"I'll give you one last chance Major. If you are selected, by next year or so you could become a Lt. Colonel, what do you say?"
I had heard this 'last chance' scenario for the last three months. I was turning in my papers, taking my last month as R&R and saying my 'good byes'.
"Thank you Sir, but I've got a 'gal' and a home all waiting for me to get out. After these 25, I think the change will do me good too, but I thank you anyhow."
Shit, I had said that all with almost a straight face. No way in 'Hell's Half-Acre' was I ever going to join them 'REMFs'. If there was one thing I had learned it was as long as you put on a good show for the UAVs above, looked to be successful and gave all the credit to 'Fearless Leader' they didn't care what you did, how you did it or what the orders really were. No Sir Re Bobbie, 25 and out since I got four years credit for ROTC. I was Carl Majik, (Name must have been shortened) I'm, early 40's and still could walk. I was luckier than most for that. I had lied a little though, that house got sold near a year ago, that 'gal' who I had not seen for twenty plus years had a big belly and one kid stashed away at her Mom's. Granddad had left me 80 acres of prime Black Walnut trees and 163 Acres of mostly Hickory. One big Black Walnut tree alone was worth over $15,000. Mr. J. R. Foster wanted all of them. He not only told my Lawyer 'Yes'; he had to call himself to thank me for selling them. Lawyer Grimes had put $5.68 Million into my bank for the house and land, after his fee of course. Those little things I also wanted him to do for me, as he put it, were 'freebies'. He had taken some of that money and seen to it a few of 'my men' got some help. Some were still in hospitals some needed a 'stake'; it might have helped some. Hell I would have paid his fee again just for doing that for them. I believed in justice and was not a 'vindictive' man, but thinking about it; maybe I was.
I had planned to go back to Stillwater, just to see the face on Steve and Betty. When I had left to attend VMI, (Virginia Military Institute) she had pledged her undying devotion and promised to wait for me as long as it took. I left at 17 and before I hit 18, Mr. Grimes had informed me that my 'doppelgangers' were already in her bed.
I never expected her to wait and what was funny was her 'annual' letter. They could have been plain paper or carbon copies (Remember Carbon Paper you old fossils) since they always said the same thing. You would have thought she knew as an Officer, that having a wife was no big deal. Her latest 'Ass' had already been tromping through a few of those woods and probably had visions of some kind of wealthy wife (My 'widow' maybe) or was it life, (mine too maybe). Fool. My MOS had said that I was in Supply. (A nine character United States military occupation code, or 'Occupational Specialty') That was not quite true. He must have gotten confused watching TV and thought 'Force Recon' was some kind of video game I played. My 'Hazardous duty' was real and not the errant paper clip he might have faced.
Hunter Holmes McGuire, the Veterans Administration Medical Center serving most of Virginia as well as part of South Carolina had a good rep, as if any were 'good'. I wanted to stay in the South so; Virginia, The Carolina's and parts of Maryland were my first choice. Hi, Ho, 'Hi Di Ho'; it was off to Richmond I go. The first stop was ... no, not Manassas, it was a bank. (If you have never gone to that battlefield in Centreville Virginia, you might want to visit. It is a special place, but not much there. You can sit atop one of the Park's benches and just imagine what it must have been like. The Union called it 'First Bull Run.' Nearly 70,000 men met, and a few things happened. The 'Blue Bellies ran back to Washington and a brigadier general new from the Virginia Military Institute, Thomas J. Jackson, stood his ground and received his famous nickname, 'Stonewall Jackson' there)
I was not too meticulous in choosing a bank but the Bank Of America office on Jefferson Davis Hwy sort of had a nice ring to it and had local branches unlike Navy Federal. Forty-three minutes later, after a call to Mr. Grimes and signing about a thousand forms they said I was all ready; I just had to give them my address.
I stated to scratch my almost shaven head. It looked like my luck was turning fast and I would soon be answering a whole bunch more questions with 'Huh'. I started to get that look on my face. You know the one ladies, the look a man (and I was right-handed) gets when asked some really tough questions, like, 'How Y'all doin today?'
She looked at me, then the balance I was transferring over, loudly sighed, and made a call on her phone. Some perky young thing came into her office, nodded at me and almost stood at 'attention' in front of Mrs. H Peters (What it said on the nameplate on her desk). I almost was waiting for her to salute.
"Marcie, Mr. Majik has a whole lot of things to do this week and needs some assistance. From what I can tell he is a Southern Boy but I'm not certain a 'True Gentleman' though."
"Yes Ma'am!" I nodded. "Born and bred in Virginia so I at least 'try' to be."
