The Daughter Unit and I, with Wee Jamie the Grandson Unit, made a road trip last Saturday – a completely enjoyable outing, even with the necessity of stopping several times to change Wee Jamie’s diapers on the hour-and a half drive to Kingsland on the Llano and Colorado Rivers. He slept for the most part, and excited the admiration of many, who noted the Overwhelming Cuteness of Wee Jamie. His eyes actually opened once or twice during these occasions.

We had an appointment for a presentation ceremony at the American Legion post in Kingsland for me to be presented with a quilt; the ladies of this organization have been working for several years on a project to present a patriotic-themed quilt to every military veteran who can be identified and nominated for one. The Daughter Unit was given one, shortly after finding out that she was pregnant, and so it was only fitting that we do another trip to show him off. The Legion post members were cheerfully foregoing up masks nine months ago – and this weekend, the matter was not even raised, nor was there any evidence.

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It has been remarked that just about every great scientific advance has come about with a scientist/researcher noticing a curious phenomenon and saying to themselves, “Hmmm. That’s odd…” and going on to try and figure out why.

For me, a book or a story comes about because I have read something new and curious, and think, “Hmmm. That’s interesting … and I think I can work it into a story…”

I started work a couple of weeks ago on a replica of our family heirloom christening dress; the original, which was made in about 1870-1880 was destroyed when my parents’ retirement home burned to the ground in 2003. At that time I promised Mom that I would try to replicate it, as best as I could and in materiel as similar to the original as could be found for a reasonable price.

I wasn’t in much of a hurry to complete this project until this year, as none of my nieces and nephews were of an age to produce another generation, but now that my daughter is about to produce a grandson for me … it became a high priority.

Behold, the project as it progressed, and as it was completed. I still have to finish the little petticoat to go underneath, and a smocked baby bonnet – but the main element is done!

(No, it’s not anywhere near ready, yet, but this will be the opening chapter – Richard determining to make some lifestyle and personal changes. But it all will get complicated…)

The New Plan

“I brought down the mail for you, Ricardo,” Sefton Grant tapped politely on the metal door of the small airstream trailer that Richard called home. “Saw the lights on, knew you were home.”

“I have mail?” Richard replied, wooden spoon in one hand. “’Strewth, I do almost everything on-line with my phone, these days. I almost forgot that there was such a thing as a stamped envelope with paper printed documents contained within. Who’s it from?”

“None of my business,” Sefton replied, with stalwart dignity, considering that he was clad in his usual costume for a mild winter day – cowboy boots and a hand-loomed loincloth which barely covered the naughty bits. The seventyish co-proprietor of the Age of Aquarius Campground and Goat Farm was a stringy and well-tanned character who mostly resembled a fitter and less-run-to-seed Willie Nelson. But he added, “Official mail on one – something to do with your immigration status, I would guess. Look, if you need it, Judy and I can declare this place a sanctuary for the undocumented. Our old Communards will go to the wall for you, as a person fleeing political persecution for your beliefs … you do have beliefs, Ricardo?”

“In good food, well-prepared and expertly served,” Richard replied with a sigh. “Hardly the stuff of which international political martyrs are made. But I do appreciate the sentiment, Sefton.”

“The other is hand-written,” Sefton Grant handed over the two envelopes. “You know someone in France?”

“My parents,” Richard answered, after a gander at the second envelope. “They live in France now … don’t know for how much longer, with all this Brexit faffing about. But they have the property there since I bought it for them. I understand that my dear old Dad is making a go of the vineyard attached to the property. Lord only knows how he does it – he was a stockbroker when he retired with a hefty pension and a boodle of earnings on investments. I can’t think how he ever managed to learn about making wine, although I suppose that anything is possible.”

“A filthy capitalist, then?” Sefton queried.

 Richard replied, “No, Dad has always been scrupulous about bathing. And he has excellent instincts about investments, and how they can work for you. Honestly, Sefton – I’ve always been a piker about that kind of thing. You earn money, you have money, you spend it … compound interest and all that is a closed book to me. Might as well be a species of voodoo magic, as far as I am concerned … look, Sefton. I’ve decided to make some life changes. And you’re the first to know.”

“Oh?” Sefton shifted uneasily, on the doorstep to the tiny vintage aluminum caravan, in which Richard had made a home for … how many years was it? Richard had lost track. “You’re not going to come out of the closet are you, Ricardo? Me and Judy, we’re open-minded as sh*t, so that’s OK with us, regardless…”

“No!” Richard regarded his host and landlord with mild exasperation. “No, not out of that closet. I’m as straight as straight can be. Totally hetero – I like the girls and they like me. In bed and otherwise. No … I’ve come to some life-decisions. I’m going to come out as American … and ask Kate to marry me.”

