I drove north thinking about her.  Remembering the feel of her underneath me, her skin pressed against mine.  Thinking about the taste of her lips.  I drove north thinking about her because it was easier than thinking about my wife; my ex wife.  I met her in a bar, my bar to be precise.  Well it wasn’t really my bar, but I could run a tab without a credit card, it was 50ft from my office and next door to the restaurant I occasianlly ate in for free on account of I was having sex with the chef.  We’d spent a couple months together.  OK more than a couple of months, almost a whole year.  And then her husband had come home, and there had been blood.  Most of it mine, some of it hers, none of it his.  
         And so I’d left town.  Not because of her, but because she was part of the world that
was crumbling down around me.  Recently there has been a song on the radio by Coldplay, ‘When I was King’.  That was me.  That song was me.  I had been the manager of a successful car wash, the third in my career, I could run a tab with no credit card at my bar, and eat for free at the two restaraunts nearby, and if I was to drunk to drive I merely sauntered over to the hotel we shared the property with and slept for free.  I had sex often and with whoever I wanted.  
         And then I met her.  A tall stunning blond out of my dreams.  She was one of those ‘la
vida loca’ girls.  I lost whole months with this girl.  Months and weeks lost to drunkenness and hangovers, crazy parties, crazy sex, and not enough recovery time.  Then I had to go to work in the morning.  Its still a wonder to me that I didn’t get fired during that time.  Certainly there were days where, if I had been at work I would have fired me.  Thankfully my CEO didn’t show up on those days.  And I had an excellent crew and they covered for me.  Still, near the end, it all started crumbling.  I started missing days at work, my apartment manager warned me about being thrown out, and my friends were all mad at me for things I had done, and that’s not mentioning this girl and her husband.  I could tell that the end was near.  I could tell that if I left now I would be remembered as the conquering hero, but if I stayed I would lose it all, and be remembered less than fondly.
         So I drove north.  I drove north and tried not to think about the life I’d left behind. 
I tried even harder not to remember the life I had lived previously.  The one in which I’d been happily married with a house in the suburbs.  I’d thrown that life away too.  For reasons which were less clear but just as real.  I’d gotten married early at the age of 19, just out of high school.  We were college sweethearts and for 9 years we had been the love of each other’s lives. But then something had changed.  Somewhere somehow we had fallen out of love.  We never had sex anymore.  We didn’t even talk anymore, we were barely in the same room at the same time.  I felt trapped, like there was no way out.  Like I was going to spend the rest of my life in misery if I didn’t act now.  And so I had.  I’d thrown it all away and her with it.  Though I came to regret it later, she would never forgive me.  But I can’t say I blame her.
         So I drove north and tried not to think about any of it.  I’d been in San Diego all of
my adult life.  I didn’t know anything else.  I can still remember the beach, the coastline, the tourist traps, the dive bars, and the million dollar houses with the million dollar views.  I was at home there.  I knew the city like the back of my hand and could get anywhere from anywhere.  The city was my mistress in more ways than one.  I loved it.  That was probably the hardest part about leaving.  Not missing the things or the people but the city I had come to love and be apart of.
         But I couldn’t do it anymore.  It had all gotten to be to much.  And so I drove north to
be with my cousins.  They lived in a place called Redding, Ca.  I’d only been there once, for my great aunt’s funeral.  My cousins could sense the pain I was in, my inner conflict.  They almost didn’t let me go.  “Why are you leaving?”  They’d said.  “You’re room is right back there”, they said pointing back into the house.  So I’d gone to take them up on their offer.  I could use the quiet I reasoned.  The peace and serenity and absolute remove from anything busy and tumultuous. Redding, population 50,000, buried somewhere in remote Northern California two hours from Oregon sounded like just what I needed.
         And so after a grueling 12 hour drive, exhausted and ready to stop I’d shown up at my
cousin’s door.  She answered the door in jeans and a T-shirt.  Her pregnant belly bulging over her jeans, a baby on her hip and a toddler poking between her legs.  
            She wrapped her free arm
around me in a fierce hug, “You made it.  So good to see you”, she said.  And I stepped into another life.  
             “Ryan’s not home yet, and I have dinner on, but grab a beer, there’s the TV, make
yourself at home.  Your room is in the back, its all made up.  Is that all you brought?  You’re moving in right?”  
            She had eyed the two suitcases I had and shrugged.  I’d sold everything else