"He may need some work on better manners but since he has been protecting our 'asses' he gets a few 'opps' now and then. Now I won't say he is our 'Best' customer but you might just think he might be in the top hundred; so for this week, 'anything' he needs, wants, see's or you think he should have see to it. Y'all hear me girl?"
"Marcie Peters, my daughter; Marcie, Major Carl Majik Ret."
"Suh!' Then she curtsied.
"What do you need first?"
"A cold shower, a very, cold shower I think Marcie."
Mrs. Peters held up the list of accounts and handed them to her. She sighed again.
"Marcie, see Paula, have her issue starter checks, debit and credit cards for the Major to use this week. Here is a list of things we need for his records." She handed over another list to Marcie.
"Make it for $100,000 Checking and the same for a Credit Card for now; we'll hold the rest of his funds in a temp account until he has at least a local address to use. If he needs more, you see his account balance so girl, just fix it."
That sheet already had my name, former Rank, serial number and Mr. Grimes's contact information filled in. Marcie read off the 'Yet To Do' list.
On it were spaces for, my Address, Telephone number, Registration, Drivers license, Insurance, Car Tag ID, Cell, Soc, Email, spouse, children, next of kin, and so on. With the Single, Zero and None hand written in on three of those lines her head and eyes seemed to move a might.
Her question, "Which of these others do you already have information on?" got her another of the 'lost puppy', man looks.
"Suh! If you would please wait here, I'll go see Paula and ready myself."
I sat down as she left. The 'Dowager Empress' got up, locked the door and sat on her desk near me.
"My Marcie is a good girl, foolish maybe but 'You Suh', to use her phrase, are a catch for any woman. If you even bring her back, give me a kiss and call me 'Lou' and I'll start looking for a dress. If you two don't fit, watch out because I know of at least one older woman who will be running after you."
"Yes Ma'am. I ... I ... I don't rightly know what to say or do."
I heard a sigh. "Look, say 'thank you' and Slot A goes into Slot B and in nine months..."
There was a loud crash that almost put out the glass in the door. We looked at each other and together said, "Marcie!"
Mrs. Peters got up and unlocked the door to the office. A red faced Marcie floated in. In her hand were some envelopes. "I also got him some cash, $10,000."
This was not the same Marcie that left. Her hair was done up, she had more makeup on, no jacket now, and new blouse with three open buttons and the hint that her bra was gone made a difference. She tried handing me the envelopes.
"Nope, you hold onto things, I'm just a 'poor boy' (A Southern submarine sandwich from Louisiana consisting of meat, fried seafood, sometimes chicken or ham served on a baguette-like New Orleans French bread) who might lose them."
"Now Marcie, do you have your ID and passport incase 'we' need them?" I looked at the smirking woman now behind her desk again. I also saw the look she gave her 'Lou'. "No, but I can stop home for them."
"Better get some clothes and things for the week too; 'we' can stop at a Mall this week, right, if 'we' need to buy you more things?"
Placing my arm around her waist and pulling her with me, I said, smiling to her Mom. "Now I'll follow you, so where are you 'taking' me first?"
I guess the first thing I liked about her was, Damn, two things, first was the silence going to her home to get those papers, next, this girl, woman, female followed orders and I was used to giving them. That is two things, right? 'Anywho', I drove she navigated. I did not bother to tell her the car I had rented had GPS. I liked her voice, especially when she said 'Suh'. A man could get used to that sound very easily.
When we pulled onto a side road leading to a house it was my turn to sigh. "I know Monticello was on Thomas Jefferson Hwy, but I always thought it was in Charlottesville not Richmond?"
This is Grand Daddy's Plantation House; Mom and I live here."
I had pulled up to the front. I stopped the car, turned it off but before I could get out of the car to open her side she ran up the steps and went inside. If this were a comic book, 'The Flash' would be a might slower than she was. Within a few minutes a man, dressed to the 'nines'(Very formal attire, like for High Tea to you right ponders) came out to the car and asked "would I please come inside".
I knew it was going to be one of those days as soon as I walked in. My new civilian shoes 'squeaked' on the polished marble floor. Looking around, maybe, just maybe I could afford one of those paintings that hung on the walls. I was shown into another room; my new shoes further letting anyone know that I was around town.
Marcie came in, papers in-hand, about the same time I heard. "Mar, Lou called and said you might be over with 'your' young man. Don't tell me you already need the Major to track him down?"
I did not have to look. I knew that voice. Turning, I said. Mr. Ambassador, I needed a job and Marcie was kind enough to try this 'Old Dog' out. How are you, as she would say, 'Suh'?"
"You two know each other?" asked a shocked Marcie.
"Does anyone really know another? Let's just say we were in a few countries at the same time."
