Ağu 08

Angel From Montgomery Pt. 02

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Author’s note: This is the second part of a two-part series of stories in the fourth semi-annual Jake Rivers Invitational, this one based on country-and-western songs.

This story is based on John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery,” as sung by Bonnie Raitt. It picks up after Rosalie, describing her first true love to her recently-heartbroken granddaughter, tells of running off to be with that lover on the Great Plains rodeo circuit.

Apologies for the delay in getting this second part done. I had hoped to have it completed a week or so earlier, before going on a little vacation, but that didn’t quite happen.

^ ^ ^ ^

For awhile, life on the road with Clint was fun and romantic. We followed the circuit all through the Plains, and we did make it up to Cheyenne. I even sent my family back in Montgomery a postcard from the Frontier Days celebration.

Clint was everything I could have hoped for in a lover, and he taught me just about everything I know about sex.

He’d always introduce me as his Angel from Montgomery, so much so that a lot of people called me Angel instead of my real name. I wanted so much to believe in our love as something that would never die, something that would last forever.

I loved that man, and I’d have done anything for him.

After the summer was over, he took me back to Sweetwater, where we stayed in a little trailer on the ranch his folks owned..

That’s when the bloom started falling off the rose. I’d already noticed that Clint didn’t shy away from the attention of other women. No, sir. He basked in the glow of all the rodeo girls he charmed, even with me standing right there next to him.

I really don’t think he could help it, but it pissed me off.

Then, once we got to Sweetwater, we set up housekeeping, and that was when such a practice was considered living in sin. For sure, his family didn’t like it, and they looked at me like I was Coonass trash, which I guess I was.

Of course, they didn’t mind an extra hand around the barn, especially someone who was as good with horses as I was. So I pitched in, hoping to ingratiate myself into their good graces.

Most Saturday nights, we’d go into town, to some honky-tonk, to drink a few beers and dance, or at least we did for awhile. I got tired of it pretty quickly. I’d never been into that sort of lifestyle before, so I really didn’t know how to handle myself.

Soon, Clint was going without me, and often he stayed way past closing time. I’d go on to bed, rather than wait for him. I had a bad feeling I didn’t want to know what he was up to.

As the weather turned cold, I started to really get homesick, and I also started to get sick in the mornings.

Everything came to a head one Saturday night a few weeks before Christmas. I knew I was pregnant, and I wanted Clint to commit to me. I hadn’t told him yet, but I think he suspected it.

But he got duded up that night and was gone before I had a chance to talk to him about it. I made up my mind that I was going to wait up and have it out with him. Either he was with me, and our baby, or he wasn’t.

It was 3 in the morning when I heard him come home. He kind of stumbled in, then he stopped when he saw me sitting on the tiny sofa that was about all the seating there was in the little front room of the trailer.

I could see the smudge of lipstick off to the side of his mouth and as he walked by, looking mighty guilty, he smelled of perfume.

“Was she pretty?” I asked with as much sarcasm as I could muster. Clint was halfway through the door to the bedroom, and he stopped and stared at me hard. I’m pretty sure that was the last thing he expected me to say.

“She was OK, not as pretty as you,” he said finally. “But she was there, and you weren’t.”

“That’s your excuse?” I said, my Cajun temper coming to a rapid boil. “You think it’s all right to cheat on me just because I don’t feel up to goin’ to some smoky bar and swilling beer until half past never? Whatever happened to us spendin’ time together, just you and me? Goddamn it, Clint, I love you, and you ain’t got no call to treat me this way.”

“I’m sorry, Rosalie, I …” he started, then turned away and walked into the bedroom. There was nothing he could say that could make it right, and he knew it.

He came right back out and stared at me long and hard, and I knew he’d seen my suitcase sitting on the floor by the bed. I stood up and walked over to the sink in the tiny kitchenette, which afforded the only window in that part of the trailer.

I stared out the little window as the tears started to gush from my eyes. Then, the dam broke and I started sobbing. Clint came over and tried to console me, but I angrily pushed him away.

“Leave me alone!” I said through my sobs, as I dashed toward the door. “Please, just leave me the hell alone!”

