Jean decided to do the final days of Burning Man after all, and not to care about whether she and Rob would run into each other or not, which of course they would, and while Rob had their big guard dog Punkin, Jean was not going to take little Bellingham, an elderly though still feisty Yorkshire terrier, and asked me to look after him, and to keep an eye on their trailers Up Top. I told her there was another matter to deal with: Maureen was increasingly uncomfortable with the voodoo doll maintaining its glare in the Circle, so it was time for it to come down, and was there some particularly appropriate place to bury it, or whatever needed to be done? She laughingly said that the very best place would be under Cindy's trailer, where Jean would never dare venture as everyone would be suspicious to see her anywhere in that part of the grounds, so I said I would do it, and she left it in my hands. For an appropriate receptacle, I chose a large paper bag which I had used to rescue some not-really-salvageable items from the apartment fire, and which now contained only genuine Detroit ashes and cinders. For an appropriate glove, for like Maureen I had no wish to touch the doll with my hands, I took down a poster from the Restaurant which, as with so many Lupin posters, was still advertising the events of the weekend now some days past, such as young Cassady's talk, and Veny's anything-that-floats regatta for the kids, which had resulted in Veny leaving a screamingly rude voice-mail that Black Haired Diane played for us, berating her for not doing all his work for him, Veny building a cardboard submarine filled with Styrofoam peanuts which some kids tried out hours before the scheduled regatta and broke open, so that there were Styrofoam peanuts everywhere which I was the only one willing to pick up, for Veny had gone off sulking and was nowhere to be found at regatta time, Chris Ann having to step in and run the thing, and Veny leaving all the leftover cardboard sitting on the lawn overnight, to get soaked by Ronnie's sprinklers at dawn, which I was going to pick up, except that Maureen told me to leave it and see if Veny would for once take care of his own mess, but John Horne finally could not stand it and started clearing it away, drawing some help from me and Ronnie. For an appropriate time, I chose the stroke of midnight when the voodoo doll would have been up on the tree for exactly 13 days.
In the afternoon, I helped Cindy lug amplifiers and other heavy equipment after the musicians were done on the upper lawn, beyond the sauna and hot tub, who like so many other musicians at Lupin had played gratifyingly sweet notes to a disappointingly small crowd, although Jean and Maureen had been nagging me for a while about my hernia, pressing me to see a doctor about it, and for a time Maureen would not even let me carry sacks of cat food down to Butterfly yurt. But while I did this to prove I had no animosity against Cindy when she did good works, around sundown when I had seen her drive out, I walked sideways across the driveway, just by the last bend before the office, with my back toward Lupin, naked of course, pissing as I went, to make a territorial line in wolf language, and block the dark side of Cindy from returning. As the witching hour approached, I emptied the waste-basket in Tiger Lily yurt for only the second time since I had been there, exposing the white backside of the Czech flag so that I had to stab it lightly again with Samara's sword, into the large paper bag of ash and coals, taking it down to the dumpster between the office and the little cluster of trailers, including Cindy's, that arcs around the lower lawn to Flamingo house, below the Bamboo Grove where the deer like to sleep at night, and dumped the bag to ritually establish it as a trash-bag, leaving in it only a cigarette butt I had retrieved from right next to the bullet casings by Rob-and-Jean's place Up Top, and went to sit in the Circle to await the time. But a black cat sat right below the voodoo doll, whom at first I took to be Vanna, until she glared at me with both eyes and I guessed again that it was Who Bell, so I decided it would be time whenever the cat decided to move. Maureen saw my bag, and asked, "Are you taking down that thing?" I nodded. "Did Jean tell give you instructions?" I nodded again, but just kept sitting there in silence, naked of course, with the inevitable cigarette, until Maureen grew impatient, "What are you waiting for?" So I gestured at the cat. "Oh come on, grow some balls! Are you going to let a cat boss you around?" She shooed the cat, which Jean thought an excellent touch when I recounted the events to her later, adding a bit of Maureen's energy to the mix, and I wrapped the obsolete poster around the doll, stuffed it in the bag, and walked down to shove it deep under Cindy's trailer, where I expected it would stay until Cindy moved out. And I cleaned all remnants from its manufacture out of the Circle, using a leftover snatch of red cloth, cinching off a portion, to make a kind of head, with a leftover snatch of blue yarn tied in a kind of noose, to make a mini-voodoo-doll for the office, deciding against approaching the Blue House on this occasion.
