Saturday, February 13, 2010

The True History of Lupin Lodge

A nudist resort fallen on hard times is the setting for this magical-realist journal-novel about quirky characters and their struggles for respect and power, proving once again that truth is stranger than fiction.

Read it free, then pay me, if you like, whatever you think it is worth.
For a printable (Microsoft Word) file, e-mail a request to and I'll send it as an attachment.

chapter 1

The True History of Lupin Lodge

And there were many other things the Lupinites said and did, so that if all of them were recorded, the world could scarce contain all the books that would be written, but these things are written that ye may believe... or not believe, see if I care

The original Lupin Lodge building, not where the Restaurant/Clubhouse is now, but lower down the hill, near where now stands the big yurt called the Nudome, which is the only structure visible, since every other building is screened by all the trees, when you look over the Lupin grounds from up on Lupin Overlook, was built around 1850. Nobody is really sure if it was called "Lupin Lodge" back then, or if not, when that name might have come to be attached to it. A "lupin" is a showy stack of flowers, purple in color here although there are other hues further east, that grows in many parts of California, but in few parts of the Lupin grounds. Perhaps lupins were once pervasive here. One version is that the Lupin Lodge was originally a roadhouse, but as with so many things I hear here, I am doubtful. Maureen has a book on the history of Route 17, that supremely annoying and dangerous pseudo-freeway that crosses the Santa Cruz mountains, which goes back to the beginning and describes all the twisty and tortuous roads that were cut through, just before and just after the US acquired California, and Lupin is way off those routes. Mountain Charlie's Road would have been the closest, back then. There is still a section of "Mt. Charlie Road" preserved, now paved, and a Christmas tree farm draws customers up there in December. I passed Mt. Charlie Road nearly every day, when I commuted down to Cabrillo College by Old Santa Cruz and Soquel-San Jose roads, to avoid the maniacs on Route 17 who thought the speed-limit signs were just kidding when they said 50. And a couple days after I read Maureen's book, a tree-fall blocked Old Santa Cruz, so I took Mt. Charlie Road to get around.

It seemed steep and dangerous, scarce suitable for driving even now. In Mountain Charlie's day, most wagons had to be disassembled to get them up and down some of the stretches. And so it is hard to imagine there were enough travellers in the 1850's to support a roadhouse at a place that was not even on the semi-beaten track but miles off it, in Aldercroft. Aldercroft, though vaguely marked on some maps, with no particular boundaries, does not officially exist even today. It has never been an incorporated town or had businesses of the kind that might threaten to turn it into a town, nor has it even been a township, and the post office calls it a part of Los Gatos, though it is far above the city limits, up among the little streams, mostly dry in summer, that feed Los Gatos Creek, which is now dammed up to form the Lexington Reservoir. One of the ridges through the Aldercroft area, though nobody seems sure exactly which, was the one the Spaniards originally called Cuesta de los Gatos, giving the creek and then the city their names. The city of Los Gatos proper, ironically, never was visited by the big cats, though it used to have occasional problems with grizzly bears until they were all hunted out. But we do have a little pride of mountain lions that have started ranging over the Up Top area of the Lupin grounds, from Sal's Canyon next door. Paul the biologist collared them all, but the male's collar is broken, or he has shrugged it off, it hardly matters which, for no matter what, we can be sure he would never wander very far from the females. The trail from Tiger Lily yurt to the bathroom/shower structure called the Taj Mahal, in ironic tribute to its luxury, compared to the outhouses it replaced, had no working lights from the October typhoon through the end of the year, and the male lion annexed that trail to his hunting grounds, killing a deer and then a raccoon there, so I stopped walking that way when I rose before sunup.

In short, Aldercroft, however breath-takingly beautiful, is a boondock. It is about a half-hour drive down to Santa Cruz, a little more on the back roads or a little less if you brave Route 17, and a similar time to go the other way into the bustle of Silicon Valley, but up here the human presence is light, and the development restrictions imposed on the watershed of the Reservoir keep it that way. At night I see a few lights in the mountains, one at the very tippy-top of the ridge which I mistook for a planet at first, and when I pointed it out to someone, perhaps it was Big White Sambo, he argued with me that it really was a planet, until I finally persuaded him it was a house. Have I mentioned that it is breath-takingly beautiful here? At night there are many more stars visible than a city boy is accustomed to: Orion's penis is elongated to three stars, and the seven sisters in the Pleiades appear to have invited some cousins over. At dawn the deer often graze on the lawn between the Restaurant and the Oaktree Circle, where I sit with my coffee and my inevitable cigarettes, watching the fog bank from Santa Cruz creep over the mountains and threaten, like the Blob, to come down and swallow us, which rarely it does. I have counted as many as eight deer on the lawn at once, though Maureen says her personal record is fourteen. Raccoons are abundant, and once early in my stay here, when I saw a vicious animal stirring up the cats and skunks, I thought it was a badger, but I was told there is no species like a badger around these parts, and it must just have been a raccoon in a feisty mood. As with so much that I hear at Lupin, I was doubtful.

The Lupin grounds are sacred land. I felt this from the first, and so I was not surprised to hear how it was discovered that the place had been sacred to the Natives. As they were digging up and reshaping the ground to grade the road by the front office, the backhoe struck a large object, at first hard to identify, which proved to be the remains of a bull, buried in an upright rearing posture with some grave goods, centuries ago: a bull of what species I do not know, since we are very far away from anywhere that buffalo ever ranged, and the white man's cattle were not here then, perhaps a bull elk then. As with so much that I hear at Lupin, the details are fuzzy. And perhaps some venerated chief is under there? It is hard to know why someone would go to the trouble of hauling something so sizable up into the nearly trackless mountains, or would think that an animal should need such things as acorn-grinding pots in the afterlife. But rather than poking about the site any further, the appropriate course seemed to be consulting with the surviving local Natives to find a medicine man who could re-inter him, with the appropriate ritual apologies for disturbing his rest. Unfortunately this attracted some attention from the county, who were perturbed about the permitting requirements for grading work in the Reservoir watershed. That is not the sort of thing the Stouts care to bother with. They consider that Lupin is their land, and that it is nobody's business, including so-called authorities, to ask questions about what they do on their own land.

And Sal, likewise, considers that the Canyon is his land, and that it is nobody's business, including so-called authorities, to ask questions about what he does on his own land. The mountain man's attitude has little changed since 1850. About halfway from Lupin to Mt. Charlie Road, my commute would take me past the stained-glass works that are all that remains of Holy City, a settlement founded by a white-supremacist preacher who wanted his people far from all the Sodoms and Gommorahs down below, until every one of the buildings burned down: apparently, though this was never proven, the preacher himself was the arsonist, for you see, lawyers were threatening to take control of the place away from him, and that would never do. So, no matter what anybody says, I imagine that Lupin Lodge started out, before it expanded over the decades into the building now seen only in black-and-white photographs, as quite the opposite of a roadhouse, more likely the cabin of some cantankerous loner. Perhaps Rodney would know, but he will not say: Rodney is the ghost who used to clatter around the Lupin Lodge, and according to Maureen and Keif can still sometimes be heard poltergeisting in the Nudome area.

There is another ghost, of far more pleasant disposition, a young lady dressed in frilly Victorian garb and wearing sweet jasmine perfume. Since Maureen, who has been here seemingly forever, had never seen her, I was doubtful of her existence. Jean, who used to live Up Top, first told me about her, and Jean is from New Orleans, raised largely in the voodoo tradition by black women of the sort who would not usually take in a white girl, but latched onto Jean because of her vivid imagination. But then someone else told me about her, in the course of telling me his life story, which is something that total strangers often do to me at Lupin. He had once had a construction business, which he had carefully built up for over ten years, but he came to suspect that his manager was ripping him off. It was on a Good Friday that he told the manager to bring in all the paperwork the following Monday, and on Easter Sunday before sunup, as he was stepping out onto the porch to collect the morning newspaper, a man tried to brain him with a lead pipe. He fended off the blow, but got his left arm broken in the process, and knocked the pipe away, but his assailant pulled out a gun, shot him three times in the gut, and left him for dead. It was a long time before he got out of the hospital, by which time his manager had disappeared with all of his money, and he lost his nice house, and eventually his wife too, for she grew weary of his self-pitying timorous inability to shake off the experience and start anew. Lupin is a magnet for souls filled with trouble and sorrow, many of whom find healing. He was visited late at night by a kindly female voice saying Hello, surrounded by the scent of sweet jasmine, but he could not make her out through the doorway, and emerged from his suddenly chilly yurt, I think it was Number Ten, which I call Kitty yurt because of the deck where cats bask on sunny days, to see who it was, finding no-one. Lupins scarce grow at Lupin nowadays, but jasmines still do, in some places Up Top.

I suppose that the female ghost must be from a better-recorded period, when from the late 19th to early 20th centuries a family operated a vineyard here, for wine used to be made in far more areas of California than just the Napa and Sonoma valleys now known for it, but Prohibition shut that all down, and the former vineyard could not make a go of it selling raisins, against the competition of Fresno, so a wealthy retired executive from the Union Pacific bought it, to live out his last years, and largely let the place revert to nature. Then in the heart of the Great Depression a group of refugees, from World War I and from the troubles that would become World War II, acquired the property, to turn it into a European-style family naturist resort, and it has been nudist or at least clothing-optional ever since, although in recent times the clothed typically outnumber the naked even on a sunny summer day, however hard the nudists have tried to fight back, as when Keif's dad took to stealing all the clothes from the habitually-dressed when they were in the sauna or the pool, until nobody on the whole mountain had a stitch left except for the towels, which he then started stealing also, or so Keif retells the story, but he has been known to improve a tale. The Natives had been habitual nudists too, except that in some tribes the females would wear a little loincloth, and in winter, loose fur robes were called for, so I make it a special point to stay naked, even when the temperature is not quite what I would like. It was not even permitted to wear clothes on summer days back when the resort started, at first under the name "Elysium", which was subsequently taken over by a different nudist place further south, and then for a while it was called "Rock Canyon" though that name more accurately refers to the neighboring land that Sal now has, and finally it reverted to "Lupin".

