Magic Thinking

It’s so wrong. Why won’t my magic thinking produce the desired result? I mean, I’m entitled to a harem of SHYTs, a personal and doting chef, like, the total Hugh Hefner life, right? And the downtrodden just need bougie jobs and all the trappings of bougie life, right? Things just need to be equitable.

It’s been done. Take farmers and make them surgeons. Disaster. Mao tried it during the Cultural Revolution. The result was more bodies. But Mao is a god so if he says it then it must be true.

Everything a SHYT desires can be ordered through her phone. She just needs a Sugar Daddy’s card. It’s her right to be given everything she desires. She’s hot, so . . .

Magic Thinking Lies

Charlie lies. He’s an amazing storyteller and an awesome salesperson. He’ll close deals. Good, right? Well . . . no. The promises aren’t the issue. It is his follow-through that sucks. He’s long on vision and short on execution. So he washes pots and boasts that one day he’ll buy out Elon Musk. Get some liquor in him and the tales get grander.

People lie so Charlie isn’t remarkable there. His aunt’s lies are a bit more story worthy. His Mom’s sister was a miracle. It should not be that one woman could string the world along with pearls of wind and water for decades and not get arrested.

Betty Oops

Betty Kennon (1964-2022) passed two weeks ago. Ms. Kennon died from complications related to cirrhosis of the liver. She was found by a nurse’s aid at Hermitage Richmond with an empty bottle of gin in her hand and an unlit cigarette. Services are being arranged at St. John’s Baptist Church.

Ms. Kennon graduated with honors from Charles City High School in 1981. Her next academic achievement was a Bachelor of Science in Gender Studies and Sociology. She was a member of the Commonwealth Club and the Junior League. She was a sponsor in the 1983 Bal du Bois. Her volunteer activities include the United Way, WCVE, and Catholic Charities. She enjoyed meeting her Red Hat Society friends for many years.

Betty married James (Jim) Goode in 1986. Mr. Goode and Ms. Kennon are divorced. Ms. Kennon has no other living relatives.

Flaming Pants
© Arts Fire 2019

Oh But There is More Magic Thinking

Charlie likes to say that his aunt was the largest and oldest landowner in Charles City County. True in Charlie’s magical thinking, not true IRL. His aunt owned the Goochland farm and a condominium. Yes, that farm. The one that Ophie is renovating. Still respectable, no? No. Betty ate her wealth. There was some drinking also.

Yeah. +1 drunk dead. Not a story. Nor is it a story that Betty never got out of the death spiral started when she was a mean girl at Charles City High. This is a story, though. How God loves fools and children and provides for mean drunks like Betty. She died at Hermitage Richmond. So she wasn’t a bag lady.

Death Leaves a Hole

Betty, when Jim got a look at her estate, found debt. The farm had a reverse mortgage on it. The condo was in foreclosure. She owed two years of HOA fees. All her credit cards were maxed out. Cell phone cut off. Hermitage Richmond provides WiFi to its residents. But Betty hocked her laptop and her phone.

Right, why is the ex-husband doing anything? Betty never changed the will they wrote when they first got married. You could say her relationship status was complicated. Jim left because he couldn’t be married to a drunk. So on the day Betty put down a fifth of cheap gin and ugly cried about it. And here we are, the ex-husband left with the trash heap of issues generated by decades of Betty’s alcoholism. And Charlie, who has had his aunt’s inheritance escalates the misery. At least Saito keeps him occupied with Philippine girls and a job. It’s a life, not great, but it’s a life.

Death shoves a hole into the lives of those left behind. Even when there are good intentions and decent estate planning somehow the loss creates a wake of chaos. Betty’s life was dysfunctional. She was a toxic woman. But she lived to 88 years old, had a decent curriculum vitae, and left behind a faithful ex-husband and a nephew who looked up to her. She also left a miserable mess.

But . . . Charlie

Charlie followed his own similar path. St. Christophers K-12, VCU with honors. A BS in finance. He was headed to Wall Street and a comfortable future. What happened? Betty. Charlie, good egg that he was, tried to rescue her. She just needed a little help sorting out her money and catching up on her bills. Oh, and if he could bring her a fifth of gin.