Now Bellingham, or "Mr. B." for short, is seventeen years old, which is far older than he seems, even if the times-seven rule of thumb which would convert that to "119" human years is not at all accurate for later dog ages, and I thought that maybe the Humane Society had simply been inaccurate in estimating his age when Jean rescued him from among all the lost pets in Katrina's wake, and I told the story that way to several people, until I learned that, as with so much that I retell at Lupin, I had gotten the details garbled, and the post-Katrina dog had not been Mr. B. but another, whom Jean no longer had, while Bellingham, though also a shelter-rescue dog, had been hers since he was a little puppy whose ears dwarfed his head, and seventeen years old indeed he was. On Friday I let him out a couple times from Jean's cramped trailer where he snoozed in the heat, but only to run Up Top, as far down as Adam's tent where I would not let him enter, and as far up as the ravines filled with debris and incipient mudslides from the bulldozing Glyn and Sal were doing, to level a section for Lori's proposed Cultural Center, where a new cluster of yurts was supposed to be built for resident artists, and he chased a full-grown deer, yip-yip-yipping in full ferocity, although the deer could have turned and stomped him, and was just playing along, I swear, even slowing down a couple times to let him keep up.
But Saturday I brought him down to the Circle, where he had been before but only in Jean's carrying bag, or on a short leash, so that Maureen was the only person in the world to call him "Rob", in ironic allusion to the leash Jean seemed to want her husband on, and Maureen was also the first person in the world, though not the last, to call him "Toto", although she has never managed to see The Wizard of Oz all the way through. After I walked him about, or rather the reverse, for aside from forbidding him to enter the Restaurant or to go out into the parking lot or down the stairs, I let him have his way so much that Maureen laughingly said I was injuring the dignity of the whole human species, and I had to tell her she should see me being walked by Cody, Turtle and Diane's golden retriever who considers me superior to all other humans as a dog-walker for the excessive freedom I allow him, and barks and goes for the leash the instant I appear at that house, I decided that Bellingham had learned the rules and could be turned loose. Rachel spoiled him with bacon from the Restaurant so that he sought her out especially all day, but he made friends with everyone, especially Simone and Samara when Glyn brought them up, and they asked if he could come down to the fountain, where we all had a pleasant romp and Glyn chatted with me about perhaps getting such a dog for them some day. Then we went back and, of course, Lori showed up to tell me, "That thing needs to be on a leash." I quickly drove him back to the trailer.
It was full moon, of course, since the moon had been thirteen days old when I took the doll down, and though the Goodess had cancelled her DJ stint, I had heard there might be live musicians on the upper lawn, so when Cindy drove by me in a golf cart to urge me to come to her full-moon dance, saying, "Come on up! It will be fun! You don't want to miss it," with Chris Ann and Redhead Diane in the cart, and I think Sarah, Portia's sister who had been Lupin's PR person until Lori decided we don't need PR, an arch-Christian, sometimes annoying about it, who would not usually be expected to take part in a pagan rite, I assumed I would find them when I went for my usual evening shower and hot tub. So I missed it: they were actually going to the Circle, to annoy Maureen and dance on the stage, facing the Restaurant, although the full moon was rising in a totally different direction, behind their left shoulders, appearing to my ritual sense, which has been considered quite good by those who would know, Jean telling Maureen, when Maureen asked whether I was a voodoo practicioner also and I denied belonging to that or any other tradition or knowing exactly what to call myself, that I was just "a natural", as an affront to Artemis, the Rising Goddess mooning the rising moon goddess. Cindy had found the voodoo doll faster than you could say Cineribus resurget, whether because I had not shoved it in far enough back, or because animals dragged it out, or because Cindy felt the vibes, I could not say, but none of us knew that Cindy somehow managed to toss the doll way up into the oak, until Jean returned and spied it, setting it out on the stage, and tut-tutting that the pins had all been removed, which ought not be done except by whoever stuck them in, as part of a reconciliation that Cindy had now rendered impossible. Cindy came up and took the doll from the stage, retorting to Jean's accusation that she was "stealing" it, "I consider anything left at my home as a gift, so thank you!" This too I thought ritually poor, practically an invitation to Jean to "gift" her some more, so I wrote Cindy a note, polite in tone though rather evasive about my own role in the affair, telling nothing but the truth of course, but of course not the whole truth, explaining why I thought her attempts at counter-magic were all ill-done, and warning that to burn the doll or bury it disrespectfully would be self-destructive. The next weekend, I went to the dance with the Goodess as DJ, as I seldom did, and she played "I put a spell on you!" for me, as I danced, naked of course, with Portia, of Zach-and-Portia, young protege's of Sal, who had been a high-school coach for years and still talked to troubled kids and took in those who needed a place to go, and then the Goodess played "You've got to change your evil ways!" and danced with me, so that even John Horne commented, "You were really cutting a rug there," and ever since then Cindy and I have been fine.
