A Fine Life
Uncle Steve seemed to enjoy a fine life. He was nearly 97 when he passed. He also left me a little over two million dollars, and a thirty-three foot Airstream travel trailer. It was older, but it was the largest they made at the time. It had a ton of added options over the years he’d used it, more than enough room for me and was in pristine condition. It had extra propane tanks, three air conditioners and two electric generators. There was both a shower; a garden tub, and an extra water storage unit for when traveling. All in all, it made everything in that size pale by comparison, even today.
That money he left me, and the sale of my business plus all that I had saved during the last twenty years, was now my future nest egg. That, and what my family had left me allowed me to retire early with nearly eighteen million saved up. Here I was, nearing forty-two years old, no wife, no family; but a shitload of ‘what if’s, and a few would-a, could-a, should-a’s.
I flew into Phoenix, having cleared my life up, like a clean slate ... well, almost. What I did now was up to me as what I chose to do. I knew pretty much that I would need to haul that monster trailer some place and would have to get a car when I settled in eventually. One of the neat things when I sold my business, it went to friends and they arranged for me to pick up a new Tundra truck with a connections for my trailer. Now if my ride to the dealership was at the airport to pick me up, I would soon be raring to go. Go where though? That little detail was still a question to me, I am not really much of a trusting soul.
I wish I could say how great the flight from Chicago was, but with one engine cowling falling off over the Grand Canyon and the landing gear light not showing the wheels were locked, they took a shoe and made us ‘assume the crash position’ it was not my favorite way to travel anymore. I was now looking forward to driving the truck and that travel trailer for a while. I wondered what color truck they were giving me. Hell, it was free, so I really didn’t care what they gave me.
My bank had assured me that no matter where in the country I went, my funds would be available to me. ATM limits would be random amounts for cash though so I had three debit accounts to use in an ATM, I should be able to get near $1,000 a day. In addition I carried two $25,000 limit credit cards and debit cards each linked to an account with $50,000 in it, $25,000 in cash and $50,000 in travel checks, I had enough to buy a decent meal, even in New York City. Hidden away also were several pretty high amount pre-paid cash cards for emergency use. My bank said they would keep those levels, as a minimum for me. My accountant and I decided on a yearly amount I could spend without impacting any principal. In my wildest dreams I knew I would never even come close to spending it. Did I tell you about my lack of trust issues?
One nice thing about today was that I had everything I cared about in this world with me, in one bag, which never left my sight. Yes, I was not a very trusting soul. Then again, why should I be? It was not a very nice world, was it?
I had thought about travel to many other countries, but now with the travel and camping stuff my Uncle left me, seeing the South-West and maybe the West, first, would be top on the agenda. I might even settle out here, who knows. The walk from the gate to where I was supposed to meet my ride seemed to take forever. Then I remembered, today was the first day of the rest of my life so I was in no rush! I could be different person, now.
No ride was waiting for me, no sign with my name on it and I did not hear anything on the PA calling for me. Typical I thought. Well, ‘no problemo’, I would call the dealer, take a cab, limo or maybe find some sweet thing to take pity on me, I did not care which. I took out my cell to call the local dealer on the number I had. Then I noticed my phone had been turned off. When I put it on, I saw the text message. I should call a number, 602-123-4567, and not the dealer’s number. Then I was to walk out of the main terminal exit, describe what I was wearing and I would be taken to the dealership to pick up my new truck. Phoenix apparently was not a traveler unfriendly place like New York was, where after 11 seconds they were writing up a summons for you.
Sure enough my ride was waiting at the exit door. The offer to get my bags allowed me to hold up the one I carried and shook my head no. The ride lasted under thirty minutes and I admit I fell sound asleep. When we arrived, the driver laughed and said not to worry, his jokes were not world class, and most people had to take time to adjust to the temperatures (hot by day, cold at night). I was reminded of a former girlfriend who was like that, too.
After signing a bunch of forms for the truck, a temp license plate and registration cards he took me to my truck and Airstream with a huge topper on my truck bed. They had detailed everything for me, filled up the propane, gas and diesel, for the generators too, also they had fixed anything that needed fixing on the Airstream and handed me a listing of what had been done to things.
