There are dynamics as consequences to some situations (scenarios/relationships) that are unobservable to the outsider. They are forces and events that only those directly involved perceive. (Though they don’t necessarily understand them!)
Donny spent a lot of cash on his wedding, and people like me (whom I would not have regarded as being of established enough acquaintanceship) were surprised to find ourselves invited.
The ceremony was a touchingly simple civil marriage performed in their home garden. They had been together for a few months. But were entering their second ‘committed’ relationship.
The invited crowd at the hotel restaurant, later, was a large one, fully occupying the available seating. The tables were well stocked with wine and the kitchen staff supplied a wonderful smorgasbord meal.
Donny, a musician himself, had a number of his musician friends present and after the meal in the restaurant we adjourned to the main bar area where instruments and amplifiers awaited the jamming that commenced.
We all had a great time and danced energetically. It was memorable.
Too bad such good times don’t last.
Nine months later the happy couple were very far from enjoying sustained marital harmony.
The relationship snapped apart. Donny was devastated. There were demands that could not be met, though being an outsider I’m not privy to the nature of that interpersonal turmoil. Donny tried to find a remedy but Noelene was adamant that the marriage was over! After just nine months? Yes!
Donny moped about for months in the ash-strewn post-euphoria.
It is perfectly understandable and a common repercussion for sourness to develop in this period. Donny had become a frequent visitor to our place, I guess in search of solace or diversion, and I had followed his anguish and attitudes. To be honest it had become a bit of a bore, this whole situation. I didn’t really relish further instalments of his ongoing saga. I sometimes consider myself a patient man but times like those prove how wrong that appraisal is. Each encounter found my ears (and the brain between) treated to another measure of matrimonial malignancy. The hopes, disappointments and friction of the intervening period were related to me with candor and I for my part responded with as much empathy as I could summon, but there was a certain impotence to my response. I didn’t know how to facilitate an improvement in Donny and Noelene’s rapport and I did know that I was hearing only one side of the story. I didn’t feel close to Noelene and wasn’t aware who her friends were. Was it partly because their shift to the country had meant Noelene leaving her city friends behind that the unanimity of their response to life had been undermined. Commuting to work in the city prevented her from fully embracing the rural life and its community (had she even wanted to).
Again, since it was only Donny’s side of the account that I’ve heard, I can’t be sure of the objectivity but he informed me of several attempts to engage himself and Noelene in some mutual counselling sessions. Noelene attended under some duress and ‘stormed’ out after her ‘demands’ were not met!
It was after the second such experience, whilst Donny was driving home alone to his now solitary existence that his hands gripped the wheel with mounting determination, reflective of an escalating obsession that had contorted itself through several twists in his mind and heart. Like a piece of jagged metal-swarf from a lathe it both pierced and cut, and pain of its passage triggered reflex of retaliation.
How clearly Donny foresaw the outplay of the germinating scenario in his fantasy I’m not likely to discover but he must have cultivated the plan to within sight of some sort of profit and that meant encountering scenes that demanded an obligatory chuckle.
The hard life that Donny had lived as a member of the band (burning the candle at both ends) had been fully published in Donny’s mind, demeanour and physique. He was clearly recognisable to any of his associates at quite a distance. But Donny had, until recently, been blind to the imprint that time and event were still making upon him. However, he managed to see himself as others see him one day when something a bit unnerving happened. While browsing in a bookshop Donny accidentally dislodged an adjacent book from the shelf and as he stooped to retrieve it glimpsed “someone else” bending to the same task. He caught himself about to respond verbally just as he met the “other’s” eye and was amazed to realise that it was his own reflection in a floor-length mirror. He was initially disconcerted by the impact his aging image made.
Now, as the familiar scenery passed on either side of the car, a plan dependent for its very existence on Donny’s recent visual experience of his outer self, was incubating within the shell of his cranium. He cocked his head and tried to recapture that bookshop shock as he braced himself for the confrontation with the rear-vision mirror.
He smiled a lame but wry smile as his all-too-familiar visage crowded the available reflective space and no jolt ensued.
He flicked the indicator lever and pulled left, turning into a side road that was, now, for him a detour to the small township at the upper end of the Waigill Valley and eventually applied his handbrake on the sloping road outside the village pharmacy.
Donny had an appearance that he had attempted (no matter how unsuccessfully) to maintain for the last 20 years. Now he was excited by the prospect of making some dramatic changes.
