As it was, there was no way out of it, and even if there had been, Nadine would have done the same thing, no matter the crazy, trying circumstances nor the strident, screeching disapproval of Mother Sednick when Nadine called to tell her the plan and finally hung up shaking, crying and more determined than ever.
Being in Montana made it easier, with Mother Sednick half-way ’round the planet at the family retreat in the Alps and Father Sednick still missing on his vision quest in Uruguay, but it was still no fun and hellishly expensive. Cosmetic surgery in Butte, Montana is neither cheap nor easy to arrange on short notice she found, even if you are a Sednick, or perhaps because of it, but Nadine was determined to do something about her secret pain, her nemesis, her enemy since puberty: the Sednick nose.
Dorsal in appearance; delicate in the sense that a fin-back ridge in the Bob Marshall Wilderness is delicate; delightful to poke fun at, or so Nadine’s classmates at every private school she ever attended thought; and devastating to the psyche of an otherwise beautiful young girl, the Sednick nose had wrought havoc in Nadine’s life, “damn well long enough,” she thought, and in the middle of a trip into the Rockies, in the face of the most honest and lovely man she had ever met, she called for an appointment with Dr. Daniel Dodder and arranged a date with destiny.
“Elective surgery is often not covered by conventional insurance, miss,” said the receptionist, looking down at the forms she was filling out; holding her gum against her teeth while she talked which gave her speech a slightly slurred quality, and made Nadine wonder if the woman had been at the doctor’s Novocain supply.
“Fine,” said Nadine, thinking the woman would look at her if she grabbed her by her henna-colored hair and spun her clockwise on her roll-around office chair, “what’ll it be; cash, check or credit card?”
“God,” she thought to herself later, sitting in the examination room, “I hate finance. How lucky I am to be rich.”
“Incredible,” said Dr. Dodder, holding her x-rays to the light, squinting in his own cute way, tracing the outline of Nadine’s nose with a red lead pencil he brought from his pocket.
“Just like that,” he said to her, “you want to change your nose?”
“Kendrick said it might be a good idea,” she confided quietly, blushing and looking at the toes of her Lucchese cowboy boots, “you know, to improve my chances with men.”
“Lady,” he had said quietly to her one day, scuffing awkwardly at the floor in the barn after a long, sweet ride in the sage above the Big Hole River, after they had been friends for a while, and after they had talked about every other thing they could talk about, and after Nadine had realized how true he was to himself and how kind he was to others, “if I was you, I’d take a hunk of your money, maybe even all of it, and rework the profile of the ridge between your eyes.”
Men had shunned her since her nose had taken over her face at age 14, unless they were after her money, which she had plenty of and so always had plenty of the wrong kind of men around her, until she could almost smell them, and the right kind of men couldn’t get past her nose to her pretty blue eyes, unfortunately, for she was a comely woman, a smart woman, a sensitive soul, a dandy cook, an excellent lover, a sound business person and honest with a delightful sense of humor.
“No,” she said to Kendrick, “I like my nose just the way it is.”
“Oh, no you don’t,” he said, “ ’cause if you did, you woulda found a man who did, too, so make up your mind and get to likin’ it, or get to changin’ it.”
“Pooh!” she said to him, and left him standing in the barn, all muscles and denim and blue-eyed wonder, and walked away as cool as she could, but she was trying not to run, because he had looked into her soul and found her secret grief and handed it to her to do something about.
“Quit thinkin’ you’re so smart,” she tossed over her shoulder at him, but all the time she was thinking that she was even beginning to talk like him.
Reasonably soon, the job was done, for which Nadine paid a cool 15 grand, a lot to pay for waking up with a huge dull headache punctuated by a point of extended pain between two black eyes, but cheap for Nadine, who once paid that much for a pair of shoes she wore only once, to a party in Manhattan, and nobody noticed.
Several weeks later, Nadine walked into that same barn on the Spokane Ranch just outside of Wisdom, Montana, and sought out her cowboy in the tack room where she cornered him by standing spraddle-legged in the door, and watched him try to decide which way to jump.
Ten seconds is a long time, two seconds more than Kendrick had ever had to stay on one of the twisting hulks of muscle, guts, bones and horn at the fall rodeo in Bozeman which he always seemed to land on his feet when he jumped from, and ten seconds is about how long he stared at Nadine before he did anything, and ten seconds to a woman in love is a lifetime times ten, if she’s waiting for her man to say, in effect, yay or nay.
Until he moved, until Kendrick finally, slowly set the saddle in his big, weather-checked hands down and walked to her and took her by the hand and walked with her out of the big, cool, gloomy barn into the Montana day, into sunshine and meadowlarks and the smell of fresh hay and sun-baked horse manure, until he took a long index finger and traced her new nose gently and turned her head so he could see it in profile, until he said, “Nadine, that’s about the most brave and lovely nose I ever saw, ” she held her breath.
Very slowly, and very much to the chagrin of Mother Sednick, who moved to Switzerland to avoid the disgrace, and much to the delight of Father Sednick, who had come back from the jungles of Uruguay a changed man due to a concoction of hallucinogenics fed him by a shaman which induced a series of life-altering visions involving naked brown women, jaguars and the follies of financial depravity, Nadine convinced Kendrick that she was the woman for him, and that her money would not corrupt him, and even if it did, just a little, it would only make him a rancher, just a slightly domesticated version of a cowboy, and he would never have to worry about making pickup payments again.
When they finally married, two years to the day after Dr. Dodder broke Nadine’s nose, the doctor came to the wedding and found himself caught in a vortex between the friends of the bride and the friends of the groom, a black hole of cultural disparity so large that it nearly altered the fabric of reality in Wisdom, Montana, where the confrontation between Levi Strauss and Pierre Cardin is still talked about today, and where at least five women and three men, and all of whom were friends or family of the bride, made appointments with the good doctor to have their faces surveyed for a little landscape work.
X-rays of Nadine’s nose, before and after, as well as pictures of the wedding, made People Magazine, to Kendrick’s and Mother Sednick’s displeasure, but Nadine and Father Sednick thought the whole thing was a hoot and even stood in nose-on-nose profile for a dusty paparazzi before Kendrick hustled him off the place at the end of a cattle prod.
Yellow roses and purple cosmos grew in the big, sloping, cottonwood-protected yard the bride and groom received their friend in next to a rambling old clapboard house with a wide, white-posted porch tucked up against the hills above the Big Hole on the newly named Circle N-K Ranch, 3500 acres of hay and sage lying mostly in the evening shadow of the Bitterroot Range across which the late day sun cast spotlight beams on the party and backlit the couple to the extent that everyone remembered them that day as having a distinct and mutual aura.
Zebra and Zero, the couple’s favorite pair of paint horses, stood by patiently, waiting to haul the newlyweds off to the honeymoon suite at Jackson Hot Springs Lodge, where Father Sednick volunteered to stand sentry with Kendrick’s .30-.30 saddle carbine so the couple would not be disturbed, but Kendrick’s friends made arrangements and bribed the old man with a bottle of Chivas and a cowgirl in a tight, red silk western shirt with white fringes across the bodice and the happy couple gathered a story for future grandchildren, surrounded by a whooping, hollering bunch of rough-dressed whisky-drinking riders armed with torches and cowbells, riding a brass bed towed down the middle of the highway through Jackson in the middle of the night by a Mercedes station wagon carrying a giggling group of Manhattanites swilling Dom Perignon right out of the bottle, and from the silly grins on their faces, anyone with a lick of sense could tell that Mr. and Mrs. Kendrick really were right where they wanted to be.