I stood out in the cold night for maybe 10 minutes, getting control of my emotions. Everything was haywire in my mind, but one thing I knew: I needed ankara escort to go home. I wasn’t sure what kind of reception I’d get, but I knew it would be better than living like this.

In that moment, I made the decision not to tell him I was pregnant. If he guessed and said something in the short time we had remaining before I left, I wouldn’t lie about it, but I wasn’t going to volunteer the information.

I thought that if I told him, he’d try to do the “right thing,” and get me to marry him, and I had finally realized out that Clint Rouse wasn’t the marrying kind.

Oh, I’m sure he’d have tried, but I’d figured him out in that moment of clarity that came from a deep emotional wound, which he’d inflicted on me by coming home with evidence of cheating on his person.

Clint wasn’t capable of fidelity. I think I’d known it all along, but I’d been so blinded by love that I couldn’t make myself believe in my head what I knew in my heart.

I knew if I married him, I’d be setting myself up for endless heartache. Better to get the heartbreak over with now, in one fell swoop, than to open myself up for pain in small doses, all the time, for however long it took to finally drive me away.

And, trust me, my heart was breaking. I’d given him my heart and soul, even turned my back on my family, and he’d played with my heart, then tossed it away as casually as a smoker tosses aside a cigarette butt.

He was sitting on the sofa nursing a final beer when I came back in the trailer. He looked at me with those deep blue eyes, with an expression that was designed to melt my heart. He’d used it on me before when we’d argued, and I’d always caved in before.

Not this time. I shook my head sadly as I told him how it was going to be.

“I’m catching the bus and going home in the morning,” I said. “Either you can take me or your pa can take me or I can walk. But I’m leavin’. This was all a big mistake. I appreciate all you’ve done, Clint, but it’s over. I can’t share someone I love, and you obviously don’t love me enough to stay away from the whores at the honky-tonk.”

“Angel,” he started, but I cut him off.

“Don’t Angel me,” I said sharply. “You know that’s what they are. Aw, hell, I’m as big a slut as they are, I guess. I ran off from home for you, so what does that make me.”

I could feel the tears and bitterness coming on me again, and this time I let him when he got up off the sofa to hold me and console me.

“You ain’t like them at all, Rosalie,” he said. “Don’t ever sell yourself short like that. You’re a hell of a woman, and you’re gonna make some cowboy a mighty fine wife someday. But it ain’t gonna be me. Hell, I know what I am. I’m a free ramblin’ man. I thought I could settle down with you, because I do love you, no matter what you think. You and that baby you got in there need someone who’s gonna be around, and I cain’t guarantee I’ll be there. I got to roam, Angel, and … Aw, hell, you know how it is.”

I stared at him in disbelief.

“You know?” I said.

“Of course, I know,” Clint said. “You’ve put on 10 pounds in the last couple of weeks and you’re getting sick in the mornings. What else could it be? Look, Angel. If I really deep down in my heart thought I could settle down and be a proper husband and father, I’d drag you to the Justice of the Peace and we’d get hitched in a heartbeat. But I can’t. I know it and you know it. It’d be a waste of time, for both of us.”

And that was it. We spent our last night together just holding each other, fully-clothed, then we got up in the morning and drove over to his parents’ house. I had some business to attend to with the Rouses before I left.

They were in their church clothes eating breakfast when we came in the kitchen door. As usual, his parents looked at me like I was something the cat dragged in, until I said I was leaving.

“But, see, there’s the matter of my pay,” I said. “I’ve worked here for free for a couple of months now, and I need the bus fare to get home. I don’t imagine you can just catch a bus from here to Houston on a couple of bucks.”

“We didn’t exactly put you on the payroll, because you really weren’t…” Mr. Rouse started to say when Mrs. Rouse jumped up and interrupted him.

“Come on, dear, we’ll take care of that,” she said, giving her husband a stern look, which he wisely took under advisement.

Mrs. Rouse, especially, was so eager to be rid of me that she was willing to give me about anything I wanted. I never could figure out where their animosity came from. I worked hard for them and I was never anything but polite in all of my dealings with them.

I followed her back to their study, where she opened the wall safe and pulled out a stack of bills, peeled off a dozen or so, closed the safe and handed the bills to me. There was $1,200 there, which was more money than I’d ever seen in one place.