I had been TDY (Temporary Duty) to NATO to assist The Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria to pass muster to join as Members. (Them Black Sea ships and Subs might have been old but there were a lot of them) What started out a might tenuous became very pleasant after 5 or 6 people asked me 'if I was related to... ?' I started to just say, 'cousins' I think. That and that I spoke; if poorly, some Russian and Polish made me feel that I might actually have some family over there. When I left and they passed muster, I knew I had some friends there at least.
I did not miss the 'Her young man' thing either.
As if on queue, "I believe the Major made a few friends while I was around, my dear. I shall have to chastise Lou; she never told me you were bringing the Major over."
'In a pig's eye!' I thought. The old man might say that, but if his 'Lou' had just happened to call; I had a fairly good idea that a dossier had already been pulled on me.
I heard. "Are these what I should bring?"
I looked, Passport, Driver's license, Birth Certificate (She was 27) and some other papers. "This looks fine. We should be good to go unless 'we' need a Visa."
"Oh, I have your credit card in one of the envelopes?" I looked; he looked and we both smiled at her. I got the feeling this girl could not lie her way out of a paper bag. She went back to somewhere, ostensibly to pack. "I need to pack; will 'we' be going anywhere formal?"
"If 'you' need to shop in Paris or Milan we might, they do 'dress up' for a party or two, but probably 'we' won't be going there this week."
"Mr. Ambassador, I guess Heloise or Louise were not names found very popular?"
"Got that, Ehh! Call her 'Lou' and she won't scratch your eyes out! I think you have already charmed her out of some of her undergarments though?"
"She is something else!"
"Both of them! If I'm not mistaken, I think she is already calling around to schedule a wedding for 'us'." I was already thinking and saying 'US' within a few hours of meeting Marcie. Truth be known I was not upset with the idea. Marcie was, ... she was ... she was something special already to me.
Out of nowhere, a streak of lightning must have struck and I almost had to 'hit the deck'.
I heard a deep sigh and Marcie or 'Lou' was not even around.
"I guess Mandy has already decided you should meet her now. Major Majik, my other Grand Daughter, Amanda Jefferson Peters, Mandy, Major Majik, your sister's..."
The ball of fluff seemed a might impatient. She put her arms around me, planted the same kind of kiss that any man would remember and said. "So where are 'we' getting married?"
Saved by another unleashed banshee. "Amanda Jefferson Peters, you leave my man alone, you hussy you."
"Grand Dad, you tell her right now, she has to 'share'. I heard on the phone before."
"Major, I'll withdraw as being faced by superior forces and leave you fight this alone. My advice, based on years of experience fighting the enemy is that a man cannot win. As General Lee once said, 'if Practicable'; (A qualifier that cost General Ewell and the Glorious Army of Northern Virginia loss of a battle that cost us the war) but this battle today had apparently already been lost."
I found the closest seat and just watched two sisters, twin sisters just hold each other and cry. The Ambassador had been correct; this battle had already been lost.
Note: Addison Hayes Davis (Kin of Confederate President Jefferson F. Davis) died in 1983 but for purpose of the story, we can imagine a man named 'Peters' marrying his daughter 'Lou'; Marcie and Amanda's mother, who was the Ambassador's daughter in this story.
I knew Banks had peculiar hours than us regular folks, but it wasn't even 11:00 am as the door opened and 'Lou' strolled in to a chorus of "Mama" and a the sound of rushing feet. I was still sitting down but saw the Ambassador's head shaking, then he was saying something to the well-dressed man who soon brought me a drink.
"I was told to keep these coming as long as the crying lasts."
After a sip, I determined a good whisky at anytime was a fine drink.
I got a look from all three and a 'Well?" from 'Lou'.
"You're late, I already bought them both from your dad, I need three more goats and six chickens to complete the deal, any around here for sale?"
"Dad... !" she screamed. You did not get enough for them and what about me?"
"I don't know "Lou', he wanted a horse and two mules for you, mighty high price, don't you think? I'll need to check your teeth and things first."
If looks could kill, I was a dead man. My first week out and I had a target around my neck. Ahh, the things we poor men have to contend with.
I heard a laugh from somewhere in the house. That butler had a hand to his face too.
"It's not too much boy, their a matched set, but I'll admit; not sure the shape one of them is in though. You may have to try her out and see if she'll do too."
"Dad!" again, this time even louder and more drawn out.
"Mr. Ambassador, I'm going to need a place big enough for at least these two, not sure if the third is 'fit' but we'll see. You drive a 'hard' bargain 'Suh!"
"Well, Major, if you take all three I can let you have that 'little' plantation over yonder; it used to belong to President Davis. My Great Granddaddy bought it to save it from the 'carpetbaggers'. I suppose we can work out some kind of a deal."
The looks I was getting from all three now I did not quite understand. I pressed my good luck a might.
