Dead Solid Pluperfect

A Hot Buttered Guff™ Production

Arbortext Accounting Fraud #32: White Knuckles And Holy Water

Chapter Thirty-Two

White Knuckles and Holy Water

 

The inevitable day arrived.

After putting the house up for sale, we discovered that Larry Bernheim had ignored the Judge’s Order about how Dwan would be reimbursed through the Arbortext royalties and simply, sneakily, put a lien on our house. It was all perfectly legal. Just some routine underhanded slime maneuvering on Bernheim’s part.

Protecting myself from a thieving ex-partner’s attempt to steal the business and all my source code had now placed nearly two hundred thousand over on the red side of my bank account without a penny to show for the black side. Just a piece of legal paper saying I was sole owner of Blueberry – without being allowed to actually conduct any business or receive any payments, thanks to Dick Blair.

The lien would be wiping out half of the equity we would be realizing from the sale of our home. With ten grand of interest on top of it, which had definitely not been called for anywhere in the Judge’s order. Had we waited ten or fifteen years to sell the house, due to the gathering interest, we would have gotten nothing out of it – all proceeds directly to Dwan. A comfortable nest egg entirely wiped out for us or the kids. And delivered to him.

So, we were thankful we had been destroyed and had to sell our house now, while there was still some value to it. Life was surely getting bizarre when a victory over evil plotting involved losing a hundred grand. What a wonderful fellow my erstwhile ex-partner had ripened into.

Ah, Kevin Dwan. Wherefore hast thou gone in thy journey of self?

Mary and I stood briefly on the threshold of our nice, comfortable suburban residence, gazed sadly around the starkly empty and echoing living room, and then closed the front door for the last time. We had shed our tears along the way, quite a few if you must know. The kids had all come by for a final sad good-bye to the family home and collected a few mementoes to carry on into their futures.  For now, Mary and I were alone and merely walked stoically to our car and drove away.

So long, Home.

Off to Martinez for an overnight in a motel. Then bright and early the following morning we boarded the Amtrak for a journey south to Los Angeles.

Mary had scoured the Internet – her eyes were becoming cyberspace Brillo pads – and located a 1978 twenty-seven foot refurbished motor home for sale down in Smogsville for $7,500. We were on our way to pick it up.

Our new dwelling.

The train ride ended in Bakersfield, where we were escorted off and onto a bus for the next leg of the journey. The bus took us to the L.A. downtown train station, where we caught a commuter train to Downey, one of the forty-two million city designations crowded into the Los Angeles Metropolitan area. The fellow we were buying the RV from did not know what we looked like, nor we him, so we engaged in a cell phone homing-in comedy. Wandering around the train depot getting closer and closer until we were standing right next to each other talking on our cell phones.

Nice fellow, nice wife, nice house, and let’s hit the road.

We handed over an envelope with seventy-five one hundred dollar bills in it and averted our gaze so he could count it without seeming to be rude or untrusting. He handed over the pink slip, gave us a quick tour of the RV, a little caution about oil usage, and off we varoomed.

I had never driven anything bigger than a pickup truck, so driving this big old baby down a narrow suburban street was, basically, scary as hell. The steering wheel had a lot of I’m-turning-it-but-the-wheels-ain’t-moving idiosyncrasy to it. Or perhaps just a delayed reaction mechanism humorously installed where it would suddenly turn the tires at precisely the point you decided it wasn’t ever going to and you had just begun to turn it some more. It took two blocks to get the hang of it. To drive straight, one simply turned the wheel in a constant right and left rhythm. Or was it starboard and leeward, since this vehicle was far more boat than car?

Two gas tanks. A twenty gallon and a forty gallon. Serious cabbage would be falling out of the wallet. What kind of gas mileage are we talking here? Don’t even think about it. I stopped for gas and a chance to bring my heart rate under control.

We had driven about one mile.

Only three hundred eighty-four to go.

Dark had descended upon the land as we looked at the freeway on ramp a block away. Mary fetched a bottle of Holy Water from her purse, brought along precisely for this occasion, and circled the RV, sprinkling it and praying for protection and safe journeying. I might normally have scoffed a bit, but right now, hey, it couldn’t hurt. Spooky Shit was becoming the norm. Toss a little drop on me while you’re at it, Mary. I didn’t have to ask. She did it unrequested.

