ADVENTURES WITH CARLOS & OSCAR Or I SHOULD HAVE GONE TO CHURCH
One-score and eight years Bobbie and I lived on Valley Road. (What writer hasn’t wanted to steal a few lines from the Gettysburg Address? Of course if you do not “Getty” it so what?) Ah, but I digress.
Our house, constructed in the late 16th century as a summer cottage for a Visigoth prince, roosted on the edge of a cliff. A small creek with a mini-waterfall trickled through our property. During the summer months, we lived on our patio where we played combat style ping-pong, danced, played music, partied, barbequed. From our redwood hot tub [hey it was a Marin thing at the time] we watched the moon grow and wane while shooting stars swept across the sky.
Our house was the second to last on this one-block hillside lane. Just after we’d painted our house putty green with a glossy black trim, new neighbors moved into the LAST HOUSE. The LAST HOUSE on Valley Road quickly morphed into a nest of demons.
If you were visiting us and accidentally missed the tiny parking space, you’d continue up the hill into a narrow driveway where you’d usually be greeted by a foul-mouth mynah, a donkey and a particularly vicious German Shepard named Kaiser.
Multiple signs warned that this was Kaiser’s territory. Three photos of the German “K” at his best – salivating, teeth bared and eyes blood-shot – hung from two tree stumps and a telephone pole. BEWARE OF VICIOUS DOG was printed boldly on the front gate. If you measured the animals on a ferocity scale from docile to ferocious, the mynah bird and the jackass rated a few squawks and kicks meaner than Kaiser.
As of this writing, Marshmallow our semi-feral cat and Kaiser are incarcerated in the local pound. I have it on Good Authority that Kaiser strolled into our yard and snarled at my youngest daughter. The dog was seldom on a leash. My Authority assures me the German Shepard snarled and growled and our thirteen pound cat pounced on Kaiser’s face. The canine yelped and scurried away carrying Marshmallow with him. Now both pet owners are engaged in a litigious dispute. Our neighbor charged Marshmallow, our sweet rescue cat, with over-aggressive behavior. Admittedly several cat claws were pulled from Kaiser’s nose and eyebrows and we didn’t need a forensic team to confirm they were Marsh Mellows claws.
But I’m confident a jury of my peers – even if they favor dogs over cats – might rule in favor of our 13 pound cat over a 130 pound German Shepard. I’ve pulled one of the posters of the snarling Kaiser off of a tree stump as exhibit A.
AH, BUT I DIGRESS.
While neighborly relations shrivel, let me start with day one.
CARLOS & OSCAR
DAY 1 Marin County California
Bobbie went to church on Sunday. She’d been attending services for several years. The service was held in a “church” high in the hills in the Valley of the Moon in Sonoma. It wasn’t really a church. It didn’t have a steeple or stained glassed windows. It really resembled an abandoned bunkhouse, with fences and an old grey barn whose sides clung to rusted nail heads. Animal life included dappled cows, three furry pigs and one loveable sway-backed horse named “Horse.” Clever animal dubbing was not a criterion for naming animals on a wine property worth millions in Sonoma or Napa, California. Belief in God was. This was fertile acreage, unsoiled by one vine of grapes [YET!] This was more of a Dude Ranch with a crucifix. Though there were no dudes or dudettes.
Bobbie and a group of like-minded folks met every Sunday. People came to sing, pray, hug, converse, pet the animals, and then disperse feeling a little better about themselves and life in general. The congregation was led by Brother Jessie. Brother Jessie was a nice guy. After we met and shared a brief conversation, he privately guaranteed Bobbie a Big Home in heaven.
“Time served,” he assured her. Bobbie loved the assurance.
When a nice guy like Brother Jessie asks a nice woman for a favor, usually the nice woman, especially Bobbie, now guaranteed a Big Home in heaven calls her husband and explains to him..……….
Sunday was glorious. Sunshine filtered through a stubborn slat in my office blinds. I’d given up an invitation to play golf and was sitting at my computer pounding out lines of dialogue in ‘Ghoul Pool’ a new screenplay. [You’re going to love it].
The phone rang. “Honey,” Bobbie opened angelically. “Would you mind a house guest for a day or two?”
Preoccupied, I replied. “Of course not.” Bobbie thanked me and hung up.
I went back to pounding out dialogue. It took a second. Maybe a few moments. Or a minute. Realization struck me in the back of my brain like a well-seasoned Louisville slugger. The alarm should have sounded.
Stupid. I’d ignored the “WOULD YOU MIND?” Warning Warning Warning. The “WOULD YOU MIND?” WARNING HAD SLIPPED UNDER MY RADAR. The Alarm Siren had Blared and landed on deaf ears.
Husbands, Wives, Partners, Lovers TUCKERISM HINT # 413 A.
WHEN ANY SIGNIFICANT OTHER EMPLOYS ANY OF THE FOLLOWING VOICES
A. Hi Sweetheart can we?
B.. How about you and I
C. I Love you so much, WOULD YOU MIND IF
D. All my friends said you wouldn’t agree to
E. You’re in for a BIG surprise!
STOP EVERYTHING YOU’RE DOING. LISTEN. PAY ATTENTION! Grab a pen or pencil! Take notes. If possible record the entire conversation. MEMORIZE THE ABOVE WARNING SIGNS -
ADD YOUR OWN WARNING SIGNS.
DEMAND or PLEA FOR A 24 HOUR COOLING OFF PERIOD
Forewarned is forearmed. Ah, but I digress….
CARLOS and OSCAR arrived on Valley Road, two hours later. Between them, they spoke three words of English: hello, which they used often – good-bye which they never used – and EAT! Actually they never said eat, but as with most young kids, gestures spoke louder than words.