That kind customer care and attention to detail earned him a nice tip. One final comment from him was to get a good map, although the truck had a GPS and an auto-call to a 24-hour manned customer care center. He also told me to call ahead for a camping spot or have the service do it, telling them the total truck and trailer size was almost fifty feet and that there were two custom built pull-outs which meant I would need a wide berth, if I opened them up. In a pinch, most Wally-Worlds would let me park free, at night.
I was now officially ‘off and running.’ In about a quarter mile I began to wonder exactly how anyone could back this monster up, or park in anything less than an empty parking lot. I recalled that those semi rigs were bigger than this, so I elected to stop in those stations for petrol. It was a good thing, too, since I noticed the note to only use Diesel fuel. Yes, maybe a CB radio and a catchy ‘handle’ were next for me. Just joking.
My first night was to be spent in that ‘Wonder of Wonders’, the rear parking lot of the nearest Wally World my GPS found. I told them inside who I was, gave my cell number and just mentioned I was new at this. It was my first time. The girl laughed and said they closed at eleven, but that I could go back now and settle in. Not many people bothered to check-in and give a number. She said she would send HQ an email with my information, a picture of my rig. Then she took copies of my title, registration and license to send in as well. I would now be a preferred visitor at over 1,000 stores across the US and Canada.
Man, that was really nice of her. I was there early so used some time to get acquainted with my new home. I must have bought out the store too. I wheeled a cartload of stuff I thought I would need; then went back for more. I did not realize that I was becoming an object of attention. When I brought the cart back to the rack, I heard clapping. Julie, Samantha and Penny(their names were on the name tags) made the comment that in three years, I was the first camper to ‘bother’ to return a cart. They thought it was a great thing I had done. She showed me where two light poles had power outlets attached where I could plug-in instead of using the generator. She said the manager owned an RV, and he’d had them installed. The place she told me to go would be easy parking for my silver whale.
Julie said, “Who knows, you might get ‘lucky’ this evening. With all the stuff you bought, I’ll expect a fine late dinner if I show up.”
That got my heart racing. Not only was she young and pretty, but there was a certain something about her that made me think back to when I was her age. It hit me then that in this part of the country there were very few legal options for a young girl with little real experience in a skill. Medical, military and what she was doing: clerking for minimum wages. If she did show up that evening, I promised myself that I would try to help her have a better chance in life. No strings attached, even to travel with me or go to school with me paying for it. I figured $20-$30,000 would change her life, especially if it was in another city with more to offer her. Hell, I had no place I had to be, anyhow, so anywhere she would want to go was fine with me ... and the money was not a concern for me. I also reflected on the fact that I couldn’t think of a place where something like I had when I was her age, still existed.
Like I said, getting parked was easy. To find where there was a socket and cable stored away took me forty-five minutes, and I only found it by pure luck. I decided to read some of the instruction manuals, or go on the Internet when I had a chance to find out some more things. I had put the cold stuff away. I found a portable ice chest for canned and bottled things too. In the back was a freezer but a sign said that it needed external power and did not run on propane. It was more a campground thing, I supposed. There was another large cooler in back with a similar note on it. Good thing I had only bought one frozen microwave meal that fit into the small freezer in the fridge. That was to be my diner this evening. If Julie did show up, and she had a car, great. Otherwise this evening’s meal would be delivered takeout, I was not about to learn how to unhitch that trailer from the truck the first night.
Taking a quick glance at the manual, I read that my travel trailer could sleep eight people. Like that would ever happen! There were two extender sections with a canopy or an awning attached, 3 AC units but no skylight. Normally it was not meant to be occupied on the road.
A small folio gave instructions on options to use the external cameras while driving and then as security while parked. I thought that was a neat feature to have. I found there were two TV/CD/DVD combos and a laptop computer and a satellite dish on top. There was a small toaster oven, a microwave, a two burner cook top range, and a portable propane grill. I would buy a few more small propane canisters for it. The tub and shower were nice sized and my bed seemed as large as a Queen size at home would be.
