Mr. White had a white pick-up truck, a white mail box, a white Chevy Malibu, a white oak in his front lawn and a white, picket fence. Anything Mr. White had that could be white, was white. In this case it also meant that Mr. White was a cleaning and painting fool, Mrs. White not so much. So, Mr. White did everything but cook and laundry, except for the whites—he did those. His three daughters were off and on their own. Two were married and one was in law school at you know where. In three weeks Mr. White would retire from White’s Rent A Truck, a company he founded and operated for over thirty-five years now. All his trucks were white.
William J. White was the only black man in the neighborhood. He’d played it real cool twenty-five years ago when he moved in. He’d done all the moving at night and in one night and in the dead of winter. His wife nearly divorced him, and his daughters threatened to run away but they got it done in spite of the scowls and hissy fits. William was cheap, and proud of it. Moving company? Out of the question.
That spring, wearing fashions he’d copied from magazines William thought white people read, William J. White strolled openly down the street with Snowflake the pure white poodle well-heeled on a leash. Mr. White could talk good white people talk due to all the contact his business had with white people at the university and such. White people usually asked him if he was from Europe or someplace. “I was born in London,” William would always report because it was in fact true. And that seemed to please the white people just fine. William from London even got invited to join their book of the month club.
Mrs. White was a gambler and was quite good at it. She bet mostly sports and said her edge hating sports in the first place—hence, she never got emotional about any specific team. She told everyone she was just a housewife, but she made twice as much as William and he weren’t no slouch. Mrs. White could drink you under the table and never look like she took a sip. When she invited the neighbors to her first wine party and everyone saw how white their house was and how American, they drank too much white wine. Mrs. White got it all on her video camera. Now, she actually lied and told people she was from Montreal when she was really from Queens, New York. It was a white lie.
Mr. White played tennis at the country club because he was even worse at golf and the courts were near the bar. Mr. White was terrible at every sport save darts. He could throw the shit out of some darts. His wife played Canasta with the white women and took their money. She was a card sharp, too. There were many gamblers at the country club, and sometimes Mrs. White used her husband to place her bets. She won fifty-thousand dollars during the last March Madness. It also got her to thinking.
“Willie, Baby,” she said—and only she called him something other than William or Mr. White—“how much money we got in the bank?”
“A tad over eleven million dollars,” reported Mr. White proudly. “Everything is paid for, even Sandra’s senior year. Most of it is in the Cayman’s now. We have three-hundred thousand in the safety deposit boxes and seventy-five in the house safe. The Crougerons are still in Switzerland and worth maybe another two million, but those aren’t going anywhere.”
“That’s it?” asked Mrs. White a little more than peeved.
“We’re practically broke,” whimpered Mr. White.
And they both had a good laugh.
On the day Mr. White retired he collected a certified check for another six million dollars then drove over to Canada where he passed it off to a lawyer who would take it to Singapore for deposit in a special account. The only clause he’d insisted upon was that the name of the company stay the same for at least seven years. Now the company belonged to Mr. Roger Black, who was a white man from Africa.
Mrs. White bought a gun because, fuck it, she always wanted one. It was a nine millimeter Beretta with rubber grips and combat sights. She went to the range every day with that gun and practiced. And then she got a concealed weapons permit so she could take it anywhere. “Just don’t shoot anybody,” warned Mr. White.
Mr. White sold his white pick-up truck and bought a white Escalade. It had every option and feature known to exist on Earth, and was pearl white. He drove it to the country club right from the dealership and took Fred Comstock for a cruise down Huron River Drive to show it off. They killed a pint of Chivas along the way.
That very evening, while eating dinner at the country club, Mr. White’s table was approached by a well-dressed young man holding a white envelope. He bowed slightly and handed the envelope to Mr. White, and then left without so much as a word. Mr. White studied the envelope and then looked over to his wife. “It’s for you,” he said.
Mrs. White snatched the envelope and ripped it open in an instant. Inside was a single white page with just a few handwritten sentences. Mrs. White looked up from the paper and met evenly her husband’s quizzical eyes. “I think it’s in French.”
They finished their meal in silence and left immediately after. They drove straight home and found themselves seated in front of the computer which Mrs. White claimed could translate the writing because of the Internet. And, that was true. It took her a while, but Mrs. White finally hunted and pecked the necessary keys. The words on the monitor surprised both of them.
“What the Hell?” droned Mr. White.
Two weeks later they were still not sure of the letter’s meaning. Mrs. White had run out of interest, but Mr. White spent hours cogitating with the computer and the Internet to try to figure out what it all meant. Google sure as Hell didn’t know, and neither did Jeeves, or Bing or anything else. Mr. White showed that letter to everyone he knew, and no one could figure it out. After about a month, he gave up and threw the letter in the trash.
The next day he thought better of it and rushed outside to retrieve that letter from the trash can, but they were already dumped. Mr. White rushed to his white Escalade and raced off after the garbage truck and caught up to it on Lohr Road. Waiving frantically, he tried to get the garbage truck driver to pull over but he wouldn’t do it. Mr. White ended up following that garbage truck all the way to the city dump before he could wave a hundred dollar bill under the driver’s nose to get him to listen. It took another hundred dollar bill to get the driver to dump where the contents could be gone through, and another hundred to get him to help dig. Three hours later, under a blazing sun, Mr. White found his trash bag and ripped it open like a Christmas present. Unfortunately the letter was not there. Mr. White was distraught to say the least.
Back at home and after a long, hot shower Mr. White told Mrs. White what he had gone through, and she just laughed. “I got that letter out of the trash before it went out. Why didn’t you just ask?”
Mr. White got all snake-eyed and said, “What?”
“You know,” she said, “I had that letter delivered by that man. I thought for sure you would recognize my handwriting.”
“What did you do that for?” asked Mr. White.
“To get your mind off of selling your company and retiring. I know how much that business meant to you, and I read an article about what can happen to a retiring man. I was afraid you’d come up with some hair-brained idea that would result in work on my behalf. So, I decided to get your mind onto to something else and it worked like a charm.” Mrs. White took a sip of her coffee and reached for a donut. “I’ve been planning this for months now.”
Mr. White considered all this for a moment and shook his head. “You set me up.”
“Yes, sir I did,” replied Mrs. White. “And now we are ready to begin your retirement. We’re going to Mexico tomorrow.”
“Well can you at least tell me what that letter meant?”
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. It’s a quote by some man named, J. Lubbock,” replied Mrs. White. “It was on a carton of milk.”
“I get it. You want me to slow down now and take it easy.”
“No,” replied Mrs. White. “You can do whatever you want, but you should know I hired a maid and a cook.”