Behind the Curtain 7 – Traveling and Trimming

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Squirrel closed her eyes and felt the light rain on her face. She could hear the wind whispering through the redwoods and the sound of an impending automobile coming down the highway.

“Birch, wake up, a car,” she nudged her traveling companion, scrambling for the sign.

“He drank too much of that guy’s hard cider the night before,” she said to herself. So much, they had to leave the campground early, only to sit by the side-of-the-road in pre-dawn drizzle.

“ARCATA,” read the sign she held up high, smiling brightly at the passing car.

The two had been traveling together since summer, hooking up in Ashland at the Kate Wolf Memorial Festival and traveling down the coast to California, picking up jobs as they went.

Birch had been trimming for a year before Squirrel met him. Traveling up and down the Pacific Northwest, “following the seasons,” he romanticized. He was a poet and she loved poetry.

She could sit quietly for hours listening to him and others. You had to, really. It was part of the work of trimming for a living. You had to be nimble and quick. It’s how she got her nickname, Squirrel.

You have to be able to sit quietly for hours, trimming down to the bud. Every little leaf had to be removed. She never understood that part. Neither did Birch.

“I’d smoke it all,” he’d say, scraping the green resin off his clippers.

“Finger hash,” they called it. She called it “pot boogers,” and saved it for when they were out of trim, or the shake that fell to the floor.

A van pulled over, the driver rolled down his window and said, “Namaste.”

Birch surveyed the van and its passengers. They were travelers like them. Gypsies by choice.

“Looking for work, man,” Birch replied.

“Get in, we’ll drop you,” he said, motioning to the other door of the van. “This one’s broken,” he apologized.

Once inside, the two crouched on the floor and accepted a fatty from a guy with dreads. “You been workin’?”
he asked.

“Yeah, we just left Crescent City, it’s dead there,
Birch said. “We heard it was happening in Arcata.”

“Hang at the Plaza and you’ll hook up. Everyone needs help,” the young man explained. “Watch out for the tweakers though, they’ll take your stuff and worse,” he added, looking at Squirrel.”

“The locals don’t like us,” a young girl, obviously pregnant, said, accepting the joint from Birch.

“We’re the new migrant worker,” said the driver, pulling up in front of the Big Blue Café on the Plaza.

“I wonder if they have a bathroom,” Squirrel said, heading for the door.

Next week: Bayside, Joel and Nicole

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