There was a small room next to mine, with a couch. The back flipped up and made into a bunk bed. The living room sofa pulled out into a bed, and the dining area table made into a bed if I wanted. I guess eight would fit, if some were kids or very good friends, all could really sleep in this thing.
I fell asleep. I must have been more tired than I realized. This was the second time since landing that had happened.
I awoke to a rapping on my door. It was dark, at least from what I could see out through my window. I jumped up. ‘Julie really did come after-all’, I thought. I opened the door without even looking. It was indeed Julie, but she was not alone. She either had a small, thin girl or a midget with her. I did see the girl was a Native American, and looked like Satan himself had worked her over for fun.
“Hi. I came after all, but I brought a ‘friend’ I just met. The manager has been feeding her hot dogs and pizza, and paying her a few dollars to chase carts. Today we saw some creep hanging out and watching her. That made us worry about her more. You seemed like a decent guy and maybe could help her. My ‘friend’ here needs some place to stay this evening. Can I bring her in?”
What was I going to say? No. I was not raised that way. By the looks of her, anyplace she would be safe was a step up. “Sure, if I can buy, going out or takeout delivered sounds like a good option for a late dinner for us. I can get you the extra fine dining on another night, instead.”
They came into my abode. I could have been the spider and they the fly. No matter, neither seemed fearful of me, nor should they have been. I handed Julie the cell, motioned them to sit and told Julie dinner was now in her hands, literally.
She called her home. Whoever answered gave her the names of place after place for takeout which she relayed to me. We found a place that would deliver, Yes, even to the Silver trailer in back of the Wally World. I told her to get everything she liked. Our new little ‘friend’ had not said a word.
I introduced myself, told both of them a little about me, and then passed the baton to Julie, who did the same thing. She motioned to the girl to talk to us, and she immediately started to cry. Well, this certainly hadn’t been a good start. I began what was to become my sermon to both of them.
“Ladies, you have both known me a very short time. Julie and I met a few hours ago. She decided I was a decent kind of guy. I might not have been, but I am. I will never hurt either of you. Whatever you say to me, stays here. I do not expect anything from you. We have a fine takeout cuisine on the way. While we wait, I suggest you, Princess, shower or soak in the tub, and wash your clothes. I have a robe you can wear, and you can sleep in the middle room’s bed for a bit. When you wake I’ll be right here and will reheat the food for you. If Julie can stay with us, you will not be here alone with me. Later I’ll need to know your name and how I, or we, can help you. You are a brave little girl.”
It hit me that maybe I had just told an Indian girl that she was a brave. That faux pas though brought a smile to her face. She got up and took Julie by the hand. “Squaw,” she said, “not brave.” Then marched to where I pointed to the bathroom.
Pretty smart little girl. Too bad Patricia, my ex-GF had not been more like her. Then again, no one should have had to go through what I only might imagine she’d had to. There were sounds that were very strange to me coming from the back of that camper. Julie came back at about the same time as our food order showed up. The knock on the door was followed with Julie sliding a peephole, looking out and opening the door. I wonder how she knew it was there.
“Hi, Tim, thanks for bringing it back here.”
“No problem, Julie, Hey, neat things you got! These yours?”
“No, just a ‘friend’s. How much is it/”
“Thirty-three seventy-seven, you ordered a lot of food. That includes a delivery charge.”
I stepped over to the doorway. “Thanks for the food. Will this cover everything plus your tip?” I handed him a $50.
“Gee, thanks! This is super nice. Thanks, man.”
During our ‘fine dining experience’ on takeout, I let Julie talk and learned a few things about her. Several things she said gave me pause as well as re-enforced my thoughts to try to help her to a better life. In a nutshell she told me she was living with her older sister and her husband. He was a military pilot and due to move to a base in Texas. It looked like her sister would move nearby also. That meant she would have just a month to find a room or people to share a rental. She had left home at eighteen, gotten this job that barely paid the bills, and was concerned what would happen in the future.
What did I know what she wanted? I did think that there were just not many well paid jobs for an eighteen or nineteen-year-old girl, except for taking her clothes off, or ‘laying down on the job, ‘ so to speak.