Who needs ---- Babel or Google Translate.
Hands pointed to mouths
Stomach rubbing followed by – hands pointed to mouths.
Fisted hands shoved into open mouths.
Carlos and Oscar had hitchhiked from Honduras, through Guatemala and Mexico to the Mission District of San Francisco where they hooked up with Brother Jessie. Brother Jessie drove Carlos and Oscar to the church/bunkhouse in Sonoma. Bobbie drove them to the second to Last Home on Valley Road.
“Why?” I asked when they were out of earshot.
“Because,” Bobbie frowned and sighed testily.
Familiar with Bobbie’s particular sigh and that particular facial expression, I welcomed our house guests with broken Spanish and a few hand gestures I hoped were interpreted with the intended interpretations which I intended.
Across our kitchen table, we nodded, smiled. Carlos would smile.
Barb would take my hand, give me the ‘you don’t get it honey.”
I would return the, “Of course I get it, my darling wife.”
Carlos and Oscar exchanged glances…. I don’t speak glances, but I suspect theirs’ went something like. Amigo, what the fu0089ck are we doing here? Who are these people? What kind of people would name a cat Marshmallow? Amigo what is a Marshmallow?
I thought I was doing quite well until I noticed that Carlos and Oscar were giving me a very peculiar look. This look would become familiar also. I dubbed it the “EAT” look.
We went shopping. We needed more food. Carlos and Oscar were hungry. In Safeway market we exchanged inane smiles as Carlos pointed at this and Oscar pointed to that. Bobbie bought a bit of each. I suggested tacos. It was a bad suggestion. Bobbie gave me the elbow and Carlos and Oscar snubbed their noses –––. Were we housing gourmet chefs?
We came home. Carlos and Oscar insisted on putting away the groceries. They insisted on cooking dinner. Our home filled with exotic aromas. Their meal was fabulous. They cleaned the pots and washed the dishes and left the kitchen immaculate. They went to bed. It was their first night and Bobbie and I were considering adoption; or maybe changing my will, or hiring them to give my children lessons in good behavior.
My wife and I drove off to work with Carlos and Oscar in the backseat. They would be working for David Garcia, friend of Brother Jessie who lived in San Geronimo Valley, a few miles west of our home. The plan was simple. We would drop the boys off in front of the Fairfax Theater where they would be picked up and returned by Mr. Garcia. Bobbie and I would pick up the Honduran hitchhikers in front of the theater when we returned from work. The plan was simple. Stupid, in fact.
Circumstances beyond our control, (a threatened suicide off of the Golden Gate Bridge and a two vehicle pile up between a milk truck and a diaper service van) delayed our arrival at the theater meeting spot.
Circumstances beyond the control of Carlos and Oscar, (we heard later they did two and half days work in six hours and thirty-five minutes) caused them to arrive at our rendezvous spot two hours early. Nervous and alone they waited for awhile and then ventured through the rabbit warren of streets and alleys of Fairfax and somehow found our home. Of course our door was locked.
On our patio, in the cold and quickly darkening skies, our new housemates patiently watched and waited. Regrettably, the Neighbor-from-Hell was also watching. Carlos and Oscar decided to celebrate their good fortune, their first American payday, by waving dollar bills in the air.
Not the celebrating kind, the Neighbor-from-Hell observed their antics and called the police. They arrived in force.
Three patrol cars and a motor scooter. Seven men in all, armed. They poured out of their vehicles, blocking the street and surrounding our house, the patio and Carlos and Oscar.
Carlos and Oscar were bewildered. So were the police. They asked questions in English. Carlos and Oscar smiled back in Spanish. Both groups exchanged international SHRUGS.
Since there were no signs of breaking and entering or any other dastardly deeds, the police drove the hitchhikers from Honduras to the bus station and while the police waited for them to board a bus to anywhere, Bobbie and I were two blocks away waiting in front of the Fairfax Theater.
“Something is definitely wrong,” my wife said.
I said nothing. STUPID is not engraved on my forehead. I drove home. Immediately the phone rang. The goofy Neighbor-from-Hell was on the other end. “YOU HAD PROWLERS!” I saved your ass.” He cried proudly. “I called the police.”
So did Bobbie and she was not pleased with the police explanation of events. She dropped the phone and emitted a low guttural sound of anguish only women separated from their young can make. “You are coming with me!” I went.
She drove. Bobbie’s speed limit is much higher than mine. She flew through Fairfax, San Anselmo and San Rafael and finally caught the bus on the overpass to Highway 101. Caught is not the right word. She blasted the hrn. Two, utterly amazed, Hispanic faces immediately appeared in the glass of the rear window. Bobbie blew the horn, waved and sped along the side of the bus. I closed my eyes when she began whacking the door of the bus with a twelve ounce bottle of Coke. Thankfully, the bus driver, realized he was way overmatched and pulled over at the next stop.
As they approached our car, Carlos and Oscar did a few steps of the La Bamba and finished with a snappy salute. Bobbie stepped out of the car into a sea of hugs. And now…
Bobbie is happy. The police are aware of our house guests. And now that this happily-married couple knows that one neighbor is really a peeping Malcolm, we’ve decided to curtail some of our more adult patio activities.
The Neighbor-from-Hell still insists he deserves some sort of award for his vigilance. Currently, I’m trying to devise a proper reward. Right now it’s a toss up between a half dozen queen termites, a bouquet of poison oak or ….. I’ve decided not divulge the last reward. I think it’s perfect. You may read about it in the papers. .
As for us. . .Carlos is in the kitchen cooking Chinese food and Oscar is making Margaritas-to-die-for for me and Bobbie. And there is the Spanish Soap Opera called “Rubi” about two hitchhikers from San Salvador that really grows on you.