MaryAnn was mad as a wet hornet. Still, James kept his eyes on the road. “Not much longer now,” he said, setting the cruise on the RV and settling back in his white leather seat, armed for yet another tongue lashing.
It had been six days since they left Yellowstone, and while their ultimate destination was Amos, James had by one means and another managed to extend the road trip from a day and a half to six. “We’ll be home tomorrow, honey. I told you already – if we got as far as Yellowstone, then it was only a little ways to see Mt. Rushmore -”
“Oh, Mt. Rushmore!” MaryAnn spat, crossing her arms to match her legs and staring mutinously out the passenger side window as endless miles of Missouri countryside rolled past, a featureless blur of green and gold. “What a waste of time.”
James grinned. “But honey, you know Roosevelt is my favorite president.” Bomb dropped, James silently counted the seconds until meltdown.
MaryAnn sat in quivering silence for a full five seconds and then could contain herself no longer. “Oh, for heaven’s sake, James! The ONLY reason Gutzon Borglum put Roosevelt’s head up there with the founding fathers is because he was a sycophant! He campaigned for Roosevelt, the weasel. This was ‘scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,’ plain and simple!”
“Now, now, that’s not fair,” he replied, his words well peppered with amused condescension, “Roosevelt had plenty to recommend him – you ever hear of the Panama Canal? The New Deal?”
MaryAnn gasped. “New Deal?” She looked at her husband as if he had sprouted a second head. Both heads were laughing at her, but she didn’t care. “That was Franklin D. and you KNOW it!”
He chuckled, watching his wife spin her anger out like the Tazmanian Devil slowing to a stop. He knew it was mean to taunt her, but couldn’t seem to help himself. Plus, he was running out of excuses to keep from returning home.
Since that day in Yellowstone when Jimbo called saying he had gone and got himself hitched without so much as a “how do you do” to his parents, James Sr. had been stalling. His wife – God, love her! – was an angel most of the time. A real sweetheart who would do anything for anybody, no questions asked. MaryAnn Krause had a heart big as Texas, he knew that. But since that day – since she had almost singlehandedly packed up the RV and declared her intention to return home and root out the “homewrecking gold-digger” that was her new, foreign born daughter-in-law, she had not been the same. All “Mother of the Groom” dreams of wearing pale blue chiffon and her grandmother’s pearls in a proper church wedding had died a swift death, disintegrated and unmendable under the weight of three words: “I got married.”
But, as was typical of MaryAnn, from the ashes of her disappointment had risen an angry Phoenix – all ruffled feathers, claws and slashing beak.
In short, Momma was NOT happy. His sweet and generous wife had become a barrel of hot nails. James figured the least he could do for his son and daughter-in-law – whatever she was like – was to give MaryAnn a chance to cool down a bit.
“Was it FDR?” He asked mildly, not caring which Roosevelt was to be credited for anything. He had lost interest.
And so the miles crawled past.
Until they hit Wichita, at which point MaryAnn insisted on spending the night in a Holiday Inn to take, as she called it, “A proper shower,” and to do a bit of shopping. It didn’t seem to matter that she had plenty of clothes in the RV. “I will NOT be showing up home looking like I’ve been living out of a suitcase!”
James nodded obligingly, not daring to contend the fact that a 45-foot luxury RV was hardly to be compared with a suitcase. When MaryAnn was on the warpath, there was not much use in arguing his point.
He carried her bags through Macy’s and Dillards, sat in the waiting area for two hours while she had a fresh set of foils to cover her latest crop of grays, and he even joined her for the pedicure treatment at the nail spa.
MaryAnn glanced over at her rawboned husband soaking his big farmer feet in the whirlpool spa next to her own and was forced to smile. Darned if he didn’t look handsome in his reading glasses, an older and taller version of their only child. It saddened her that Jimmy had never found the right girl, and now – well, now it was too late for that. All she had ever wanted for him was the same happiness she shared with his father.
Well, little Miss Philippines was in for a surprise if she thought she was going to ruin her boy, ruin her family and steal their good name to gain citizenship.
The Phoenix ruffled her flaming feathers and examined her shiny red talons for smudges, issuing a tight smile to the Asian nail technician who grated the calloused, white skin from MaryAnn’s heel. What was she? Vietnamese? Cambodian? Thai? She could never tell the difference.
MaryAnn wondered idly about the tech’s citizenship status, and her smile grew frosty.
Checking her watch, MaryAnn worked out that they would be home in time for dinner. And she was NOT in the mood for Asian food.
“Let’s pick up some KFC on the way through town,” she said, clicking her massage chair into high gear just in time for the nail tech to begin painting her toenails. “God only knows what state my kitchen is in.”
James sighed and closed his newspaper. While he loved his wife dearly, he couldn’t help but feel a twinge of pity for this girl, this Anita-from-the-Philippines, whoever she was. God help her if she had so much as moved the salt shaker in MaryAnn’s kitchen…
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