Saturday, February 13, 2010

chapter 16

The papers she handed me proved to be the charges against Jean, from the accusations her sister had made against her, about which I already knew more than I cared to, and the other tenants like Turtle, for Lori made a point of putting copies of these papers at every door in Lupin, had no reason to care to know anything whatsoever about it, nor had those in Amberwood the day before been terribly interested when Lori went on and on about how Jean had "seventeen" aliases, by which she meant that Jean had had a couple of married names and a maiden name before she married Rob, and how Jean had once needed to be pardoned by the governor of Louisiana, a curious assertion that apparently Lori had fabricated out of nothing, since Jean had not had so much as a traffic ticket in Louisiana. But apparently Lori's main motive for chasing me from Amberwood was to give her a clear field to attack Jean, which rather annoyed everyone, and for Turtle, Lori's excited pressing on him of papers that had no relevance to him whatsoever was a kind of last straw, determining him to write up his 30 days' notice and deliver it October 15, when there came a straw beyond the last straw, in the form of a demand to all tenants that they begin to pay "ancillary fees" of $50 a month for electricity and $15 a month for garbage collection, effective November 1.

This was well short of the 30 days' notice required for any change of terms, as I pointed out to Maureen, who said she already knew that, and pointed out a falsehood in the notice, where it claimed that the Stouts had purchased new garbage bins, which had actually been donated by members, and as I pointed out to Turtle, who said he already knew that, and pointed out that charging a flat rate for electricity regardless of amount consumed was an open invitation to be as wasteful as possible. This seemed to be a particularly bad time to be alienating all the tenants further, Turtle saying it would have prompted him to give notice if he hadn't already been in the office to do precisely that, although his visit to the office did afford an opportunity to see what Lori was good for, as she fielded a call from a pervert asking whether Lupin allowed public masturbation, and told him off quite roundly, demonstrating that whatever her faults, in the role of "bad cop" she has few equals. I was up and down for a couple days about whether it would be of any use to e-mail Lori again, finally deciding that it would not be, but sending an e-mail to Glyn alone, "We need to talk," speaking not only about how ruinous the refusal to settle Jean's case could be, but about my own issues with having no lease, getting this short-notice bill on top of the still-unexplained $100 charge, and the expenses which Lori's disruptive behavior had cost me, with the delayed repairs to my car from the weekend of the power cord and the retailiatory eviction on the day of the typhoon plus that bogus ticket: but of course Glyn did not respond, and has never spoken to me since.

Lonnie took on a new job, clearing tree debris and cutting dangerous trees, a role which his compact and wiry build made him well-suited for, and while he practically killed himself clearing the trees that had fallen on tent-sites during the typhoon, he soon came to enjoy this work immensely. The diseased oak tree about which Maureen and I worried so much did not topple, but dropped several large limbs, one of them crushing the cardboard box that had been the playhouse, so we had to sadly remove it, but kept one piece of cardboard with the note "Albert can't not in the box" and "Samara" written in animal shapes and other artwork, which gradually faded as further rains washed it in the months to come, but we left it standing against the wall, decorated with the strings of silver stars, as a memorial to happier days. Carlos looked particularly sad to see the playhouse gone, and Maureen said, "Oh dear, I hadn't thought of that," but explained to him gently that the storm had already destroyed it, and he laid down a belt of his and a pair of sandals, and then we found a pair of pink shoes that had been Samara's added, and while Maureen at first thought that Carlos might have taken Samara's shoes as a keepsake, I remembered otherwise. They had been abandoned sometime in late August on the volleyball, I think now because Samara had outgrown them, and Maureen had worried about whether she would be allowed to return them, so I said I would do it, and laid them on the threshold of the Blue House. So it appears that Samara did dare to go into the Circle sometime when no-one was looking, to add to this shrine to that brilliant and hot July.