I owned in an ill advised attempt to purge my life.  It didn’t work but I was definitely down to the bare essentials.  I did have a surplus of cash however that would prove useful later on.  So I grabbed a beer and made myself comfortable on the couch.  Ryan came home and Trish served dinner.  It was full banquet to my eyes; chicken, vegetables, potatoes, even desert.  To me, who had been living on fast food for the better part of a year it was a feast.  After dinner the kids were put to bed, and while Trish gave them a bath and tucked them in Ryan and I stepped outside for a smoke.  The heat of the day still hung in the air but it was made pleasantly cool by the darkness of night.  Ryan brought out a pipe and some weed and we sat on the patio and looked out over the yard and smoked.  It was a companionable silence broken at last by Ryan looking over at me and saying, “Its good to have you here.  Trish will sure appreciate the company.  I’m at work all day and she gets lonely with only the kids here.”
             And so the next couple of days were spent in quiet and relaxation.  During the day Trish
and I sat on the patio and smoked and watched the kids play in the sprinklers.  Ryan came home at night and after dinner and after the kids went to bed we would all sit out on the patio and drink and talk.  We talked about everything, or so it seemed at the time.  Certainly we hashed out my emotional situation.  We covered everything from my wife to my girlfriend and everything in between.  It was so incredibly peaceful, I thought I could spend my life there and be happy.  The stillness was just what I needed; the quiet and solitude.  Friends would come over and we’d all go and sit out on the patio and smoke and drink.  Nothing bad every seemed to happen, no chaos, no drama.
             And then the world fell in for the first time.  Ryan came home midday saying he had been
laid off.  There was an awful stillness to the house.  I can still remember the stricken look on Trish’s face.  
            “What are we gonna do for money,” she’d said.  
            “Don’t worry honey something is bound to open up soon."  
             Ryan worked construction for a local firm and with the housing slowdown construction
jobs had started to dry up.  It was soon after that I started to notice small irregularities.  When friends came over they went first with Ryan into the garage or back into their bedroom before staying to hang out.  I didn’t think much of it at first.  I accepted the reason’s given: “I have something to show you”, or “come look at this.”  Only after time did I realize that the same people were being brought over to look at the same things and it didn’t all add up.  I tried to dismiss it as paranoia; only Trish seemed to be upset about it to.  She didn’t say anything but she got tense in a certain way.
             Things seemed to go bad fast after that.  Ryan started staying out late drinking with
his friends.  He'd come home late and they'd fight.  It was like watching my parents fight but I was older this time.  I knew what was going on.  I retreated to the patio whenever they got into it.  Eventually one or the other of them would come out and apologize for fighting in front of me.  It didn't bother me I'd say; I understood.  Deep down I thought Ryan was wrong but it wasn't my place to say so.  After all I was the homeless cousin they had taken in.  
             In the mornings everything was always OK.  Whatever problems they'd had, had been
settled during the night.  We'd all have breakfast together and then Ryan and I would go look for work.  I didn't really need to working yet as I had some excess savings still but I thought it made it easier on Ryan, so I went along.  A week or two into our job search we started stopping at the bar during lunch.  Eventually this turned into hanging out at the bar for the afternoon, and then the evening.  I had to tell Ryan that this wasn't really me.  This wasn't what I was looking for.  So he stopped taking me along, but he didn't stop going.  I wondered where he was getting the money for all of this when he was unemployed.  I remember asking Trish about it.  I think she mentioned something unemployment beneifts and having some savings before leaving the room.  I remember having this conversation with her because it was that night that Ryan came home drunk demanding to know who had stash of weed.  He was angry because he was going to sell it and he couldn't find it.  Now I have nothing against drugs myself.  Sure I smoked, and even dabbled in harder stuff sometimes.  But I had never been, or lived with a drug dealer.  Somehow this made everything seem darker more sinister. 
               Ryan never found his weed that night and instead collapsed on the couch.  He did
remember me finding out though.  Far from being ashamed of it, he was happy he could come out in the open and talk about it. 
"Its just the way things are here," he would say.  After that he started drinking at home more.  He would drink and then call up some
people and they would come over and head into the back room with him.  When they left he'd tell us that everything was going to be OK and he'd take care of everything and not to worry about money anymore.  Somehow that never seemed to comfort Trish.
         Then came the morning that I will never forget.  I got up that morning with a hangover. 
