Saturday, February 13, 2010

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.

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