Europeans gradually gave way to Americans, though there are still a few. Veny is left over from the last big influx of them, the Czechs who came in the wake of the "Prague Spring" calamity of 1968 and used to play exuberant volleyball on the court that now usually sits forlornly empty. I do not know why the little boys Nils and Ian have names from Scandinavia and Scotland, when the mother is French: I am not the type to ask, letting people tell me things if they wish to. But I think she is the last French-speaker left: Paulette and the two Georges and the Parisian fan-dancer are just photographs from the deep past. And the troubled old man, haunted by his forced participation in the Hitler Youth, who died alone in his cabin and was not discovered for a while, since everyone had become a little afraid of him, was the last of his kind here. For a while in the Seventies, the swingers and the perverts had the run of the place, alienating long-timers, for those were the days of gold chains and cock rings and white powder on mirrors. At the end of that decade, Glyn Stout acquired sole title, after a murky power-struggle with the Boswell Faction, but I know little about all that, except that bitter feelings still linger thirty years later. Of course, money woes have much to do with the infighting: the Great Depression was actually a good time for little resorts offering relatively cheap getaways, for the same reason that it was a good time for the movies, and a lot of nudist places started in the Thirties, which have fared less well in times since that were more prosperous for other kinds of business.

The Summit Fire of 1985 threatened all of Aldercroft, invading us as far as Lizard Ledge on the Upper Trail, where you can also see rattlesnakes basking and, nowadays, almost every local species of plant, still competing for the territory two decades after they all sprouted in the wake of the fire, when the fire marshalls were camped out here for weeks, using the grounds as a staging ground and taking all the water from the pools to save neighboring houses, and then the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 was particularly disastrous here. It was disastrous elsewhere, too: the double-decker freeway that collapsed, crushing people in their cars, is a bad memory for many. But Loma Prieta, the "dusky hill", is right by us, on my commute along the stretch of Summit Road from Old Santa Cruz to Soquel-San Jose, and close does count in horseshoes and Richter 8 tremors. A swimmer in the upper pool was actually thrown over the fence by a giant wave, and the lower pool was so badly cracked that it never was quite repaired, and had to go, and the replacement of the lower pool has been a controversial issue ever since. The quake put so much dust in the air that it rained for days, turning all the grounds into chilly mud just when there was, of course, no electricity, and the propane tanks could not be trusted, and there was no good way to keep warm or cook food. Keif says his dad saw a ten-foot-wide rent opened up in the earth here, and couldn't see the bottom to tell how deep it was, but mudslides changed it radically during the soggy days that followed. Maureen cannot bear the sight of orange cones anymore, as they dredge up memories of orange cones and mesh fencing and yellow crime-scene tape all over the grounds, until a horde of volunteers, more than we would get nowadays, swarmed in to repair things. Many of the structures were demolished: Glyn's cabin was twisted, spared from sliding all the way down into the Reservoir only by the trees it fell against, and never really has been set right, and the original Lupin Lodge was totally wrecked, but from its foundation, a large chunk of tree-stump, neatly sawn level on top and bottom, was salvaged, as a brass plaque now affixed to it attests, wood that must have been felled in the 1840's. It was in July of 2009 that Maureen set this relic in the Oaktree Circle as the base for the glass table where I can nowadays usually be found, inevitably drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, and sometimes, like now, typing away on my laptop.

chapter 2

I first met Maureen on July 13, 2009, a date which, at least in our insular little world, will live in infamy. Did you know that FDR's speechwriter actually wrote "December 7, 1941, a date which will live in history"? The speechwriter was a little too shaken to give his best work, so FDR had to personally take charge of making the text more punchy: on the date that will live in "infamy" the Japanese didn't just "attack" our naval base, they "ruthlessly attacked", and so on. Maureen was conceived on Pearl Harbor Day. Her parents knew that for an absolute certainty, for her father was home on leave from the British Army, and only got to spend one night in his own bed, when the news came in from Hawaii, which of course meant that all leaves were cancelled at once. Since Maureen did not start coming to Lupin until the end of the Seventies, I suppose she counts as the very last of the European refugees, if Britain counts as Europe, an issue about which the British have divided opinions. And while she might seem too young to count as a refugee from World War II, events like bombs falling right by your house are an exception to the general rule that humans do not remember things from the first three or four years of life, and she swears she recalls the Blitz, particularly the smelly little cramped shelter room. And her mother lost a whole extended family, for while Maureen's father was High Church Anglican, her mother was Jewish. That family had lived, relatively prosperous and unthreatened, in a village in Switzerland for generations, but went to Warsaw, for what reason nobody has ever discovered, at precisely the wrong time to go to Warsaw, and were never heard from again. Her mother seldom spoke of it, but would often play the Warsaw Concerto on the piano, and I have learned that when Maureen puts on her earphones to listen to the Warsaw Concerto, it is not a good time to try to talk to her. When she listens to Madame Butterfly, of course she is not to be interrupted, but afterwards she will be talkative.

I had seen Maureen around the grounds before the portentious 13th, feeding the cats every evening. The cats were fixed, years ago, so all our cats are elderly now, except Faye's feisty young Kiki, who is not accepted by his elders. And I'm pretty sure I already knew that "The Cat Lady", whom some others called "The Hobbit" (you would have to see her to appreciate that), lived in what I call Butterfly yurt, because of all the butterfly objets d'art on the porch, much as I call Gina's place Unicorn yurt, although officially, it is only the cluster of three yurts atop the bluff across Little Village road, the Calla Lily, Tiger Lily, and Jasmine yurts, which have funny names. The main row of yurts is simply numbered One to Ten, Unicorn yurt being Number Three, much as Flying Pig yurt is Number Four, and of course Butterfly yurt, with the raised board outside holding cat food where only the cats can get at it, except for the blue jays and the crows and the more acrobatic of the squirrels, and with all the skunks hanging around, eating the cat food that drops on the ground, which the cats consider beneath their dignity, is Number One, a fact which Maureen and I can never mention without going off into: "I am Number Two!" -- "Who is Number One?" -- "You are Number Six!" -- "I am not a number, I am a free man!" -- "Why did you resign?" The seaside village where The Prisoner was filmed is right by the Welsh town where Maureen's sister Rosie was mayor for a long time, highly unusual since the Welsh are suspicious of outsiders, particularly outsiders who come from England, yet Rosie had learned to speak Welsh fluently and in fact could no longer speak English without a thickly Welsh accent. And Maureen's other sister Liz went off to New Zealand, where she was hired to map an area but got tired of the surveying and just filled it in the way she wanted it to be, and there was yet another sister Vivian and a brother John, but let us not speak of them.

I had nodded and waved at her before, as she was puttering around what would become the Oaktree Circle, to pick up the miscellaneous trash that had accumulated there over the years, clearing it out to become the new smoking area, while I would be standing just below, naked of course, with my inevitable cigarette, in the old smoking area on the side of the Restaurant lawn by Hidden Oak cabin, which was a particularly stupid area for a designated smoking area, since Hidden Oak was a prime rental, there in the middle of the action, and the breeze was generally in the direction to take the smoke right in there. Since smokers are a persecuted minority in California, of course she would greet me and tell me to be sure to come up to her Circle when she was done creating it. I seem to remember there was an old wagon wheel up there among the odds and ends, but months later when I asked her where that particular piece had gone, she had no recollection of there ever having been such a thing, so perhaps I dreamt it. There was opposition to the idea of claiming that area for the smokers, since there was a stage under the great oak, which had been used every summer weekend for quiet concerts of classical or folk music, or the naked black tenor who sang so beautifully, in happier years back when I only came to Lupin at long intervals on my sporadic visits to see Turtle, and is still used occasionally, generally by rock musicians. Perhaps that opposition had something to do with the explosion that followed, but the area did need a good cleaning, as no-one could deny, and Maureen was the only one willing, so she was doing it. Have I mentioned that there is a great oak tree there? A double oak tree, actually, two trunks fused at the base, which I call Grandmother and Grandfather, since this oak appears likely to be the ancestor of most or all of the other oaks in the vicinity. Maureen said she thought a botanist had once told her the oak was over 700 years old, which, as with so much else that I hear at Lupin, sounded dubious to me, but surely it has been standing since before the white man came, for if it is not so large as some multi-century oaks I have seen, that is only because it stands in poor soil, and the gnarling of the limbs, and the many scars where it has shed great branches in the past from lightning strikes or whatever other cause, and the wisdom that flows out when a receptive person lays a hand on it, all testify to deep age.

So she was under the tree, with Lori Kay and Cindy, that day when we first met. I call it our first meeting because in our previous nods and greetings we had never gotten as far as exchanging names, and I knew her only as The Cat Lady, for I was a total newbie then, had only once met Cindy, a week before, and while I had met Lori a few times, it is odd for me to recall that it was not until that day that I got the first inkling that she was the most powerful personage in Lupin. Now, Cindy is a woman of strong personality whom some are repelled by, although personally I have never had a problem with her. She has New Agey tastes, and dyes her short spiky hair sometimes pink, sometimes maroon, or whatever other shade of red, and sometimes wears garish clothes, like the Spandex, teal green above and magenta below, that I see her in today, although in summer she prefers to be naked, despite a heavy build and wrinkly cellulite. John Horne, who is sometimes, to distinguish him from all the other Johns on the grounds, called Horny John, although that joke is so obvious and so lame that most people forego it, once joked to me that when Cindy goes camping, the bears put their food in Cindy-proof lockers. I met her when she was leading some women in water aerobics in the pool, on a lazy Sunday morning, the 5th of July, the day after my birthday, when exercise sounded like a good idea to me, and so I joined in, and enjoyed it, and came back for it the next Sunday, but it didn't happen, and then the Sunday afterwards I saw it on the events board, but only after it was done and over, and that was the last time. When she is DJ at weekend dances, she affects the title of "Goddess Rising", which Veny habitually mangles, when he type-sets the monthly calendars, into "Goodess Rising", so we sometimes call her "the Goodess".

