We all prefer tales where the deserving, hard-working woman gets a big break because of her strength of character. This is not a such a story. It involves pure luck. I had nothing to do with it. In fact, on my own I was faring badly. Job hunting was nothing like the counselor had promised. My degree in Art History did not lead to an exciting career as a museum curator, although it did provide small talk to get through interviews I did get--receptionist, phone marketing, waitress.
I finally landed a part-time job as a waitress at the Hyatt Coffee Shop (fully dressed). What with the months of unemployment, my money was almost gone--thus no stylish condo, only a rented apartment at the back of a shopping mall, no mutual funds. According to my calculations I could probably retire about the age of 188.
I got home early one afternoon after the breakfast and lunch shift, poured some sun tea, and went out to sit on my tiny balcony to watch the parking lot. The phone rang, as it must do for something to happen; it was a trustee from the bank telling me that my aunt was ill and would like to see me. I drove the old station wagon up there.
Aunt Ruth was in her nineties--eyes as clear as a summer day and not sick at all. The "illness" was so that she could announce to her conservators that she was changing the will.
"I didn't leave Georgia Summers anything in my will," she said to the lawyer. Then she turned to me. "I'm not going to now, Georgia. I'm just going to give you something. You will know what to do with it. You like spaces."
The something was 800 acres. The downside was that it was lost in the vast southeast desert of California, in the Chocolate Mountains. No roads, no towns, just a big, empty spot on the map, shadowed emptiness.