You Never Know Who Your Friends Are

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


A neighbor tries to drive two happy women from their home for dubious reasons.

Submitted: March 25, 2018

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Submitted: March 25, 2018

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You Never Know Who Your Friends Are

The two of us have worked in Vail for years. Always at a job that provides us with a pass to the mountain in the winter. Once in a bar, a guy from Texas tried to impress us by saying he had over a hundred days on the mountain. I replied that I had over a thousand, but that I had lost count after that. Emily, my friend, agreed. She added that she too no longer kept track after she passed the thousand day mark.

I've always maintained that it's pretty easy to get a job in Vail. Except for the absolute top positions, the employers are pretty hard up. And that's because there is no place to live here. Employee housing is miserable and the next nearest place that a normal person can afford is Leadville, an hour and twenty minutes away. A grueling bus trip on a radical road over Battle Mountain. A road often closed by wrecks, deep snow, rock slides and avalanches. You leave work at 4:30 and sometimes don't get home until midnight.

The reason we've been here so long is because we have a cabin in Minturn, a funky, but very expensive little town about five miles from Lionshead Plaza in Vail. Our little log cabin is part of the remains of a 1950's motor court, i.e, “Minturn Cabins, Clean and Modern Kitchenettes”, as says a decrepit sign in the corner of the property . Most of the other cabins are gone and have been replaced by trailers, trailers which over the years, have pretty much now gone to ruin. But the people in them love living where they are and have taken to building wooden roofs over the leaky 1960's vintage trailers to keep them going.

All in all, we have a comfortable little house, we pay a reasonable rent and in the summer we can bike to work. And we are the envy of everyone we work with. And the envy of almost everyone who works in Vail.

Mr. Martin is our landlord and he lives in one of the trailers. He was going to build a house, but long ago discovered that if he just kept it simple and rented out all the cabins and trailers, he could retire. He did that about twenty-five years ago when he was in his late forties. He rents to us and to our neighbors because he likes to have people around. And he only rents to people he likes.

We had to pay some dues to get here. It started when Denise entered my office one summer morning several years ago.

“You guys still living in that van?” She asked.

Emily and I were sleeping in my van directly below my office in the basement.

“We we sort of live in the hotel here”, I replied, “But yeah, we sleep in the van. Why?”

“Robin and I are moving to Steamboat. I think you can have our place in Minturn if you want it.”

“That cabin you two have?” I was very interested.

“No, probably not the cabin. Not right away. You have to start in the duplex. But when one of the cabins go vacant you'll be first on the list.”

“I want it”, I said. “What do I have to do?”

“Don't you want to talk to Emily about it?”

“No. And she's up on the mountain anyway. She won't be back until 5:00.”

“What if she doesn't like it?” Asked Denise.

“She will”, I answered. “And if she doesn't, I'll let her have the van to herself.”

“When do you want to go talk to the landlord?”

“Now”, I said. “I'm done here and can take a couple of hours. Let's go now.”

“The bus won't run until 4:00”, noted Denise.

“We'll take the hotel truck”, I said. “The van is too wedged in the get out.”

We drove to Minturn in the huge, white pickup truck that the hotel used to pick up equipment and supplies. Private use was absolutely forbidden, but that had been ignored for years. My boss was cool with stealing the truck, but if I got in a wreck I'd have tell the Vail muckity-mucks that I was going to look at mattresses or throw rugs. Because of the proximity of the Vail hotels, the tiny town of Minturn had both a mattress and a rug outlet. The important thing now wasn't so much to follow the Vail motor vehicle code as it was to land on a good place to live with both feet.

We arrived and knocked on Mr. Martin's trailer door. He invited us in.

“This is Merriam”, said Denise. “She's a good friend of mine and she needs a place to live. I was wondering if maybe she could have the duplex or the cabin.”

“Well yes”, said Mr. Martin. “Do you want to go look at the duplex?”

“Yes”, I replied.

He pulled down a key and we walked a couple of hundred feet to the shabby porch on the duplex. There was a lot of junk on the porch pushed to one side. The yard was an abandoned flower bed, bounded by decomposing railroad ties, with an old plow sitting in the middle. Mr. Martin opened the door.

“The people are just moving out, that's why all their stuff is there on the floor”, said Mr. Martin.

“They'll take our cabin as soon as we go”, explained Merriam.

The duplex was one very large room with a kitchenette at one end and a tiny bathroom off to one side. It was furnished with a large sleeper sofa, a queen sized bed and a dining room table. There was no closet, but there was a metal clothing rack/shelf arrangement against one wall.

“It's looks fine”, I said. “We would love to have it. What do we have to do?”

“Who is 'we'? There are two of you?”

“Yes, me and my best friend Emily.”

“Your best friend?”

“Yes, we've been roommates for a long time.”

“Well bring her by tomorrow and lets meet her. And if it all goes well, you can have the place.”

There was no banquet service that night so the hotel's commercial kitchen was empty. Emily and I were cooking dinner there. Emily was about to wet her pants over the new house and kept asking the same sorts of questions over and over.