Lori had been among the water-aerobics set, and chatted with me a bit, asking me about my interests. I said that I liked to play board games and card games, which had been true, although now that I think of it, I have not played a single game of any kind since I moved into Tiger Lily, not even the chess match that John Horne challenged me to and both of us seemed eager for but somehow never got around to. So Lori asked if I played bridge, and when I said I had been good at it back in college days but had not found a foursome in years, she asked me to call her sometime and try to set up a game, which is odd in retrospect, since Maureen told me there had been regular bridge games at Lupin for a long while, but Lori had never ever played, and the only card games lately are the poker nights, with Veny and Richard M always, Will and Modern Nick sometimes, and guys I don't know. I had spoken with Lori a couple times in June, when I was trying to arrange a rental agreement, but it was Harry who showed me Tiger Lily, and negotiated the lease, eventually, getting it done the day after I'd moved in, and promising to put a copy of the lease in my mailbox as soon as a mailbox was assigned to me, although this did not occur, so, while Harry has the laidback demeanor of an aging stoner, plays cool-jazz piano, and drives a perpetually sickly wheezing car, I took him to be the general manager. Faye explained that everything gets done here on "Lupin time", which appeared to be the sort of time-sense one encounters in Mexico or Turkey, but I was gentle with Faye, for she said that Tiger Lily had been booked for a busy weekend in August, but she would move those guests into the Massage yurt, which I knew was a sacrifice for her, as she was the masseuse. Lori's role was less clear: Sergeant Dita, so called because she is Army retired, and retains a military posture, called me from the office twice in June to set up an appointment with Lori, but once she was not around at all, and the other time she was said to be upstairs and too busy to come down, so I only got to talk to her when I stopped by Lupin and she was in the office by coincidence. She did handle the "Membership Application", since Lupin is run more like a club than like an apartment complex, and interviewed me to see if I was a likable enough sort, and at that time, God have mercy on her, she decided that I was, but she had to run a background check to see if I was a registered sex offender anywhere. The application form asked what "contribution to the community" I planned to make, and I put down the fateful words, "I am the sort of person that people like to talk to." I had not yet realized how much people at Lupin love to talk, but I have ever since faithfully executed my designated role as The Ears of Lupin.

So, while I had the vague impression that Lori must be senior to Dita, Faye, and Gina in the office, she didn't seem to be the person who got things done. It hadn't even been revealed to me that her last name was "Stout": since everyone called her "Lori" but she introduced herself as "Lori Kay", I would have written her first name as "Laurie" and her last name as "Kaye" if I had been pressed. I knew, or thought I knew, that Glyn Stout owned the place, but I had been put into some doubt about that when I first met Simone and Samara, a pair of "enantiomorphic" twins, which is a poorly understood phenomenon in which genetically identical twins turn out directly opposite in some ways, one left-handed and the other right-handed, one with hair-whorl clockwise and the other counter-clockwise; I have even heard of a case where one was gay and the other straight, and while it would be way too early to know anything about that particular aspect in this case, their personalities are strikingly different. I put it to Maureen, who knows them better than anyone, that Simone is a natural Republican, while Samara is a natural Buddhist, and she thought that quite apt. After my first brief encounter, John Horne said, "Those are the owners of Lupin: they're the ones we really work for," which I did not know what to make of. I think he too was under a misapprehension, that I was a new staff member, perhaps an impression he got from the habit I had acquired in my days at Turtle Lake, my nudie place in Michigan, of bending down to pick up little bits of trash everywhere I walk, for which I receive payment in the form of occasional lucky pennies, or even larger coins once in a great while, a habit that gave me the nickname "Moonshine".

I had, at least, seen that Lori bossed around all the staff, and I had gotten some intimation that she would want to boss around me as well, when Sergeant Dita was dispatched to tell me that Lori said never to smoke in my yurt, which I assured her I did not do, and that my experiments with driving my car down the side-path to Tiger Lily yurt and parking right in front were disapproved of, and I assured her I had already decided myself that it was not workable, and would henceforth continue to park only where I was right then, in the designated, log-chip-sprinkled driveway. Dita was apologetic about relaying such messages to me, and asked if she was being rude, so I assured her I was not taking any offense. Indeed I was rather puzzled as to what the issue was, and wondered whether Lori was overstepping some tacit boundary. So you see, when the bombs started falling, metaphorically speaking, on July 13, it would have been clarifying for me to understand that Lori was Glyn's wife, and the mother of Simone and Samara.

chapter 3

The argument was originally just about the tree. Lori pointed out that the new smoking area would not, unlike the old one, have any adequate light, and smokers do after all keep smoking into the evening, so she proposed hanging a permanent light on the tree, and this was all amicable enough until she pointed to the spot, on the Grandfather trunk not far above the separation from Grandmother, where she would drive a spike to hang the light from. Maureen retorted vehemently that the old oak had had quite enough nails pounded into it over the years, and that this kind of continued abuse could kill or injure the tree. Lori pooh-poohed such objections, since the tree had survived so many nails already, which to Maureen indicated not just a lack of concern for the health of the tree, but an attitude of downright disrespect for such a venerable old creature, an objection which Lori did not seem to find comprehensible. The escalating volume in these exchanges made it plain even to me, ignorant as I was of the dramatis personae, standing there just below, naked of course, with my inevitable cigarette, trying hard not to appear as if I were eavesdropping, that there were deeper issues in play.

Abruptly, without any segue, Lori turned it into an argument about the children. If Maureen was going to take such an attitude, why then she would not be allowed to be "Grammy" to the girls anymore. It was Maureen's turn to pooh-pooh Lori, saying she would always be their Grammy: how could that possibly change? Lori insisted that the girls would not be allowed to speak to Maureen or go near her or have anything to do with her. Absurd, Maureen replied: who would take them to school or, since school was not in session, who would take them to gym class? Lori had a simple solution: they will not go to gym class anymore. Oh come on, they love their gymnastics more than anything, which was undeniably true as even I knew, having seen them cartwheeling and handstanding across the lawn, and besides, the classes were already paid for, for the rest of the year. Well then, that was all the more reason those gym classes should be disallowed: the girls must not have anything that Maureen has paid for, ever again! The exchanges began to escalate not merely in volume now, but in sheer incoherence.

Lori did an excellent job of the dramatic stomp-off, and Maureen did an equally good job of restraining the weepy breakdown. Cindy was appalled, and stammered that Lori didn't mean any of it, and was just being Lori, and would take it all back tomorrow, like always. Cindy's reputation for being confrontational is not entirely deserved: she does indeed give as good as she gets once involved in a face-off, but I have often observed her strong preference to stay out of face-offs when she is not a direct party. Cindy wandered off, so I came up, to listen to The Cat Lady if she needed to talk it out, as was my self-assigned duty to the community. She was not, actually, in any mood to talk about it any further. She introduced herself, and got my name in return, although she has generally referred to me since then as "Professor", or "The Nutty Professor". And all she asked of me at that time was whether I could help repair the swingy chair.

Oaktree Circle is next to a children's play area, with monkey bars and swings and a puppet theater and a merry-go-round, all on hard ground and gravel so the kids can hurt themselves, with a pole sticking up, for the kids to impale themselves on, with defunct old electrical outlets, from when the area was an artists' studio instead, until Lori vetoed that and disappeared all the artworks that Maureen had created there, except for one piece showing a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, which Maureen had managed to salvage for her porch. The proximity of the children's play area might raise some legal issue about the appropriate distance to a smoking area, and Maureen's protege' Adam, an omni-competent Iraq vet whom she was the first person in the world, but not the last, to call "the Army of One", was charged at one time with measuring how far back the glass table ought to be moved, but as with other jobs that might raise disputes, somehow Adam never did get around to that. The Circle is, after all, a less stupid location for the smoking area than the old place, and not nearly in the league of stupidity of the designated but seldom-used smoking area behind the Restaurant, which is situated directly by the largest propane tank on the property, so that the staffers prefer to do their smoking, tobacco or other, around the dumpsters by the kitchen door. But aside from the children's swings, there was an adult swing, of the sort one might find on a porch back East, but which some exuberant child, perhaps it was Albert, had overswung, tipped over, and broken apart.

Could it be salvaged? Brief examination showed me that the reason for its disintegration was actually quite simple: there were supposed to be four screws holding the frame together, and there was only one, so I looked about to see if the other screws had somehow been knocked loose and were lying about the ground, but Maureen assured me it would be more in keeping with the Lupin way to assume that only one screw had ever been in place. From Butterfly yurt she retrieved a tray filled with miscellaneous screws, nails, nuts, and bolts, in which I eventually found one screw that was a little too large but which I could get wedged in to the point where it was never going to move again, one that was a little too small but could be made to fit with a glob of Crazy Glue, and one that was just right. We decided that the most level place was where an old redwood bench, now graywood from years of sun, had been standing until we wrestled it aside, so the question arose of where to put this bench. We settled on a position by the steps leading down to Hidden Oak, but carrying it that minor distance proved beyond our waning strengths. Would turning it over and sliding it make it easier? Actually, this increased the friction tremendously, and as I tried to yank it by one of the upturned legs, the rotten leg broke off in my hand and dumped me on my bare butt in the gravel. However, only my dignity, such as it is, was injured. Maureen assured me that OG, a tall elderly black man of quiet dignity and hard-working habits who lives deep in the Back Forty and speaks with a near-incomprehensible accent from deep in the bayou, would haul the now unlevel bench away and replace it with Michelle's bench, which had been sitting neglected for some time somewhere over in the Sleepy Hollow area of the grounds, where some people live who generally keep to themselves, so that I scarce know any of them even yet.

