This is Episode 2 in the story of the formation, rise and fall of the little education collective that used to exist up here on our mountain. I wrote and posted this account three years ago on my blog and then pulled it off because someone whose name I had not changed, objected. Now I have changed both the name of the little school itself, and the names of everyone who might feel negatively impacted, and plan to re-post the story, one episode per day, until all 32 are again on my blog.
Food for Da Boys
“I live back on Cow Mountain in an octagon, and I need to have some insulation and paneling installed. Can you do that kind of work?” The speaker was Corrine Rose Chintz, also known as Imika, a woman I had met briefly once, several years earlier, but had not seen since.
“Well, sure, I can do just about anything. You have the advantage on me. You know who I am, but I do not know you.” I did know her, but she obviously had forgotten the connection, and I preferred to start from scratch. I had heard various stories about this individual, and I knew that she did not follow a conventional life style. Well, that was OK with me. Lots of people up here on the mountain have what might be considered odd lifestyles. On the other hand, living in the middle of suburbia, and spending two hours in traffic to go to and from work each day, seemed odd to those of us up here on the mountain. Different strokes for different folks, as ole Sly said so eloquently, back in the day. Imika’s money was as good as anyone’s and my prospects were not high at the moment.
“Oh. I’m Imika.” She looked around as if checking to see if she was being observed. It was a Sunday morning and there was no one but Carol in the place. If I hadn’t heard of her, I might have asked what her last name was, but that wasn’t necessary. My parents knew Imika, because they used to act as a liaison between her parents, who lived in Florida, and Imika, who did not have a phone. There was no phone service in such a remote spot where she lived, and the technology for cell phone use was still very primitive. I remember building a battery house for Al and Marguerite sometime in that period, so there was the technology, but I just don’t think she was organized enough to pull that off.
When Imika’s father would call my parents’ house and leave a message, my father would feel compelled to drive back to her house and deliver the message. “Ah, she’s all right, just a little dingy,” he’d say. “She can’t help the way the girl dresses her in the morning.” My dad had a hard enough time with names as it was, to expect him to remember Misha’s name.
“So you live right next door to the school then,” I said. “We have been checking it out, because our boys are gong to be attending the collective when they get old enough.”
She nodded. “Yes, that’s right.” The earrings that she wore dangled well below her lobes, and appeared to be some sort of Native American motif, swaying back and forth as her head moved. She was dressed very uniquely in a shimmering, forest-green gown, which hung to her sandals, emphasizing her wafer-thin frame. She looked unhealthily thin, with her eyes sunken deep within their sockets. Her pale complexion was not helped by the green of her dress.
“Well, then, it should be easy to arrange for me to have a look-see, since I’ll be going right by your place to get to the school. And if I remember correctly, you have a child in the school also. Am I right?”
The earrings danced again, as her head bobbed. “Misha. Yes, my daughter is in the collective.”
“It must be nice living right down the road from the school. You don’t have to worry about finding a parking place.”
A pained expression crossed over her face, as she contemplated what I had said. “When can you stop by?” she asked, ignoring my comment just as I ignored the pained expression.
“I am going to the school Tuesday. Would ten in the morning work?”
“Far out. I’ll see you then.”
When I got home and shared the conversation with Annie, she jostled my memory a bit, so that I remembered a few of the stories that had circulated within the community. In addition to cannabis, Imika liked to ingest peyote and mescaline, though the only thing I ever saw her indulge in was cannabis. Copious amounts. We had heard the most widely circulated story about how she had left her daughter unattended, and “consorted” with aliens for a three-day period. I was not part of the Cow Mountain community back there at the time this incident took place, and I was not part of the process of taking care of Misha. It just meant that there were some issues here, of either drugs or an emotional nature.
Still, the stories meant nothing to me, as long as the money came through at the end of each week. For the most part it did. Imika could clearly see that I took my responsibilities seriously, whether on the job site, or with my family. I was not working in the construction field for my health. I was working because we were living paycheck to paycheck. If Imika could not pay me my wages at the end of the week, it was not me she had to worry about banging on her front door, it was Annie.
Annie was the one who mostly made the trips to town “to buy da food for da boys.” If there were no money to take care of business, things could get dicey. I didn’t even have to tell Imika that. There was really only one crisis, when a transaction that was scheduled to take place, did not, and Imika was left standing there trying to explain to me that “it was not her fault.” She had come up with eight hundred dollars, but was twelve hundred short. Since I worked at the ten-dollar-an-hour rate, that represented 120 hours, or three weeks’ worth of work. This was unacceptable.
Unfortunately, it being only three weeks from Christmas, timing was of the essence. The eight hundred dollars that she had given me was enough to pay off Dave, the guy who I had hired to help on the job, but left nothing with which to buy groceries.
We were sailing along on a prayer.