“There really isn't that much to say about the place”, I finally said. “It's just one big room with a couch and a table. But it's nice enough. A lot better than sleeping in a car.”

“Can it be fixed up” she asked for the third time.

“Yes, I'm sure. It will take some work. But remember, we want the cabin, so let's not waste a lot of time on the duplex. Denise says it's cold and noisy.”

“And the cabin is that little house Denise and Robin were living in. Right?”

“Yes.”

“How long until we move in there?”

“Like I said three times already. I don't know. When the people there now move out.”

The second interview with Mr. Martin went well and we moved in that weekend. The only hitch came from Johnathan, my boss. He didn't want us living down in the basement “temporarily” when we first parked the van down there, and now he didn't want us to leave. It was nice having someone he trusted on the property 24/7. I had been called several times to go inspect broken pipes in the middle of the night, call R & H Mechanical for emergency repairs and then inspect the place afterwards to make sure the hotel wasn't flooding – and to answer a sleepy call from Johnathan asking if it was all OK now. But we got away and moved.

The duplex was infested with mice and some kind of tiny mouse thing someone called “vols”. They looked like big, furry jelly beans. We saw no rats. We got a cat from the pound and he quickly dealt with them. In the winter, the heater would come on and roar and the place would heat up to about ninety degrees. The heater would then cut off and the temperature would instantly drop to fifty. We shared the one large room with the cat's shit box and the cat compulsively dug in it - until I finally imposed a rule of no deposit, no digging. We spent the winter in the duplex, and got the cabin in the early spring.

When we moved to the cabin, we had wanted to give the duplex to our friends Delphina and Beth. But although we'd done our best to make friends with Mr. Martin, but found him to be a bit standoffish. And even after months had gone by, we still really didn't know the guy. And because of this, we were leery about introducing Delphina and Beth, as they were a bit over the top.

They worked as groomers and on the heavy snow removal crew during the winter. Driving Pisten Bullies on the mountain and huge loaders in town. Grooming slopes and half pipes on the slopes and loading into dump trucks the gigantic piles of snow that accumulated around town. In the summer they climbed the lift towers and performed maintenance.

The wore identical pairs of overalls and boots, they had lots of body art and their long, long hair was dyed very black. The color of a tire. Both could lift their hair and to show that underneath was a dyed rainbow flag. We liked them because they liked to play softball and basketball with us.

We decided that Mr. Martin wasn't the type to judge us by our friends and we took them over. He liked them. Probably more than us. And often that summer we would see them sitting on the porch of his trailer with him.

“Mr. Martin likes Beth and Delphina”, said Emily.

“Yeah, we'll have to ask them about him”, I replied. “The guy's kind of an enigma. How did he get this place and what happened to his wife? He won't talk about it with me. Always changes the subject.”

“Yeah, me too”, replied Em. We made a note to grill the girls sometime in the near future.

But all went well until the early summer when the remodel began on the condos across the street from my office.

The construction crew had the same problem everybody else did, there was no place to live. They had a designated guy that went around to the hotels and apartment buildings to find places for the workers. He offered Mr. Martin a fortune for the trailer next door to us when it went empty and the person we called “the construction guy” moved in.

At first he was OK. Kind of dumb with a strange way of talking. He wouldn't look at you and when he spoke it was as if he was mumbling to himself in a loud voice. He seemed curious about the country and most of his conversation was asking directions to various nearby points of interest. We basically forgot about him.

The trouble began when his wife and daughter arrived a couple of weeks later. We liked the wife. She was a school teacher who had just completed her school year and planned to spend the summer in Colorado with her husband.

Emily and I were sitting on the porch on the first real sit outside summer evening when she passed by walking the family's little dog.

“Whoa”, said Emily. “We have some Chardonnay. Want some?” I pulled up a chair to give her a seat, but she didn't sit. Instead, she leaned on our porch pole.

“How long have you two been here?” she asked.

“Here in the trailer court? About a year now.” Said Emily.

“We've been in the area for about seven years”, I added.

“You work in Vail?” She asked.

“Yeah, both of us”, I said. “I work for the Mountain Inn and Em here is a ski instructor.”

“I'm like you”, said Emily, “Unemployed for the summer and loving it.”

“What do you teach?” I asked.

“Fifth grade”, she answered. “Been at it for six years now.”

The conversation ended there when the construction guy came around the corner of the trailer and said, “Hey!” under his breath. His wife turned around and he motioned for her to join him.

“Have to go”, she said and her and her husband disappeared around the corner of the trailer.

“I get a really weird vibe out of that guy”, said Emily.

“Yeah. No kidding.” I replied.

It got weirder. The next afternoon Mr. Martin showed up and said the guy in the trailer had complained about our cat hanging around his front door. We agreed to keep it indoors to avoid trouble.

The next evening we were lighting the ancient BBQ between our cabin and the trailer. An artifact from when tourists actually stayed in the cabins. If one looked carefully, one could see that each of the original cabins had had a BBQ. The guy from the trailer came out and approached us.

“You can't use that. We're going to need it tonight. We're cooking steaks.”

