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Truck tales--Chapter II: the Corsican puzzle.

Let's call her Isolde. All surviving ex-husbands agreed Isolde was a beautiful, passionate and virtually flawless wife: thrifty, a fine cook and housekeeper; thoughtful and meticulous in caring for her husbands' health, happiness and well-being. None ever doubted her love and devotion. She planned fun, interesting holiday trips and managed all the details, so her husbands were free to enjoy them unfettered by practical cares.

All of their weddings took place in a small semi-autonomous duchy while on ostensibly "spur of the moment" trips--arranged by Isolde, of course. Typically, while gazing out on pleasant scenery from a pretty viewing overlook, Isolde would sigh, "What a perfect place to be married, yes?" All eagerly jumped on the opportunity and felt the idea was theirs alone, pressing her to accept their proposals.

The duchy offered two types of marriages: a proper church and state marriage, and a simple civil ceremony; in essence, a "registered civil relationship." The first type required meetings with clerics, church approval, availability of a church and other impediments consuming up to a week. The second could be done in an hour for a modest fee which included a tiny bouquet. A shop nearby did a brisk business in plain silver rings. Giddy happiness ensued--for 12 months.

Then Isolde would awaken screaming from a horrible nightmare in which her beloved husband was killed while on duty. She was inconsolable. She couldn't shake the recurring nightmare, nor could she eat or rest. She lost weight, developed nervous twitches and wept endlessly. Isolde confessed she had feared all along one day her husband would not return from his deadly work and she would be left a shattered, heartbroken widow. The nightmare, she claimed, was prophetic. With deep regret, agreement was reached to end her emotional torture.

A convenient advantage to the "civil relationship" was it could be dissolved easily, requiring only witnessed signatures and one party present. Isolde handled that. Each ex-husband nurtured blissful memories and a fat scrapbook memorializing their happy lives together.

THE BEST-LAID PLANS ...

"It would be better if she were not still so beautiful," Milo muttered. Ren grunted agreement, adding "It's almost time. Let's move into position, behind the minibus."

Isolde lived in a narrow 2-story addition tacked on the left of a large, stately old home. A rich mix of elderly, middle-aged and younger working people shared the tranquil, tree-lined street. They had watched for a new husband-victim or fiancee, but instead found she lived with a small boy, perhaps 5 years old. Each weekday morning she escorted him out to the sidewalk, knelt to straighten his tie and cap, pull up his socks, tuck his shirt into his shorts more neatly and kiss him goodbye. He would go 'round the corner to wait briefly with other kindergartners, then board a schoolbus.

"Bet he insists his mother not walk him to the stop, because he's a big boy now, you think, Milo? Look how he walks; trying to be the man. " Milo fought a smile and failed. "Quick now!" They wanted to cut Isolde off before she reached her porch, to confront her in the open. They stepped into view, blocking the sidewalk.

Wearing a long, loose powder-blue dress and a short ivory vest, Isolde was humming, daydreaming, until she saw their stark shadows on the pavement and looked up. Her shock lasted half a breath, then she burst into a radiant smile and cried "Rennie! Milo! My God, you're here! You take my breath away, you are both so handsome! Oh!" Then "Wait! Are you angry?" This response had not been on their list of expectations.

At the word "angry" the boy rounded the corner running, with cap in hand. Seeing Ren and Milo confronting his mother he stopped, surprised, confused, and a little fearful. Isolde ran to him and knelt again. There was a brief, hushed conversation. Isolde said, "Tell them not today; you must come home straightaway." The boy meant to whisper, but Milo and Ren heard him ask, "Are they bad men, mama?" He clenched his small fists and looked past his mother, flush-faced, tears starting in his eyes. "Bad men?"

"No, no," Isolde assured him. "Don't worry. They are good men. We will have tea and bread and jam, and talk." She kissed him again and shooshed him along. He shuffled to the corner, throwing toughboy dubious glances over his shoulder--at the possibly bad men.

'Ah, no," Ren muttered sadly, "We are bad men?" Milo let out a deflated hiss. Isolde turned back to them, brightening. "Milo, Rennie, come along now. We'll have tea and I will tell you everything." They followed like scolded puppies.

ISOLDE'S STORY

In her tidy parlor, Isolde said "Milo, you look pale. Have you eaten today?" Milo shook his lowered head guiltily. "Sit here then, dear, and rest. Rennie, please unfold the little table; I'll be back." Milo managed a shaky grin and kicked Ren's ankle as he passed. "Rennie? Really? Rennie?" Ren blushed and said "Shut up, you bad man."

They breakfasted, they talked. Isolde was the late-in-life only child of small-time merchant parents. During hard financial times, her father, desperate, tried some sleight-of-hand with loans from both banks and from the wrong kind of Corsicans. One side beat him nearly to death, crippling him. The other side had him thrown briefly into prison. He was released when his care proved too expensive. The family was destitute and deeply indebted. Their name was poison in Corsica. Isolde sought work on the mainland.

Her following life was so complex it would take three columns like this to explain, so I'll distill it. There had been six marriages. Her first, a genuinely spur-of-the-moment affair in the same small duchy, was to the heir of a wealthy, highly placed French family. Scandalized and enraged, they thrust a big wad of money on her and demanded she dissolve the "civil relationship" and disappear. The groom silently succumbed and gave her more money. This paid her parents' debts--but they still needed regular support. Isolde kind of bumbled into the next marriage and slowly, her "game plan" coalesced.

A self-taught bookkeeper by trade, she cribbed funds regularly from five family budgets, sending money home to mom and dad. Additionally, each ex-husband-to-be lavished her with "getting resettled" money upon their parting. She never asked for any of it. Milo and Ren affirmed the truth of this. Isolde offered no defense. Her fierce familial loyalty and her extrafamilial deceptions, she said, were both "Very Corsican; something perhaps only Corsicans could understand."

In return, she tried to assure each husband enjoyed and remembered the very best year of his life; well fed, passionately loved, wanting for nothing--and she too loved them and enjoyed every moment.

The boy, Jean-Claude, was the son of the diver. Isolde hadn't known she was pregnant until after their divorce, and he died soon after. Her parents passed away the following year. She did bookkeeping at home for local businesses, living a Spartan but satisfying life.

There was wine, perfect braised squabs and petite potatoes. In the warm evening, Milo and Isolde watched from the balcony as Ren, Jean-Claude and neighborhood kids laughed uproariously, playing soccer in the street below. Isolde sighed, "Just look at Rennie and Jean. Sometimes I think he needs a father; something I cannot be. And this property is for sale. We may have to move again. Where, I don't know." An idea bubbled into Milo's mind. A father? How about two uncles, living next door?

Milo married, and to Jean-Claude's delight, produced a baby girl for him to look after, protect and defend. Ren's fiancee moved in as well. The two women adored Isolde and the boy. Sometimes relationships ain't like Hollywood movies. Sometimes they are stranger, richer, better. Connor OUT
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Title Annotation:ODD ANGRY SHOT
Author:Connor, John
Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Sep 9, 2017
Words:1296
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