The Donny who strolled into “Russells” department store and ambled purposefully towards the sales counter in the section he knew Noelene worked was unrecognisable. He looked 15 years younger. His long grey hair and beard had parted company, he was now clean shaven and his short hair had been dyed a very convincing amber. He sported several freckles on each side of his nose.
He was a new man! Even his voice, when he spied Noelene rearranging clothing on one of the swimwear racks, was a very novel departure from anything Noelene would associate with her former mate.
In a voice that should have come from Glasgow or maybe Inverness, he innocently asked the salesperson before him whether a Noelene Murdoch worked in the store. Her answer, that she was her, did not of course surprise him but he managed to feign surprised delight and introduced himself as a Scottish cousin to her husband Donny.
How Donny (now “Angus”), who had never shown any proclivity for acting before managed to control himself during the intimacy of this bizarre subterfuge I haven’t fathomed. He explained that his and Donny’s grandfather had very recently died and (being extremely wealthy) had left a vast estate. The reading of the will had been postponed until all relevant next of kin had been contacted and, to this end, the trustees of the estate had empowered Angus with the funds to fly out to New Zealand to search for Donny. Donny’s Auckland address, from years previous, had remained in an ageing aunt’s diary as the only known location of possible contact. Reaching Auckland from where earlier attempts at written correspondence had returned unopened, Angus had toured the bars and night clubs in search of Donny’s acquaintances. Angus had found these in number as Donny had been a popular character but only a few had been able to give further clues for Angus to follow up. Eventually, having scoured Dunedin, and next Christchurch, Angus had been directed, he claimed, to a friend of Donny’s girlfriend who had informed him that Noelene was now married to Donny, and although she thought Donny was away in America on a business trip, she had given Angus Noelene’s work address. Hence, Angus explained, here he was and as expectant relatives back home were, as it was, ‘champing at the bit” to hear (and hopefully receive) from the reading of the will he knew he must depart tomorrow for Glasgow. Noelene as Donny’s wife, was legitimately entitled to share in Donny’s good fortune, and so long as she and Donny held a shared bank account, could follow Angus on the next available plane (the day subsequent to his own departure) and attend the will’s reading and accept the certain fortune that was ‘known’ to be bequeathed to the clan’s antipodean offspring.
Noelene was excited and overcome, with a selfish lust for capital gain. When Donny’s son, by his first marriage, confided this story to me that night (months later) in the bar of ‘The Lecherer’s Arms’ a year later he asserted his conviction that Noelene had betrayed this trait in his presence before.
Noelene made no attempt to dispel Angus’s illusion about Donny’s whereabouts, glad of the ‘fact’ that her estranged husband would be oblivious to her lucrative Scottish sojourn.
Angus’s insistence regarding the need for proof of a joint bank account prompted Noelene to suggest that Angus accompany her to the bank in the adjacent mall.
With Angus’s persuasion Noelene was permitted to complete her portion of the formalities required for the inssuance of the appropriate card. Her personal account was soon converted to a joint account. Angus explained in his best Scots accent that there was no danger to the bank since the card was necessary only as proof to the executors of the will and for the subsequent deposit of the inheritance.
The bank would hold Donny’s portion of the form, awaiting his signature and would issue his card on his return.
Inwardly Noelene chuckled at the incredible good fortune befalling her. Donny, She mused, would not even know about her current bank visit and so wouldn’t even get around to completing his part of the beaurocratic requirements: the Glaswegian windfall would all be hers. Even the conversion of her personal account into a joint account, something she had never been prepared to do whilst her and Donny’s life had been intimately entwined, was appropriate since it had obviously impressed Angus as an indication of matrimonial trust. Such a display of apparent financial integration between herself and Donny would help assure her soon to be met Scots in-laws of the safety of entrusting her with their clansman’s inheritance, and yet even this act of openness and vulnerability carried no real threat for her, since Donny would remain oblivious to the change in the status of her account!
Angus, perhaps the strain was becoming something to escape from, declared that his northern hemisphere biorhythms were still active and that he felt he should be in bed. Besides he did need to get some ‘shut-eye’, his flight departed in the small hours. He handed Noelene a photocopy containing a map of the relevant area of Glasgow featuring an arrow locating the premises of McPherson, Trustees and Actuarys, where the will would be read, stating date and time. With this was also a list of the addresses of the late grandfather’s descendants and their names, amongst whom was included Angus, together with an offer to provide her with accommodation during her stay.