On the day after the typhoon, I nearly ran into a big rock that had fallen into the middle of the driveway, and Maureen told me that Simone and Samara had come screaming into the Restaurant because Lori had come down the slick driveway too fast and had nearly driven over the edge, and this led to a testy exchange when Redhead Diane exclaimed that Lori could have been killed and Maureen replied, "I only care about the girls, who gives a shit what happens to Lori?" Redhead Diane sternly told her that she needed to pay more respect to Lori, since Lori was the owner of the place, which Maureen considered a particularly infuriating thing to say right at that juncture in time, and I considered downright a dangerous thing for someone like Redhead Diane, who exercised some managerial authority, to be saying. Was she also making representations to members and visitors that Lori was a sole proprietor, when granting recognition to her unilateral actions, taken without Glyn's participation or apparently even awareness, could put control of the place up for grabs soon? I tried to ask her, but she physically recoiled from my approach, with a look of terror in her eyes, saying, "You are not going to talk to me about Lupin politics!" I wrote her a note, explaining the ins and outs of the state of title, and how she should not disrespect Maureen or Clifford, who had investments in the place, in favor of Lori, who had none. I decided that it had been insufficient to move the rock I almost hit off to the side of the driveway, carried it into the grounds, and laid it on the threshold of the Blue House for a stumbling stone.

On Friday, Chef John told me he had exciting news, a job offer from a restaurant that operates out in that alternative universe where, you know, people who do work get paychecks for it, although the more he talked about the place the less excited he sounded about it: "They don't really seem to know whether they're a seafood place or a sports bar or what, you know, a successful restaurant has to have something special, a theme, a gimmick, some reason why people would specially go there, man, instead of any other place, and I'm going to work on their identity issues." But it was a chance to get away from Lupin, and while I thought it would be a crushing blow to the place to chase away the chef, again, even with Phil there to step in, assuming he was willing, which I couldn't be sure of since I hadn't had a heart-to-heart with Phil in quite some time, I was happy for Johnny, but had to ask, "How secret is this?" And of course, he said, "Mister Bob, you're the only one I've told." I hope he at least meant "the only one besides Rachel": why do people do this to me? There had been a time, not so long before, when keeping a secret was second nature to The Ears, but now it was burning in me, and I asked if I could at least share this with Maureen, but he asked me please not to tell anybody at all, until Monday, as he wanted no trouble during the potentially busy Oktoberfest weekend.

So for the weekend, I only dealt with Jean's problems, which were major, for the typhoon had given us a graphic demonstration of why the landscape Up Top should not have been roughly bulldozed and stripped of vegetation, without some impact studies by a professional engineer, of the kind Glyn and Sal had not cared to bother with, severe mudslides burying the wheels of Rob's and Jean's trailers so that the issue of whether to move them, to the Back Forty or off the grounds altogether, anytime in the near future was rather moot. Jean could get nobody to help her set down planking so she could even walk to her trailer without the mud sucking her boots off, or to lay fresh tarps over the trailers to stop all the leaking, and she was developing a bad cold and had to forget about her schoolwork for a while, nor was Bellingham looking very healthy. John Horne told me that Lori had forbidden anybody to give Jean any assistance, so when Jean suspected (correctly) that Lori had forbidden anybody to give her any assistance, I told her there was actually a witness who could testify to that, and she said "Great!" until I said, "It's John Horne," when she could only say, "Oh." Finally, Red Gloves John came over from Sal's Canyon, either thinking that the ban on helping Jean didn't apply to him despite his occasional work for Lupin, or not giving a shit, and was a wonderful friend those days.

Monday morning, I caught Maureen just before she headed off to feed Glyn's cat, whom he loves very much but never feeds, and told her about Johnny's imminent exit, which she hoped Glyn might be able to stave off, and Glyn did spend all day negotiating with Johnny, and made peace, which of course did not last long. I vaguely hoped that Glyn might show some gratitude for the heads-up, but he established a pattern which would remain to the last day, of studiously avoiding any eye-contact with me when he walked right past me, as I sat in the Circle in the morning with my inevitable cigarette, on the way to the Restaurant for breakfast and the staff meeting, and again as he walked right past me on the way back, and again as he walked to the Restaurant for dinner in the evening, and again as he walked back, so I eventually gave up on even waving at him. At least, though, that day Veny finally took down the last of his flags, even if he didn't putty the holes, and I decided he had hung long enough, wiping my feet on the blank back of the Czech flag one more time, though I had not desecrated the front, having no prejudice against nations in general, unlike Veny who told the poker game, "Those focking Muslims move everywhere and never think to assimilate to the culture, just stay like they are, same thing as with the Mexicans; the only worse people in the world are the gypsies," but I tossed his flag on the lawn of the Czech Flag cabin, and threw the straw man in the waste-basket, and put Samara's sword in the cup of Samara knick-knacks which Maureen now kept on the table, retaining for myself Brandon's black beads.