Still, Julie had the compassion to think of others no matter what she herself was going through. I liked that about her. As we continued talking, the conversation turned to the little girl she had brought with her.
“She’s only twelve. She told me earlier she’s been a slave to one tribe or another for more than five years. Last week she ran away when the current tribe informed her what fate awaited her when she turned thirteen. She would have to ‘service’ any unmated man in the tribe. Basically an available whore for anyone to spend the night with. Her clothes are in taters. Outside of that dress and sandals, she has nothing, not even underwear. How or where she spent the nights in the freezing cold here for the last week, I could not even hazard a guess.
Note, consolidated from what she had told Julie: From the best she could remember, the tribe, the Haida had taken her from, was Lakota; that may not be correct though, but she thought it was one of the Sioux tribes, maybe. She’d been only seven years old at the time, and that was more than five years ago. She had been sold many times, since then.
That information was not a lot of help; there were only a bit less than 50 million Native Americans in North America. I was thinking it may take more than a day or two to find where she came from.
“Julie is there a store still open you can buy her some clothes and shoes?” “Duh, I am so dumb, maybe my sister has some things at home she can bring for her to wear tonight. I’ll go inside the store in the morning and buy her something that will fit.” Tonight, we’ll get just a few things for her to wear. Tomorrow we all will go somewhere and buy her whatever she wants. I know that she may prefer to stay dressed as an Indian Princess and not some generic teenybopper. I’ll pay for it, too, not you. By the way, that gives me the opening to say something to you.”
“What! No I will not be your slave too, although I might not have much of a choice soon enough.”
“Oh, well! Let me try something else then. Just kidding. I like you, Julie. You have your own worries yet care enough to try to help a stranger. In a way, I feel the same way about you. Right now, I don’t have many worries. The one I do have, I just recognized today. I have everything, yet I have no one to care about or share it with.”
“I’m sure you could buy some company to keep you warm at night.”
“Nice, and here you thought I was a decent guy. Rats, now what do I do. Maybe a ‘slave’ would not be such a bad idea, huh?”
“In your dreams, Mister. Say what is your name, anyway?”
“Here is the phone again, see if you sister can bring something that Princess can wear. Better see if she can bring you some clothes too. Your private bedroom is in the back on the left side opposite the bathroom. I’ll sleep on the couch. Thanks to you, we have electricity and the heaters will be on to keep everything warm. We shop, tomorrow, for both of you at some mall and at a reservation store for Princess. It’s on me. I also want to offer you something, not sure what yet, but in any event, I don’t want you to worry about where you’ll be staying when your sister moves. Whether it’s here or someplace else, I’ll make certain you have a place of your own to live in for at least a year. Oh, I’m Sam, Sam Malone!”
“And what do you expect from me for that Sam, Sam Malone.”
“A smile and a promise that you will try your very best to start on a good life for yourself in whatever city you choose. If you want to go to college, I’ll pay for all that too. I may not ever see you again when you leave but my lawyer and accountant will take care of paying any fees for those things for you. I like you Julie, very much. I wish for you the same good fortune that I had when I was growing up.
“I’ll try to help that little girl do whatever she wants also. Knowing Child Welfare, though, she might be better off if we can find a ‘Reservation’ that will take her instead. It might be better overall for her that way. I don’t know what kind of life she will have there but it would be a lot better than what she has had recently; and even now, trying to live on the street. As far as giving anything, you know that saying, ‘Pay it forward’, I just want you to do the same thing when your successful someday; that’s all.”
I had some other ideas about things that we could do tomorrow. At the very least, both girls would have a checking and saving account. Princess might be a little young for one in her name, but if there was no other way, a prepaid cash card would work. ATM’s don’t care much about age. I would make certain each had enough for at year, maybe more. I had no real doubts about Julie, I did have great concerns about how a twelve to thirteen-year-old could survive on her own, though.
We waited for Julie’s sister. She gave a smile as she handed me back the cell, saying she was on her way in five minutes and lived only a few miles away.