On Sunday, I had to deal with another of the holdovers from the Freakers' Ball, a teenager named Amanda who had gotten pregnant way too young, and had kept the baby and married the father despite strong urgings to the contrary on both points from her mother, who was now raising the baby and not letting Amanda see the baby hardly ever, which angered her so much that she was barely on speaking terms with her mother anymore. I had heard about her situation, which everybody was concealing from Lori for fear that Lori would just call the sheriff, which was very ironic, Maureen told me, since Lori herself had first entered Lupin underage without parental consent, if not quite so much in a “runaway” status. Now, Amanda had gotten word somehow that her mother and her husband and her best friend were all, independently, in San Francisco, and she was told that I was the person to ask for the loan of a cell-phone and a possible ride. In her first call to her mother, she proposed that they meet halfway, like in Palo Alto, which would not have been quite so much of a drive for me, but her mother, who seemed to me less mature than she was, was difficult about it and we ended up driving all the way to the far end of San Francisco, to meet by this church that I didn't know and had trouble finding, since the mother wouldn't disclose exactly where her hotel was, and although I was quite late, the mother was later. On the drive up, I also got to overhear half-conversations with her husband, also apparently a very difficult personality, and with her friend, who didn't seem to approve of her going back to the mother, or of her trying to keep alive her nominal marriage, and when Amanda dropped and lost her lighter, I gave her another lighter, and so I still have Amanda's lighter, and I also pressed on her a pack of cigarettes and all the money I had on me, although she tried not to take it, saying she wouldn't need it while she was with her mom, but I thought she had better have some “mad money” on her in case she needed a quick escape.
So, I didn't get to sleep until about 2:30 that night, although I had to be up very early Monday, as I was giving tests to two sections and hadn't even finished composing the tests yet, and when I got up at 6 AM, I was just happy that I wasn't going to have to lecture that day. I went into the Kitchen to make coffee, and Jean came in carrying a little bundle, to my surprise, for I thought she was required to be out completely by Sunday midnight, but of course Sunday does not legally count, so she still had until midnight. The little bundle proved to be Bellingham, all stiff, legs curled up tightly against his body and eyes rolled back in his head, and she was sobbing, “He can't die, he can't die right now, I just can't take it, not now, I need him!” She tried pouring some water into his mouth, and I was thinking at first that the dog was already dead, and wondering whether to puncture Jean's illusion that he was still alive, but then I started to see a little bit of stirring. He had long had a big cyst on his lower lip, cancerous but diagnosed as benign, although no vet would operate on a dog of his advanced age, which gave him a lopsided smile that Jean likened to Heath Ledger as the Joker, and the previous night the cyst had burst, filling his blood with toxins and putting him in a near-coma. Jean thought he most especially needed to be re-hydrated and warmed up, and she poured some coffee as well as water into his mouth, in case caffeine would be a good stimulant, and rubbed him with the towel in which he was wrapped, until he started uncoiling, and shivering, and finally let go and peed all over the towel. When he was in shape to run on the lawn, even if one leg was still stiff and he kept falling over, I told Jean I was overdue to go to work, and I took the dirty towel and laid it on the porch-railing of the Blue House for a memento mori, as I suspected (incorrectly) that little Toto would not last out the week.
When I came back from work, I had a mission to fulfill, for Amanda had asked me to give her mom's number and a note to Keif, whom she called “Kitchen Keif” which I misheard as “Kitchen Keith”, for I didn't know him well yet, and wasn't entirely sure which one he was, and when I went to knock on the kitchen door of the Restaurant to ask for him, it was Chellis who saw me, and she visibly recoiled in fear, and wouldn't open up for me. This bothered me, since I had thought I was on good terms with her, but both Maureen and I were increasingly viewed as lepers, dangerous to even be near, and when I told Maureen about it, she took the note from me and said she would brave the kitchen to get it to Keif. Keif thanked me profusely, for it seems he had had a bit of a crush on her, and was bothered that she had disappeared without a goodbye, but soon he took up with Carrie, who was on the outs with Adam of late, and this made for a bit of an awkward scene when Keif and Adam both showed up at Butterfly yurt at the same time to ask Maureen about something. Maureen was annoyed that he would come to her place at all, since although Adam and I had been given such permission, Keif was just taking it for granted, and she thought he was not much of a Lupinite. And this was ironic, for when Keif borrowed my cell to call his dad, his dad asked him how he was enjoying Lupin, to his surprise since he had only given the address and not mentioned anything about what kind of a place it was, and then his dad explained that he had been a Lupinite all through the Eighties, and that Keif had almost certainly been conceived there, so he was a “Lupin dude” indeed.