I climbed into the saddle and buckled up. “Hi-yo Silver, away!”

“Steve?”

“Yes.”

“I’m scared. Are we going to make it home all right?”

“This is our home.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Piece of cake.”

“You’re lying.”

“Okay. The truth. We’re about to be involved in a twenty-two car pile up and be burned beyond recognition.”

“Jerk.”

“I’ll get us there, Mary. I promise.”

She got out her Rosary beads to indicate that her fears were assuaged.

Up the on ramp and into the herd of thundering, galloping death traps we drove, wedging ourselves into the slow lane and hunkering down with a sullen single-minded fifty mile an hour pace straight ahead and get out of my way if you value your life. 

Mary was kind enough at regular ten second intervals to inquire of me if I was doing all right. Shit no! Do I look all right? Take a gander at my knuckles on the wheel. They’re white as the cliffs of Dover looming in your face at higher than you altitude.

Ten miles along the vicious L.A. freeway system some incredibly insane motorist drove up an on ramp and evidently expected me to slow down or speed up. You blithering idiot! This is a four hundred ton hunk of shit here! It don’t slow down and it don’t speed up. I stared straight ahead, wincing, while Mary sucked in air next to me as the idiot came within two inches of plowing into the side of us before some flicker of sanity convinced him to back off and fall in behind. There was blood all over the floor which had once resided in our faces.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the traffic began to thin out as we climbed up the Grapevine Highway and finally down the other side of the Tehachapi Mountains to the barely inhabited flatlands of central California. Up Highway 5 with the truckers blasting by us in a steady stream, shaking the RV from side to side as they passed, hauling America‘s vittles hither and yon.

I limped off the freeway at the appropriately named town of Lost Hills and parked behind a gas station with a convenience store attached. We went in and grabbed some sandwiches and a six pack and settled down for our first night in our new home. Scaled down from twenty-five hundred square feet of living space on a third of an acre to one hundred and fifty on four tires. But our backyard was now the world around us, not the fenced in yard of yore.

“How far have we come?” Mary asked.

“Downward in life or lengthwise on the road?”

“Very funny.”

I looked at the odometer. “One hundred fifty-six miles.”

“I thought that guy was going to ram us. I don’t know how he missed. I looked down out the window at his car and it looked like he was only an inch away.”

“We made it out of that hell hole. I’m exhausted. Every muscle in my body is sore.”

“You seemed to be doing better as we went along.”

I nodded. “It’s never going to be a one hand on the wheel deal, though. I guarantee you that.”

“You looked pretty tense, all right.”

“I was.”

“Thank God for the Holy Water. It worked.”

“I’m sure it did.”

“We’re alive, aren’t we?”

“It must have been the Holy Water.”

“You hate it when the Holy Water works, don’t you?”

“What makes you say that?”

“The last fifteen years.”

“I don’t hate it.”

“Yeah. You do.”

She was smiling. That was good, at least. She loved having me in a discussion quandary that I couldn’t get out of. We all do, I guess. Maybe. Who knows?

She looked around the interior. “Well, it’s cozy, I suppose.”

“Yeah. It’s cozy.”

“It’s pretty small.”

“It’s a large closet. Except when we‘re driving it. Then it’s the Titanic.”

“I guess we’ll get used to it.”

“I hope not. Should we take a picture of it and send it to Jim Sterken? I know he’d be tickled at what he’s done to our life.”

“And one to Dwan and Blair. I wonder which of them would be happiest?”

“Giving pleasure to others. Aren’t we just the swellest folks? Maybe we should put some Holy Water on the picture so it’d rub off on them.”

“See. I was right. You hate it.”

“Shall we take a tour and check out all the dealiebobs and gadgets?”

“I think I’ll call the kids. You take a tour.”

“Which kids?”

“All of them.”

“All six? Maryjoan’s in New York. It’s past midnight back there.”

She gave me the look. “You haven’t learned much, have you? It’s Friday. She’s twenty-seven. The day ain’t over yet.”

Right. Youth. I’d forgotten it. The day was sometimes not over till the following dawn.

“It‘s no fun dealiebob checking alone.”

But she had already unsheathed the phone and made no reply.

 

To be continued . . .

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August 1, 2008 - Posted by | Business, Law, Life, Stories, Writing | , , , ,

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