“Is that all?” Sefton looked … well, not as jolted as Richard thought he might have been, on the occasion of that momentous announcement. “Well, congratulations all the way around. Don’t know how all that legal BS will go, being natural-born Americans, Judy and I. It was all sorted for us, on account of where we were born. A bit different, I think – making the active choice. Lotta hurdles to go over, or so they say. I prolly ain’t the one to best advise you on that – mebbe Jess is the right person to go to. Even Doc Wyler – he’s got the power juice an’ all. ‘Specially as you work for him, at the Café, an’ all.” Yes,” Sefton definitely looked in a brighter mood. “See what ‘ol Doc W. can do for you, Ricardo. But if all else fails, Ju and I can declare this place a sanctuary space for the undocumented immigrant.”

“I believe that you and your good lady won’t have to go to that extreme,” Richard replied, somewhat heartened by Sefton Grant’s gesture of support, and the implicit support of all the Old Communards, original members of a commune founded at the Age of Aquarius in the 1968 Summer of Love. Most of them were now ensconced with tenure in the higher rungs of higher education, so possibly they possessed at least as much communal social justice juice as the aged and irascible owner of the Wyler Ranch, for whom the concept of social justice was merely a nasty and disruptive rumor. ‘But nonetheless – it is appreciated. Your support and all. I will go through with it all, you see. This is a place that …”

“Gets a hold on you, Ricardo,” Sefton agreed. “Kinda grows on ya.’”

“Like moss and mold,” Richard agreed, and Sefton laughed. It was a friendly and companionable laugh.

“Hey look – wet your head, in a metaphorical way of speaking – now that you’re about to become one of us. Let me bring you a jug of the newest …”

“Your vintage white?” Richard was immediately all ears. “Or your best red. It matters not, Sefton. I’ll drink a health to my future as an American, a married man, to Kate and … well, really – anyone and anything you propose a toast to. Bring it on, man. Bring it on.”

“Sure,” Sefton shuffled the toe of his cowboy boot in the small dust which had blown across the space of concrete pavers which formed the brief sheltered patio below the vintage Airstream caravan which had been Richard’s (and latterly Ozzie the Chef Kitten’s) home since arriving in Luna City. Sefton looked as if he was the bearer of unfortunate intelligence. “Say … Ricardo … have you really thought about where you will live, once you and Katie are a thing? This place is really small, an’ I know you love it … but once you and she are a family sort of thing … a dinky trailer like this just won’t cut it. Katie has all her own stuff, ya know. Books and all that. Ju and I built the yurt for the family. We needed the space, you see. A space big enough to swing a cat in…”

“I have no intention of swinging Ozzie,” Richard replied with some indignation. “I am certain that he would object most strenuously to that exercise. I suppose that I would have to consult with Kate. I suppose that we would have to establish a somewhat roomier joint domicile … but honestly, Stefton, I would keep the caravan as a pied-à-terre … a sort of holiday or weekend retreat. It’s a small space of my own … and dammit, I do appreciate the solitude and peace of your little refuge. I’d go on paying the rent, of course, even if … when Kate and I establish a residence elsewhere…” Left unvoiced was a certain kind of sinking-in-the-heart realization that he and Kate would have to live someplace together – a larger place, with room for Richard’s kitchen things, Ozzie’s litterbox and all that Kate would bring to a union of their two households. Which wouldn’t fit into the Airstream, not even with the aid of a shoehorn.

“That’s fine, Ricardo,” Sefton shuffled the toe of his cowboy boot into the dust again. “A man does need a refuge, ‘o course. So, where d’you think you and Kate will settle?”

“I don’t know,” Richard answered. “That will be up to Kate’s preference and my own hopefully well-fattened checkbook. I am perfectly agreeable to my ladylove making that momentous decision. It all depends on how well-fatted that checkbook might be, in the long run. I … well, I was a fool about money, and left a good quantity of financial debris behind in London. Debts and all … we might have to settle in here, after all.”

“A country boy can survive,” Sefton grinned crookedly, but with complete understanding.

“No matter what country, eh?” Richard answered. “You’ve been a pal, Sefton. I should thank you again for being so… although quite a lot of people who claimed to know me well have insisted that I’m a selfish, inconsiderate git. I don’t really deserve the consideration that I have received from you all…”

“Never mind, Ricardo,” Sefton flashed those amazingly good straight teeth again in a smile. “We all have our weaknesses, ya know? I’ll bring that jug of mustang red for ya … if you don’t answer the door, I’ll leave it by the step. I suppose you wanna do some thinking about your letters?”

“I do, Sefton – and thanks for the consideration,” Richard replied.

The official letter he cared little for – but the letter from France had his complete attention.

