong! I know why we’re not finding it!”
Veronica turned and stared at me. “Well? Why not?”
“Because we’re digging on the wrong side of the tree. The treasure is on the other side!”
“How would you know that?” she asked. “Is that on the map?”
“Trust me! I have a feeling! I know! I just know! Please, we’ve come so far. Just go with me on this one?”
Amazingly enough, she retrieved her shovel and came back. We tip-toed thru the muck and mud around to the back of the tree and started digging again. “Please,” I said to myself. “It has to be here. I know it’s here. Please.”
And suddenly, there it was! The treasure…..two small packages each sealed in waterproof plastic wrap.
“Well I’ll be darned,” Veronica said. “There is something there!”
We grabbed the packages and made it back to the Jeep. I set up two LED lanterns so we could see what we were doing.
“Let’s open this one first,” I said. “It’s smaller, but good things come in small packages! Here, you do the honors!”
Veronica took the package and carefully removed the wrapping. Inside was a small box. Carefully, she opened the lid. She gasped when she saw the contents.
“What a gorgeous ring!” she said. “Wow! Look at those sparkling diamonds! That looks like two carats! That thing could be worth twenty-thousand!”
“See? Aren’t you glad you came?” I said. “Go ahead, put in on. Try it on, just for fun! It will look beautiful on you!”
I watched Veronica’s face. The smile disappeared. It suddenly tightened. I had overplayed my hand. I had been too eager. I had blown it. I was fucked.
“Put it on?” Veronica said. “It will look beautiful? Buried treasure? Engagement ring?”
I was in real trouble. Veronica gently took my hand in hers and stared at me. She kissed my hand, then she snapped it back in one of those holds that you see super-spies use on TV. I screamed in pain.
“What’s going on? I want the truth!”
“O.K.,” I said. “Just let go of my hand. You’re killing me!”
She released my hand. “Well?”
“O.K., you caught me! I put the ring there. It’s for you. Things weren’t supposed to happen this way. It was supposed to be nice and warm, and we would find the ring, and I’d give it to you and tell you that I loved you, and you would kiss me, and we would be together, and…..”
Veronica put a finger over my lips.
“Hush, my darling,” she said. “Hush my precious wittle wovie-poo. I am going to ask some questions. And you are going to tell the absolute truth, or you shall become a eunuch. Understood?”
I hushed and nodded. She removed her finger.
“Did Uncle Henry die?”
“Did he leave you the little chest with a key in it?”
“Was the key to a safe deposit box?”
“No. It was just the key that opened the lock on the chest.”
“Now we’re getting somewhere,” Veronica said. “Were the map and the note real?”
“No,” I confessed. “I did them on my PC. It’s amazing what you can do these days with software and a mediocre ink-jet printer! And before you ask, there was no stipulation about having to be married or anything like that.”
“How did you get the lawyer to go along with your deception?” Veronica asked.
“That wasn’t the lawyer. It was the night watchman, Joe. We play poker together. I paid him two hundred bucks to pose as the lawyer. Finkle was on vacation. Joe has the keys to all the offices in the building.”
“Where did you get the money for the ring?”
“Uncle Henry did leave me some stocks, worth about forty-thousand. I cashed them in to finance the ring and the other expenses.”
“So,” Veronica summarized, “this was all a plot to get me to re-marry you and come here so you could give me this ring. And then I would fall madly and passionately in love with you again and our love would be born anew and we would be together and live happily ever after?”
“Yes,” I confessed. “That about sums it up. Now would I do that if I didn’t love you? Tell me. Would I go to all that trouble if I didn’t love you?”
“Hmmmmmmm,” Veronica responded. “Maybe, maybe not. What’s in the other package? Open it. I want to see.”
I put the package in my left hand and held it out the window. “It’s not important!” I said. “It’s nothing!”
Veronica put her hand on my thigh. “Here comes Mr. Eunuch!” she said. “One….two…..three…..”
I gave her the package. She carefully unwrapped it.
“What the hell is that?” she said.
“The catalog says it’s called ‘A Butterfly Kiss Massager’,” I said. “It has three speeds, is waterproof, and is designed to completely enhance a woman’s pleasure……”
I’m not sure what happened next. I awoke in the hospital eighteen hours later.
When I came to, a young doctor was nudging me saying, “Time to get up, Sid. Time to return to the living.”