I remember stumbling out to the kitchen which was supposed to be empty but which for some reason contained people I’d never seen before.  “If you want to go out there with the boys you’d better get dressed,” Trish said me as she brushed past.  I sat down wearily at the kitchen table and asked where we were going.  Ryan informed me that a friend of his was watching this crop and the guy whose crop it was, was gone and wouldn’t be back for a while.  So the plan was for us to drive out there, grab as much as we could, and bring it back to the house.  I’d never done anything like this before so I was up for it.  I was introduced to the newcomers who struck me immediately as tweakers even though I kept my opinion to myself.  Mike, who had the found the crop was busy changing into some of Ryan’s clothes, probably because they were clean, and trying to drink a beer at the same time.  Danny was there, who I was to learn later was a consummate drug runner who never got caught.  Sometime while I was getting dressed Ryan’s brother in law Aidan showed up with his beat up old red pick up.  
             And so we headed out.  Aidan and Mike led the way in the red pick up I was sure was
going to give up and die at any moment, Ryan and I followed in my 89 Acura which wasn’t doing much better, and Daniel left to run some errands.  I figured we’d head to a field or someone’s house and so I was surprised when they headed out on the highway heading east.  We drove east for two and a half hours.  We drove east into what was, as I far as I could tell vasty nothingness populated only by trees; and when the freeway we were on ended we took the rural country road it turned into.  Now we were really in the middle of nowhere and I was starting to worry I’d have the gas to make it back.  “Don’t worry about it, you’ll make it.  Here have some of this,” Ryan said as he passed me a joint.  
             We drove for another half an hour and when the street we were on ended we took a logging
road.  Now I had never been on a logging road before and this whole experience was something I could have done without.  It appeared to be nothing more than a path cut through the forest so logging trucks could drive through it.  Apparently no one cared about the giant potholes we were bouncing across at 30mph.  I say 30 because to go any faster was to risk imminent death by large pothole, or random boulder in the middle of the road.  We drove down this road for a good 20 min and then this too came to an end.  Sensing that we were finally there I heaved a great sigh of relief and got out of the car.  That’s when Mike informed us that we had best get going because it was a long walk and we didn’t want to be out here at night.  The three of us turned and gaped at him.  
            “What?”  I said.  “There’s more?”  “Of course there’s more, you don’t think someone would plant
a crop right next to the road do you?”  
             Personally I was thinking that it would be pretty well hidden even if it was 5ft in
front of us becuase no sane person would be out this far, but I kept that to myself.  And so we started walking.  We walked and we walked.  We were definitely out in the middle of nowhere now.  If you've ever seen that movie "The Blair Witch Project" you know how I was feeling.  We were surrounded by nothing but tall towering pines.  I felt closed in and out of place.  For the first time in my life I wished I had a gun and I suddenly understood why the rednecks all carried them.  Now we were all starting to wonder if we were in the right place.  
        “You sure about this Mike?”  Was the question asked more than once.  
         At last it ended.  The thing we were on which could only loosely be called a path ended
at a cliff.  
         “OK, now we have to climb down and its somewhere to the left,” Mike informed us.  And so we went down the cliff.  Hanging onto tree branches and protruding rocks we
clambered down the almost, but not quite, sheer side of the cliff.  And there it was.  A field of weed.  It was like a field of corn, but it was a field of weed for as far as we could see.   “Holy Shit,” I whispered.  There was a whole field of the stuff and from where we stood we couldn’t see the edge.  The plants were easily our height 5 or 6 ft tall with big bushy green buds on them.  We all stood rooted to the spot in wonder.  
        “Wooohoooo!”  Ryan let out a yelp and started running through the field.  That broke the
suspense and we all brought out our ten gallon trash bags we had brought with us.  We started wading through the field stuffing our bags full of the stuff.  We were like kids in a candy store.  We started yelling out our finds to each other as one or another of us found something particulary nice.  At last we stopped exhausted.  Our bags were full and we were tired.  But it was a good sort of tired that comes after a hard days work. At last we headed back.  The walk back seemed even longer than the walk in.  Probably because we were toting ten gallon bags full of weed.  So, after a scramble up the side of a cliff, a long walk back, a treachorous ride down a logging road, and a grueling two and half hour ride back into town we finally made it home.  The girls were out waiting for us.  There was Trish with the kids around her and Sarah, Aidan's wife, with Jean, Ryan's biker mom, waiting in the front yard.  As we pulled up they all started talking at once.
            "Where were you?!"  Trish demanded.
            "We almost went looking for you," was Sarah's comment.
        Jean just stood there smoking a cigarette.  I wasn't sure if she knew why we had gone out.
"There's no way you would have found us," Ryan replied.  "We were out in the middle of nowhere but hey
check this out," he said hefting his bag.
            We went into the garage and dumped out our haul.  Jean let out a low whistle, "That's a blessing
from God."
         The next three days were spent trimming up our plants and drying them out.  We threw

