My Dinner With Dexter Douglas

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(Excerpt From Facebook Ate My Marriage.  Republished with permission from Hell Bent Press and the Author)

Chapter 47:  My Dinner with Dexter Douglas and Other Terrors

“Goddamn, son of a bitch,” Dr. Douglas growled as we sat for our biweekly dinner at Vitoli’s.

This exclamation went unnoticed over the general din of dinners who were engrossed in their own conversations; being “season,” the restaurant was packed with snowbirds whose hearing aids were set low so they could focus on expressing their own views loudly to their dinner companions. On the whole, the meal was going well. We had gotten through the usual preliminaries of Dr. Douglas insisting that I order before he did – a game of chicken where it came to both the food on offer and the expense involved – and he had not once mentioned DeeAnn or my personal turmoil.

“The fucker is a fucking convict!” Dr. Douglas continued on the subject that was foremost in his mind: the warrant that had been issued for the head of the firm with which he did his accounting.

“Really?” I said, knowing full well this was in fact the case.

“Asshole did nine years inNew Jerseyon tax fraud charges,” he snapped, punctuating the fact of the accountant’s criminal history by downing an entire glass of cabernet sauvignon in one swallow.

I refilled the glass and considered how much better the evening was going than I had anticipated. The weather had turned distinctly unpleasant – sunny the last several days, upper eighties and clear blue skies, the sort of weather snowbirds thrive in, but that year-round residents of Florida would prefer to see on display in mid-August – and it had placed a definite foreboding in my mind as to what the evening’s events were likely to be. Instead, the manhunt for the missing “alleged” accountant and Dr. Douglas’ pending tax problems were the topic of the evening and required of me nothing more than that carefully practiced understanding and listening that 27 years had so perfectly trained me for.

“Now I have to get a cock-sucking lawyer,” Dr. Douglas growled and drained his glass again; entrees had as yet to be served.

“Why?” I asked, again knowing full well the answer, but wanting to keep Dr. Douglas on the topic.

“Two fucking cock-sucking lawyers!” he said, ignoring the question as I refilled his glass. “Goddamn tax attorney and a fucking criminal attorney!”

“I understand maybe the tax attorney, but why…,” I began.

“Don’t you watch the fucking news?!? The Goddamn IRS and the FBI raided the fucking firm! They took out everything! Records, receipts, phone logs, even the damn paper clips!” Dr. Douglas spat, taking in my presence in the conversation for the first time in the last 15 minutes.

“Actually, I don’t,” I said truthfully, having stopped watching nearly all television since DeeAnn’s departure.

“So you didn’t even know about the fucking hurricane that came within a few miles of hitting us?” he asked in disbelief.

“My mother mentioned it to me after the fact, but no, I did not. I just thought the weather was unseasonably pleasant,” I said, once again truthfully.

“Jesus Christ, you can get fucking killed in this state if you don’t follow the news,” Dr. Douglas said in agitation and downed another glass of wine.

At the rate he was going, we would be on a second bottle before the meal was served. So I shrugged, poured him another glass and did not point out that the news had not helped him avoid getting involved with a criminal who had successfully passed himself off as a lawyer and an accountant for the last seven years in Florida.

“Anyway,” he continued, sipping this glass of wine, “I’m not the biggest fish. So if I get in early, maybe the cock-sucking attorney can cut a deal before the shit hits the fan.”

For the benefit of my readers I should explain that my knowledge of these events – the criminal who played accountant, attorney and real-estate developer – had come to my attention by way of the practice in which I am an associate. The hygienist, Helen, who does watch the news, informed me in detail of the unraveling events in our community as a “Prominent Business Man” was being sought by the police, the FBI, and the IRS in connection with a “Money Laundering” investigation. She provided me with regular updates through the course of the day, both as a subject of conversation and out of the more pressing interest that the party being sought also did the taxes for the practice by which we are both employed. Thus, my keen interest and general state of good humor at the fact that I was neither owner of the practice nor involved with the offending party being sought by authorities.