Em and I looked at each other. Confused. Nobody had ever claimed the BBQ before.

“What time are you going to cook?” I asked. “We won't be long. And the coals will be ready when we're done.”

Emily added, “There's plenty of room on the grill. You can just cook here too if you want.”

“It's our BBQ and I don't want people using it”, the guy replied. He began to shovel our unlit charcoal into the bag.

He held out the bag to me. “It's our BBQ and we're going to use it tonight. That's all I going to say.”

We were stunned by the rudeness and simply went into the house. But it wasn't over. About a half an hour later Mr. Martin knocked.

“I heard there were some problems with the BBQ”, he began.

“No”, I replied. “We were just starting to use it like we always do and the guy next door ran us off.”

“He was really rude. We offered to share it with him.” Emily added.

“Well, I have a grill up on my porch. I'll bring it down and you can use it here. That might keep the peace.”

After Mr. Martin left, Emily said, “I feel like I did something wrong, but I don't think I did anything.”

“Yeah, we were just doing what we always do. This is weird.”

And it got weirder. There were more trivial complaints. They came almost daily. A noise. The car starting too early and allegedly being revved up for no reason. And there was even a complaint that we were sitting on our porch looking in his windows.

It came to a head when we began passing the summer evenings with Delphina and Beth playing catch with a tennis ball in front of our porch. We had softball equipment, but the barehanded tennis ball just seemed simpler for a summer evening. The woman from the trailer and her daughter passed by walking the small dog.

“Catch”, shouted Delphina, tossing the ball to the daughter.

“Here you go”, cried the daughter throwing it back.

Delphina then tossed it to Beth, who tossed it to the woman. Who then tossed it back to Emily. Soon the woman and her daughter had joined the circle where the tennis ball was being tossed around. The little dog barked furiously

The creepy construction guy came around the corner of the trailer, and Emily and I became wary.

“Hey”, he shouted. His wife and daughter looked at him and he made a furious motion for them to come to him.

Looking a little crestfallen, his wife said, “We have to go”. The three of them vanished around the corner of the trailer.

The mood was destroyed and Delphina and Beth made excuses and returned to the duplex. But it wasn't Mr. Martin who beat on our door that time, it was the creepy guy.

“You two stay away from my wife and daughter. Hear me? You and your pervert friends down in the duplex. I don't my wife and daughter around your type. Just stay away. I'm warning you.” And with that he huffed his way back to the trailer.

I had never been confronted with this type of open prejudice before and it shocked me to the point of being immobilized. I was numb and not reacting. I didn't know how to react. Emily actually got angry with my shock and passiveness.

“Come on, we better go talk to Mr. Martin”, Emily said. “And stop acting like you're on drugs, get a grip. Are you like this every time some asshole yells at you?”

We went to talk to Mr. Martin and in his trailer he was frank with us

“I know that guy's an asshole, but he pays more in rent to both you and the girls in the duplex combined. The construction company really forked out the money. And to be honest, I need it. It's either keep him around for the season or sell off one of the lots here. And that won't work. Whoever pays a mint for the lot is going to start complaining about this trailer park in his back yard. And I don't even know if this place is legal anymore.”

“We didn't do anything”, said Emily. “We never did. We just tried to be friendly.”

“Let me think about it”, was all Mr. Martin would say.

We then stopped by the duplex and told the story to Beth and Delphina. They were enraged and we had to stop them from going up to the guy's trailer and telling him off.

“We don't need any more trouble”, said Emily.

“Yeah”, I said, “I have the feeling we're close to being kicked out. Mr. Martin could solve a lot of his problems if he just got rid of us. The ones causing the trouble sometimes get bounced even if it's not their fault.”

Instead, they went to Mr. Martin's trailer, which was just as scary for us. And then it got very quiet for a few days. Beth and Delphina were a little oblique about what had gone on in the trailer that night.

Walking back from the bus stop with a bottle of Chardonnay, I saw Emily grinning on the front porch.

“He moved out today”, she shouted as I approached.

“The creep?”

“Yeah. I watched them, and he gave me the stink eye all day. I even yelled that if he came over here I was calling a cop.”

We were sitting on the front porch watching the sunset and drinking the Chardonnay. Delphina and Beth were carrying armloads of stuff up from the duplex to their new trailer. They planned to spend the night there. We'd offered to help and they declined. Eventually, however, they came over and had a glass of wine with us.

Mr. Martin showed up to check the trailer for damage. Delphina told him not to bother. Everything seemed fine. Except that someone had weirdly thrown up in the sink, but they already had that cleaned up.

“That guy really was an asshole”, said Mr. Martin. “I expected some damage.”

“He was a jerk”, said Emily. “He really was.”

“Yea”, said Mr. Martin. “I've been putting up with shitholes like him all my life. Decided I was too old to do it anymore.”

“You said you'd have to sell off a lot if you lost that guy”, I said.

“Ah, I'll figure something out. It's not the first time I've been in a pinch. It's more important to stick together and not let jerks like that guy push us around.”

 


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