Dead Solid Pluperfect

A Hot Buttered Guff™ Production

Arbortext Accounting Fraud #33: The Rhinoceros Palace

Chapter Thirty-Three

The Rhinoceros Palace

 

In the morning, the adventure continued. In the day light. Which made driving the RV on up the freeway back to Concord considerably less stressful.

Back in Concord, we picked up our car from the Amtrak lot where we’d left it and Mary drove it to her oldest twin Julie’s house, while I followed in the RV. Along the way, I had christened the RV “The Rhinoceros Palace,” to which Mary showed more or less no visible sign of interest or approval. Or that she had even heard me.

 I parked Rhino on a side street around the corner from Julie’s house and soon Mary and Julie and her four year old daughter, Juliet, came calling. Julie tried valiantly to put on a happy face at our stylish new digs, but little Juliet was unabashedly enthused. The Rhinoceros Palace was “totally cool.”

Tut, tut, kid. You can have one yourself when you grow up and have your life squashed like a bug.

No sooner had they departed back to Julie’s house than the Concord Police arrived to welcome us back to the area by informing me that I couldn’t park here on the street in this residential neighborhood. The home owners were concerned their property values would collapse over night with a Rhinoceros grazing about on the street. Move along, pal.

Mary arrived back at the RV during the police interrogation, fearful that I had managed to find some way to cause trouble during her brief absence. The cops were much nicer about things with her arrival, lowering their evil-suspecting barometers considerably.

Still, it was a vivid reminder that we were no longer respectable home owning citizens and were instead part of the driftwood cluttering the pristine beaches of America.

From Julie’s place, we drove east to Bethel Island, just east of the juncture of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers which then emptied into the San Francisco Bay. I drove the Rhino and Mary followed in the Honda. Rhino with baby rhino in tow. Very cute.

Mary had made week long reservations for us at Lundborg Landing, a flat, grassy RV park alongside a slough off the San Joaquin River. We paid the fee and helped ourselves to a slot with no one to the right or left of us.

Time to begin learning about RV living.

I located the pump out hose in one of the side storage compartments along the bottom of the Rhino’s exterior and connected it to Rhino and then to the sewer pipe sticking out of the ground at our spot, arranging it along little gradually smaller plastic props so that gravity could do its waste removal work properly. Next I plugged the Rhino’s electrical cord into the available outlet at our site and opened the valve of the propane tank which supplied us with heat and stove top fire.  And finally, I unfurled the awning from a tube along Rhino’s roof line and propped up the legs.

Voila! Homesville. And even I could do it. No wonder there were so many of these humongous beasts prowling the roads of America. Anybody could do it! The industrial revolution had spiffed up and civilized Gypsy living as well as rooted living.

While Mary busied herself with the Rhino’s interior décor, I unfolded a camping chair and sat down outside under the awning with the manuals pertaining to all of the Rhino’s various gizmos. The manuals were mostly for show. They were placed on the ground next to me. My real purpose at hand was popping open a beer, lighting a cigarette, and staring off into space while getting a feel for whether this new life would be acceptably pleasant or just glumly tolerable.

Which, in reality, would be entirely dependent on how Mary coped with it. If she was okay, I would be okay too. If she wasn’t, neither would I. So I suppose my first act in RV life was to sit on my ass and loaf. A familiar activity.

What we planned to do was take full advantage of the fact that Blueberry was now an entirely mobile business. After selling the house, we had paid off all our borrowings and entered the modern world by purchasing two cell phones, one for business and one for personal, two laptops, and a wireless Internet access account. The Rhinoceros Palace was now the de facto world wide headquarters of Blueberry Software.

Northern California was a Mecca for camping and hiking and vacationing outdoors type of stuff. Who would know that a tech support call was being handled by a guy sitting in front of a camp fire with a laptop on his knees and a cell phone in his ear?

Lundborg Landing. An interesting name. I wondered who Lundborg was. It sounded sort of like a sea-faring, peg-legged old gnarly guy. Probably wandered off course from the San Joaquin River while boating around drunk on a foggy night and run his tugboat aground here and then staggered overboard and drowned. Something like that anyway. If I drove the Rhino off a cliff, maybe they would call the crash site Beigel’s Bottom. It would be poetic fate for someone like me.

Which was the part I couldn’t understand. It didn’t surprise me that life had gathered together a company full of crooks for the express purpose of handing me some karmic comeuppance. It was no secret that my life had not always featured swell performances. I wasn’t deluded about it. Someday, I knew I’d have to pay for my choices and actions. That’s the way the big old wad ball worked.

But why Mary? Why did my punishment fall on her too? She was a decent as hell person. Her behavior was pretty much always virtuous, generous, helpful, and caring. Marrying me might have shown some severely poor judgment, but that was no sin. Ultimately, my life wasn’t that important to anyone. But hers was. She had six kids and grandchildren galore to come who really depended on her being okay.

It was definitely a puzzlement. I kept trying to concoct up scenarios where I would get my just desserts, but it would turn out great for her. It was tough on my concocting center, though. The closest I’d come so far to a fair scenario was the one where Arbortext finally paid us all the money they owed us, I put the check in our joint business account, then as I was leaving the bank a skateboarder would smack into me on the sidewalk, causing me to stumble backwards into the street and get run over by a city bus.

It balanced out everything.

I mentioned this solution to The Big Guy in one of my poor praying efforts, just in case He needed a helpful tip. So we’ll see if He was listening. Down the road. Some day. Bus squashing was the kind of thing that made the newspapers, so keep an eye out for it.

“I see you’ve made yourself right at home.”

It was Mary.

“Just resting my brain from studying these manuals. They’re hard to understand.”

“Get up and come inside. I need some help hanging pictures.”

Rats. Duty calls.

We barbecued some burgers for dinner and sat outside in front of a campfire. Very quiet and lots of stars.

“The place looks great,” I complimented.

“It’ll have to do.”

“I guess we could look at it like we’re just on an extended camping vacation.”

“I guess we could.”

“It makes me feel better.”

“Terrific.”

“It doesn’t do anything for you, I guess.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“The audit will be starting any day now. Finally.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“You sure can see a lot of stars when you get away from the city. Look, there’s Orion.”

“Steve.”

“Yeah?”

“Shut up, will you?”

Good idea, Mary. Reality was settling in. We were homeless. There was no place where we could feel safe anymore. Where we could lock the door and hide from the world. It was a scary feeling.

In the morning, whatever nomadic, great outdoors plans we had in mind came crashing to earth also. The cell phones didn’t have coverage out here in sticksville. Don’t ask me why. I’m no satellite whiz. They just didn’t work. Our lifeline to the world was cut off.

And so it was that the Rhinoceros Palace tottered back to Concord and settled its tires down in an exotic mud hole named Sunny Acres Trailer Park. The trailer park was located in south Concord at the base of a ridge of hills called Lime Ridge. It was across the street from the Bart train maintenance yard.

Yes. Lime Ridge. The same ridge where our old house was located. Only our house was on the other side of the ridge, the north side, the prime real estate side.

A mere quarter mile walk away, but another solar system in reality.

But at least it felt like we lived somewhere.

To be continued . . . Free Hit Counterwebsite statistics

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August 4, 2008 - Posted by | Business, Life, Stories, Writing | , , ,

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