Thanks to the knee doctor for editing assistance.
I really hated the gatherings at the county club every few weeks. It seems like they had a million excuses to justify some sort of frivolous party so that a bunch of rich people could get together and take ego trips. My wife, Sandra, loved to go and seemed to look forward to them. Unfortunately, the last year or so she started drinking too much and sometimes ended up embarrassing herself or me. Sandra and I had been married for twenty-four years. We had three children: all in college. I met my wife when I was getting my MBA and we seemed to hit it off from the start. Things started cooling down between us about ten years ago, and I assumed it was natural. I would have appreciated a little more affection and a little more sex, but hated to push it. I pretty much resigned myself to the fact that the rest of my life would be less than romantic.
I had a good job and made good money, in fact it was great. Putting three kids through college took a big chunk out of the budget and savings, but we were still well off. Of course, Sandra didn't have to work and didn't want to. Her time was spent doing community work and social activities. My income was necessary to support that. She still looked good for her age. I think a lot of that was a result of many trips to the spa and beauty salon.
I was sort of average; a little bulge around the middle and a little gray on the temples. I dressed well because of my job and my wife's love of shopping. I was good at my job but not really happy. I was ready to try something new, something that I would enjoy, and not have to worry about how much it paid. I also wanted to move somewhere else. The house was way too large for the two of us and I hated the cost and time involved in keeping it up. My wife would not even consider discussing such ridiculous ideas. She wanted her big house, county club, and wealthy friends.
At one such gathering, I wandered around the club joining in little conversations here and there about stupid things. The night was getting old and I was nursing my last drink for an hour or so. Sandra, on the other hand, was just getting up to steam. It appeared that she had been drinking a little more than usual and it was showing. Eight or ten of the local dowagers were sitting together having a cat chat as I walked up. The conversation seemed to be about sex. That was my signal to turn the other way. As I turned to exit the room, I heard my wife in a louder than normal voice,
"Hell, if it wasn't for Todd Mitchell, I would never have had any good sex in my lifetime."
The group grew suddenly quiet. Some of the ladies had noticed me standing close by. As if clued by the lack of laughter, Sandra turned and saw me. The excess alcohol was definitely having an effect on her judgment.
"Robert, I didn't know you were standing there. You were not supposed to hear that darling. I'm sorry, my bad." She followed that up with a few drunken giggles, like a little girl.
The ladies sitting in the immediate area did not know how to react. A few of them walked away quietly and the rest just sat without talking. Sandra was looking at me with a silly smirk on her face like she just did something mischievous.
I placed my glass on a nearby table, and slowly left the room and the club. I didn't go home. I went to the airport and thirty minutes later was on a commuter flight to Reno. I liked Reno far better than Las Vegas.
My relationship with Sandra now became a lot clearer. I was able to understand things that had eluded me before. A weekend in Reno would help clarify a few more things. I turned my cell phone off.
I had no trouble getting a room at one of the casinos. I opened an account for twenty thousand dollars and the comp room quickly followed. Interesting thing about the casino accounts: since they are not banks, they are not under federal regulations, and no reports are required to the government. If you win big bucks on a slot or at Keno it must be reported, but anything you deposit in your account is not traceable. I was not really interested in gambling of any type, but I did like their banking set up. By the time I woke up it was noon on Saturday.
I was analyzing my situation over a burger and fries. I liked Reno. The climate was comfortable because of the high altitude. I had to take a walk down by the Truckee to pay my respects to all the broken marriages. I wasn't planning on a Reno divorce, but I might like to add my ring to the riverbed at a later date. Going back to the hotel/casino, I passed a realtor's office with lots of pictures in the front display window. All of a sudden, a condo in Reno started to make sense. After an hour in the office and two hours driving around, I found a small, furnished unit that I really liked. The trouble was, I couldn't buy it while I was married. Luckily, I was able to swing a discrete, lease-to-buy agreement with a big deposit. The big deposit was my idea and the seller loved it.
One of the best decisions I made, early in my marriage, was to manage and control the family finances myself. Sandra did not have a knack for figures or banking. She was more than happy to let me pay the bills as long as she could spend the money. I treated myself to a beautiful sushi supper that evening. Before going to bed, I deposited another ten thousand dollars, from my Visa card, into the casino fund. I hated paying the cash advance fee, but figured in this case, it was worth it.
I was up bright and early the next morning and was able to catch breakfast in the casino restaurant. Eggs, bacon, hash browns, and toast hit the spot. I was trying to kill time with my second cup of coffee when I noticed my waitress had a big shiner. She was trying to hide it by combing her hair forward but it wasn't working. She was a nice looking girl in her mid-forties. I watched her flit from table to table, doing her best to keep everyone happy. I got the feeling that this was something new to her, because she was trying too hard. An experienced waitress would have been a little smoother and more confident. She seemed determined to do a good job and I admired that.
"Your name tag says Donna. Is that your real name?"
"No. My name is Dora, but Donna was the closest tag they had."
"Well Dora, I will have one more cup of coffee and I promise to leave a big tip if you tell me about the black eye."
"Why don't I pour you a refill and you can leave a smaller tip and I'll ignore your question?"
"Fair enough. It was rude of me to pry."
I already had the key to the condo, so I decided to get a few things to set up housekeeping. First stop was down the street at the Silver Spur used car lot. I grabbed a Focus sedan with more miles on it than I care to mention. It wouldn't be too good for a long trip, but OK to run around in. I guess I could have rented, but I was planning on coming back on a regular basis for a while. For a couple hundred dollars, I was able to get all I needed to live comfortably, including a few changes of clothes. The rest of the day, I spent opening accounts at several casinos. I wrote checks made out to the place I was at. The money went into my account and disappeared. No audit trail. By the end of the day I had deposited sixty thousand dollars at four different casinos. I got a small spiral notebook I could carry in my pocket and entered the amounts, date, and casino name. This was a chronological record of the money I lost gambling over the weekend. Of course I hadn't bet a dime, but who was going to challenge me. Everyone knew I was a lousy Poker player, so any losses I had at roulette, craps, or blackjack would be believable. I had six months to come up with the down payment for the condo. That should be no problem.
I totally forgot about lunch, so by the time supper rolled around, I was starved. The easiest place to go was where I had breakfast. As luck would have it, Dora was my waitress.
"Why are you still here? Looks like a long day."
"I have to work double shifts to get by. I didn't think rent would be so high here. What would you like to drink?"
It was better not to be too nosey. I ordered my meal and tried to be a good boy for the rest of the time. When I finished, she brought my check and stopped for a moment. "I'm sorry for being so short with you this morning. I am having a hard time getting used to being here, and I am a little self conscious about the eye. It was a parting present from my husband, when I told him I was coming here to get a divorce. It's not the first one, but I hope it will be the last. Thanks for the nice tip at breakfast, by the way. It helps."
She smiled as she walked away, but it was a sad smile. I thought about her the rest of the night. That night, I concluded that there was not much more I could do right way. I had to get home to take care of a few things before I could set up anything else here. I had no trouble getting a flight lined up for the return trip, but was unsure what I was going to do when I got there.
Dora was working the next morning and I was able to get one of her tables. I stopped her when she dropped off the check, after the meal.
"I have a small problem and I was wondering if you could help me out? I have to leave today, and won't be back for a week or so. I need someone to house sit for me. It's a two-bedroom condo, so you wouldn't have to worry about any living conflicts. Could you possible help me out? It will be for at least a couple months."
"Are you serious? No strings attached?"
"I hate to leave the place alone. Ninety percent of the time it will be just you, and when I am here, I will stay out of your way. Promise."
.... There is more of this story ...