Turtle turned over Hummingbird cabin for a few days to our favorite math teacher from high school and his lady friend, who travel the world together and were on a brief visit, and I tried to treat them to a meal in the Restaurant, although they insisted on paying and out-polited me, and Cindy was visibly agitated to see me in the Restaurant at all, where I had hardly ever been for quite some time, until I explained to Will that I had guests and introduced him to them. Then Turtle evacuated the cabin, before the expiration of his notice, which raised a bit of a problem for me, since occasionally I went there instead of the long way around to the Taj or the hot tub, the direct trail being mountain lion country now, to take a morning shower, and although I had let Lori know a long time before that I sometimes did so, it obviously made a difference now that Turtle wasn't there, so I let the staff know that I did this, and got the answer that this was not still OK when one morning I found the door locked. So, my blue plastic soap dish is probably still in the shower there, which would not be so much of a big deal, except that it had been to Kurdistan and back with me and had some sentimental value.
Jean got a rather prompt reply from the Judicial Commission about the complaint she wrote, well OK I actually wrote if you want to get technical about it, since Jean's Internet connection had never been restored so that I had to download the form at work, and call her on the phone to get the information, about Brad and what he had been doing there at the hearing, apparently having no role as either attorney or witness but just using his judicial office to influence another judge. Actually, when I later had occasion to look back at the case-file, Brad had indeed filed a Notice of Substitution as another attorney for Lori, which gave him the right to be at plaintiff's table although he never did speak, but that Notice had never gotten delivered to Amy in time, an example of why serving these things by hand is better than trusting to the mail. What the Judicial Commission had to say was that they had never heard of any judge by his name, and this forced Maureen, Jean, and I to think back and try to figure out how the notion that Brad was a “judge” had ever entered the folklore: had Brad himself ever claimed to be a judge? No, the only person who ever called him a judge was Lori, and we should have known better than to take her word for anything.
Ancient Nick and Mana decided to leave after only a few weeks, Mana of course having limited time in the United States and never having intended to spend so much of it in one place, Nick however possibly planning to come back, after showing Mana his dad's place in Los Angeles and a Hare Krishna retreat out in the country a ways, although when I talked to him on the phone some weeks later he was of a mind to stay at the retreat for a while longer, cleaning up his body and his mind. They packed up some of their stuff in a green duffle bag that was lying around, which was Keif's from his time in the military and of sentimental value to him, and he further claimed that his grandmother's wedding ring was in the bottom of that bag, though as with so much that I hear at Lupin, I was doubtful, for when I called Nick and Mana about the duffle bag, they said they had found no ring, or anything else, in the bag, and claimed that Keif had been wearing some things of theirs, which opened up a whole other can of worms, some saying that maybe Carrie had given those things to him, since she had been accused of being light-fingered before, and I decided to get myself out of the middle of all this, contenting myself with telling Nick not to make assumptions or to carry resentments even if the assumptions were true, which he agreed was good advice.
But this was all just a sideshow to the much larger storm brewing, for even if communicating with Lori was obviously hopeless, I still had to e-mail Glyn, not just to make the by-now ritual monthly demand for a copy of my lease, but to hint delicately that there was still something we needed to talk about. There was one event from October I could not pretend had not happened, the bogus traffic ticket that I was starting to get court correspondence about, and while I was doubtful that fighting it would be successful in any case, at that time I wanted to try, and I did not think the judge would hear my complaint that officer Carroll had invented the stop-sign violation to cover for a stop he had made for an entirely different reason, unless I at least pursued this through the sheriff department's internal channels, and if I asked Internal Affairs to find out who had failed a false report against me, I strongly suspected the answer would be “Lori Kay Stout” as I did not know anybody else with a habit of telling falsehoods to the police. And if marijuana trafficking through Lupin was large enough that the sheriff's department was investigating it without any report about me specifically, that could lead back to Glyn's friend Frank, and in either case I was still wanting to keep to the agreement that I would not be the source of new trouble, but I was reluctant to put any of this in an e-mail, preferring to wait until Glyn spoke to me face-to-face, which continued not to happen, until further explosions inclined me to be more direct.