So, we immediately became the fastest of friends. We would sit in the Circle nearly every day, with our inevitable cigarettes, and talk for hours. She might talk about how she and Glyn had worked their tails off rebuilding the nature trails Up Top in the years after the earthquake, in the morning until she had to go off to feed Glyn's cat Rowdy, whom Glyn loves very much but never feeds, driving over in her car, always with the same tape playing, Moody Blues, In Search of the Lost Chord. And in the afternoon she might tell me how she and Jane Goodall, later known as the chimp lady, would rescue ponies when they were teenagers, and I might tell about the time I hiked across Turkish Kurdistan, until it was time for her to do her evening round of feeding the cats, Smooth Bell and Little Bell and all the other members of the Bell family, and dear Samantha and arrogant Simon Legree, and one-eyed Vanna and poor Judy's Fuzzy Davis and all the others. And in the evening we would talk about the nature of reality, and whether it is true that wishing makes it so, until she put on her earphones to listen to Madame Butterfly, or unplugged the earphones for Bob Dylan, so that I could sing along, since I knew all the words and sounded, she said, more like Bob Dylan than Bob Dylan does. On Maggie's Farm she would change it to "Lori's Farm", and change "She's 68 but says she's 54" to "She's 66 but says she's 67" since she did not like the somewhat beastly number 66 and would not give that as her age, and I shared the extra verses I had written for that song years ago: "I ain't gonna work for Maggie's sister no more / Nawww I ain't gonna work for Maggie's sister no more / She winks when no-one's looking, tries to lure you to her bed / The face on that woman would frighten the dead / I'd rather go out naked into war / I ain't gonna work for Maggie's sister no more ... I ain't gonna work for Maggie's cousin no more / Nawww I ain't gonna work for Maggie's cousin no more / His eyes are always bugging, halfway out of his head / I never could follow one word that he said / Half of it is nonsense, that's for sure / I ain't gonna work for Maggie's cousin no more."

The Army of One bought, well OK it was Maureen's money if you want to get technical about it, but Maureen's money is Adam's money as far as she is concerned, a string of bubble lights that solved beautifully the original issue about illuminating the Circle, along with some oil lamps, two of which at Chef Phil's suggestion we hung from the ends of the swingy chair, while the third was kept in the middle of the table on a silver platter, surrounded by a ring of votive candles on evenings when the breeze would permit us to keep them lit, and the bundles of spare bubble lights, for which we had plans, and spare drippy-hoses besides the one I used to water the ring of rosemary around the Circle, in the mornings when I came down to wipe off the glass table, if not very well, and hear Maureen tut-tut about the smears I left and how poorly my mother had evidently trained me in the art of table-wiping, along with extra blankets and towels, since nudists always need towels, and other miscellanies were left sitting on the graywood bench, to deter people from trying to sit on it. I kept dribbling green wax from the taper I used to light the other candles, and Samara called those splotches lily pads, homes to invisible frogs, so I would work around them as I wiped the table, and they only disappeared gradually, like the presence of Samara herself, whose less frequent visits would prompt Maureen to bouts of reminiscence. Maureen and I have tried to tell each other our life stories, speaking of things we had never voiced to another soul, but as both our life stories are more complicated than most, we still have a long ways to go even now. And Maureen's style is so tangential that when I invited up my friend Jimbo, who is the only person in the world to call me "Viceroy Cabrillo", since long before I heard of Cabrillo College, for he is "Capitan de Portola" and our buddy Dominic is "Padre Junipero Serra" in the triumvirate of conquistadores who go camping everywhere, claiming each new site "in the name of the Empire of Spain foreeeever", el Capitan Jimbo nicknamed her "Virginia Woolf", and if I too am being Virginia Woolfy, going off on all these run-on sentences that seem to leave little hope of ever wandering back to the point, that is because it seems to be the only style which could possibly hope to convey the quintessential Lupinity of this place.

It was not immediately apparent that a war had begun, for although Lori is not the type to apologize for anything, it did seem possible for a while that Cindy was right about the argument being forgotten, and there was a relatively quiescent period, reminiscent of the 1940 Sitzkrieg between the French and Germans, after Poland had been destroyed but before the Western Front erupted. Lori did permit the girls to go to gym class, though she took them herself and did not let Maureen take them anywhere. She had already hired an au pair from the Netherlands to babysit them for the whole month of July, a very nice and perky-breasted girl named Emy, pronounced "Amy" but not to be confused with the hard-working Amy who came much later, but the girls were not always with Emy and sometimes came up to the Circle to sit with "Grammaureen" and me. There was a little sketch-pad in which Samara had drawn a doodle-bug, which became a message pad for Maureen, Adam, and I to leave notes for each other in those latter days when the girls were forbidden the Circle, but back then I remember a day when Simone sat down to the sketch-pad and drew a cute-looking panda bear, and informed me that this panda was "Evil! Eeeeeevil! He is so, so evil!" And Samara would stage silly plays with the giraffe and the crab in the puppet theater, although Maureen told me about a play she had once put on, about "the Black Widow Spider, who eats her husband, and then starts eating her children," and when Lori would tell her it was time to go, she would say "Stop interrupting! Now I have to start over! The Black Widow Spider eats her husband..." and Lori would interrupt again and re-start the cycle, appearing utterly oblivious to the subtext of the play.

And when the Army of One bought, well OK Maureen bought if you want to get technical about it, new sand-filters for the pool, and installed them, with some help, since he cannot quite do everything all by himself, from Roy LNU, the tall electrician and general handyman with the ZZ Top beard, there was a large cardboard box left over, which sat by the wall guarding one end of the entrance to Oaktree Circle, at the other end from the graywood bench and the steps down to Hidden Oak. The box was immediately adopted by Samara as a playhouse, decorated with chains of silvery stars and artificial flowers, protected by a bit of fencing and "Keep Out!" signs, and filled with her crayons and scissors and construction paper. Of Gina's boys, little Santino had not so much interest in the playhouse, but Carlos, who is nearly of an age with the twins, and has an unconcealable crush on Samara, had standing permission to go in anytime, even if Samara was not there, although the older Albert, who would also try to go in all the time, was expressly forbidden: "Albert can't not be in the box," the sign read, which, as Harry pointed out, actually meant that he could never fail to be in the box. And three-year-old bright-eyed unruly-blond-mopped Brandon, sometimes called "Little Bubba" since his dad Chris was called "Bubba", was often in there, and would stash his favorite bead-strings in the box.

What can I say about Brandon? He was far more articulate than a child his age had any right to be, speaking not only grammatically, but in complex sentences with clauses and everything, and fearlessly making up words that sounded like what he meant, whenever his vocabulary was not quite adequate. Once, he was jumping up and down in the TV room, and his pants fell down, so he looked at me, whose nudity he had never really seemed to take any particular notice of before, and said, "There, you see, now I'm just like you!" before pulling his pants up. Another time, his pant-cuffs were inverted, so Maureen tried to adjust them, but he insisted, "These are MY pants, so let ME do that!" But I was most struck by the time when he and Carlos and Santino went racing for the swings, which looked like trouble since there were three boys and only two swings, and sure enough when Santino lost the race he started crying and trying to shove Brandon off his swing, so I was on my feet at once, and then Brandon said "This is my swing, but you can have it," let Santino take his place, and started pushing him gently. The whole community loved him, although it was Ronnie the groundskeeper, the only person in the world who calls me "Bill" although he generally corrects himself, who tended him most of the time, since Chris the bicycle repairman, sweet though he is and a devoted father, has never been quite right in the head since his motorcycle accident.

Pam too was a caretaker to both Chris and Brandon, and it was Pam who greeted me at the gate, there by Fairmont trailer, saying "Welcome to Lupin!" on July 1st when I pulled up with my car full of stuff to move into Tiger Lily, although I had been to Lupin a dozen times before over the years, and had even been staying with Turtle in Hummingbird cabin from May 21st to June 10th, stretching Turtle's right to have guests ten days out of the month to the absolute limit of the law. I would hear about Pam, but only spoke to her once more, when Brandon was tearing across the parking lot and I ran to intercept him, since Ronnie was nowhere in sight, but Pam came up and said, "It's OK, I've got him," and I replied, "Just making sure some adult eyes were on him," and Pam expressed appreciation for that. So, when Maureen told him, "You're a Lupin baby, all right," no-one was surprised to hear Brandon retort, "No, I'm a Lupin DUDE!"

chapter 4

It was a brilliant and hot July, with hardly ever so much as a wisp of a cloud in the sky, so that I could not understand why anyone would voluntarily be wearing clothes, and when John Horne bumped into me, sometimes literally if the girls and Brandon were playing a game of Chase John Horne on the lawn, he would say "Just another beautiful day in paradise!" until I started to forestall him, saying "Just another beautiful day in paradise!" to which he would reply, "Hey, that's my line!" The domes atop the yurts could be opened up to vent the hot air, but Maureen told me Lori had confiscated all the cranker tools which used to be in each yurt, after a couple of fools had cracked their domes in the fall, tightening them back up after the hot season had passed, and not understanding that when you feel resistance you ought to stop. So I went to ask for a cranker at the office, but got tired of waiting for it to be brought to me in Lupin time, and borrowed a rake from Black Haired Diane, who lives between Tiger Lily and the Blue House, and is not to be confused with Blonde Diane, the sweet wife of Roy LNU and mother of Modern Nick, or Redhead Diane, the tempestuous wife of soft-spoken Kitchen Mike, or Turtle's wife Diane, who has never lived on the grounds and has not worked in the office since the days of Terrible Ed. And I showed Chef Phil the trick of how to use the rake when he and his girl Issa, the hula-hooper and tattoo/piercing artist, were staying for a while in Jasmine yurt, but he didn't get the hang of it so I had to do it, and I cranked yurt domes for guests, beginning to realize that it was better to do things myself than to send anyone to the office, not that I didn't remain on good terms with Faye, Gina, and Sergeant Dita, who was profusely apologetic when a check I had been looking for went astray and had to be re-issued, explaining that Doc, the elderly man who rode his bike around the Reservoir almost every day to keep in shape, had held the job of fetching and sorting the mail so long it could not possibly be taken from him now.

