SoHumBorn Sunday: Cheap Lesson
In December 2008, a Southern Humboldt blogger began posting fictional tales of the marijuana culture. Some people were appalled. Most were enthralled. For three months her stories gripped the online community and then, abruptly, she was gone. Even though SoHumBorn pulled her blog, for months her stories were available in the cached version but eventually they, too, were swallowed into the dark abyss. Recently she gave me permission to revive them. Go here to read last Sunday’s piece.I’ll be doing one each Sunday for awhile. Do you have a favorite? Let me know and I’ll try and include it. The stories of this culture, true and fictional, need to be saved.
They sat at a table covered by plates of SoHum fair, buckwheat pancakes, Nielsen Ranch Ham, fresh squeezed orange juice, and the tantalizing aroma of fresh organic coffee. As the waitress placed the last of the plates on their table, the Man thanked her. Shrugging out of his jacket he reveals his wardrobe choice for today had been Carhart overalls & a tie dyed t-shirt.breakfast
The Woman across the table was skimming through the local paper, sharing with him the names of the people they knew who had failed to pay their mini storage fees on time.
There was a third chair at the table, and from the way the both turned to the door every time it opened it was evident that they were waiting for someone. She finished the paper, and setting it aside began to pick at her food. “Maybe we should have waited to order….” her eyes drift to the entrance then back to the Man across from her. He looks at her and smiles “Babe, he’s runnin’ on Humboldt time. Quit stressin’ .” The slight upward roll of her eyes acknowledges the truth of his statement. As she reaches for her glass of juice, her uneven nails and dry cracked cuticles catch her eye. She contemplates where pretty nails fall in her life priorities, and with an inward chuckle, concedes that the state of her nails makes that all to apparent.
Her mind focuses back on the current situation. They had let the Kid do a deal last week. He’d been asking for a long time, but they had always told him no. They dealt almost exclusively with one guy, and it was easy to use that as an excuse not to sell to any one else. This time things hadn’t been going very quickly. The regular guy had pulled off a huge year of his own and wasn’t moving anybody’s until his was all gone, and the Kid couldn’t afford to wait, he had bills.
So, they had let him move a few through his friends. It had come off clean, and when he came back wanting to do ten they had agreed.
He wasn’t their son, but the son of a friend and neighbor. After he’d graduated from high school he’d just drifted along staying at his Mom’s. Last year she’d asked if they needed any help. He still hadn’t got a job or made plans to do anything with his life. If he wasn’t going to continue his education, she wanted him to start earning his own money .
Their own children, raised here by the light of kerosene lanterns, through the lean early years of free box clothes & food stamps, had grown and gone. She had gone off to the same schools and life Back East that they had fled before arriving here. While their son had rebelled against his parents, as many young men do, turning to a life that stood in opposition of all that they believed. Living in another state, married to the daughter of an IRS agent. He had joined the sheriffs department, been born again , and refused to allow contact between his children and his parents. On top of all that… he voted Republican.
Hiring the neighbors son had made good sense. Her Man wasn’t exactly the young buck he had been when they’d settled up here. Running the homestead was a job that never ended. They would forever be cutting fire wood, checking the spring, and walking the water lines in search of leaks. They had never put in a large propane tank and it seemed as though the tanks they hauled back and forth got heavier all the time. Looking ahead to another spring of hauling dense bags of soil and amendments through the hills to their clandestine garden sights, they thought having the help of a strong young man they’d known since birth was a solid idea.
So it was this neighbors son who was learning the family business, an apprentice of sorts. He had worked with them for two years now, & they had all prospered from the partnership.
“Here he comes.” the mans says, using his fork to point out the truck pulling up in front of the restaurant’s large front windows. She turns her head and recognizes his truck, with its lift kit and giant bumper. They had suggested he get a nice used toyota last year when he got his pay, but he had chosen a huge American truck instead, adding macho accessories with every extra dollar he made. Kids…
He came through the door and headed straight for their table. She took one look at his face as he approached and knew something had gone wrong. His face was pale and his eyes were rimmed in a bright angry red.