“My name isn’t Sid,” I said. I was woozy. “Where am I? What happened?”
The doctor laughed. “Sorry, but you’re a real celebrity around here! Just relax and let me check you out. We’ll answer all your questions in a bit.”
I got the typical post-concussion exam. The doctor finished and finally spoke.
“I think you’ll be o.k.,” he said. “We’ll keep you here overnight. I’m Dr. Davis.” He held out his hand and I shook it.
“I’m sure you have a million questions, and you’re in luck. Hang on a second.” He left the room.
About two minutes later, a police officer walked in.
“Hi,” the young man said. “I’m Officer Bryan.” We shook hands.
“It’s nice to meet you,” I said.
“It’s nice to meet you, Sid.” he said.
“My name isn’t Sid!” I said. “Why is everyone calling me that?”
“I’ll tell you what,” Officer Bryan said. “Let me play this recording for you. It’s a tape of the emergency call that came in that let us find you. I think it will answer most of your questions.”
The Officer took out a digital recorder from his pocket, placed it on the nightstand next to my bed and turned it on. I listened intently. The ensuing conversation was between a female dispatcher and Veronica.
- Hello, is this the police?
- Yes Ma’am. What is your emergency?
- There is a stupid insensitive dick laying in the woods about five miles north of County Highway 34 in the mud. You should go get him.
- A man is in the woods, Ma’am?
- Yes. His cell phone number is four-two-one, six-six-eight, four-four-two-four. The phone is on, and the GPS feature is activated. You should have no trouble finding him.
- Does he have a name, Ma’am?
- Yes. His name is Mr. Stupid Insensitive Dick.
- I mean a real name, Ma’am.
- His wallet is in his pocket. You’ll have no problems identifying him when you find him. And one more thing.
- Yes, Ma’am?
- Tell him that I am going to Haiti, I will be back in a week, that if he ever contests the divorce Mr. Eunuch will visit, and that I never want to see him again.
- And your name, Ma’am?
- Ms. Veronica Rogers. Yes, that is my real name. No, I don’t care that you have it. He will never press charges against me because even though he is a stupid insensitive dick he loves me. And he knows that I would kill him.
“That’s it,” Officer Bryan said.
“Wow,” I commented. “It’s a good thing my cell-phone battery was charged!”
“No, we would have found you,” Office Bryan said. “She left a sign on a tree near the trail. It had an arrow pointing up the trail and it said, ‘Stupid Insensitive Dick five miles north.’ The S and I and D were underlined.”
That was Veronica. Always thorough. I always liked that about her.
“And one more thing that’s a little embarrassing,” Office Bryan said.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Let’s just say that you got a ‘Butterfly Kiss’ up your cocoon.”
Veronica always did have a tendency to act out. It was another one of the things I loved about her.
“Given your lack of reaction, I assume that the lady is right?” Office Bryan queried. “That you don’t wish to press charges? That this was all, shall we say, a long standing domestic tiff gone awry?”
“That’s right,” I said. “I don’t wish to press charges.”
“Well good luck to you,” the Officer said. “I think you’re gonna need it. I’ll have some papers for you to sign. See you later.” He left the room.
And so ended my fixation with Veronica. Our bond was completely and forever broken. Complete closure had occurred. And that was good! Because the fact that I knew she was forever lost had a liberating effect upon me. All the frustrations, all the repressed emotions, all the fears and guilt and yearnings that I had carried around for so many years disappeared. I underwent a complete psychological metamorphosis. I truly was reborn!
Yes, I was a jerk. Yes, I was an insensitive, disgusting lying pig. But that was me! I didn’t have to apologize for it. I didn’t have to try to hide it. I just had to embrace it, accept it, revel in it, and go with it! I just had to totally, unabashedly be me!
I was completely self-actualized! For the first time in decades, a sense of optimism had been re-awakened. I was excited about my future, eager, optimistic, hopeful. It was like I was young again. I had a re-awakening! A second chance! I was ready to embark upon a new beginning in life!
“Officer Bryan!” I yelled out. “Are you still around?”
He came walking back into the room.
“Are you o.k.?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” I replied. “But may I ask you something? It’s important.”
“Sure,” he responded. “Go ahead.”
“How would I go about tracking down a hot blond cheerleader in this state that I fucked twenty years ago?”