But when everyone's power except mine came back after a brief outage, and Maureen told me it must just be Lori telling me I was using too much electricity, I went first to the office, where they said they would get Robert, but the next day I decided I had better just hunt down Robert and ask him myself, and he got it fixed promptly. Robert was in a somewhat emotional state, because he had just located his teenage daughter after a decade of no contact, and had permission from the grandparents who had custody of her to visit whenever, but his high-rider truck, of which he was so proud, was not in sufficient repair to be trustworthy for such a drive. So while he was at Tiger Lily, I quietly offered to give him a ride or let him borrow my car anytime he wanted to go, and he thanked me but never took me up on it, out of pride I supposed. Since everybody is into everybody else's business at Lupin, as in a small town, there was speculation among the uninformed about what could be making Robert moody of late, and Chris Ann, a tireless broadcaster of stories, came up with the notion that Robert was doing heroin, of all things, which only went to show that Chris Ann had no experience of what junkies are really like. Black Haired Diane was appalled to hear this, and went to Robert to warn him what was being said behind his back, but also to Maureen to ask if there could be any basis for it, and Maureen was appalled that she would even think there could be, or would repeat such a thing, so the next time Black Haired Diane sat in the Circle, Maureen threw a glass of water in her face and told her to go away. I acted as go-between to mediate a peace.

Whether or not related to this slander, for nobody ever really knows when it comes to Lori's managerial decisions, Robert was removed for a time as head of Maintenance, in favor of Lonnie, whose only qualification for the post seemed to be that he was married to Chellis, daughter of Lori's half-brother Wayne and mother of baby Wanda, who was generally carried around in a papoose pack, staring cutely and cheerily at the world. And Maureen set a test for him: one of the women's toilets in the Taj Mahal would overflow sometimes, and she knew from her long stint as head of Housekeeping that this was caused by gravel accumulating in the pee trap, and told Lonnie that nothing more was required than to take it apart and shake out the stones, but he would pay no mind to that, perhaps because, it was speculated, he did not take orders from women. This might have been thought to be in Housekeeping's bailiwick, but Maureen had developed very exacting standards about how Housekeeping ought to be done, and while she was indulgent of my poor skills, saying that it was sweet of me to make the effort to wipe the table particularly because my efforts were so pathetic, she was not at all indulgent of Dara, the current head of Housekeeping, and would have preferred Blonde Diane in that role, who is an excellent cleaner but did not want the job. While Maureen doted on Dara's toddler Dmitry, whom she is the only person in the world to call "Vladimir", and was friends with Dara's sister Erica, of the Paramount Imports head-shop, her relations with Dara varied only on the scale from frosty to vitriolic, so she assigned the job of fixing the toilet to Lonnie, and as weeks went by and it was not done, she would sometimes deliberately overflow the toilet to attract attention, an example of what she called "doing drama". Then one Friday night, when I think it was the Goodess as DJ, Lonnie got up to dance, unexpectedly marvellously, and while I was thinking it was a shame he had no partner, for Chellis was busy fussing with Wanda, Maureen started to dance with him, and so there was peace between them, which of course did not last very long.

But other long-deferred maintenance Maureen was taking care of herself, well beyond the new pumps and filters that transformed the pool and hot tubs from their former murky state to miraculous azure, forever buying nails and paint and glue and stain, although on the day when Kitchen Mike complained that Lori had ordered him to restain a redwood fence, which had turned to graywood, with less than half the stain he had asked for, Maureen just told him to stain it as far as he could go, and so it was left half red and half gray until the Stouts were shamed into buying more stain. Bubba Chris was hired to fix the bicycles which Simone and Samara had received for their birthday almost a year before, which had been broken nearly the whole time since. "We can probably get that cheaper at Home Depot" became a catch-phrase which we used, whenever referring to something that was most unlikely to be in stock at Home Depot, to twit the Army of One, who was unaccustomed to having money, well OK it was Maureen's money if you want to get technical about it, and was tight with it. To suppliers accustomed to Lupin ordering things and leaving them unpaid for, Maureen would explain that she and Adam, whom she would introduce as her grandson or as her boyfriend, whichever would embarrass him more, were operating a "parallel universe" in which shops received money when goods were purchased. Adam decorated his new golf cart with multi-colored LED's programmed to display numerous flashing patterns, and I suggested he get sirens as well, to enforce the 10 MPH PLEASE signs which adorn our parking lot and road, less effectively than the 9 1/2 MPH signs at Turtle Lake which actually get people's attention with that odd number, of which a couple have actually been hit, first the one knocked down and then the other actually broken in half, and never fixed, of course, for that would not be the Lupin way. But Adam was among the worst offenders against that speed limit anyway, and when I saw his flashy golf cart racing down the road, I would shout out, "Army's on the move!"

So many plans we had, far from all of which came to fruition. Bubble lights did go around the Restaurant patio, since all the lights in the planter barrels had died long since, although Lori forbade their removal, but we never did string bubble lights along the eaves of the Restaurant roof, which were eventually decorated by Veny with flags of many countries, originally for our little Olympic Games but not taken down when those were over, anymore than Veny ever took down the taped decorations he would put in the windows or on the floor, leaving that to others. Maureen hated that row of flags, with the Czech flag hanging sideways not lengthways like all the others, not least because the British flag was omitted since, according to Veny, the Union Jack was too complicated for the children at Lexington School who had made the flags, although there were more complex designs represented, but also because the Phillipine flag was right in front of the clock, so that we never knew what time it was, and mostly because the nails penetrated the coating that was supposed to keep the termites out, and work would be required, by someone other than Veny of course, to putty those holes if ever the flags came down. The diseased oak tree, between the monkey bars and the swings, with dried upper branches, already favored by gorgeous pileated woodpeckers for their abundant crop of carpenter arts, touching the branches of Grandmother/Grandfather so that it threatened to spread the fungus, huge black nodules of which John Horne pointed out to me, saying that from his long experience with tree-work he judged the oak unlikely to survive the winter, would of course have to come down, but Maureen hoped to leave a "hand" of the five major trunks standing, and to have Richard B, who had built some beautiful tree-houses already, put one there for the children. And Little Mikey, from a wonderful bluesy band who played the Restaurant one weekend, was going to refurbish the facade of the puppet theater, but some members of the band had a falling-out with the Goodess, and we never saw them again, like so many wonderful bands that we heard only once.

And we were going to have the "silent music" sessions, using a ten-way splitter that Jean had so a bunch of people, recruited from among the musicians who go up and down Route 17 on their way to various gigs, and might appreciate a pleasant stop-over, could all put on earphones and listen to the same music at once, although usually Maureen used at most a "Y" to share whatever operatic aria or Gregorian chant she was fancying that day with whoever was visiting the Circle that day. We did blast out the music without earphones sometimes, but this was not really approved of, and Maureen explained that there really were good reasons for the general ban on all but officially authorized music, for the bongo drummer used to drum anywhere and anytime he felt like it, and we were occasionally afflicted with Pete the strolling saxophonist tootling away, which would have been less annoying if he were any good at it. Chef John's thrasher-punk band was, except on nights when he was officially authorized to rock the Restaurant, confined to the recording studio in the basement, where not much recording actually got done, and while the sound did leak out of there a little, if you actually wanted to listen to them you would have to sit on the lower deck. So Maureen would retreat, whenever not in a conversational mood, to the solitude of her earphones, but she did like sharing her music through the "Y" and offered, when the "Y" broke, to buy one off of Turtle, who always has a stash of such gear, but Turtle graciously made a gift of it, taking in exchange the other which he was sure he could repair. For you see, we have always had not only musicians in abundance, but also techies, Harry and Adam and John Horne all being as knowledgeable in their own ways as Turtle in his, although Faye's boyfriend Justin, whose job it actually was to maintain our connections, was having some kind of conflict with Lori and moved away, as with so many of the people I barely got to know at Lupin, and Rob's offer to set up truly professional light and sound equipment in the Restaurant never was taken up.

