I remember where I was when I first heard this story.
I was playing outside on our back porch, circa early 1968. I was nine-years old. It was almost springtime in South Texas. There was a decent breeze blowing and it was mild. Mother had the windows open and I can remember how the sheer curtains looked as they were blown about by the wind. I could hear the weights sewn into the hems hit the wall with that familiar thud as the sheer panels floated back to their straight positions.
I could also hear my mother sitting in the living room with my Aunt Leena who was agitated about something.
Mother close to her sister in law. They were close in age and had known each other before Mother married Daddy, Leena’s older brother.
Now, I have to segue here in to just who and what my Aunt Leena was all about.
As far as the late 60′s social mores go, Leena, I suppose, would’ve been considered by some to be a ‘wild woman”. She was perceived to be a painted lady. She wasn’t. It was that that Leena was different. That’s all. She was a free spirit. She did things her way and her own terms. But, there’s always a price involved with being different and unique. She didn’t have a lot of friends other than two guys, one named Johnny Walker and the other, who went by the name, Jack Daniels. She could cuss like a stevedore. She was a flirt. This female bon vivant was an accomplished artist, a poet and a world traveler. She and her husband were jet setters and almost star-like. They were the closest thing my hometown ever had to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and that happen’ 60′s lifestyle.
All of this was compounded by the fact that Leena was a pretty woman; petite, dark hair, dark eyes and dewy, porcelain skin. She loved her false eyelashes and dark red lipstick. It worked on her and she worked it, too. Every morning, Sunday through Sunday, she’d get up and the first thing she’d do—slather on a full compliment of makeup eyelashes and lipstick. You never saw her without her public face. That only added to her fiery “kitten with a whip” nature. Men loved her; women loved to hate her. She was the hit of every party and turned every party into a hit.
My uncle Dan was an ambitious sort. He worked hard at his construction firm all the time to keep Leena in the extravagant lifestyle in which she’d grown accustomed. They owned the city’s first back yard swimming pool. Not only that, but cool statues and water features dotted the yard.
They were the first homeowners in town user back-lighting as an ambient accent.
This wonderfully comfortable lifestyle also included a stunning six karat solitaire wedding ring, her Jaguar, her beautiful six bedroom home, a live- in housekeeper/nanny and a full time gardener/valet/Cabana Boy. They took trips all over the world and of course, they owned several lovely homes which could accommodate friends and family in both the summer (Puerto Vallarta) and winter (Vail).
Conchita, their maid, was from Guatemala. She was young, very pretty and quite smart. She worked hard at keeping Leena’s house in order and money constantly flowing back to her family in her home country. She did everything…she cooked, cleaned, shopped, mopped and slopped (Cousin Jefferson had a pet pig). She folded clothes, took care of the kids, washed the dogs, serviced the cars and generally made life easy for my aunt and uncle. Conchita ran that house from top to bottom and Leena and especially Uncle Dan, were quite pleased with her performance.
OK, now for the gist of the conversation I overheard between Leena and my mother that morning.
It seems that a few hours earlier, Conchita approached Aunt Leena as she sat at her desk paying bills.
From what I could tell from my eavesdropping, the conversation between my aunt and her housekeeper went something like this:
“Señora, excuse me. Please we have little talk a minute?”
“Sure Conchita, what can I do for you?”
“Well Señora, I want ask you for more money. I want 2000 dollars a week.”
“Conchita, are you high??? Don’t be absurd. I simply will not pay you 2000 dollars a week!”
“You have enough money to pay. You have nice car, big house and a ring que es muy bonito. I want 2000 dollars a week!”
“And besides, Conchita I don’t like you’re attitude–not one bit!! Especially lately. You seem to think this house is yours. Well, it’s not. It’s mine. I’m your employer and you will do as I say and I will pay you as I see fit. And that is 60-dollars a week and frankly, you’re lucky to get that!”
“But Señora, it not enough. I need make more. I deserve more. Two-thousand dollars a week. Because I better at everything.”
“Si, es verdad! I know I cook better than you!”
“Oh please, Conchita! I studied cooking and cuisine in Paris…at the Sorbonne, thank you very much, and I graduated at the top of my class. I’m a gourmet cook. Who on God’s green Earth would tell you that you’re a better cook than me?”
“Your husband. He also tell me that I clean better around house.”
“Yes. I also be told that I’m a better lover than you are.”
“Oh, that’s just great! And I suppose my husband told you that as well?”
“No, the gardener did.”
Aunt Leena seemed angry and upset by that fact. I didn’t think it was so bad. It all made sense in my young, innocently juvenile mind. You see, I knew my aunt loved gardening, she was out there all the time with her gardening implements all around her—rakes, spades, trowel…whips. She loved being surrounded by her flowers and plants. She liked her gardener, .too. He was young, handsome, strong and .apparently perspired a lot. He rarely ever wore .a shirt. He also liked working in a strange, .stretchy gardener’s uniform like thing. .Aunt .Leena .worked closely with her gardener .on .many .projects…like night time planting and .early .morning trimming.
.Plus, everyone in town called her a hoer.
.ANYHOO.…..two weeks later, Conchita quit .working for Aunt Leena, though she chose to .stay in South Texas. I remember thinking that .was rather odd.
.Well, a few days later, my scout troop was on a .clean up excursion in an alley way between some buildings adjacent to downtown. I looked up and saw a beautiful brand new Porsche parked in a vacant lot, partially obscured by trees. The car was just 25-feet away so I was able to get a good look. Yep, it was Conchita sitting behind the wheel with the car seat semi-reclined. The car also had personalized license plates that read, “Chita 1″.
I heard her shouting, “Ay, Papi..Papi..PAPIS!!!!”, over and over.
I thought she was just doing a really bad impersonation of the Wicked Witch of the West when Dorothy and her Ozidian friends were running through that field of red flowers on their way to the Emerald City….that is, until they all fell asleep for some reason.
Wow…nice ride. I remember thinking, “With getting paid scratch like that, man I want to be a maid when I grow up!”
She looked up,s aw me…kind of gave me a little waive, then she smiled, with this weird expression…I think her eyes were rolling back in her head. She then quickly moved her head from side to side while making these strange high pitched yelping noises. She threw her head back and then quickly sat up in her seat a little. She pounded the steering wheel a few times like she was trying to make a point. I guess. When she did, I saw something sparkle in the sunlight. Was that? Was that??? Yep it was–she was wearing a huge diamond ring that even at a distance, looked a lot like Aunt Leena’s.
She sat there a second, eyes closed and panting. Then, as best I can tell, she removed this big purse from her lap. I mean it was a HUGE purse that might have been made out of some kind of strange looking pelt. It was hairy and clumsy looking.
Oddly enough, it was also wearing a man’s blue polo shirt.
Now that I think about it, that purse looked a hell of a lot like my Uncle Dan.