As Angus bid farewell and departed in search of “a taxi to take him back to his hotel” Noelene headed back to ‘Russells’. She was ebullient. As head of her department she reorganised her staff and took an hour off work to arrange air tickets for her forthcoming trip.
While Noelene sought the services of Empire Travel Agents, Donny drove, barely witnessing the familiar world outside his vehicle. The afternoon’s comedy was being replayed in his head and he repeatedly shook his head in amused amazement. He wanted to tell someone. It was too precious to keep to himself, it had the making of a story, but he daren’t let the “cat out of the bag” just yet.
The escalating acrimony that had replaced Donny and Noelene’s other passions encouraged each to interpret the actions and intentions of the other in the worst possible light. Hence Donny saw in Noelene’s eagerness to collect his inheritance an artfulness he previously perceived (less clearly) directed only at strangers! He was annoyed with himself for not admitting earlier that that woman was more than shrewd. She was prepared to cheat him of what she believed was his birthright. Such implicit deceit showed why she had never in the past trusted him enough to agree to a joint bank account. She was the one with the money and she had imagined Donny to have been motivated by forces similar to those that concealed themselves behind the corners of her mind.
There was a poetic quality to the turning of these events. How much money did Noelene now have in her account. Despite the Matrimonial Properties Act, which ensured the sharing of assets between former couples at their breakup, Donny had initially been totally involved in attempting to reen mesh the now disparate gears of a matrimonial drive train that he considered would belatedly resecure a formerly attractive domestic oasis. (That initial grieving I’d witnessed left me in no doubt that Donny, the man, loved Noelene the woman. He was tired of an emotionally itinerant life and seemed to relish the prospect of domesticity). He had not attempted to secure what more mercenary individuals would perhaps have sought to gain. While he occupied himself trying to obtain dialogue the house was sold and the capital stashed in her account. (The place where the funds had originated.) Donny had lost the services of both legs and crutches and when the full reality of his situation dawned on him this little vindictive streak began to surface!
So now as Donny parked the car and headed inside to the bathroom, he repeatedly shook his head and chuckled. He again studied his appearance in the mirror and then washed out the dye and freckles.
In the kitchen he looked up Empire Travel’s number in the yellow pages and was soon making some discreet enquiries regarding his wife’s flight to Scotland. He was told that the urgent nature of the trip has ensured that Mrs Murdoch had been given ‘priority’ and was departing, as desired, the next evening. The staff at Empire Travel hoped that her daughter would recover after such a terrible accident! Donny almost asked “What accident?” but then realised that this was obviously a detail of the ploy Noelene had utilised to win Empire Travel’s prompt assistance and an early departure.
Was it too early to celebrate his success? Perhaps it was a little premature to take the cork out of that special bottle of wine he had been saving for some such occasion. He returned the bottle to the recesses of the fridge and retrieved instead the makings of a meal. As he rubbed his chin, wondering about additional ingredients, the rasping of the emerging stubble caused him to muse on the merits of a yet-to-be perfected heir fertiliser which, he fantasised could be rubbed into promote the rapid regrowth of his former luxuriant beard. Then, when he strode into the bank to complete the paperwork for the issuance of his joint account card, he could have been entirely the man from whom he knew Noelene wanted to keep it!
It was true that Noelene had supplied the necessary finance to purchase their home, and it was a much nicer place than the rundown premises he was now renting, but Donny was convinced that it was his contribution, his work on the building and about the property that had enticed an eager buyer; the gardens had been a picture!
He mockingly attempted to imitate the drone of bagpipes as he visualised Noelene stepping from the airliner onto Scottish soil. He could hardly contain himself when he pictured imaginary scenarios of Noelene hailing a taxi in quest of Angus Murdoch’s residence or attempting to assure the staff at McPherson Trustees and Actuaries that the reading of her grandfather-in-laws will was indeed scheduled to be read.
“It says so, here!” she would assert stabbing an impatient finger at the details in the photocopy Angus had given her.
The next two nights were a mixture of crazy (and at times guilt-ridden) dreams and an almost hysterical mirth as he tossed between the aging sheets. He looked forward to replacing them, a savage toenail had already hacked its way through the ailing fibres. The linen took exception to his restless nights!