As to “Bigger Fish,” that was certainly true. There were three major financial firms, an army of doctors, lawyers (including a prosecutor), a judge, and two state representatives, as well as most of the sheriff’s officers, who did their accounting with the firm. The ramifications were considerable and only touched upon me as it regarded the possibility of unemployment being yet another event to anticipate. Weighed against other recent life events, this was a fairly minor, low drama and allowed for a certain detachment.

“I am going to have to sell the plane and the boat,” Dr. Douglas nearly groaned as he reported this conclusion.

It has been observed that neurotics build castles in the sky and psychotics move into them (DeeAnn being the prime example of a resident of such an abode).

So the fact that Dr. Douglas’ shell corporation owned these two items, which bore the names “Castle in The Sky” and “Castle in the Sea,” respectively, had about it a sort of poetic symmetry. That his practice took large deductions for “Promotional” use of these, which were paid to the shell company which, in turn, took accelerated depreciation deductions and expenses, means that Dr. Douglas is facing a not inconsiderable tax liability, with accrued interest, penalties and – potentially – criminal charges.

I sipped my wine.

“Fucker,” he said, apropos of no new line of conversation, and downed his wine.

I waved down the waiter to get us another bottle.

By the time the meal was served (I had the chicken spinach cannoli and he had the veal marsala), he was sliding off into the realm of an irritable stupor from which he would occasionally erupt with a profanity regarding attorneys, taxes, the IRS, or the “Goddamn son of a bitch” who had been his accountant for the last six years.

Our waiter for the evening, Lazarro, was solicitous as to the quality of our meal, dining experience and any other issue that might be contributing to Dr. Douglas’ ill humor.  Lazarro is one of the two owners of Vitoli’s. The other owner, his mother, is a full blooded Sicilian whose commitment to creating every meal from scratch makes Vitoli’s an exception among restaurants in the dining wasteland that extends south from Tampa to nearly Fort Myers before another real restaurant can be found (as opposed to the warming and microwaving station with atmosphere that most chain and small restaurants have become over the last few decades).

“The food and the wine are excellent,” I said, attempting to quell Lazarro’s concerns that a regular patron was dissatisfied in any way with the dining experience.

“Bastard,” Dr. Douglas muttered and sipped his wine.

Lazarro’s eyes widened and before a misunderstanding could further develop, I put in, “He is referring to his accountant, the one the police are looking for.”

Lazarro’s countenance underwent an immediate change.  He turned a bright red and began spouting a stream of rapid angry Italian before concluding in English, “the fucker of mothers.”

As Lazarro speaks perfect English, and given that his last utterance indicated he was so exercised that he was barely able to emerge from his mother tongue, I had a sneaking suspicion as to where Vitoli’s was doing its accounting for the last few years. He immediately brought us another bottle of wine.

With the evening wearing on, the restaurant began to empty – snowbirds do not like to miss their prime time television. Dr. Douglas sank further into a morose stupor and Lazarro joined us with another bottle of wine “on the house.” It was thus that my presence and participation in the meal and the conversation became entirely unnecessary. For the next hour and a half, Lazarro and Dr. Douglas declaimed the inequity of life, made lifelong vows of vengeance upon the criminal accountant, and largely ignored each other’s contribution to the exchange of views except to feel the bonds of a brotherhood of the damned.

Left to my own devices, except to occasionally contribute a nod, sip my coffee and prod at my tiramisu, I was given time to note a few things and reflect. What I noted was the absence of Caroline Carter, and I wondered if the blessed date of her nuptials had already occurred. What I reflected upon was how these meals began. They were at the instigation of Dr. Kormos, who insisted I needed a mentor in Florida to help me get out on my own again in practice. Out of deference to our friendship, he recommended his esteemed colleague, Dr. Dexter Douglas, who was only too willing to take me under his wing, as it were.

