At the coffee shop she greeted me with a big smile, eyes flashing, while he was more subdued--we talked a minute in line and I went back to the booth. It was the morning of the big storm and I had just made an early-morning run out West to plastic up the South-facing doors of the poorly designed coastal retreat, the cabin where I had rotted away in a socially retarded cannibanoid fog for a few decades before finally moving into town just in time to step in the dog poop from the pups of travelers and wannabe trimmers.
I was interviewing them for a trimmer job because my other worker, Sandy, had missed a day, then was hours late the next day, then screamed at me when I told her she was unreliable. When I pointed out to her that her outbursts were probably something within her, some problems she had that went deeper than our disagreement she screamed even louder.
"NOOO! ITS YOU!"
(She was one of those arguers who never gave an inch: shouting, interrupting, exaggerating, not listening, outright lying and perhaps under the illusion that the louder she was the righter she was, when the converse was probably true.)
I threw my scone against the wall (the next day the ants were all over chunky crumb piles), sat down on the couch opposite her, blown away by the blow-up, and then lay down as the shock of the confrontation dissipated. She, calm now, suggested we take our daily walk in the park together and I had to smile.
"Really? We're going to be enlightened about this?" I said. I went into the kitchen and poured us each a glass of water. "So kiss and make up?" She smiled but offered no kiss and we headed out the door to the car. "Damn, and not even any makeup sex?" I said.
I was scheduled to meet the young couple, friends of a new friend, the next day and planned on telling them that I wasn't interested in bringing them home to work at this time but still wanted to meet them for future reference. But after the blowup with Sandy I realized I shouldn't depend on just one person to finish the job, especially since she had disappeared a month before in the middle of harvest without a word as she chased juicier buds and a stoner dude who might have plowed her in his garden.
It was fun drinking coffee and interviewing the couple at the coffee shop, our mutual friend Jenny stopped by and I, only half-jokingly, told her to get lost, she was butting into my conference. I went into the interview thinking I probably would take them home with me to work their last week here but Jenny was talking like it was a done deal, at least a couple day tryout, and I soon glommed on to that idea.
The coffee shop was buzzing with a plethora of trimmer chicks and other hangers on, I thought shit it must have been a big year up in the hills--I didn't remember things this lively other years in early December but I could have been mistaken, maybe its nonstop, no breaks with the greenrush. I asked them what their last job was like and how was the quality of the weed. Gretel said it was with this nice guy in the hills who had a hot tub, but the stuff was smallish and a struggle to trim. He was so friendly it was a distraction to the working--he bought the food, Hansel and Gretel cooked it, and they all ate dinners together along with Jenny.
"He's very needy," Jenny said. "Not like you."
"I guess I fooled you," I said. I had run into Jack, an acquaintance for over thirty years, a couple days earlier at the coffee shop, and asked him how the kids were doing on the job. "Oh, they're slow," he said, "but very nice."
I asked Jenny to come back in fifteen minutes and concluded the interview, then they did some shopping around town and followed me out of town and up the hill to the land. They unloaded their backpacks into the guest space and when they were out of the room Sandy made snippy comments about them-- was she anticipating her domain being invaded or was she still reacting from our blowout the day before? The guest house was really nice but when I mentioned there was another little cabin up the hill they wanted to see that too so we hiked up there during the downpour. They loved it and said they would sleep there, ten minutes later they changed their mind and set up their bed in the main room.
When they were ready to work I set them up in the work shed, Sandy had flown the coop, maybe going downtown for a drink at the bar Hansel and Gretel said. By around 4:20pm they all were at work in the crowded little cabin, the kids were listening to David Sedaris while they bucked down the shit and Sandy snipped feverishly across from them with her earphones on. The cabin was a chaotic mess during this process but when I stopped by later they were all snipping and chatting amiably.
I checked on them an hour later and that's when it started to get weird. "Can we take a sauna," Hansel said.
"Um, well," I hesitated. "You see, I've got my towel in there, um, I guess we could move it, put yours in? I guess I lie on the towel so the bench doesn't get all sweaty, um, well yeah I guess that's a definite possibility."
I went back into the house to lie down and thought about the sauna thing. Sure, why not let them use it but then I would have to schedule my use around theirs, maybe they could use it in the morning and me in the evening? I really didn't want to deal with it--did I want to share my toys with them? I wanted to be the cool guy but I didn't want to think about this extra stuff, and then my mind veered into another, albeit irrational, direction: what if he's going to steal from me, fill his pockets with buds--I had no security. Gretel seems cool and open but Hansel seems a little shifty. He doesn't smile much, which reminds me of me, and the way he asked to use the sauna without waiting to be offered it was a "me" move all the way, at least when I was younger. I started to reconsider the whole set-up--did I really want them there?