But some things did get done, like the replacement of the dingy beige, mostly broken beachy umbrellas over the tables on the Restaurant patio, with brand-new forest-green umbrellas. Richard M spray-painted all but one of the tables black, too, which looked much better than the old white, although one remained white because Richard was getting a headache and was not sure in any case if the remaining paint was enough to spray that last one, and he assumed that some of us would see to it that the job got finished, but it never did, to his disgust: well, properly completing a project would not be the Lupin way. My contribution was to pull out one of the old umbrellas partway, only to let it slip and just slightly jar the glass circle on the table, which literally exploded at me, so I went back to Oaktree Circle shaken and feeling ashamed of myself for my clumsiness, although everyone else was only worried about whether I had cut myself, which I had somehow managed not to do. Maureen said kindly that there had always been one too many tables on the patio anyway, and retired the still-white table from service, using its glass circle to replace the one I broke and rearranging the remaining tables in a roomier staggered pattern. Everyone agreed that the new look on the patio was a vast improvement, except of course for Lori, who was appalled that Maureen would have done such a thing without her permission. She mentioned to Jean that Maureen had had a lot of nerve, and Jean pointed out, what should have gone without saying, that the proper response to a gift, even one which was not quite what you wanted, is "Thank you".

chapter 5

What was it with Lori? I recall, only a day or two after Maureen was fired as Grammy, Samara asking why Mommy was so mad, and Maureen said Mommy was under stress, particularly about money, so Samara said "Ed caused a lot of trouble, didn't he?" which Maureen thought was very insightful, since Samara had been only three when Terrible Ed was ousted, and could only know of him as a distant rumor, much as I do. Now Glyn, despite having a Bus Ad degree from Stanford of which he is inordinately proud, lost interest in running the place himself back in the Nineties, and went through a few managers before Terrible Ed wormed his way into control. For a time, he even reached out to Clifford, who was of the Boswell Faction, and indeed had in his youth been a boy-toy for Tyler Boswell's formidable mother, one of the cougars for which, it is sometimes jested, Los Gatos is named, although Clifford and Tyler are nearly the same age. But after Lori insisted that Glyn fire Clifford as manager, and expel him from the cabin he had built himself, which is now Little John's, Clifford took his revenge by using most of the money he had built up through shrewd investment from seed money acquired, so it is said, in his days as Lupin's main dealer, although as with so much I hear at Lupin, the details are fuzzy, to buy up every scrap of debt paper on Lupin, except for Maureen's notes, and has threatened ever since to foreclose, if the Stouts should ever be one day late or one dollar short.

And afterwards, Susan was a competent manager, until she quit because she could not work with Ed. Maureen had always known Ed to be a dubious character, because she was housekeeper then, and knew that when Ed takes a dump, he neither wipes nor flushes, but just leaves his turds floating there, so that she could always tell when he was around: "there's a clue in the poo!" But she had no idea that he had a decades-long record as a con-man and had left a trail of rubble behind him, nor did Glyn bother to check him out until it was too late, after he had entered what he afterwards called a "handshake" deal with Ed, which Glyn interpreted as an employment contract hiring Ed as the general manager, but which Ed insisted was an actual transfer of title. Of course, the law expects changes to the title of real estate to be recorded in very precise writing, and Turtle's Diane had wisely refused to get drawn into drafting any papers, so the courts eventually ruled against Ed after lengthy litigation, but he was such a smooth talker that for a long time the sheriff's department was persuaded that he was the owner, and that the Stouts and Maureen and Clifford and their friend Judy and all the others who called, to protest this or that tyrannical usurpation by Terrible Ed, were just troublemakers, a "vocal minority" as the EDitorial put it, in an old edition of the Lupin Loop newsletter that I have from the waning days of the Ed regime, which also complains about the release there on parole of Lori's half-brother Wayne, who Ed refused to believe was really named Wayne "Stout", since that was Lori's married name and her maiden name was "Mendoza", for her father was a Filipino navy man who moved her around everywhere, although Wayne had a different father, reputedly a hellfire-and-brimstone preacher from deep in the Confederacy. Ed accused Wayne of having a swastika tattoo, which I cannot verify as Wayne is hardly the type to ever get naked here, not even using the hot tubs, but I do know that some people get tattoos that they afterward regret, like the "Thug Life" on Issa's butt which makes her another one who feels deterred from using the hot tubs, and Ed also accused Wayne of hacking into the computer system, which like so much else that I hear around Lupin, I find dubious, for Wayne is hardly a techie.

Terrible Ed didn't just expel a lot of long-time members, though this was a blow from which the place has never recovered, and alienate others in various ways, as when he seduced Kassandra, mother of Bubba Chris and later grandmother to Brandon, from her husband, an early and prominent member of the Burning Man group, or when he shut down all the little clubs that used to operate here, like the Drama Club that used to spill fake blood all over the Restaurant, except for the Camera Club which, however, he greatly diminished by expelling John-and-Sheila, who afterwards returned but never with the same enthusiasm for the place, but he also took everything that wasn't properly nailed down, a lot of which was eventually found at the Christmas tree farm on Mt. Charlie Road, including a whole freezer full of meat, which had been left unplugged so that it all rotted and filled the freezer with an ineradicable stench. And he ordered Jeff, of Jeff-and-Karen who live in the Flamingo house at the foot of Little Village road, to round up all the cats and dump them by Lexington Reservoir, though most of them eventually wandered back, last of all a cat whom Maureen had to rename Who Bell, recognizing that she was of the Bell family but no longer able to tell which one she was. Maureen forgave Jeff, since he was only following orders, and most of the cats pay him no more mind than they do anyone, except of course for Vanna, who hisses at him, but then Vanna is suspicious of all humans, for she derives her name from a ride in Tyler's van, all the way to Gilroy while the driver worried about the strange noises from the engine compartment, until at the end of the trip Tyler opened the hood to discover a fried litter of kittens in the engine, of whom Vanna was the only survivor, needing lengthy cuddling from Pyewacket the friendly guinea pig, fur all badly singed and one eye injured and oozing, which had to be removed after the gardener hit it with a rake.

So of course, when Lori took over she was actually hailed as rather a savior, and got some managerial help from Ardis, of Dave-and-Ardis, long-time members though they do not live on the grounds, until she decided she wanted to do everything herself. If she was paranoid about anyone else wanting to take any bit of control away from her, resentful of Maureen for doing things on her own, afterwards suspicious of me for my intimate involvement in affairs, unable to let either Harry or Will exercise the responsibilities she had supposedly delegated to them, well OK, the history might provide some explanation for this attitude. The problem was that she had no qualifications to be a manager of anything: no understanding of finances, neither understanding of nor any instinctual sense for the requirements of the law, and no sense at all of when she was binding herself to a contract with the words that came out of her mouth, for she was forever making promises one day and changing her mind the next, and surprised to find that people were angered by this. She was not a businesswoman but an artist by training and temperament, creator of the large bronze Wishbone that stood by one end of the Restaurant patio, and of the Running Chair at the foot of Little Village road across from the Flamingo house, both pieces that I rather liked, although Jean looked down her nose at them, for she has a very particular sense and thought many of the artistic touches around the grounds were ill-done, like the gargoyles flanking the redwood bridge across our seasonal creek, leading from Little Village road to the steps up through the yurt row with forks to Hidden Oak or Oaktree Circle or Community Kitchen, which Jean considered very bad feng shui, as if the gargoyles were warding off visitors. I showed Lori my 14th (?) century Bulgarian (?) icon of John the Baptist, with the gashes from beams falling on it during my apartment fire to give it some character, and she found that marvellous, and when I was bringing my Tibetan temple bell with the dorje handle up to show Maureen, Lori asked to look at it and to hear me ring it, for she likes bell music and sometimes plays an Indonesian gamelan-type thing, if not very well.

For you see, odd though it seems in retrospect, Lori and I were friends, if not at all close ones, at that time, and I was still allowed to look after Simone and Samara occasionally, even while Maureen, who had been their Grammy since they were one day old, was progressively excluded from their lives. The first time I was in charge of them, I was told to make sure they got home for their nine o'clock bedtime, and was a little concerned about whether they would recognize my dubious authority, for I had seen that they often paid little mind to Lori when she told them it was time to stop watching TV or play video games, but when Gina came to fetch Carlos and Albert back to Unicorn yurt, they offered no resistance to my suggestion that it was time for them likewise to go back to the Blue House, to my relief since the temperature was getting to the point where I wanted a bathrobe. As we walked up Little Village road, Samara said, "I hate this hill. Have you ever had to walk up this hill?" I pointed out that my home was up there too, and that I had to walk the hill every day, but Samara retorted, "Not as long as I have!" Well this was undeniably true, for I had only been walking it seven weeks, and she had been walking it seven years, so Samara pointed out, "That's my whole life! You try walking it your whoooole life!"

But another time, Simone, whom Maureen was the only person in the world to call "Spike", because she was always rather domineering, insisting for example that she was the firstborn of the twins although Lori has always refused to say, however much it appears to others that Simone is likely to be correct on this point, was shoving and jostling Samara on the swings, getting just enough beyond the point of ordinary sibling squabbling that I was on the point of intervening. Samara ran into the TV room, the part of the Restaurant that is left open 24/7 because it has nicer bathrooms than the Taj Mahal, but Simone pursued her there, and I don't know what happened inside, but soon they were running back, this time with Samara in angry pursuit of Simone, and when Simone sat on a swing, Samara hauled off and punched her, and Simone started bawling, while Samara started kicking dirt and gravel at her. I sprang up and got between them, to Cindy's astonishment when I later relayed the story to her: "Say what? I would never step in between those two!" I told Samara she had done quite enough, and she ran off crying, and disappeared utterly, not to be found up any of the trees she liked to climb, nor in her favorite meditative spot by the water fountain, decorated with Lupin's emblematic sun-burst, that stands above the five fifty-year-old redwood trees and the three tepees and the lower hot tub. Glyn was frantically looking for her everywhere for over an hour, but finally I was able to tell Lori, who was basking unconcerned in the hot tub, that Glyn had Samara, and was talking to her gently but firmly, for if they do not always mind Lori, both of them always mind Glyn.