That incident left a distinct impression on me, especially a few years later when that family in Kansas was murdered, çankaya escort in eerily similar circumstances. Yeah, I read the book. It was kind of creepy, but I read it anyway.

I wondered if the Rouses realized how dangerous it was to keep that kind of money around a house that was fairly isolated as their place was. I’ll bet they rethought that policy when they heard about what happened to the Clutters.

We drove into town in silence. Whatever needed to be said had been said the night before. I knew at some level I’d always love him, and that has in fact been the case.

Clint waited there at the bus station in Sweetwater until the bus came, then we embraced before I got on the bus. I swear, he looked like somebody had just run over his favorite puppy dog, and as for me, I cried until well past Abilene.

With all the stops and then the layover in Dallas while I waited for the southbound bus, it took me two days to get to Conroe, where I got off. I hesitated a long time before I made the call for someone to come pick me up.

It was Flo who answered, for which I was eternally grateful. She squealed when she heard my voice.

“Praise Jesus!” she cried when I told her I was home, which surprised me, because I’d never known her to be a particularly religious person. “I’ll send your daddy to come pick you up right now.”

“Um, Flo, I’d appreciate it if you’d come,” I said sheepishly. “I need to talk to you first, woman-to-woman.”

“Oh my,” she said. “I’ll be right along.”

Turns out Daddy was righteously pissed at me for leaving like I did, but he cried like a baby when I stepped through the door. I was also gratified to get a heartfelt welcome-home from my little brother and sister, who were both little more than toddlers. They’d missed their Rosie.

Surprisingly, Daddy wasn’t angry when Flo told him I was pregnant. Disappointed, yes, but he was just so grateful to have me home safely that he accepted the news with as much grace as I could reasonably expect.

I had done a lot of thinking on the long bus ride home, about my life and about my future. I knew I couldn’t stay in Montgomery during my pregnancy, and I really didn’t want to stay in Conroe either. Too close to home. I really didn’t care what people said about me, but I just didn’t want to deal with it until after the baby came.

So after the turn of the new year, I set about finding a cheap apartment and a job in Houston until such time as the baby came. I finally found a little garage apartment in a working-class section on the north side of Houston.

Today, that neighborhood is a high-crime area rife with gangs of various ethnicities, but back then it was a fairly quiet area, and reasonably safe. Daddy found an old Ford for me to drive and I took it to go look for a job.

That turned out to be easier said than done. Not many places were hiring pregnant 19-year-olds, especially when there wasn’t a husband in sight. I finally found a job — irony of ironies — as a waitress at a tavern a few blocks from my apartment.

It could have been a real nightmare, because the clientele wasn’t the best. The place was kind of seedy and it had a few shady characters hanging around that I had to fend off. Fortunately (I guess), the tavern owner, a big middle-aged fellow named Sal, had my back.

Of course, in order to gain his protection I had to sleep with him, which I wasn’t real keen on. But it wasn’t like it is today, where such a practice would be cause for a lawsuit on the grounds of sexual harassment.

I needed that job, he knew it, and I was willing to do what it took to keep it. He wasn’t a bad lover, and he didn’t hurt me, which he easily could have. I think he sensed that I’d fight him if pushed too far, and he was a lover not a fighter, although he could hold his own in a scrap.

I put up with it, and there was a part of me that welcomed the intimacy as I came off the rebound from Clint.

But in other ways it served to drive home what I’d lost. Sex with Clint had been an expression of love. Sex with Sal was just part of my job, and I always felt used when it was over. .

I was approximately eight months along and starting to really be uncomfortable when tragedy struck. It was in late June when Cameron Parish — my parents’ old home — was virtually wiped out by Hurricane Audrey.

Out of all of Daddy’s and my mother’s people, the only ones who survived were my grandmother, my mother’s mother, and my mom’s sister, Aunt Polly, and her family.

I think Mamere had a sixth sense about what was coming, because literally at the last minute, she decided she wanted to leave, and Polly, her husband and their three kids helped Mamere get out.

Folks down there had never seen a storm like it before, especially that early in the year, and most of them weren’t prepared. They thought the sand dunes along the shore would protect them, but the 12-foot storm surge rolled right over the dunes and washed everything away.