His parents were going to visit Texas, a few months hence. And that intelligence drew his complete attention.

22. April 2021 · Comments Off on A Further Snippot from the Luna City W-I-P · Categories: Uncategorized

(This one picks up where the last left off – at a sudden impediment to the splendid wedding at the historic Gonzalez Family home rancho, where Dr. Mindy is about to wed … or not … her peripatetic treasure-hunting swain…)

He barely heard Araceli’s reply, as he took off his chef’s apron, ditched the towel tucked into the waistband, and cast a regretful look back at the towering and ornamental cake as he stalked out into the main kitchen – was this project all for naught, after all? Was this an even bigger and more extensive potential disaster than most every event at the Walcotts’? It certainly seemed as if it had that potential.

“… she thought that you were …” the rest was lost behind him as he stormed out through the kitchen and across the back veranda of the Rancho HQ house, even as he took a moment to consider Katie and her prolonged … whatever it was. His lovely and even-tempered Kate seemed to be annoyed with him, although he couldn’t for the life of him figure out why.

All seemed in order for a country wedding, as he crossed through the venue – the tables, the pavilion, even a temporary floor laid down for dancing, and past a large burly middle-aged chap in clerical black and white, extracting himself by easy stages from behind the wheel of a somber-colored Mercedes sedan.

“God bless the day,” that gentleman remarked as Richard passed nearby. He sounded Irish, although the brogue had been softened and tenderized as it was by long residence in Texas. “I am expected, d’y’see – for the blessing of a marriage of this house and consecration of the chapel? I am arrived at the right locality on the correct day?”

“You are,” Richard answered, much harried. “Although there is trouble in the wind, I am afraid. Richard Astor-Hall. Caterer and best man for the groom … it seems that the bride and groom have plans which come as a surprise to the bride’s guardian and host for this magnificent affair. I have been sent to bring the groom to the family parlor …”

“Say no more, indade,” the clerical gentleman replied, with a commiserating look. “And if I had a free drink for any contretemps that I have arrived in the middle of, I’d be drowned in a vat of good whiskey. Tommy Mulvaney is my name, Bishop for Karnes County is my station. I’ll show myself in, Mr. Hall, as I am expected – I thank you for the warning of trouble. Forewarned is forearmed, as the old saying goes.”

The good bishop briskly trotted up the back stairs to the main house, and Richard turned his mind to his errand – that of fetching the blushing bridegroom to a sudden conference. He knocked politely on the door to Gunnison-Penn’s aging and travel-battered RV, and upon hearing a response from within, opened the side door and stepped up the rickety metal stairs to the mobile abode.

“Xavier, they need you in the parlor, tout suite – your host for this magnificent affaire has just found out about your plans for a peripatetic honeymoon and your darling bride’s plans to scarper from her university position…”

“But…but … I thought it was all settled…” a shirtless and bare-chested Xavier Gunnison-Penn emerged from a narrow doorway farther down the interior of the cramped and rather grubby-looking RV which Richard assumed housed the WC and associated conveniences, as the former wiped off the last line of shaving cream from his cheek. The usually rather ratty-looking beard was neatly trimmed and shaped for the occasion. Richard was impressed. The most famous unsuccessful treasure-hunter in the western world actually looked relatively handsome; resemblance to a somewhat thinner Colonel Saunders of the chain fried-chicken franchise notwithstanding.

“Apparently not,” Richard answered. The eccentric treasure hunter was comprehensively not one of his favorite people in Luna City, but he wanted very much for the wedding to continue as planned as otherwise Araceli would be ripping strips off his hide for the foreseeable future, as this concerned her academic and otherwise unmarriageable Cousin Mindy. “And the Bishop is here, so make yourself decent.”

“Oh, right,” the prospective bridegroom shrugged on a neatly ironed and starched short-sleeved shirt, of the open-necked kind with the elaborate pattern of tucks and stitching down the front and on the sleeves locally popular for a certain kind of casual yet official event. “Thanks, Astor-Hall. How do I look?” he added as he fastened the final button.

“Ready for anything,” Richard answered. “Your lady awaits … in the parlor, but you may stand just outside of it, so that you need not actually break pre-wedding protocol.”

“It was all sorted, I thought,” Gunnison-Penn fussed, as he and Richard left the RV and headed across the yard to the house. “Mindy assured me that it was understood – she was owed a sabbatical or two from the university before her retirement … I thought that had been explained to her grandfather!”

“Obviously, not in words that he comprehends, or perhaps it has not sunk entirely in,” Richard replied, though tight lips, and Gunnison-Penn continued as if he had not heard a word, as Richard led him through the crowded kitchen and into the dark interior corridor beyond. Richard did not know the Rancho HQ house any farther than that – fortunately, there were the sounds of voices to guide him: female sobbing, an irate male voice from behind the farthest door, and both Abuelita Adeliza and Araceli beckoning him urgently from the end of that hallway.