And when next I saw them, Simone was starting to bully Samara again, and said "Bob will be my protector, my shield!" so I had to tell her no, no, no I wouldn't, and I was rather afraid that I had ruined my relationship with Samara. But on the day of the great rabbit hunt, when Dot had escaped from her hutch and could not be found, I was honored to be the one Samara approached first for help in finding the lost creature, for Lori was not much concerned. I searched the immediate neighborhood, and thought I heard some rustling under Hummingbird cabin, to which I should have paid more attention, since Hummingbird cabin has always had some unusual power to attract animals, from the deer herds that sometimes even clatter over the porch, down through the cat Calico who used to belong to John Horne when he lived in Madrone cabin and then became attached to me until I accidentally stumbled into him once and was never forgiven, all the way to the field mice who sometimes make their way inside, to Turtle's intense annoyance. But I did not catch a glimpse of Dot, and ended up running all over the grounds, searching the underside of every car, cabin, yurt, trailer, and unidentifiable structure from the Restaurant all the way to the Barrington house, which stands at the very back end of Little Village road, where it makes a hairpin turn to go Up Top and become the Lower Trail. The Barrington house is the largest, still owned by widow Barrington, although Richard B is usually the only one in there, except for the time there was that lawyer staying there, who told me how he was visited by a ghost, and saw the bleeding face of a tortured Jesus, but knew somehow he was not being visited by Jesus but rather by an old-fashioned girl with a sweet aroma about her who wanted to direct him to Jesus, which was a paralyzing and awful experience for him because it reminded him of sins on his conscience, so he started to tell me his life story, but as with so much that I hear at Lupin, that must go with me to my grave.

However devoutly I wished to be the hero who retrieved the rabbit, it was not to be. Later that night, Maureen decided that she was the only one who could coax Dot back, and braved the environs of the Blue House, where she was distinctly unwelcome, to take the hand of a still sobbing Samara, and lead her to the slope under Hummingbird cabin, where they could see a quivering Dot, to try to whisper gently to the rabbit. She told Samara it was really important to get Dot back quickly and not leave her out overnight where the mountain lion might get it, because she thought it vital to prepare Samara in case the story did not end happily, but unfortunately Black Haired Diane overheard this remark, and starting loudly remonstrating with Maureen that it was really bad to be frightening Samara in such a way, while Maureen tried to shush her and get back to the job of calming down the rabbit, and then Veny and Brandy came over to shout at Maureen as well, for by this time everyone in Little Village had been told that Maureen was no longer to have anything to do with the children. So it was impossible to retrieve Dot at that time, but in the morning Dot had found her way back to the hutch, and all was well. Maureen had another story to tell about Samara and Dot, that Samara used to have a rabbit carrier until Uncle Wayne, who had always hated the rabbit for some reason, destroyed it and tried to throw it in the garbage, but was caught by Samara, who punched him in the testicles, to which Wayne responded by blacking both her eyes, and when Maureen told Lori about it, Lori seemed to have no concern for Samara, but instead insisted that Wayne loved the children and could not possibly be responsible. And she had told me another story about Wayne and Samara, back on the day of the Perseid shower.

chapter 6

It was on Tuesday the 11th of August that Black Haired Diane went around to all the yurts and cabins to put out flyers about how that night, after midnight until around 5 AM, would be the best viewing of the Perseid meteors. The night before, Maureen had drunk much more than usual from her "giraffe" of wine, filled with her special mix of half cheap Port, half cheap Zinfandel, which those who indulge in wine, as I do not, anymore, since I cannot drink even a little without drinking way too much, are often fooled into thinking is some very exotic vintage, and she was loudly singing about how she ain't gonna work on Lori's farm no more until the wee hours. I cringed in Tiger Lily yurt, knowing that pressure to choose sides was building, and fearing that Maureen was not making any friends just then, but did nothing until I heard a loud crashing and some shouting, and dashed to Butterfly yurt, where apparently Maureen had fallen on the tricky steps, and driven shards from her broken wine-glass into her arm, so that afterwards she had to go to Paramount Imports to buy a silver chalice with a pentacle design for her evening wine. I was concerned not only by her injury but by her distress, for that evening it had gotten back to her that there were unkind rumors about a physical relationship between her and the Army of One, rumors she had certainly fed with her occasionally crude flirting with him, for she could scarcely conceal that she found this very handsome boy quite arousing, but all who knew them well knew that they only "brain fucked" as she put it, keeping quite strict boundaries between them, which would only relax much later, as that they would never flick the inevitable cigarettes into the ashtray at the same time, when they were driving in their car, well OK it was Maureen's car if you want to get technical about it, playing Moody Blues, In Search of the Lost Chord, lest they brush hands, and Adam never ventured to Butterfly yurt in those days, not even to stand on the tricky steps, much less to trespass past the PRIVATE sign on the door, which even I in those days had not yet been given permission to go beyond.

However, not everyone quite understood their relationship, and of course John Horne had gotten off some of the most cutting barbs, although I never heard which line it was that set Maureen off. She told me she was just "doing drama" and that I should not be worried and should just go back to bed, which I did, but failed to sleep when there was quiet again, and failed to rise when there was loud noise again, from further away this time. It seems she had gone to Clifford's old cabin above the Back Forty, now always blocked from view by a van noxiously colored day-glo yellow like a Merry Pranksters bus, for it is occupied by the generally reclusive Little John, the former child prodigy who plays harmonica, sounding more like Bob Dylan than Bob Dylan does, who has a lot of fans in and around Lupin, although Lori torments him and threatens to put him in a mental hospital, and he has never told me his life story, which is surely one of the more fascinating ones in Lupin, for he has played with a longish list of big names like B. B. King, but he leaves long rambling messages on Maureen's phone on his Xanax days, and had taken in the Army of One, who always sets up his sound boards as he does for many other bands, as his confidant and pot-smoking buddy. And Wayne, who is what passes for "security" around here, tried to grab hold of her and she fell over, or something like that, for as with so much that I hear at Lupin, the details are fuzzy, but Issa was on the scene, and was ever after very wary of Maureen, and would not let Chef Phil sit in Oaktree Circle anymore with his inevitable hand-rolled cigarettes, chatting about Mediterranean cuisine, while Maureen asked him to "Peel me a grape!"

So in the morning, after I had promised Black Haired Diane to come to the upper hot tub that night to watch the Perseids with her and the twins, I wondered what state Maureen would be in, and she was grumpy and hung over with her arm bandaged up, but insisted she had to go feed Rowdy, whom Glyn loves very much but never feeds, and sat in her car, playing Moody Blues, In Search of the Lost Chord, far more loudly than usual, until Wayne came up to her and she shouted, "You keep away from me!" Redhead Diane and Roy LNU and Chris Ann had come out to see what the commotion was all about, and Redhead Diane called 911 as Maureen roared off in her car, heading not to Glyn's cabin but down by the Nudome where she might have some peace, and Redhead Diane then called the office to tell them not to let her out. I, likewise, did not want her out on Route 17, driving angry and one-handed, and did not think the office would take Redhead Diane seriously, so I sprinted down there and told Faye, "Put the gate down! Now!" For the gate had not been working properly since May, despite all Harry's tinkering with it, and was usually just left up, but Faye got it down and was setting chairs in front of it when, sure enough, Maureen came driving up, much faster than 10 MPH PLEASE, until she saw what was happening and turned around to go back. And soon the sheriff's deputies arrived, but by then Maureen was calm and all charm, and of course had known the deputies for years, so that I would have suspected she had diapered them as babies, if I had not been told that in her days as housekeeper she had never liked children, because they made messes, and had been reluctant to take on the role of Grammy when Lori asked her, odd though that seems in retrospect. And she was joking about how unnecessary it was for the car to be beeping at her, telling her the door was open, when after all there was a big hole there, quite obvious to the eye, until the deputies pointed out that they did, of course, have some work they should be doing, and took off.

Then Maureen felt exhausted, and lay down in her sleeping bag on the stage under Grandmother/Grandfather oak, where she had taken up the habit of sleeping on nights when Butterfly yurt was overhot despite the open dome, and I sat watching over her, at first unable to do anything but rock back and forth sobbing lightly, and fended off all the people who wanted to talk to her but had to settle for talking to me, about half-baked rumors, like Chris Ann with her version of the previous night's events, although she does not live on the grounds and had not been around for any of it, and Roy LNU telling me that Lori had said Maureen had gone off her antipsychotic medication, although Maureen had told me the only meds she had been on were for blood pressure, which made her fat and puffy so that she got rid of the stuff, back in June. The only ones I let pass were Samara, who wanted to show Grammaureen a picture she had drawn, and Simone, who also wanted to be of comfort, an incident that Glyn saw and allowed, which I much doubt that Lori would have, and after that Maureen put on her earphones to listen to Madame Butterfly and the Warsaw Concerto, and she spoke little, but said that she wanted to stay out on the stage that night to watch the meteors, although her eyes were already getting droopy again and it was clear to me she would not make it. So I tossed out the bubble lights by the stage, and she said, "How nice of you to make a lion to protect me!" For the lights had fallen, quite unintentionally on my part although she seemed to think it was me being artistic, in the shape of one of The Cats, the famous pair of statues which guard the old estate, on Route 17 just above the city, of a poet who had to wait until his eighties to marry the love of his life, until his wife who wouldn't give him a divorce finally died, or maybe it was her husband: as with so much else that I hear at Lupin, the details are fuzzy. I paced the grounds late at night, as had become my habit since the night, early in my stay, when I had followed the sound of bongo drums to their source, and found not only the drummer but also a potter working, in an area of the grounds I had not known existed, and was so lost I wandered aimlessly all over, and enjoyed it. I saw Black Haired Diane leading Simone and Samara, who had special dispensation to stay up with their sleeping bags, but though they waved and said Hi, I was too deep in thought to answer, and I never did see a single shooting star that night, for Simone later explained to me that they did not really get started until "very, very, very late", so late that it was early, as we used to say.