Jean had not had a very happy time at Burning Man, finding Rob, who was full of resentments, and Pam, who was in a cold fury and vowing vengeance on Lupin, promising in particular to call the county about the landscaping work Glyn and Sal were doing Up Top, for which of course they had not bothered to obtain the grading permits needed for extending the roads. It was a little worse than that, Maureen explained, for the water authority had exercised eminent domain over a lot of property back when the Reservoir went in, and had only allowed us to continue under restrictive covenants that we were not to disturb the landscape in the watershed without permission, which had caused trouble when the Native burial was uncovered, so this was the kind of thing that could actually get us shut down, and the water authority would not be inclined to be friendly, after their desire to log a bunch of the redwoods that line Old Santa Cruz road had been shot down by a campaign of protest, in which Lupinites had played a prominent role. Jean suspected that Lori's intermittent demands that she and Rob move their trailers down somewhere else in the Back Forty were to prevent them from seeing what was being done to the land, although it was far too late for that, and even I had seen it now. The water flow through our grounds was already not what it should have been, the yellow light atop the water tower flashing its alarm often, which would bring Tyler Boswell, a hereditary enemy of the Stouts who had been raised in the Blue House before it was painted blue, and resented even the fact that it had changed color, let alone that it was now filled with Stouts, still considering it rightfully his although all he owned was Jasmine yurt, where he hardly ever stayed, and yet for some reason was still in charge of the water system and would go around all September putting up signs telling us whether we were on Stage 1 or Stage 2 or Stage 3 of Mandatory Water Conservation, which was a good excuse not to take a shower on a chilly morning. Now, to get here you have to harelip everyone on Bear Creek, or rather, make a hairpin turn at Bear Creek, such a sharp 180 degree turn that they don't even bother to put up a sign telling you the exit ramp has a low speed limit, then take a right turn to cross the bridge over Route 17, and another right to complete the 360 degree turn to go the same way as before except now on Old Santa Cruz, and there at the final turn, and also down closer to us by the Alma Bridge bend, we now started seeing official cars parked, with men training binoculars at the top of Lupin, and one morning the helicopters which often fly by over the grounds, on the way to check for forest fires, instead hovered over our grounds and went back, not once or twice but eight times by my count.
We were visited by the lordly crows, as I called them since, while we usually have a variety of bird species, a couple raptors like the red-tail hawks that soar the thermals above the ravines and the owls that hoot by night in Bamboo Grove, a couple oddities from the large pileated woodpeckers who clean up the dead or dying trees to the little hummingbirds who frequent the delicate flowers of my rosemary and the syrup feeders that Brian maintains, and more usual birds like the occasional doves, the families of quail with their dutiful mothers, the little songbirds that I took for titmice (a titmouse is neither a tit nor a mouse, discuss) until I was told no such species exists around here and finally identified them as chestnut chickadees, and the numerous blue jays who usually chased around the others, when the flock of black crows come in they tolerate no other birds of any kind for the duration of their residence, which is usually brief, but not this time. And Clifford came, and did not leave after negotiations with the Stouts, about which I knew no content, for I never had a discussion of business with Clifford, only chit-chats about pines on the day of the trees and about Hawaii in the hot tub once and about pumpkin pie around Christmas time, but it was rumored that the Stouts might have missed the mortgage payment and were needing to make it up at the Earth Dance equinox celebration, despite the folklore that Clifford would never grant even the slightest extension, and the "potluck dinner" crowd pressing for him to seize control, taking out an option on land in Gilroy to start up a rival club if management did not change by the end of the year. It seemed an omen of serious trouble for the Stouts that Clifford, instead of staying just a day or two and then jetting off back to his homes in Maui and Warsaw, kept hanging on in the Sleepy Hollow cabin owned by Clint, whose brother raped Maureen years ago, the cover-up of which was among the more extreme of the unusual services Maureen has provided for the Stouts over the years.