On the day of the dying doggie, I heard that John Horne had been evicted, but as with so much that I hear at Lupin, I was doubtful, for he had been such a fixture there for years that I thought this would turn out to be like Chef John “quitting” or being “fired” as continued to happen and un-happen repeatedly. But hearing arguments about who would inherit his trailer, which apparently had really been vacated, and would eventually go to Amy, persuaded me that it must actually have happened, and this disturbed me because I had thought that the one aspect of management that Lori had most particularly agreed to give up was decision-making about who would stay and who would go, and I wanted to ask Will whether he, or she, had been the one to decide that John Horne was out, although the rumor-mill had it that it had been Lori's decision alone. So, the next day, the first of those days which by the calendar did not occur at Lupin, I was blunt in an e-mail to Glyn, that if I could either talk to Internal Affairs and, if it was verified that Lori had filed a false report against me, press criminal charges against her, or else avoid opening this can of worms by just not contesting the ticket, if he would either reimburse me for the immediate cost, setting aside any additional cost that might come to me through insurance rates with the ticket on my record, or in the alternative, obtaining Lori's formal resignation as CEO of Lupin, Inc. and co-trustee of the Family Trust, something I would by now happily eat a couple hundred dollars to see. But since the court was giving me until December to respond to the ticket, the decision about how to handle this did not have to be made immediately, but could be discussed.
I played around with the wording and finally sent it from work, and then got a phone message, from Maureen: “Yesterday, Bellingham's abscess burst, and today, Lupin's abscess burst. Jean threatened Lori with CPS, and now Glyn has gone after me. I am so glad that you are not here. Please don't try to contact me-- I can handle myself-- until we see where all the nasty fluids are flowing.” I had heard Jean say she was going to come into Lupin one more time, to inquire at the office about her mail, which had sometimes gone astray of late, so I supposed that she had met Lori there, and threatened to call CPS on her, and this is how I told the story to Johnny, committing the Lupinity of passing on an imagined version, for the fact was that Jean and Lori had not encountered each other, but CPS had already been called, and had yanked the children out of their classrooms to interview them. Maureen was recalling the occasion when Jean had threatened to make this call before, and although I had talked Jean out of it back then, Maureen supposed that the upset over Bellingham had changed Jean's mind, but this was a Lupinity as well, for when I got ahold of Jean, she denied having made the call and expressed surprise that it had occurred, and I believed her, since if she had made the call she would certainly have no compunctions about telling me flat-out that she had done so. Glyn had said to Maureen, “There is nothing worse than calling CPS,” to which Maureen had replied, “Yes there is: a mother who abuses her children,” so Glyn had decided that Maureen either had something to do with the call, or at least approved of its having been made, which was quite unfair since Maureen had long been a staunch opponent of such a move, but he told her that their decades-long friendship was over.
This did not mean, of course, that she didn't still have to come over every morning to feed his cat, whom he loves very much but never feeds, and while Maureen has never shared much with me of what passes between the two of them, it was evidently not too long before they were on speaking terms again, at least about such subjects as walking the trails and maintaining them, which they would sometimes do together, even if subjects like Lori were off the table. I, however, never did get back to speaking terms with Glyn, for I e-mailed him again that in view of his attack on Maureen, I was no longer inclined to give him more time to decide what to do about my issue, rather, if he did not talk to me by the one-month anniversary of the day of the typhoon, I would have to take that as his consent for me to talk to Internal Affairs, although I softened the blow by telling him I had never personally witnessed any abuse of the children by Lori and would not have anything of that sort to say to CPS, adding that if it came down to it, I would certainly testify in his favor that he had always been wonderful with the kids, as I thought pretty much everyone at Lupin would say.