So it began. Betty’s damsel in distress schtick worked with Charlie. “Charlie, please help me!” And he would. Rinse repeat. Over time she promised Charlie the farm was his. And quietly sold it to Essex bank in a reverse mortgage. Charlie had his Connecticut condo and Wall Street life. But the pic line on his life inserted by Betty kept bleeding him.

To stop the sinking ship Charlie gave up his Goldman Sachs job, moved to Richmond, and took a job as a teller at Virginia Credit Union. He also found Saito-san’s Paradise Casino. If Charlie could just hit it big at the poker tables he could recover and be ok. He’d get Betty to stop drinking, put her financial life in order, and be less of an irritant to the family. Uhm, Charlie . . . she’s a drunk.

The Road to Hell

Early on, the promises are fulfilled. The habit works. A couple of drinks and the awkward one loosens up and is pleasantly gregarious. A Benjamin in chips returns fivefold. Magical thinking leads one to believe that coincidence is causality. Using a Morgan Silver Dollar is a guaranteed win. Betty and Charlie are dazzled by the moth lamp and can’t walk away. So they fly into the bulb hoping it will fulfill their desires. It does and it also has a half-life.

Then the timer starts on when enough is enough. When will things decline to “sick and tired of being sick and tired”? When will the spell of magic thinking break? IRL we all hope the addict gets there before they collect a toe tag. But that wouldn’t be worth 1500 words of your time.

One more paragraph before I get on with it. And thank you for scrolling down this far. Last thing, promise. Prose blathers on and describes, argues, or otherwise stands askance of the story. Fiction puts you in the story. I’m a prose writer trying to learn to write fiction. Sorry if my prosaic tendencies annoy you.

If Only I Had Gone Home

Charlie isn’t the first regular at Saito-san’s casino. Betty preceded him. She was a whale at the Paradise Casino. At least, for a while. For Saito-san, a rich Virginia woman in debt to him was an annoyance. Betty was of no use to him. Once her bar tab and casino debt got deep enough that getting paid was unlikely, she was shunned. Her debt was written off.

Enter Charlie. Who promised he was her trustee (false) and could take care of her affairs. So not only did Betty reverse mortgage the farm and fail to pay her condo fees, she and Charlie both signed promissory notes to the casino placing a lien on her property. Charle will never leave Paradise Valley.

So . . . 3 am. Betty is down $100K. Big trouble for most of us. A regular night for her. She’s at the craps tables staying on black–and losing. Sober? Of course not. She’s switched to white wine after starting the night with Gentleman Jack sweet tea.

I’d Be Up Bigly

Betty coulda, woulda,shoulda gone upstairs and caught a nap. She’d hit a streak and was up $200k from her bottom. She was up bigly. Betty, though, isn’t worth anything to the casino if she is winning. The house needs to win. And they do. And they did with Betty. By 7 am she’d been up all night, drunk all night, and the casino cut her off. Not even pay for her breakfast buffet? How’s she do? Down $300k.

Saito-san approved another night but shut off her casino account. Monday morning and the harsh light of the work week impinged on her hotel room window. At 11 am a driver was there to take her to the airport for her flight to RVA. No option. Fly home or face arrest. She flew home.

Pink Pony Magic Wands

I’d love that. A toy magic wand that works. All my wishes granted without condition. Friends that know me, though, would fight to get that wand away from me. Because they know me and the trouble I’d cause if waving the wand and making a wish actually worked. Charlie, Betty, and many others want to be Cinderella. They want the fairy godmother to give them their fantasy debutante ball and a handsome prince(ss) at the story’s end.

The depressing thing is, life is more brutal than we want. Choices have consequences. Addiction ends in either recovery or death. Wanting the country to drop coal, natural gas, and oil as primary energy sources by the wave of a Pink Pony Magic Want is a pretty and foolish thought. I don’t know about you. I know that I have to work. The way I pay my bills is to carry people from A to B. Tough life and I’m grateful for it.

Betty died penniless. She believed she was the gambler who would hit it big and be set for life. Charlie, the codependent nephew, believed he could win the battle against her windmills and save her. Betty is dead and Charlie is a pot washer in Saito-san’s casino. Pink Pony Magic Wand fail.