SoHumBorn Sunday: ToothFairy
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. 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.
You can also listen to the author read this story for the LA Times here. (Her voice has been distorted to protect her anonymity.)
He’s filling two large duffle bags, she’s watching, her mouth a pinched line of worry.
Things have been tight… well more than tight really. They’ve been living on borrowed money, rotating which bills get paid. It’s made them both tense & that tension has leaked out into the whole family. Even the dog seems nervous. They just can’t wait any more.
In this life, smart people protect themselves by building a buffer wall between themselves, and the actual comsumer. The moment when money is traded for the fruits of their labor is the most acutely dangerous time in an entire season of perile. To combat this, a network is created. Whereby one can can be conected to bulk purchasers with out ever meeting them. Through friends of friends, and middle men, the crop is marketed without ever having to do business with strangers.
Right now it’s not working out so well. The market is saturated with this years bountiful crop. None of their people are moving much of anything. A lot of the bigger buyers aren’t making it North of Willits, as the Mendocino growers are more than able to take care of all their needs. The stuff that is selling is going for such a low price it seems a poor return for an entire season of risk, worry, and work. A very poor return.
So, it’s come to this. Loading the crop into duffle bags & driving off to do business with a stranger. Of course, this stranger is purportedly a “cool guy”. After all, he is the friend of a guy, that went to school with a guy, that worked with them on the crew at Reggae. The tenuous connection is going to be tested the hard way.
This night he will drive off with some $50,000 dollars worth of their hard work, and meet a stranger on the side of a rural roadway.
She’ll wait here. While he’s gone she does laundry, puts away toys and magazines, generally just trying to stay busy, and not watch the clock. She fails miserably. She ends up standing in the front window staring down the driveway. Her mind a tangle of worry and tension. She is afraid he won’t come home. That the CoolGuy is not cool at all. She knows people who’ve gone to meet new (and sometimes even old) buyers, friends, partners, who never made it home. The money end of this business makes it dangerous. The CoolGuy may have brought a badge instead of money, or worse, a gun. It wasn’t that long ago that a young man who’s parents she’d known for decades went to do a small deal, just a pound.
He’d been found beaten and shot. She can still see his bright blue eyes with their beautiful lashes. When she drives past his memorial she still gets a lump in her throat thinking of him, of how scared he must have been, and all for so very little. She turns away from the window as a line from a Tom Petty song slips through her mind “The waiting is the hardest part…”
The kids come in, all noise and movement, they break her out of her internal thoughts, and focus her sharply back in the here and now.
“We brushed! We brushed! We brushed!” They shout galloping down the hall from the bathroom. She smiles at them. A real smile. There are still moments when they’re so amazingly cute to her, that it’s a little painful. The Girl is seven, her hair is braided neatly on each side like Laura from Little House on The Prairie. She has tooth paste drying on both sides of her mouth. “Look! I did Joey’s hair!” She says pointing proudly at her younger brother. He stretches his neck out, apparently to allow better veiwing of his hair. The mowhawk he is sporting stands proudly like a cocks comb. “Wow man, that’s cool hair!” she says looking from one to the other. They smile back, proud of a job well done.
“What do you guys wanna hear tonight?” “Max!” the little guy yells. “Max, Max, Max!” his sister joins in. “O.K. get it.” she grabs a blanket and heads for the couch. After running and fetching their book they nearly beat her to the couch. The feet of their pajamas slide to a stop, and every one settles in for the story. She reads “The night Max wore his wolf suit he made mischief… of one kind… and another. His mother called him Wild Thing!“ The girl and boy, having heard this tale, chime in as though reading along, though neither of them is looking at the words. As they get to they part where the forest begins to grow in Max’s room, their mother realizes their minty fresh breath is a little overpowering. Glancing from the book down at the little heads on either side of her she has a realization. “Uh… What did you use to make Joey’s hair stand up?” Joey cheerfully replies “Toothpaste!” His sister concentrates heavily on the page of the book in front of them. “Tothpaste? Do ya think that was a good plan?” She looks from Joeys happy face to his sister, who drags her eyes up slowly. Joey’s reply is a prompt “Yup!” His sister is a little slower. “Prolly not….”
She sets the book aside. “Come on, let’s rinse your hair out Little Man.” He briefly fights the plan before it is agreed that they will do it with the sprayer at the kitchen sink, which is apparently tons more fun than being logical and rinsing in the shower.
Perched on a chair supplied by his sister he is bent over the kitchen sink complaining loudly that the water is getting up his nose, which cause his sister to giggle and earn a look of disaproval from their mother. Who while giving that look, is fighting the urge to giggle herself.
Headlights flash across the window above the sink and her heart gives a strong protesting thump as she gets drawn out of this quaint family moment and back into the reality of business.
She gives the little guys hair one more cursory spray and hands his sister a towel. “Help your brother dry off.” she says heading toward the door.
Once she sees that it’s him, and he is home safe she feels the sick tension unwind through out her body. It causes a lump to form in her throat and a heat behind her eyes. She blinks and swallows as he gets out of the truck and heads toward them.
Because… he worrys enough. Because… he is the one who risked everything, including his life, to go out there tonight and take care of his family. He doesn’t need to see her cry. He doesn’t need the added burden of her worry and tears. She swallows one more time and smiles at him.
He comes in the door and every one hugs him. She kisses him to a chorus of “Daddy!”s. He squeezes her tight.
“Hey baby, I brought you something.” He says smiling at her with that smile that makes the corners of his eyes turn up. He un zips a back pack and dumps the contents on the dining room table. Bundles of money fall out, with small thuds they pour across the table. She has the odd thought that somebody sells a lot of those little rubberbands.
The money has that funny smell, slightly chemical. It always makes her wonder if cocaine smelled like money because she snorted it through bills, (briefly, over a decade ago, everyone was doing it.) or if bills smelled like cocaine because so many people used money to snort with.
Her internal monologue was broken by the gleeful shouts of her children. “The Money Fairy came!” “Yay yay yay! The Money Fairy came!”
Never quite being that excited about a tooth falling out, their daughter had on the other hand, been thrilled by the money under her pillow, and from then on the “Money Fairy” had been her favorite topic.
Realizing the carelessness of what they’d just done, they downplayed the the pile of cash, while getting the children back in their story and bed routine.
By the time the wild things were finishing up their wild rumpus the money was safely tucked away. They then tucked in what was truly most precious to them.
It later came to light that the girl had told a story at school, during share time, about how the Money Fairy had brought them giant piles of money. When questioned by the other children about the Money Fairy she explained that the fairy brought you money for your teeth.
The other mother, who volunteered in the class that day, shared this information while she smiled looking across the playground at the children swinging and running. “They’re getting to smart for their own good.” she said turning back and looking the girls Mother in the eye. Recognizing a mirror of her own fear and concern there, she could only nod and sigh saying “I know…I know.”