On Tuesday, Jean finally managed to retain an attorney, the young, bright, and energetic Amy, not to be confused with Amy the worker although I have developed some fondness for both, in the case of Amy the lawyer no doubt in part because she praised me for my emergency draftmanship, which she thought had hit most of the defects in Lori's filing. As I was satisfied with her, with Maureen's permission I moved the "nuclear weapons folder" to Amy's office, letting her see all that background information and telling her all my story as well. Lori was spending more and more time closeted with lawyers, dealing not only with Jean's case but with the continuing fallout from Jeff's fistfight with Ronnie and the unpermitted landscaping, and maybe other litigation I never heard about, so although everyone was disappointed that the 15th had come and gone without her resignation, there was some hope she might be realizing she was in over her head from her increasingly frazzled state. She lost patience when Simone and Samara would not stop watching TV at her command, yanked them by the arms and dragged them across the floor while Jean, of all people, was sitting at the computer in the TV room, and Jean could not resist telling Lori that this was the kind of thing Child Protective Services could be called about. Rob had already talked about calling CPS, concerning an incident when Samara had come across a couple necking rather more than suggestively, but Jean and I had argued to him that this was not something Lori could reasonably be blamed for, since she showed zero tolerance for violations of the policy against open display of sexuality and would certainly have frog-marched the offenders off the property double-quick even if a child hadn't been involved.

But this new incident was more plausible grounds, so on Wednesday I fielded a conflicted call from Jean asking advice about whether to make the CPS report, and walked away from the Circle into the parking lot, with my inevitable cigarette, since Maureen never likes listening to half a cell-phone conversation anytime and I particularly didn't want anyone overhearing any of this one, when Redhead Diane came down, shouting, "Yo, Bob! No smoking in the parking lot!" Now, declaring the parking lot a no-smoking zone was a new one even for Redhead Diane, parking lots indeed being the areas that smokers are usually specifically confined to in places like Cabrillo College where smoking is tightly restricted, and I thought it had been completely settled between us that I stuck to the letter of the rules that I had originally agreed to and did not recognize her authority to declare new areas off limits, although I had recognized Lori when she told me the patio was part of "the Restaurant" for smoking purposes and did keep my cigarettes away from the patio unlike any other smoker in the place, so I was in no mood whatsoever to argue with Redhead Diane about this right then. I just held up my hand and said "This is important!" as I walked away from her, and though she followed saying "Nothing's that's important! You need to talk to me!" I could not spare the time to explain to her just how mistaken she was, for Jean was strongly leaning toward making the CPS report and I was strongly opposed, deferring to Maureen's judgment that this would be much worse for the girls than anything happening to them now, and emphasizing to Jean the tactical point that this kind of accusation would look really bad from the opposing party in civil litigation.

That night I saw three shooting stars in fairly quick succession from Orion: I have an astronomy blog on my Internet browser's homepage, and yet I had not even noticed that it was time for the Orionids, a more numerous shower than the Perseids but with fewer big fiery chunks, and could not make up my mind whether seeing meteors when I was not looking for them was really a good omen, as I had believed back when the Perseids had taken me by surprise after I had thought them finished, or a bad one, as reflection on what had happened after the Perseids might rather suggest. I sent another e-mail to Glyn, with not much detail, concentrating not so much on my own issues with the lack of a lease and the questions about how much money I would have to pay for next month’s rent, but on how disastrous it could be if Jean’s case was not settled quickly, for the courts handle eviction cases on a fast track and Todd had obtained a hearing date of October 29, which was very rapidly approaching, and I told him without elaboration that the downsides could include not only his loss of the property but Lori going to jail or the children being taken away from her custody, but of course he said nothing, for management by avoidance is the Lupin way.

