Gold, Chapter Fourteen

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“Man,” said Chester, as he entered the nursery.  “Huge snow storm last night.”

“How many did they get this time,” asked Maggie, who was rearranging garden ornaments that hadn’t sold in more than a year, shifting them from higher to lower shelves.

“Oh, I’d say four, including our truck.  Which, as you know, has nothing in it.”

Chester and Maggie had taken to calling the regular shattering of car windows “snow,” the flakes being the glass that littered the sidewalks and gutters.  Dark humor they found particular solace in on sunny days like the present one.  Vehicle break-ins in the neighborhood had jumped sharply over the past year.  No one knew why; theories ranged from the drying up of the street marijuana business – previously a solid entry-level way of making quick cash – caused by an increase in dispensaries, to wavelets of petty criminals being released from state prisons to ease crowding.

“They broke into our truck,” snapped Maggie, biting off each word.  “Again?  What the Hell!”

After having all of the windows of their 20-year old Ford F-150 truck smashed over a three month period, Chester had removed the glove compartment door, exposing its emptiness, taken out the stereo, even the push-in lighter, and, after each incident, pasted on a new sticker, cycling through “This vehicle protected by Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson,” “Property of Oakdale Mob,” “My other car is a man-eating dog with rabies,” and “Nothing to steal but my soul.”  He’d even left the car unlocked, with all of the windows rolled down, but had to stop after that resulted in piles of trash and a sticky smell left behind by homeless people sleeping inside.

Yup,” said Chester.

“You know,” said Maggie, softly, “Maybe it’s time we moved on…”

Chester wandered over to the redwood bench next to the cash register and sat down heavily.  Maggie joined him, placing her hand on his thigh.

“I dunno,” said Chester.  “Move on and do what?”

“Ha!” yelped Maggie.  “It’s not as if we don’t have places to go.  There’s the Hawaii condo, and the fishing cabin…”

“Yeah,” replied Chester.  “But what would we do…”

The pair was silent for a few beats.  Maggie knew not to rush Chester into conversation about important matters, if “rush” was letting him take several months before he announced that he’d bought a fishing cabin in the Delta, and several weeks to declare he’d felt some chest pains and been to the doctor, who told him he needed to stop drinking and lose weight or risk cascading health problems.

“Listen, Maggie, I know you’re waiting on me to decide whether or not to sell this property.  But I like being the “plant man,” in the neighborhood; everyone knows us.  And I like being a part of the community…” He turned to look at her. “And you do too.”

“I know,” said Maggie, patting his leg, “I know.  But, what with my knee problems and your heart, it’s not going to get any easier for us to run this place.  And it’s not like it makes us any money.  I mean, if sales don’t pick up soon this year’s going to be another loss.”

The door swung open; a 30-something white man with a shaved head entered the shop.   Chester sighed.  “I don’t know if I can sell the property,” he said, looking at his hands on his lap.  “I mean, it was important to my dad, and…”

“And he killed for it,” thought Maggie.  “Can I help you,” she shouted to the customer, who was crouched down looking at the knickknacks she’d just rearranged.

The shopper stood up.  “No, I’m okay,” he said, then spun around and quickly left the store, the wooden door clattering shut behind him.

“That was weird,” said Maggie, startled by the speed of his departure, an exit that normally only occurred with the occasional shoplifter.

“What do you mean?” Chester asked.

“Well, no one’s looked at those ornaments, like, ever.  I can pat myself on the back for shifting them around, but that guy didn’t look like a plastic frog type.”

“Maybe he wanted something for his mother…”

“Yeah.  Probably,” said Maggie, walking towards the ornament display, noting that nothing was missing.  “I kind of wish he’d taken some of this junk,” she muttered to herself.

“What?” said Chester.

“He also had leather gloves on,” Maggie replied.  “And it’s like 80 degrees outside…”

“Huh,” said Chester, getting up.  “Gotta go take the truck to the glass repair shop.”  He pecked Maggie on the cheek.  “Lemme think some more on it.”

“Sure, honey,” Maggie said, carefully bending down to continue her work. “Don’t go drinking beer,” she shouted, as Chester ambled out of the shop. 

Each month the View publishes a chapter from Gold, a serialized tale of politics, capitalism, and corruption in San Francisco.  Previous chapters can be found on the paper’s website,