Noelene, he knew, would be in the sky, several thousand kilometres away. The bank assistant checked his credentials, proffered the now-to-be completed papers, and she and Donny chatted about the American business trip from which he had just returned. “Yes”, he declared, “there’s room for Kiwi musicians with a bit of talent, in the States. Especially in the South!”
Would he be performing there himself? Well, he had been asked to do some backing work for Paul Simon.
“Yes, but I’m still thinking about it. I’ve got a few commitments here too, of course!”
And so it went on until Donny held that hot new little bankcard in his hand and strolled out to the nearest money machine to make the first of many withdrawals.
Over the next two days Donny made some very large withdrawals, leaving very little in the account. He sold all bar his most valued possessions and consigning them to Auckland headed north, himself, his thumb a hopeful beacon of hitch-hiker’s luck.
On the Cook Strait ferry Donny developed a conversation with an attractive woman, a little younger than himself who still exuded an aura of those old hippy days and ways. They leaned over the rail watching the sea birds, the dark petrels, swooping near the waves. The cold sea breeze snatched away the nostalgic wisp of New Zealand green and the shared and discarded roach met the ocean.
Karen had a car. They headed north from Wellington together.
The long drive to Auckland was relieved by several visits to various friends of Karen. She had acquaintances living singularly and in communities along the length of the trip.
It seemed expedient when Donny found that Karen would also be seeking accommodation in the big city that he offer sharing a flat. The idea was accepted and after a few weeks what had really been little more than a relationship of convenience, showed signs of evolving into something else.
As a laugh one evening Donny took Karen on a jaunt around some of his old haunts and clubs at which he had played during those years with the band. I say it was done as a ‘laugh’ because Donny had undergone a change of image. He wore different gear, bright open-neck shirts with a greenstone pendant playing hide-and-seek amongst his hairs on his chest. His short hair was now permanently hennaed. The cigarettes were gone but the well-chewed mouth piece of a pipe protruded from his sports jacket pocket.
These places they went to were also a thing of the past. There was the taking up of a new life in Donny. He was astounded to discover that at the “Ink Pot” the barman was the same bloke who had been serving there when he himself had been part of the establishment.
As a joke Donny, testing his degree of incognito, asked George whether he remembered a Donny Murdoch who used to be lead guitarist with “Exotherm”, 20 years previous.
“Yeah, I remember him all right, mate. Haven’t seen him for bloody near that long. There was some Scotch joker in here enquiring after him a week or two back but I couldn’t help him much either. Last I heard Donny was down in Dunedin, I think.”
Donny barely noticed the coincidence. But for some reason he and Karen drifted back out onto the neon-strewn street. The vibrant vermicelli formed rything reflections on the wet road as they dashed to the shelter of Karen’s Cortina.
It was nearly six months later that one day, whilst in the business sector of the city, Donny caught sight of something that made a short circuit through his neurons right back to that coincidental utterance at the “Ink Pot”. Just moving off from the light beside him was the latest model (in the 7 series) BMW and the woman driving it was someone he knew. Without a pen Donny used a spent match to scratch the registration plate number into his tobacco pouch and raced into the nearest shop. He asked for a copy of the yellow pages and immediately scanned the P section of the index for private investigators. He jogged to a phone booth and dialled the number for Horton B.K.
Within eight minutes he was surprised when a man in his late fifties disembarked from a small grey utility, a ladder and paint tins occupying the tray, and hailed him by name. So, this was the real face of the business of discretion.
Donny informed him of his query and he was told the likely cost.
Two days later when Donny had the bonnet of the Cortina up, replacing the points, a very sharp Mazda Sports cruised up and parked behind. The man Donny had met previous, but in a business suit this time, ambled over to where Donny was wiping the grease from his hands and passed him an envelope. The cheque book was retrieved from the Cortina’s glove compartment and Donny began to write out payment …
“Two fifty, instead of three” the man responded. “It was an easy job!”
Inside the house Donny slumped into a chair and ripped open the envelope, Karen was just removing scones from the oven.
Donny’s eyes were racing each other to the bottom of the page in chaotic eagerness to know…
“The woman in question is one Noelene Murdoch, formerly of Bowen (100 kilometres north of Christchurch), ex wife of Donny Murdoch (one time lead guitarist with “Exotherm”). Her transportation (the BMW) is one of two luxury vehicles she owns (the other a SAAB KL#). She lives at 4109 Park Avenue. Three weeks ago she returned to New Zealand, from Scotland, with a large sum of money…”