On Friday, I finally gave in and went to Valley Medical Center to get my inguinal hernia checked, and they gave me an appointment to see the surgeon on January 14. I returned to learn that Rob had filed to divorce Jean, and Jean knew a way to speed up the dissolution process, although the formal end of the marriage did not turn out to affect very much the degree of mutual entanglement in their lives or the mixture of intense affection and resentment with which they regarded each other. I got some boxes from Blonde Diane, telling her “Jean and Rob are splitting up and they need to separate their things,” and she replied, “That’s a polite way to put it, that ‘they’ need to separate things,” evidently assuming that it was basically Jean kicking Rob out, but I did not fill her in on the mutuality of this decision, not really her business. Over the weekend I made copies of the hearing from the “Woodchuck” case-file in which the Labor Commission slapped down the Stouts for their insistence that they refused to pay overtime regardless of how much anyone worked, for Chef John who wanted Rachel to look at it, and for Dara who had also asked Jean for more information about it, since in her conversations with Jean, sometime around the weekend of the power cord when she had been helpful opening up Chez le Ronde, she had mentioned that Lori had ordered her never to put down more than twenty hours a week on her time-sheet no matter what the real hours were. Dara apparently let Lori know that I had given her the Woodchuck file, which was not wise.

But I had more serious papers to distribute, four subpoenas for the hearing, with slight misspellings of the last names on the ones for myself, which I did not bother to formally serve on myself, and for Maureen, which she wanted so that she could say to Glyn she was testifying under compulsion, and a more serious misspelling on the one for Chef John, whom we wanted to testify about the pattern of conduct at the Restaurant, while on the one for Roy, whom we wanted to testify about the weekend of the power cord as well as Lori’s willingness to keep Jean at Lupin if she just moved to the Back Forty, which contradicted what Lori said in her Complaint, all we could put down was “last name unknown”. Concerned that there might be some reason he did not give out his name, I went to their trailer, well OK it was Will’s trailer if you want to get technical about it, to sound out Blonde Diane about whether Roy would have a problem with going to court, and she said, “I think all his wooly-bears are taken care of,” but she would ask him, and he should be back in about an hour. When I returned, she told me he had already come and gone, so I went up to Gypsy cabin to serve Johnny’s subpoena, and while waiting for Johnny, saw Roy clearing some brush with Wayne and Lonnie, which I decided after a little thought was perhaps a good occasion to attempt the service: if he took it, there would be witnesses that his testimony was by compulsion, and if he refused it, he might earn brownie points with Lori’s family for standing up to the dreaded Bob.

As I reached into my pocket for the subpoena, he said, “Don’t even think about it!” So I went back to Gypsy cabin to give Johnny his, called Jean to tell her that I did not want to serve Roy if he did not want to take it, and since she seemed to have some thought of serving him anyway, stashed Roy’s subpoena in Tiger Lily yurt. I walked back down to their trailer, to make sure Roy understood where I stood on the issue, and stood there a while in hesitation, as it occurred to me that maybe he wouldn’t be back home, and I didn’t want to disturb Blonde Diane again, but then Roy drove up, and sat in his car a while in visible hesitation, presumably worried that I might try to tag him again. I pulled out my pockets to show him that I “wasn’t armed”, and as he came out I told him, “I want to make sure you understand that I am not willing to serve you against your will,” and he said, “And not my wife either,” and I said “of course not,” for indeed there hadn’t ever been any thought of a subpoena to Diane, who had not witnessed anything in particular. Later, as Maureen came from the Restaurant with her dinner, she said, “You’ve made a friend of Roy,” which surprised me: “He isn’t pissed at me?” “Oh no,” she said, “he thinks you’re being honorable.” And this is why I am the only person in the world to call him “Roy LNU”.

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