The coffee shop interview was fun but now they were in the little cabin, I was in my house, and there was not much interaction--they were busy. Plus now there were no empty seats so I couldn't plop down whenever I wanted to hang out with Sandy, I had decidedly less social interaction with their arrival.
I went over to the guest house and found all the lights blazing and the couple making out on the couch. I turned some of them off. "We really don't need all these lights on," I said. I went over to the work room where Sandy was snipping away and I told her all my anxieties about having the new people here.
"Yeah, I was talking to Gretel about that sauna scenario," she said. "She said she would never have asked, like its more a guy thing to do that. Men just are better at trying to get what they want, I guess."
"I have never had anyone ask to use the sauna," I said. "Maybe because I've always had women so maybe they'd think they would have to take one with me, or something? Well of course I've always had Larry here too but he's never asked either."
"Yeah, but Larry's very feminine, he's probably gay and doesn't know it. I had a nice talk with Gretel while Hansel was in the guest space making dinner and it turns out we were both raised by our aunt and grandmother. Gretel said that when they died and her mother moved in with a rich guy down in LA it seemed like part of her was 'erased.' When she said that I knew she had some interesting issues."
"Anyway, I can't do this!” I said. “What if he's stealing from me? I mean, that's totally irrational, I have no reason to think that, I've never thought that before--maybe everyone's been stealing from me for years!"
Sandra laughed. "I don't think so, I talked to him some and he seems very nice, he's just a guy. I warned you about having a couple here. Why don't you sleep on it and see how you feel in the morning?" I went back to the house, called my friend up, vented the issue to him, and then went to bed.
In the morning I was tense, I wanted them gone, I couldn't function knowing they were here. I was no longer fixated with imaginary pilfering, I just wanted my normal life back. I was appreciating Sandy even more now, someone I didn't mind having around and I knew she could just do the job herself. When I had told her I was thinking of bringing a couple in she had laughed, like that was some whole different dynamic and now I was starting to get an inkling of what she meant--I had never brought one in before.
I lay around for an hour or so wondering how to graciously get rid of them. It had been a lesson for me: here is this very sweet nice couple, recommended by a friend and I couldn't handle it. It cured me of ever considering bringing some other trimmer chicks up here, like off the street, who I really didn't know, although I really didn't know Hansel and Gretel.
I thought,"Am I really going to give them the boot on the stormiest day of the year?" They did have another job to go to, although it would mean sleeping in their tents instead of my cush guest house. Maybe I should let them take a sauna before they go? But then I realized I've never had a dude in my sauna and I don't want one! It probably came down to the guy, if it had just been Gretel I would probably have wanted her to stay.
I went across the yard to the guest house. The kids, twenty-three and twenty-five, were asleep on the hideaway bed and Sandy was on the futon in the attic.
"Are you awake?" I said, climbing up a few steps of the ladder.
"Yes," she said. "Are they here? It's so quiet."
"Yeah, they're sleeping, I saw the lights on till after midnight--were you guys partying?"
"No, I went to sleep early."
"Okay, anyway, I got to get them moving on out of here." I went back to the house, shutting the door kind of loudly, waited a few minutes, and then called Sandy. "Are you up yet?"
"No," she said.
"Well, aren't you going to do your bathroom stuff before they get up?"
"Well, get up, make some noise, lets start this morning going, okay?"
I came back over awhile later and completely blindsided the kids, just as Sandy had blindsided me when she disappeared the month before, after I had recruited her for the job all summer. To be fair I had told her to go look for bigger buds if she wanted but never thought she really would, I must have thought my magnanimity would foster more loyalty, not less.
"This little experiment is over for me." I said. Hansel stopped pouring his cereal in the bowl. "No, no, do your breakfast thing--I just wanted to tell you now so you can get on to your other job. When you're packed up we'll get your stuff out of the shed and I'll pay you off."
"What about the bucking we did?" Gretel asked.
"I'll pay you for that," I said.
Half an hour later there was a knock on my door, we went over to the work shed and they got their scissors. Together they had done less than half a pound--I gave them each a hundred bucks.
"Hey, I'm sorry, I just couldn't handle new people," I said. "I tried."
They were gone and I went back to the guest house. "Sandra! Lets go up to the Woodrose for breakfast to celebrate me getting my normal life back!"
"Yes!" She laughed.
(Later, I discovered someone had already folded up my towel in the sauna.)