Sonya was Ronald's sixth wife. It was no secret that like his wives before her, Sonya had married him for his money. Most of them, like her, had emigrated to the United States from Europe. It seemed European women had greater tolerance for living with Ronald, thought by many to be a boorish American billionaire At least three of his wives bore him children before divorcing him and acquiring a big settlement and alimony for life. One of those women never called him anything but "The Ronald," a name which became public over the years and was used occasionally to mock him in the press.
"I have no idea why she called me that," he once told a reporter. "But it has a nice ring to it, don'tcha think?"
The divorces usually occurred shortly after the wives would discover that Ronald was cheating on them with a woman younger and more beautiful than they were. He had a pattern of doing this. After a wife would divorce him he would marry the latest paramour and later on she would divorce him as well. For a brilliant and wealthy man, apparently the irony of this pattern never struck him. He simply kept doing the same thing and ending up in divorce court. His former wives were all living nicely now on Ronald's money.
"I try to treat my women well," Ronald told another reporter, "even when they have outlived their usefulness."
When Sonya married Ronald, however, he was in his early 80s and had ceased to chase other women. He was relatively content with her, happy to devote his time to making certain his considerable investments and properties were being handled properly. Sonya, however, kept hiring private detectives to check on him.
At 80, it's safe to say Ronald had lost a step. Moreover, he had never completely recovered from losing the nomination of his political party for the presidency of the United States. He was around 70 at that time and Sonya, who preferred fashion to politics, nevertheless thought he would have made a good president in some respects.
As she told a lady friend at a country club one evening, "Ronald loves the United States, understands its economy, and doesn't need the salary the office pays. He would have been a billionaire before becoming president and not a millionaire after leaving office. But voters in the primary decided he lacked the temperament to be president. I can see their point. He's smart as a whip but tough to live with, I can tell you that."
Ronald did have his share of personality quirks. He often spoke first and thought later. And he had a problem with the poor, not that he wanted to. It was a reflex reaction, not something he thought about. After all, why were they poor? He had worked hard and made billions.
In addition to investments and hotels, Ronald built and owned many golf courses and, in fact, many poor people were employed at those courses in minimum-wage jobs. It made good business sense to hire them, he said. Someone had to do that work and they were willing to work for that amount of money. In time, some of those employees would move up in the ranks and become members of the middle class, thanks to employment opportunities Ronald's companies made available. If someone was qualified to work at a higher level, Ronald had no problem promoting them and paying them whatever salary the job warranted.
"Pay people what they're worth," he often said. "It stops turnover. Who wants to be looking for new employees all the time? Good ones are hard to find."
Ronald was a philanthropist as well, although not for the best reasons. He made major donations to worthwhile charities because he wanted tax cuts the donations would allow. He had a degree from a prestigious school in economics but he let accountants handle his taxes. He still liked to decide on his own investments and where and when he might build another great golf course. At last count, Ronald had built more than 15 golf courses and they were splendid specimens. Golf tournaments were held on his courses and tourists loved to say they had played at one or more of them.
"Give the public what it wants at a fair price," he told Sonya one night at dinner, "and they will come back again and tell their friends about the good time they had. I've made good money that way. It lets me buy you the things you like. Have I ever said no when you wanted to buy one of those fancy dresses?"
Sonya had to admit that Ronald was not tight. She never had to ask him for what some wives probably would have called an allowance. But the walking-around money Ronald gave her every week would have paid the rent for many women working in the stores Sonya liked to shop at. Sonya was happy on a financial level and that is why she was upset to see Ronald slightly upset one evening. He seldom was upset about any matter. Usually he did the right thing and put the problem to rest.
One night, however, he told her over dinner at a very nice restaurant that a major piece of property he had purchased in southern Texas to build yet another golf course was no longer available for that use. The man who had defeated him for the nomination of his party a decade earlier and was subsequently elected president had failed to do anything about the border problem. For more than ten years migrants had continued to stream into the United States and set up communities in and around the property Ronald had bought to build another luxurious golf course. The area was no longer a tourist attraction so building a golf course there would have meant wasting money. Sonya didn't mind listening to him at lunch or dinner.
"Sonya, I've decided what I'm going to do with that property. I'm going to build a pyramid there and instead of being buried after I die, I'll have my body put in the pyramid. I'll take my money with me in the form of gold bullion and wait for science to discover how to restore life in the dead. Someone will do that some day, Sonya. There's a lot of money to be made by the scientist with the commercial smarts to market the proposition. I've always said there's no future in dying."
Sonya really didn't know what to say so she just listened.
Ronald had heard about cryonics which required that a corpse be kept at a low temperature to preserve certain organs while waiting for someone to discover how to restore life. He planned to have his corpse prepared according to that discipline so that when science found the answer to restoring life, he could emerge from the pyramid and live once again. In fact, he planned on buying the leading company currently at work in the field of cryonics.
He told Sonya he might even run for president again once he came back. He figured a little time off in the pyramid would give him time to plan his campaign.
"Sonya, I think I would be elected this time. After all, I'd only be the second person to have risen from the dead."
Donal Mahoney, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He has worked as an editor for The Chicago Sun-Times, Loyola University Press and Washington University in St. Louis. His fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications, including The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Christian Science Monitor, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Commonweal, Guwahatian Magazine (India), The Galway Review (Ireland), The Osprey Journal (Wales), Public Republic (Bulgaria), Revival (Ireland), The Istanbul Literary Review (Turkey) and other magazines. His earliest work can be found at http://booksonblog12.blogspot.com.