On Wednesday, I got an $50 invoice, for electricity from October 1 to October 31, so that the “notice” for the imposition of this fee was not actually 17 days, but negative 14 days, and I wondered if it was even worth trying to point out to the Stouts the illegality of this. I was sitting in the sauna when I got an urgent phone call from Maureen: “Ronnie is trying to take away your refrigerator!” Jean had left her private refrigerator in the Kitchen, with a note on a paper plate that it was Bob's now, but had warned me that there might be trouble about me being allowed to keep it. I misheard Maureen, thinking she had said that “Lonnie” was taking away the fridge, and was all geared up for a confrontation with Lonnie and Wayne, but it was just Ronnie and OG, and when I explained that I was inheriting the fridge they were fine with it, OG saying, “We wouldn't do anybody like that.” So I granted Ronnie and OG blanket permission to eat any of the food in my fridge, knowing they were both strapped, and soon I had granted Keif as well as Blonde Diane blanket permission to use my coffee, and any pretense that there was a distinction between my stuff and community stuff dissolved. I would buy a box of cereal and maybe get one bowl of it before it was all gone, put a loaf of bread in the Kitchen and not even get to make one sandwich before it was gone, and I just accepted that stocking the Kitchen with food, as well as with cleaning supplies, was now part of my job.
Ronnie and OG were also sent Up Top to clear away the trash left at Rob-and-Jean's, which had been sitting there since before they had moved in, going back to when it had been the “Burn Pile” and filled with more trash than Rob-and-Jean had ever been able to clear away, and Maureen had already been up to see what it looked like now, and found little bits of grigri, the stakes marked “1A” and “1B” pointing in directions which converged at the Blue House, and two shoes aligned in crosswise directions nailed to a tree, and finding a broken Halloween decoration, a skeleton with missing arms, amid the rubbish, she decided to hang that on the tree as well. After people had been sent up there to clear the site, Maureen was curious to see what would and would not be touched, and was gratified to see the stakes, shoes, and skeleton left alone, but puzzled by a little thing like a birdhouse, which she brought back down to Butterfly yurt. I told her that had probably been a mistake, that it seemed to me like that was probably OG's grigri, so she asked OG if it was something she should have left alone, or should put back, and he said, “No, don't worry about it, you keep it,” and I would go up there from time to time myself, to see if I could figure where the pile of bullet casings had vanished into the mud the day of the typhoon, but I never did, and eventually the skeleton went away, and much later the stakes, but though I had repair the shoes' stance a couple times, they remained there to the end of my time at Lupin.
On Thursday night, I ran into John Horne at the Community Kitchen, and thought the decision to evict him must have been retracted, but he said, oh no, he was still evicted, but he did not think Lori had the authority to keep him out of Lupin altogether even if he had lost the trailer, and he was still willing to do anything for Glyn if Glyn asked him, just not for Lori, ever again. And I bit my tongue, still minded to keep to my agreement not to say anything about Lori's troubles, contenting myself with asking him how he was doing, which proved to be quite well, for he was staying with a woman in Orinda who was out of his league romantically but quite impressed with his work and willing to give him a job, so I told him I was not surprised that he had fallen on his feet and he said, “Good things even happen to nasty people,” and I told him I had never thought of him as nasty. I was up late that night, and found around 2 AM that all the chairs had disappeared from the glass table in Oaktree Circle, and as I knew where more of Azeem's bamboo chairs were kept behind the Restaurant, I decided that the best response to this move was simply to set up chairs exactly as they had been, so that it would look in the morning as if nothing at all had happened. I had to wonder, of course, who had done it: Cindy was the biggest opponent of the Circle's existence, but would not have hauled chairs herself; John Horne had been accused by Tyler and Jean of being Lori's dirty-tricks man, but would certainly not be acting as such now, if he ever had been, and in the morning I saw him sleeping in the TV room, obviously keeping it no secret from anyone that he was around. The computer that everyone used in the TV room had for a while displayed as its screen-saver a picture of Robert grinning by the high-rider truck of which he was so proud, but now had a note “This is a public computer: please do not inflict your personal pictures on everyone,” which was quite rude, since this computer was in fact Robert's property.