"Girl, fill in that address for the Bank and let's see what we need for our new home. I hope the new girl is worth the horse, it will be a shame to have to keep her doing outside work. Mr. Ambassador you drive a very hard bargain Suh!"
"Ha was heard from somewhere." Those looks continued.
"Chop, Chop! We need to see 'our' new house then do some shopping. Mr. Ambassador might you join us for a simple luncheon someplace?"
"Son, there are some things you will need to know about your purchases but that can wait, at least for a bit. I'm not getting any younger but there are some things you will need to know if things go as I think they might."
"Girls, should we tour the house before or after lunch? Can we walk there?"
"Mandy spoke, rather proudly, "The little place has more than 64,000 acres so if we want lunch we need to drive or fly there, Master?"
Now I was the one with a funny look on my face.
"Girls, enough of this. Look, I did not buy you, you are all very cute and probably very cuddly but we lost the war and this isn't Morocco. So your not slaves."
"So you don't want us?"
"I didn't say I did not want you, any of you. My Mama did not raise a 'fool' and you all are any man's dream. I can't believe 'Lou' is your Mama either."
"I'm not, try their sister."
"So, your father is..."
"Yep, sort of keeping things in the family. When I first saw you, I had a feeling. When I saw your transfer amount, I knew you were not going to want one of us for the money and wealth we would bring; so I set you up. The fact you were from Virginia also helped a little. That Dad knew you too, you from 'VMI' and had served in the military sealed the deal for us. Now it's up to you to want us. I can only promise that 'WE' will not disappoint you. This family must carry on and Dad already seems to tolerate you some."
From Marcie, "We have been hounded since we were 16 to marry some 'Yankee' who saw a quick way to wealth, land and prestige.'
From Mandy' "We refused to be some prize in a contest. Our family, our Pride even our fortune is meant to help not just us but Virginia recover as well. The family has been buying up land and Plantations since the War. We own more than 500,000 acres all told."
"Whew! I don't know what to say."
"Well you better think fast, knowing Dad, Luncheon is already being arranged at the Club and he will 'introduce' you. You better say one of us is your 'Fiancée' or we need to say you're getting 'the operation' to be a 'BFF'."
What to Do?
"Suh! Mr. Davis suggests you change into these for luncheon. A small group will attend and he is aware there is much he has to tell you, there are several reasons why this meeting is important. One has to do with business another deals with the ladies. He has indicated that he is not getting any younger, but what he has not indicated was that his health is failing."
There were three very solemn faces. What's a man to do. Saying those infamous words aloud, "Into the Breach We Go!" I held out open arms to three lovely ladies.
"You still need to choose one of us to announce, you know."
It had been a long time but I noted some familiar faces. Fathers of some classmates at 'VMI', I got a few nods from them.
The ladies were escorted inside, us men sat on the Veranda.
"Major, I think you know some of these folk. Friends, let me introduce Major Carl Majik."
"Many Thanks Suh! Senator Robbins, let me express my heartfelt sympathy for the loss of your son. He was a fine Marine and a good man. He will surely be missed by us all. I had the honour of being in a few countries with the Ambassador and now upon my return to Virginia, the privilege of being his 'Future Son-in-Law'. May I suggest a toast to that and to the Great Commonwealth of Virginia, Gentleman?"
A quiet aside came from the Ambassador. "Damn Son, I could not have done better myself.
We toasted. I guess the business portion was his statement that he was stepping down and his 'Son-in-law' would be replacing him. If those assembled, had any question or concerns voice them now or otherwise support me in the future.
I knew I would have to name my bride, but not today. All joined for luncheon and the 'Changing of the guard' became a 'Fait Accompli' (A Done Deal); we would have their support. There were the obvious questions during the meal. Usually the Ambassador provided the answers.
'Where would we be living?' "At the 'Old President Davis Plantation' for now."
'How long had he known me?' "About 15 years."
'Where did we meet?' "During my 'NATO' duty."
'When and where was the wedding to be held?' "This year at the Country Club or the VMI Chapel."
'Who all knows?' "You, our friends are the first to know."
That put a smile on all the faces and there were no more questions.
On the way back, we stopped at 'our' new, temporary home. He handed me some keys which seemed unnecessary since there was someone already there opening the door for us.
Oh, small detail, Mother's family had been Virginians since Roanoke I think, (Virginia Dare Fame, though it was Carolina and Georgia that first time) Dad's came from Europe. So this was not considered a 'mixed' marriage, keeping things in the Virginia family almost.
Now I dodged that first salvo, the next one would hit or I had to name my 'Bride to be'. Not as easy as one might think, 'Triplets' would have made things a whole lot easier; then again if we were Moslem ... Hmmm. What to do?