In essence, what had been meant to be an uplifting guidance to success, independence, and achievement in the “Dentist Eats Dentist” world of Gulf Coast Florida, had devolved into a biweekly meal – which Dr. Douglas paid for – at which he would pour out wisdom and contempt, in equal portions, on my willing person. The event of the dissolution of my marriage (a term both legal and descriptive) had simply added fodder to Dr. Douglas’ mealtime monologs. Tonight’s events were a welcome change of pace and I was somewhat saddened by the evening drawing to its conclusion as I knew another respite of this sort was unlikely anytime soon.

So the two wronged men, faced with the financial and legal terrors still unknown, shook hands, then embraced. They gave each other words of encouragement and cast more oaths against the criminal accountant as we made our way to the door.

When we arrived at my car – as I was stone-sober and the designated driver – Dr. Douglas, drunk though he was, regained himself enough to observe, “Your car is a piece of shit.”

“So you have previously observed,” I said, helping him into the ancient Lincoln Town Car.

“You are never going to get laid driving a piece of shit like this,” he said, managing to fasten his seatbelt on the third attempt.

That this was not one of my pressing concerns I did not say, choosing instead to shrug.  DeeAnn had, as part of her many demands to help establish her in the new position to which she now occupied, required one of the two family cars. That this left me without transportation – as Bryce needed the other for school and work – and that there were no means for me to purchase a serviceable car, owing to both finances and a credit score so low that it wouldn’t even pass for a bowling score, was of no interest to her whatsoever. With a few hundred dollars, and to the relief of a family whose grandfather had nearly killed a dozen people while driving the wrong way down a street closed for an arts festival, I managed to find the vehicle I call “the land beast” but which Dr. Douglas refers to more accurately as “the piece of shit.”

As a vehicle goes, it is at least functional and, by all appearances, in fairly good condition. That it does have certain features that are indicative of a state of not quite ideal operation, is just one of those little quirks that makes one feel a certain affection for the vehicle and for the person who made its purchase necessary.  For example, the rear windows do not fully close. Under most conditions this is not a problem, as it allows the vehicle to air out when water accumulated in the back seat from daily rainstorms evaporates in the midday sun. The trunk, which does close, has a hydraulic motor (presumably to help the elderly driver open and close it without shattering an osteoporotic vertebrae in the process) that does not quite fully retract the trunk, giving the impression, to the casual observer, that a human body, or some other resistant obstruction, is barely being contained. The repair of any of these little quirks would cost as much as the vehicle itself.

These features, and the odor that I have likened favorably to a four-day-dead wet raccoon, did not escape the attention of the property manager of the Balboa subdivision. I refer not to Audrey Towbridge, who is a district enforcement officer (possibly self-appointed), but the actual management group to whom we are obliged to pay our annual association fees. The notice I received was regarding the “Maintaining or parking of inoperable vehicles within the limits of the subdivision.”

Being early days in terms of my divorce and PFA, I ignored the letter and caught a ride with Helen to work – the owner doctor not being pleased to see “the land beast” parked in my space at the practice. Coming home on a Friday, I noticed a chalk mark behind the rear wheel. Incensed, I marched into the house, went into Heather and Julies’ room and retrieved a piece of chalk. Next to the mark I scrawled, “Stay off my property” and added as an afterthought “Asshole.”

That Monday, I received another notice regarding my car and a notice about my driveway “not comporting with the standards established in the subdivision bylaws. To wit – graffiti on the driveway.” I resolved both issues by cleaning the chalk off my drive with a garden house and driving the “inoperable vehicle” to the property manager’s office to argue on the topic of the graffiti they had started and pointing to the self-evident fact of my vehicle’s operable nature. I further argued the vehicle make and model was heavily represented among vehicles currently owned in the subdivision.

To avoid further issues, I have taken to driving the vehicle to work and parking it around back next to the dumpster. This has proven satisfactory to both the property management of the Balboa subdivision and the doctor who owns the dental practice.

Arriving at Manhattan Meadows Reserve, the gate guard gave me a look of considerable doubt as to my presence there – despite the fact that I had driven this same vehicle to this same subdivision once every two weeks since DeeAnn’s demanded delivery of our other car to Media – and greeted me with the officious contempt as only a person whose social security and retirement benefits requires them to wear a uniform and stand at a gate all night for eight dollars and fifty cents an hour can achieve. “May I help you?” he snarled.