Next day, Maureen wanted to talk. She was not concerned only, or even primarily, about Adam getting attacked for being her ally, though this did distress her, but was deeply hurt at losing touch with the girls, and worried about the effect it was having on them as well. She told how they always used to come to Butterfly yurt late at night, unbeknownst to their parents, if anything was bothering them, but now they were far too afraid of being caught, and would not usually even give her eye-contact, though Samara would sometimes furtively use the sign-language Lori had taught them when they were little, and once sat on the steps, then scooched down one step further as if to ask how far from the Circle was far enough. She showed me the picture Samara had drawn of the newborn squirrel, so pink and hairless it took a while even to identify it as a squirrel, who had fallen out of the nest in June, when I was off with the conquistadores claiming Yosemite for Spain, so that Samara had to wrap him in cotton, and feed him with an eye-dropper, and name him "George Lupin Stout" or "The Little Man", nursing him for days until he finally died and was given a moving funeral, and told how she had once found Samara in Butterfly yurt surrounded by skunks, many of whom Samara had named, although to most people, myself included, skunks are too uniform in appearance to distinguish one from another, even if we don't recoil from them too immediately to get a good look, but there they were, all pointing their rumps at Samara as she brushed them sleek (but you must know, the Lupin skunks are too human-adapted to be much of a danger, except to dogs who might need one dose of education, and the only person I have ever known to be skunked here was John Horne, and that was only because he was drunk and carrying a TV set, and stepped on one of their tails because he was not seeing where he was going). And she told how Simone had demanded that Olympic champion Ping Pongers be brought in to play her, since she could handily whip anyone at Lupin, until Glyn gave her a game, for she had only really wanted her dad, like any seemingly hard-shelled child with a bottomless need for attention and affection.

And now, with Dutch Emy gone back home, they were under the care of such hard characters as Veny, who marched them around like little soldiers, and Brandy, a meth-head who had been to prison when she foolishly tried to pass counterfeit money for Ricky, Lori's other half-brother, who then blew up a cabin, burning it to the foundation, in a meth-manufacture experiment gone awry, and was sent back to San Quentin for something else entirely. But most of the time they were under the care of Uncle Wayne, whom they would say they loved because he tickled them so much, and I asked in some apprehension whether this might be a euphemism for molestation, but Maureen said no, no, no, there was no sign of that, at least, though the tickles seemed more in the nature of torture-tickles than amusement-tickles. But this was not what disturbed her most: one day in the spring, she and others heard the sound of gunshots from Sal's Canyon, where it seems Wayne had taken the girls, and Ronnie and Brandon, to show off his shooting skills, and told Samara that if she ever said anything about him having a gun, which with his record he ought not to have had, he would never take her to McDonald's again and would never let her visit Grammy's grave when she was dead and gone, and Samara had held this dreadful secret for days before asking Maureen what she should do. As with so much else that I hear at Lupin, the details are fuzzy, for I heard other versions of the story: Samara had found Wayne's gun in the attic of the Blue House, and asked around quietly what she should do about it; or, Wayne shot a deer in Sal's Canyon and Ronnie was called in to butcher the animal, fairly certain of course that the kill was illegal but what the hey, the critter was dead already, and sure enough then the blame was pointed at him; or, someone heard Wayne threaten that if ever he learned who was talking about him having a gun, two would go down to the Back Forty and only one would come back, which was chilling because the hearer knew that it was Samara; or, Wayne had pistol-whipped Samara, which, as with so much else that I hear at Lupin, sounded over-the-top dubious. All I knew was that sometimes late at night, I would hear distant gunshots coming from Up Top, target practice I suppose, that may have been intended to be secret, but I have lived in Detroit for many years and would know that sound anywhere from no matter how far away, and once when I visited Rob-and-Jean at their trailer site Up Top, I found a pile of bullet casings, and Jean told me that the area, which was still littered with a lot of trash, used to be called the Burn Pile, and it might well have been considered a good sport, in its days as a garbage heap, to go there and shoot rats.

The unburdening lightened her mood, and she and Adam smoked some pot companionably, laughing and joking, and I partook, which I have rarely done in the years since I quit drinking, so that in the days to come I began to worry about having done so, and to pine for my copy of the Big Book, lost in the Detroit apartment fire, until Maureen offered me the one she had, a first edition all yellowed and scribbled in, with the cover missing, that she had salvaged from the meeting which had met at Lupin for decades, the very first Women's Meeting in California, until Lori put a stop to it, but I had to tell her that it was too sacred, and ought to be sent to Akron. Just a few puffs got me really stoned, wowing about the glowing colors in the sunset sky, but then very pensive, for I had been the opposite of unburdened. Lupin was starting to remind me of law-school days, when the questions on every exam took the form of a convoluted story followed by some version of, "Spot the liability issues, and suggest ways to manage them." Up to this time, odd though it seems in retrospect, I had been strictly The Ears, and had never repeated anything that I heard, but now I wondered whether I had some responsibility to speak up. If Wayne had a gun illegally, he could be blackmailed, which was very bad as he not only worked security but also handled the cash from the Restaurant, where there were disquieting rumors of money going missing, and Harry was accused, for I had learned that he had been moved from the office to managing the Restaurant when I asked him why I had not received a copy of my lease, and now learned that he was benched from the Restaurant as well, but as with so much that I hear at Lupin, I was dubious, for Harry had an outside income, and just did not seem the type to be a sneak thief in any case, and he would go on to produce a detailed accounting of every penny he had taken in and passed on, and when he had cleared himself, the whole question of where the money went was simply forgotten about. And if instead there was no truth to the stories about Wayne's gun, still it was Lori's business to know that such tales were now part of Lupin folklore.

And there were other issues, such as Brandon's unsatisfactory home by the front gate, for I had nearly run him over when he escaped Bubba's grasp and dashed out into the driveaway, and others told of similar close calls, besides which, Fairmont trailer was a sty, for Bubba was no kind of housekeeper, and I learned it had been condemned by the county for its various dubious attachments, and ordered to be demolished, so long ago that the red tags had turned pink in the rain, and fallen off, and gotten lost in the mud. Adam too needed a better home than the tent, up on the slope above the Amberwood and Sparrow's Nest and Fish Flag houses, halfway to Rob-and-Jean's, to which he obviously could not bring his kids, which would have to be done before school started or they would have to stay with his mom for the year, and I was planning to give him a ride up to Oregon to get his things out of storage, and visit my sister in Portland and take Jimbo to see a friend up that way, but this too would have to be done before school started, and Maureen had Hidden Oak cabin in mind for him, but others thought this would be line-jumping when some had been without proper housing for far longer. Then there was the harrassment of Butch and Corky, who lived in the Route 50 cabin, out Little Village road almost to Glyn's cabin, across from the Czech Flag and Madrone cabins, and were being ordered to move to a worse spot or start coughing up a large rent, for while Butch still worked with his rake, well OK it was Maureen's rake if you want to get technical about it, on the continual leaves and debris, and was the only staffer to be habitually naked, if you don't count Harry's habit of wearing a shirt and no pants or John Horne's occasional removal of his little hot pants with the flame design, whenever there were women about who might be prospects, Corky had been fired as bookkeeper, not least because she questioned the irregularities about the various withholdings which ought to have been remitted to this and that government agency. I had just met Will, who was supposedly going to be the new general manager, and is the only person in the world who calls me "The Bobster", and warned him, when the topic of people who might have to be evicted came up, that ousting Butch and Corky would be inviting a tar pit of legal trouble.

I was pacing the grounds wondering whether to approach Lori about all this, when a brilliant and hot fireball lit up the sky, seemingly aimed straight at me, so that I wondered whether we might have a meteorite, maybe one striking the Community Kitchen or some other structure in urgent need of demolition, or maybe one we could sell to a museum for enough money to fix some of those structures, and a little later saw two shooting stars at once, perhaps from one rock that had broken in pieces, and would see three more good ones that night. The omens seemed right, so I wrote up a note discussing all those matters, and the ongoing quarrels with the former and present chefs of the Restaurant, which is a whole other saga, and of course the quarrel with Maureen, and on the portentious 13th, as a pall of smoke began to filter down from the Bonny Doon fire over the mountains, I walked up to the Blue House to hand it to Lori, thus beginning our nonrespondence, for I cannot call it "correspondence" when that term implies two-sided communication. Lori would not take the note, telling me to drop it off at the office or, better yet, to send her an e-mail, which she preferred, and I did both, leaving the note in her mailbox and then composing an e-mail expressing sympathy for the difficult position of being drafted into managing such a quirky lot of troubled people, emphasizing that of course she was under no obligation to take my advice, and mentioning the little presents I would give Simone and Samara for their eighth birthday that Sunday, all in an effort to soften the blow that I was, unmistakably, telling her she was screwing up a lot of things. The Boony Doon fire sent us a swarm of bats fleeing the smoke, one of whom fluttered around Tiger Lily yurt, apparently having entered through the open dome which it could not find again, so I just left the door open a while and gave up on trying to herd with the rake, as Maureen was glad to hear when I told her about it, fearing I might have injured the innocent beastie, and though Turtle pointed out that this might merely give entry to another bat, I suspected (correctly) that "as long as the mean ambient density is less than one bat per yurtful, the integer must settle down to zero at some point." My e-mail didn't get an answer, but that weekend I overheard Butch saying that miraculously the quarrel with Lori was over, which of course wouldn't last long, but at the time he said, "I went to bed and just said, Lord, I can't handle this, I turn it over to You, and I felt an angel lifting me up and protecting me." I said to myself, "Whoa, have I been drafted into the Angel Army now? I thought I was 4-F for that kind of service!" And if any of you youngsters asks what "4-F" means, I'll hit you with my cane.