Thursday, April 21, 2022

Portrait of Miss Emmalee, A 5-Part Serial – Part 4 blog post #546

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Is Richie getting to the bottom of the puzzle well? Has he discovered his mother and Miss Emmalee shared a physical relationship? Explained his dad’s hostility to the Vanderports, doesn’t it? But he has t dig deeper. Make sure he’s on the right track. That and pay attention to the intriguing Jorge.



                                                         PORTRAIT OF MISS EMMALEE

One evening, Jorge came over, and we settled on the couch with cold beers. He brought me up to date on happenings at the shop, and then we got down to the real purpose of the visit. I had his shirt off and his pants halfway down his thighs when he suddenly rebelled.

“I can’t do it, Richie-O,” he exclaimed.

Startled, I sat up, still halfway addled by the expanse of brown flesh and sinewy muscles before my eyes. “Can’t do what?”

He grabbed for his pants and hauled them up. Then he covered his nipples with his discarded shirt. “This, man. Not with her staring at us.”

I glanced around. “What’re you talking about. There’s nobody here but you and me.”

He lifted an arm in the direction of the fireplace. “Her, man. She watching us. She frowning.”

I laughed. “There’s a picture of my mother over on the piano. That never bothered you before.”

“She not watching us. This one, she watchin’, man.”

I knew Jorge was seriously disturbed when his English went fractured. “Okay, she can’t see us in the bedroom.”

“Uh-uh. She already seen. She know… man.”

“Jorge, it’s a picture. Just a painted picture.”

He drew on his shirt. “Don’ care. We go my place, okay?”

We did, and he was as loving and demanding and wonderful as ever. A rather remarkable night, actually.


Jorge’s reaction to Miss Emmalee’s portrait served to further fan the flames of my curiosity. I was blown away by the fact that I really knew so little about a woman who’d been a fixture in my hometown until I realized that was true of so many of us. Except for our own family, our own peers, we usually know only the public faces of others in our lives.

Foremost in my mind was my suspicion of a relationship between my mother and Miss Emmalee. I didn’t actually believe it… but then I didn’t disbelieve it, either. Other things began to seep out of my unconscious into the light of day. Miss Emmalee had attended my mother’s funeral and seemed to be a bit emotional at the church. My dad’s poorly hidden animosity toward the Vanderports. Another thought sent me looking through my family’s financial records. I knew my dad had been an insurance salesman, a successful one given the standard of living the family enjoyed. Yet, I recalled something about some outside income.

My mom had taken ill and died rather quickly, and we hadn’t had an opportunity to talk about… well, final arrangements. I was a signatory on Mom’s bank accounts, so I paid for her service out of her bank account, and recouped the money later when her life insurance proceeds came. Now, I looked deeper and found what I vaguely remembered. Old records showed a “trust” income of one thousand dollars a month from something called the “Orchard Trust.” What the hell was that? My own records showed the monthly deposit had switched from Mom’s account to mine upon her death. The fact my curiosity hadn’t been ticked showed just how unworldly I was. Nothing meant much to me except cars and Jorge.

My banker referred me to my dad’s lawyer. A day later, I sat in Jason Brown’s office and awaited an explanation. Actually, Jason was a peer of mine. His father had been my father’s attorney, but had since gone the way of my dad.

He reviewed the file he had before him for a few minutes, and then lifted his eyes to meet mine. “The trust was set up almost twenty-nine years ago, Richie-O. Original amount was one and a half million smackers. Never been touched except for the monthly stipend, so it’s grown a tad over all these years.”

My head spun. “One and a half million? What was the original source of the funds?”

“Dunno. I’d have to go back into the tombs to find those old banking records. I can tell you it was a lump sum payment. Actually, the payments have been to your mother with you as the successor beneficiary should something happen to her. You didn’t know about this?”

“Nope. What am I allowed to do with the funds?”

He consulted the file again. “Anything.”


“You can let it go on as it is or take the whole thing at one chunk. Cash out and terminate the trust, if you want.”

“Who’s the trustee?”

He went round-eyed. “Me, I guess. Although my secretary handles lots of thing for me that Dad used to take care of. Are you thinking of doing something with it?”

“I don’t know. Can you make a copy of the papers for me? I’d also like to know the source of the original funds.”

“Sure. Take a little digging, but can probably figure it out.”

I left Jason’s office in a daze, but I had one thought firmly fixed in my mind. That money was Vanderport money. Had to be. Nobody else in town had that kind of wealth. It sure didn’t come from my mom’s family. Her folks had been dirt farmers. Not Dad’s, either. His parents had worked for a living all their lives. Furthermore, if it came from his side, he’d never have put it in a trust for mom. He’d have driven a Cadillac instead of a Ford. Eaten steak instead of ground beef. I sighed. My suspicions about Mom and Miss Emmalee seemed to be the only answer. But why would Miss Emmalee set up a trust for my mom? Even if they were lovers, that seemed a bit over the top. As much as I loved Jorge, I wouldn’t set up a trust for him like that. I’d give him the shirt off my back if he were in a bind, but set up a trust? No way.

With my mind running off in all directions, I went to see Mr. Fredricks, the teacher who’d installed me in his over-the-garage apartment.

“You always thought it was my largess,” he admitted. “But Miss Emmalee swore me to secrecy. She paid me a hundred dollars a month for the whole time you lived there.”

Next, I looked up my former boss at the car parts store. James Wilson’s story was similar. “She asked me to give you a job,” he admitted. “Course, she did me a favor. You were a damned good worker, Richie.”

I expressed my puzzlement over Miss Emmalee’s hidden influence on my life, and he suggested I talk to someone named Hilda Winemaker up in Tulsa. “She and Miss Emmalee had been thick as thieves. Grew up together and you never saw one without the other until Hilda married a man in Tulsa.”

I located the lady via the internet and gave her a call, explaining I was curious over my mom’s connection to the Vanderports.

“Everyone knew the Vanderports,” she said. “There isn’t anyone in that town who wasn’t influenced by that family. What are you looking for, Richie.”

She knew my name but not my familiar. “Just some things that have come up since Miss Emmalee’s death. About her and… my mom.” I held my breath as she answered.

‘I remember Mary Orchard very well. Your mother was a wonderful woman.”

“That she was.”

“A little intimidated by your father,” she added, “but a good woman.” She paused, perhaps for a reaction from me, but I didn’t give her one. “I’ll tell you what? If you’ll come up to Tulsa, we’ll have a quiet lunch at my home, and I’ll tell you all I know about Miss Emmalee.”

Miss Emmalee, not my mother. But I didn’t hesitate. “Would tomorrow be too soon?”

“Tomorrow would be fine.


So the portrait spooked Jorge, as well, but in a deeper way, perhaps. At any rate, he wants to move their lovemaking activities to his place because… “She knows, man.” Richie has also learned Miss Emmalee was more involved in his life right up until he went into the army after graduating high school.

 But now, he’s found a woman in Tulsa who might give him some answers. We’ll find out what she tells him next week.

 Until then.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

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Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.



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