That morning, the portentious Friday the 13th, Maureen told me that detective Hickman of the CPS was wanting to interview her, since Lori and Glyn had mentioned her as the former “Grammy” to the children during his interviews with them, and also wanted to interview me, since he was curious about the circumstances under which she had been fired as Grammy, and I was the witness. He was not working on Friday, as part of the compulsory days-off imposed on many departments by California's budget crunch, but Maureen was supposed to call him promptly at 9 AM on Monday morning to set up an appointment. By this time I had already spoken to detective Condardini of Internal Affairs, who was going to investigate and call me back in a week or two, and after some soul-searching I decided it was only fair to let both Glyn and Will know that I would be speaking to these detectives, and despite the seriousness of the situation Will could not help but laugh a little: “It's always something at Lupin, isn't it?” Will, who had been in law enforcement for years, suspected (correctly) that Internal Affairs would try hard not to do anything, but he was more concerned about the CPS investigation, wanting to know if I had witnessed any abuse of the girls, which I assured him I had not. Of course I did not send any word directly to Lori, but I had no doubts that she would hear quickly enough. That evening, when the Stouts finished their dinner at the Restaurant, Lori put the kids in the car but drove off before Glyn could get in, though he chased after the car waving and shouting, “Hey! Hey!” He had to walk back, and apparently later that night, or perhaps the next morning, he had a further argument with Lori, in his retreat cabin where Lori hardly ever dared intrude, for when Maureen went to feed Rowdy, whom Glyn loves very much but never feeds, she saw stacks of papers kicked over and objects that had been thrown all over the place, and this seemed most unlikely to be Glyn's own doing. As with so much at Lupin, it is impossible to know for sure, but I thought then and still believe that I was at least one of the subjects argued about.
For it was on that Saturday that Lori drew up a 30 days' notice telling me to get out, issuing it not in the name of the family trust, for which she would have needed Glyn's signature which evidently he would not give her, but in the name of the corporation, mis-stating the corporate name as “Lupin Lodge, Inc.” rather than “Lupin, Inc.” in a typical Lori Kay sloppiness, as if she were firing me and evicting me from housing that was incident to my employment with the corporation. But she did not deliver it to me on Saturday, spending much of the weekend closeted with Brad, and finally dispatching Will as her process server late on Sunday evening, to Will's evident embarrassment. He was loath to enter the Circle with this thing, which would evidently have violated his own sense of ritual propriety, instead sending Adam to ask me to come over to meet him, which violated Maureen's sense of ritual propriety, as Adam had always studiously avoided any involvement in Lupin politics and should not, Maureen thought, have been involved in this in any way. However, neither Adam nor I were offended at Will, and indeed I thought Lori had committed another blunder in using him as process server, which established legally that he was not a party, as he himself emphasized, telling me that this was in no way his decision, and that he still hoped things might be worked out so that I could stay. Maureen was more upset about it all than I was, for while Lori may have thought herself clever in issuing the notice in the name of the corporation, on whose behalf she could act on her sole authority, I was not answerable to the corporation, never having received or requested any compensation for any work I had done for Lupin, and Lori herself had emphasized, on the day of the water heater, that I was not “staff” and never would be.
The next morning, I was up way before 9 AM, by which time I had drunk nearly a whole potful of coffee from the Bobby mug that nobody else wanted, but Maureen had had little sleep and was so bleary that she asked me to make the call to detective Hickman for her, which just got his answering machine, and though I told him he could call back to my number if he didn't get Maureen, he only left a message on Maureen's machine, while she was out on her cat-feeding runs, and she did not check her messages until very late. So while I came back from work that day anxious to find out what had been arranged with Hickman, or whether Will had negotiated anything with the Stouts, I found that nothing had happened on either front, for the Stouts had also disappeared, flown off to Texas on a long-scheduled trip, which somehow my ears had not heard about although most people in Lupin were aware, to see Glyn's side of the family, who had a big reunion not the week of Thanksgiving but the week before. Lori was compelled to go to this, despite distinctly not enjoying the company of Glyn's family, who were the type who would have called her “white trash” except that half-Filipino did not really count as “white” in that part of Texas. Glyn had a loud public argument in the office, while he was trying to get to the airport and be off, with Wayne, whom he had instructed to do something or other, but Lori had told Wayne something else, and Glyn had to put his foot down that he, not she, was the authority around here, and I was pleased to hear that he was not letting Lori decide everything herself.
