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".