“Besides that,” Gunnison-Penn yammered at his elbow, “I have definite information as to the possible whereabouts of a great fortune in precious jewels and coin stolen from a Mughal treasure fleet … a treasure of importance to India and to the British Isles, and a solution to a mystery four centuries old!”

“India and the Isles, you say?” And that was the interested voice of the Bishop himself, now looming up in the doorway at the end of the corridor. “A pirate treasure! God save the day! They say among my kin back in Kildare that the founder of our own family fortune was a pirate! Long Tom Mulvaney, they called him. There is a long ballad-lament about his hanging in Derry in 1725, for he was a handsome man, and beloved of the ladies. It wasn’t that he was that tall, y’see; the ‘long’ referred to … another physical endowment. Look you – no need to come within. Your bride is there … ah, you are not the groom? Sorry, so it is this other chappie…”

It was completely admirable, thought Richard, that the Bishop kept his bland countenance throughout the following exchange. Must have been something about those cold showers, vigils in the wee hours, and the discipline of regular ritual. He and Gunnison-Penn stood in the hallway together, a little removed from Abuelita Adeliza hovering like a censorious Hispanic ghost of Weddings Future, while the Bishop – in the doorway itself, while Araceli and Mindy stood within the parlor, just in reach. A small pale hand appeared around the doorjamb. Although Richard noted – not all that small and pale, but rather capable and work-roughened.

“Xavie?” Dr. Mindy quavered. “Are you there? Abuelo doesn’t understand about the pirate treasure project. He thinks that I am throwing my whole career away… He doesn’t understand…”

“No, my darling sweetness – you are just moving on,” Xavier Gunnison-Penn took that hand, from the other side of the doorway, as he stood resolute with his back to the parlor. “And you haven’t told him about the other thing… You are moving towards better and higher, more meaningful things! The thrill of the search and the finding! Wasn’t it glorious, finding the portions of the Gonzaga Reliquary? The legendary and historical treasure of your family?”

“We wouldn’t have found it, without your knowledge and determination!” Dr. Mindy replied, fervently and addressed her remarks to the unseen authority within the parlor. “Abuelo – it’s not what you think! I’m ready to do the work that I want to do; work with Xavie – not the work that I have to do for the University. Please, Abuelo – please understand. I’m not crashing my career – I’d be doing the work that I want to do, alongside my husband. I’m done with the university! I want to live in the outside world now – I do have a pension plan with medical coverage and all! Comprehensive medical coverage, which is something I will need, soon enough! I’m just cashing in the last couple of sabbaticals that I never used! Please, Abuelo – I have thought his all out, and I will do it. Darling Abuelo, I will be all right and provided for…”

Bishop Mulvaney backed her up with the assurance, “And you would have, indade! Finding that precious reliquary was a marvel of persistence and a triumph of research. It’s a gift you have, the both of you … and what was this that you claimed, regarding a pirate treasure cache?”

“So you say,” replied Don Jaimie, from within the parlor – a sorely-tried and perplexed man from the sound of it, Richard concluded. He wished that he could ask for enlightenment from Araceli, but she was within the parlor, and remaining silent. A wise decision on her part, he thought, considering the ongoing drama.

“Abuelo, listen!” Mindy pleaded. “Xavie has a clue to the whereabouts of a great treasure of India, a treasure stolen by pirates almost four hundred years ago and never found. Listen … he can explain it so better than I can.”

Another great treasure, long sought after, Richard thought with an interior sigh. Out loud, he murmured to Gunnison-Penn, as they stood outside in the dark hallway.

“That would be your clue. Make it good and convincing – put every bit of belief and passion that you have into what you have next to say. Your wedding cake depends upon it.”

“My wedding cake?” Gunnison-Penn sent a wild-eyed look sideways to Richard. “What has that to do with it all, I ask you?”

“Everything to me!” Richard snarled in response, while nudging Gunnison-Penn emphatically with his elbow. “Spill all about your so-called treasure of great importance to India: what it is, where it might be, and why you have special reason to think that you are at least warm on the track to finding it!” “Right, then,” The famed (or notorious, depending on how one regarded him) Canadian treasure hunter cleared his throat, and addressed his unseen audience; his beloved, her maid of honor, her grandfather, great-aunt, best man, and the Bishop in the manner of one accustomed to larger audiences. “I have information relayed to me through private means which I am not at liberty at present to reveal, of the possible location of a master’s portion of a great treasure, worth two hundred million dollars in modern currency, at the time it was looted in 1695.