Losing kızılay escort so many loved ones in the storm changed my father in ways even my mother’s death didn’t do. He became very depressed, and took on the attitude that he was like that guy in the old comic strip that always had a rain cloud over his head.

The memories of all of the family he’d lost haunted him until the day he died, and that day wasn’t all that far off, as it turned out.

I worked at the tavern almost until the day my water broke one night while I was behind the bar. I called Flo frantically to meet me, then Sal drove me to the hospital, for which I was grateful.

I honestly don’t remember a lot about going through labor and Angel’s birth; it was all such a blur. But I do remember clearly the sound of Angel’s squalls moments after she was born, and the feeling of her squirming body as she was placed in my arms.

I looked down at her and I knew immediately that she was going to favor Clint. What little hair she had was blonde and when she finally opened her eyes, I could see they were sky-blue, unlike my deep brown.

I sent Clint a brief letter, telling him about his daughter and that we were fine, but I never got a response, and I wondered if he even got it. I felt like he would have sent some acknowledgement if he had.

I never went back to the job at the tavern, nor did I return to the dingy little apartment I’d called home through my pregnancy. I look back on that period as a kind of exile I put myself through as punishment for the sin of leaving my family for something as “trivial” as love.

Of course, it wasn’t trivial, but I felt like I needed to be alone to try to mend my broken heart and to pay for the pain I put my family through. Something deep in me needed for me to be subtly degraded so I could learn the lessons from my mistake.

And it was certainly degrading to live in that little place, working at a menial, sometimes dehumanizing job — a job that included barely-consensual sex on the side — and trying to scrape out a living, all while carrying a growing baby in my belly.

I resolved when I left the hospital with Angel and returned to Montgomery that I would never live like that again. And I haven’t.

The first thing I did was work out a rent agreement with Daddy and Flo. I was going to live under their roof again, because it was easier to live there with a newborn baby than to try to find another place. But things would be different this time

Flo was pretty much a full-time mom, although she worked part-time giving riding lessons. But she had my little brother Michael, who was 5 at the time and getting ready to go to school, and my sister Cheryl, who was 3.

So she could watch Angel right along with them when I was working, and conversely, I could watch Mikey and Cherie when Flo needed to get out and work. It was a good arrangement that worked well for the next few years.

As for work, I had made up my mind that I was going to do something I liked for a living, and what I wanted to do was work as a veterinary assistant.

I knew my way around animals, and I had the sense that that was what I wanted to do with my life. I wasn’t sure yet exactly how I would accomplish it, but that was my goal, and I bugged the local vet mercilessly until he hired me on.

I also helped Flo with her riding lessons, and got to be quite a good teacher. Before I knew it five years had passed, and my little Angel was getting ready for school.

As the kids got older, Flo’s riding school began to become a bigger and more important enterprise, especially after Daddy sold his gas station. His health had begun to fail, and in the spring of 1962, he’d come home with the news that he had lung cancer.

It was still a couple of years before they officially linked cigarettes to cancer, but I didn’t need a government study to know smoking was bad for your health. Just listening to Daddy hack and gack — even before he was diagnosed with cancer — told me that.

It broke my heart to see him waste away like he did, and to get away from the awful reality of Daddy’s condition, Flo and I spent more time at the riding school. And it was in that capacity that I met Jim Wilson.

Flo and I had taken the kids and gone to a livestock auction over in Brenham. She was looking for a couple of horses to add to her stable in order to meet the demand for riding lessons, and we had taken the kids and made a field trip out of it.

Jim was there bidding on some cattle for breeding stock for the ranch where he was working over in the Austin area. His family and Flo’s family had long been acquainted, and their paths had crossed at auctions like that many times before.

He was a few years older than me, probably 29 or 30, and he’d been divorced about two years, so I guess Flo thought to play matchmaker. He hung out with us and I found him fun to be around. He was a natural wit, and sharp as a tack.

However, I really didn’t think a lot about him after we went back home. I had dated some, and a few of those relationships had turned sexual, but I was being very careful, and all of the guys I dated sort of faded away when Angel started coming into the picture.

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