Postcards From Reno by Annie Berke

From the 1930s to the 1960s, Reno, Nevada was America’s Divorce Capital. A married person could set up temporary residence at a boarding house or a pricier “divorce ranch” and, in as soon as six weeks, file for divorce quickly, privately, and without fuss.

Dear Jim,

Checked into the Cavell Ranch this AM.

Soon, we’ll both be free.

Don’t touch my things.


Lana


 

Dear Lana,

Free? The only thing more expensive was the marriage.

How can I avoid touching your things, scattered as they are across my house like a toddler’s toys on the nursery floor?


Jim

 

Dear Jim,

What would your house be without my taste, my “things?”

Reminds me of that review of our first picture: “Jim may give Lana height, but Lana

gives Jim depth.”


Go cry to your lawyer,

Academy Award Winner Lana Montaine


 

Lana,

Too much time with cacti? You’ve grown prickly.


Academy Award Attendee Jimmy Greengrass


 

Jim,

Frankly, I miss my things…but I can act civil if you can.

Shall we show up Lombard and Powell and show them what a chic divorce really looks like by coordinating our outfits for the premiere?


My burgundy Chanel stands at the ready.

Lana


 

Dear Lana,

I’ve already chosen a forest green cummerbund. Brings out my eyes.


Jim

 

Jim,

You know when I wear dark green, I look like a Christmas tree. Be serious.

Let’s call the whole thing off—


Lana


 

Dear Lana,

I thought that was the plan: to call the whole thing off.

How is Reno? Don’t skimp on the literary detail.


Jim

 

Dear Jim,

The weather is too dry for my liking; the martinis are never dry enough.

I eat a grapefruit for breakfast every morning and spend my evenings playing checkers.

You’d barely recognize me.


L— M—

 

Dear Lana,

I’d recognize you anywhere.


With love,

Jim

 

Please, Jim,

Don’t.


Lana

 

Dear Lana,

Fine. New topic.

Do your fans recognize you?


Respectfully,

Jim


 

Dear Jim,

I try to go incognito – head scarf, bug-eyed sunglasses, all that. But everyone spots me – and asks after you. Drat. It’s always: “Where’s Jim?” or “Is Jim here?” or “Where’s your lesser half?” (I paraphrase.)


So far, I have tried:

- “Oh my, he was just here!”

- (sweeping arms around, mystically) “He’s all around us.”

- (pointing to a fire hydrant) “There he is! I know – he looks taller on camera.”

It is easier to stay in, touring the ranch and mooing at the steer.


Yours,

Lana


 

Dear Lana,

Are all the other inmates boarders witchy women like yourself, putting spells on Awful Men and doing mud masks?

Bubble bubble,

Jim (is Trouble)

 

Dear Jim,

It’s middle-aged corn-fed sexpots and disillusioned college girls as far as the eye can see. My bosom friend is a wronged schoolteacher who wears her hair in a graying chignon. I call her S & P.


Young actresses need not bother with Juilliard: there’s a veritable masterclass in character right here at the ranch. All one must do is get married and regret it.


Yours,

Lana


 

Dear Lana,

I’m glad you found some real respectable dames to pal around with.

Salt & Pepper sounds like a bore.


Yours,

Jim

 

Dear Jim,

Do leave the unsinkable S & P out of it. She wouldn’t hesitate to give you detention, which you heartily deserve.


Best,