away more little buds than I could believe.  At the time it just wasn't worth our effort.  When

we split it up we wound up with five pounds each.  Now this was more weed than I had ever seen

in my life and I had no idea how to get rid of it.
"Its no problem," Ryan said.  "You come with me and we'll start giving out samples and see who

bites.  I know some people who run the local canabis club in town so we'll hit them up too."
 The next week was probably the most annoying waste of time I have ever spent in  my

life.  We drove everywhere in town visiting all sorts of low lifes.  At one point, I think it

was probably two or three in the morning we drove up to this crackheads house only to have a

pistol waved at us.  We narrowly avoided getting shot before Ryan was able to identify himself. 

 In the end we wound up with a little less than a grand.  And when I say we I mean Ryan. 

Somehow the people I gave weed to never seemed to pay up.  Ryan had a little more luck but he

seemed to spend money as soon as he got it.  It was only Trish's insistence that kept some back

for rent that month.  And of course I'm not counting the exremely large quantities that went up

in smoke between the three of us, and the new friends that suddenly appeared out nowhere.  And

then we were back where we started.  No drugs, no money, and alot of bills to pay.  Now I had

come from a farely respectable position in life so I had serious bills to pay:  credit cards,

insurance, cell phone, the usual.  I suppose Trish and Ryan had them as well but they seemed

less concerned.  Well Ryan seemed less concerned Trish was totally freeking out. 
 So I did the only sensible thing in my position.  I got a job.  I got hired at a local

liquor warehouse as a manager in training.  Of course when I showed up the first day dressed up

I was told that I started on the floor.  And then I met the other employees.  There were 12 in

total and 3 of them had been hired as manager trainees as well.  This was quite a blow to my

self esteem but not as bad as when I met Kellee. 
 Kellee was a tall stunning blond.  She came in one afternoon and asked if Nidershon, the

owner, was in.  He was in the back office as usual but I didn't tell her this becuase I wanted I

wanted to flirt a little.  We were hitting it off, she was touching my arm and smiling and I was

just about to ask her out when Nidershon came out of the office. 
"Kellee come on back," he said. 
 She winnked at me and sayshawed over to him.  A couple of minutes later he poked his

head out of the office and called me over.  He asked me get $300 from the register and bring it

to him.  As I walked into the office I couldn't help but notice that Kellee had been crying.  I

handed him the money and discretly avoided looking at her as I left.  About a half hour later I

heard muffled sex sounds coming from the office.  One of the other employees looked over and

"So Nidershon has one of girls in there huh?" 
 After that I noticed that these girls came in about twice a week or so.  I couldn't keep

track of how many there were total.  But everything happened the same way.  Some beautiful girl

would come in crying, Nidershon would send me for money, and they would have sex in his office. 

I was pretty sure his wife knew about all this but turned a blind eye.  The other employees

thought it was all a big joke.  I, on the other hand was disgusted by the whole thing.  Then

came the day they fired me over the phone.  Now, I'd only been there a couple of months but I'd

seen four other people come and go in that time.  When I asked for a reason I was told Nidershon

just wanted to go in a different direction.
 So, I was forced to turn to my cousin's again for suppourt.  My cousin's who had brought

me up to Redding with the promise of peace and security.  I hadn't been paying much attention to

the situation at home though.  I'd been spending most of time at work but now that was gone.  I

came to realize that a serious situation had developed in my absence.  Ryan and Trish were

fighting all the time, they were two months behind in rent, despite my paying my rent to them,

and Ryan was now being followed around by the police.  Then came the day the landlord showed up

at our door with an eviction notice.  He wasn't without pity he told us.  He would give till the

end of the week to clear out, but then he would call the police.  Nightfall found us moving into

Bob and Constance's house, my cousins parents, also my cousins.  They graciously allowed me in

as well.  I found myself in their spare bedroom which they apparently used as storage becuase I

was allowed all of 6 ft by 3 ft of clear space on the floor.
 I remember sitting that night on their front porch.  They lived on 17 acres and had a

creek running through their property.  I sat there on their porch and smoked my cigarettes and

drank my beer and wondered what had happened.  I had it all, and now somehow had nothing.  Don't

get me wrong I was thankful that my family had taken me in, but still I was shocked at how badly

everything had gone.  I had nothing now.
 In the morning I called my ex CEO and asked for my old job back.  She didn't have any

openings but she refered me to a carwash company in L.A. and soon I was on my way back down

south.  As I passed the sign marking the boundry of the city of Redding I pulled over to side. 

A police officer pulled in behind me and asked if everything was OK.  I replied, "And Jesus said

to his disciples when a town does not welcome you leave that town and brush the dust of their

streets from your shoes."  And I took off my shoes and brushed the dust from them.

penname   penname wrote
on 2/27/2009 5:43:51 PM
this is a great write. nothing "aspiring" about this author. Great story telling, images, and themes. Thanks for sharing. Keep writing! This is good!

Michele   Michele wrote
on 2/27/2009 8:07:20 AM
I'm from San Diego too but moved to Oroville, 90 miles or so south of Redding, after my mother died and I had no reason to be in SD anymore. I bought a small house and got a job selling cars in Chico. Now I just write--can't work anymore. I love the area--people are very different here--sort of El Cajon rednecks, but mostly nicer--will talk your ear off at the 7eleven, instead of letting the door slam into you--you know what I mean--Southern Californians tend to be rude(they're all trying to survive and pay inflated rents and don't have time to be courteous). Liked the story--too bad small town life couldn't have been kinder to you...

Short Story
writing coby
Aspiring Writer
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A short story about my stay in Redding. Fiction, but based on actualy events.