Dr. Douglas flopped forward onto the dashboard, looked out past me at the guard and began to squint, “Do I know you?”

“Yes, Dr.Douglas,” the guard said, not changing his posture but assuming an air of deference towards the inebriated Dr. Douglas.

The gate rose, I drove in, and the guard resumed his air of officious contempt towards me and “the land beast.”

If the Balboa subdivision had issues with my vehicle, Manhattan Meadows Reserve probably would normally not even let a vehicle looking like “the land beast” in to deliver pizza. I always find it deeply satisfying to drive the winding road among the mini-mansions, which are all shoehorned in together around golf course holes and picturesque storm sewer ponds, knowing that I am driving property values down by my mere presence. Pulling into Dr. Dexter’s driveway, I made to get out of the vehicle to help him out, but he waved me off.  “I’m fine,” he slurred as he rummaged in his pockets for his house keys.

I was just preparing to put the car in reverse when he slumped against the side of the car. I thought he had collapsed and was about to jump out to assist him when he snapped his head up, squinted one eye to look at me and said, “Seriously, you’re never gonna get laid driving this piece of shit. Go an’ rent something nice for the weekend and pick up some chicks. Get your yayas, for God’s sake.”

This was, I realized, a bit of last minute mentoring from Dr. Douglas who felt he needed to contribute something to improve the quality of my life. That it was essentially what he had said the last time I had seen him, was not the point. I was touched that he made the effort.

“Sounds like a plan,” I responded cheerfully.

“I mean man, how fucking long has it been since you got laid?” he asked earnestly, nearly leaning in through the open passenger side window.

“Don’t know,” I answered reflexively, as this was not a topic I cared about or cared to explore.

“Bull! Every guy knows,” Dr. Douglas grunted. “Me, it was this afternoon with my receptionist. Before that, it was last night with the old lady.”

Dr. Douglas stepped back and began to giggle, then tripped over a hedge and landed in his lawn, from where he seemed disinclined to rise. I was now on the horns of a moral dilemma:  leave him on the lawn – possibly insensible – to be sprayed by reclaimed water, or help him to the house?  While conscience told me to drive away, that self-destructive impulse that people sometimes refer to as humanity, prompted me to turn off the car, get out, and help him to the door.

“Is that you?” he asked as I lifted him bodily from the lawn and helped him get his feet under him.

“None other,” I responded, draping one of his arms over my shoulders to steady him as I walked him up the sidewalk to his front door.

“So, seriously,” he began and then stopped.

I said nothing and hoped the thought and his mind would wander off somewhere else.

“Like, what kind of fucking life do you have now?” he asked, his mind and the thought not having gone far enough away.

I considered dropping him into a nearby shrub or the large water feature that was illuminated in alternating colors as the fountain of water rose and fell to different heights. But humanity led me to finish the task at hand and deliver him to his front door.

“I mean,” he continued, not noting my sullen silence, “what da ya do? Work, pay attorneys, go home. Then what? Jerk off to porn and do it all over again?”

The water feature was becoming a very attractive option.

Having half-carried and half-dragged him to his front door, I was pleased to see his wife, looking extremely agitated. Judging by the look of her, I was confident he was going to wish in the morning that I had dumped him in the water feature.

She had me drop him on the bed in the downstairs guest room. “Honey,” he called out to his wife as we left him there, “this is that poor fuck I was telling you about. The one whose wife went up to New Jersey to practice and this schmoe takes the car, the kids and everything she wants up to her, buys her the freaking plane ticket, and helps her get the license. Then what does she do?”

Dr. Douglas began to giggle, “She slaps his ass with a restraining order because he finds out she is a pill-popping junky.”

I looked at Mrs. Douglas, “Actually it was Media, Pennsylvania,” I said and let myself out.

The evening had been going so well up until that moment.

 

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