The lordly crows left the same day the Stouts did, and we got all our birds back. On Tuesday everybody was remarking what a relief it was, and I wished that I had a CD of the Spin Doctors, Little Miss Can't-Be-Wrong: “Been a whole lot easier since the bitch left town / Been a whole lot happier without her face around … I hope my cigarettes will make you cough / I hope you heard this song, and it pissed you off / I take that back, I hope you're doing fine / If I had a dollar, I'd give you ninety-nine.” Maureen at least had gotten her regular check from the Stouts before they went away, but Adam had only gotten $25, which was to be the last time he was paid anything at all that year, and others had gotten nothing, which caused considerable resentment since Lori had just bought herself a nice new SUV, for which I bet she put down, oh, say, about $15,000 in cash, and Adam had had half a mind to throw the check back in her face, except that he did have an urgent need to go buy the inevitable cigarettes.
Finding some extra cash for Adam became an increasing strain on Maureen's finances, as she was still getting out from under the credit-card disaster of the previous summer, and she began to speak of tapping her “trust fund”, a somewhat mysterious stash of untouchable money to which she had sometimes alluded before. In her days as a turnaround consultant to Bay Area tech companies, during which she had dealt with many prickly personalities and screwed-up situations, but none as intransigent as her thirty-year, well OK it had only been 28 years if you want to get technical about it, effort to bring sanity to Lupin, she had put cash into a lockbox, all money that had been properly reported to the IRS and taxed although, knowing how government agencies can be, she did have some concerns about whether there might be questions raised if she suddenly turned up with a bunch of cash. This stash was her stake in what she called “the game”, in which many “players” used similarly set-aside batches of money to pursue various charitable and political purposes, a campaign to reform the Rockefeller drug laws being one recent example.
Old man Barrington had been one of the founders of this group, before his sad death from a brain tumor: his original project had been founding schools in impoverished areas of Central America, somewhat like what Greg Mortensen now does in the back mountains of the Muslim world, but when this had brought him into conflict with the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, which wanted all schools to be reliable vehicles for political indoctrination, Barrington was brought into contact with various shadowy figures in the US government like Oliver North, who had actually been to Lupin several times, often attempting to disguise himself, if not very well. Barrington remained a rather enigmatic figure to me, who had left a message “ONCE UPON A TIME” in the concrete on the threshold of the Barrington house, the meaning of which, according to Maureen, was quite deliberately ambiguous, or maybe she just wouldn't tell me, for the memory of Barrington was still quite special to her, and, particularly when she lit or almost lit the wrong end of her cigarette, for it had been a favorite trick of his to tell you that you were about to do this and see if you could be made to turn your cigarette around without looking and light the wrong end, or when anyone referred to “Jesus”, a name that Barrington would respond to, she would chide his ghost, who was, I was given to understand, always looking down on us from the Grandmother/Grandfather tree.
On November 18 at work I received a phone message from Maureen: “Detective Hickman will be at our tree tomorrow morning,” fortunately setting this appointment for a Thursday when I did not have to go to work until the afternoon. For luck I placed an empty bottle of Belgian beer under the tree in the recently-emptied recyclables bucket, remembering the psychologist who had expressed a wish to come back and discuss Belgian beers with Maureen, but in the morning it proved too cold and windy to sit in the Circle, so Maureen and I adjourned, with detective Hickman and an observer he had brought from a child advocacy group, who however seemed to be under instructions not to say very much, to the TV room. We got coffee, mine of course in the Bobby mug that nobody else wanted, and as we settled into our chairs, Cindy came barging in demanding to know who he was and what he was doing there, which his uniform and the ID he had shown at the front gate ought to have sufficiently answered. Perhaps she was really wanting to give her own version of the interactions between Lori and Maureen, and she had, after all, been the other witness to the day that will live in infamy, but she rather put Hickman off, and when we told him that she was known as “the Goddess”, he had to laugh. So then I said that maybe I should go first, and tell about Maureen's firing as Grammy before she told her story, which would take much longer, and Hickman asked permission to tape me, as I began: “The argument was originally just about the tree...”