When he got to the table he didn’t sit. He stood, his eyes traveling over the table, to the floor, finally to the couple.
“Can we go outside for a minute?” The look on his face has them both out of their chairs before his question is finished. As they move towards the door she tells the waitress they’ll be right back.
Outside, they move to stand in a tight circle beside his truck. There he begins to share the details of what had occurred last night.
After picking up the pounds, he and a friend had taken them to his place ,and called their buddy to confirm that the deal was on. They agreed to meet with the buyer on a local river bar that night to complete the deal.
At the agreed upon time his buddy arrived. He said they guy was paranoid, and didn’t want to meet them. The buddy wanted them to give him the weed, and he would make the deal, then return with the money. The kid wasn’t comfortable with the plan because he’d gathered the ten pounds from a variety of people. Only a few belonged to him and the couple he worked with. He was responsible to the people who’d fronted him the other pounds and didn’t want them out of his control. It was finally decided that they would travel to the river in two trucks. Once there, the buddy would proceed alone to the river bar while the Kid and his other friend waited at the head of the road “watching his back”.
They waited… Sitting in the cab of his truck he smoked cigarettes and watched the road behind him, while he and his friend made small talk both trying to be cool and pretend they weren’t nervous. They waited as time crawled by, every little noise or fleeting movement outside the truck seemed ominous. Unseen threats surrounding them in the dark.
An eternity passes.
They decide it’s been to long. Somehow, even with them watching the only road in, something has gone wrong. They start the truck down the road to the beach. They leave he lights off, put the truck in neutral, and turn the engine off. Rolling down the road by starlight the sound of the gravel crunching under the tires is perhaps the loudest noise ever.
When they see a pale starlit figure walking up they road, both of them experience a sick clench of panic from their bowels to their throats. The realization that it’s their buddy settles one fear, but heightens another. He waves and jogs toward them as they stop and get out of the truck. He says that when he pulled down to the river he stopped next to another truck he thought was the buyer. Then these two guys he’d never seen before jumped up on either side of his truck. They had guns and told him to get out. When he did they checked and made sure the weed was in the truck then drove off down the river bar in the two trucks.
The three of them talk of chasing the trucks, but they have a long head start… and guns. Instead they drive back into town and gather a small posse. They drive all over town checking motels, bars, and backstreets looking for thieves, “out of towners” with vague descriptions. This search does turn up the one buddy’s missing truck. In a church parking lot. Keys in it . Pot not.
The Kid had not slept at all. He was scared to tell every one he’d let their weed get ripped off. He was angrier than he’d ever been. He was starting to suspect that his buddy had in some way been in on it.
She recognizes that need for retribution that’s pulsing through him. She’s seen it more than once through the years. It brings nothing but more trouble.
When the Kid pulls out a pack of cigarettes she takes one from him, though she’d quit three years ago. She lights it and listens to the Kid and the Man talk of what should happen to thieves. The nicotine receptors in her brain, long denied, scream to life. Sucking up that lovely drug and causing a buzzing in her brain, while her body suddenly feels quietly heavy. She let them vent. Men are doers, they like to solve problems through action. While usually a fantastic way of doing things, she knew that wouldn’t be the case here, so she waited.
When they began to wind down she joined their talk. They talked of the many perils involved in sales. How sometimes cops posed as buyers and all you got in return for your work was handcuffs. Expressing her deep gratitude that no one had been hurt, she brought to mind friends and neighbors who had not been as lucky. “Really Kid, I know it sucks, but it could have been so much worse. No one got arrested, no one got hurt. It’s just money… all in all, a cheap lesson”
The talk did little.
When you’ve been robbed it’s like an open wound. You think of every little mistake you made, every sign you missed. Those who live outside the law have no recourse when targeted by criminals. Because… good people don’t hurt people over money, with out the ability to have any form of justice, the only way to go on is by learning, and letting go.
The three of them walked back in the restaurant sat down and had breakfast.
Note: The photo links to the onlite site of a favorite SoHum restaurant which is where I snagged the image.