HELP YOUR NEIGHBOR
Dreamed 1994/2/18 by Chris Wayan
I'm an organic farmer in California's Central Valley. Fruit and nut orchards. This year we've had a lot of phosphorescent snails. Most farmers spray them, but I try an experimental technique: wobbling magnetic fields. It confuses the snails a lot and they fall off the trees. Still a few snails, but it's safer than pesticides.
A friend says he knows a neighbor of mine who has orchards with snail problems. Why don't I teach him the technique since it's working so well on my trees? I'm reluctant to--he's a commercial rival, and a very slick self-promoter. Let him learn for himself what works best. But I tell myself I ought to for the sake of the people who eat his produce, and his neighbors downwind, and his trees.
So I head down to his house by the freeway. Into his woods. Deep, dark. Such big trees...
His two young sons greet me; one about ten years old and his little brother, nearly four now. I like them. They're glad to see me, and complain I don't visit enough. I don't let on it's because I can't stand their dad.
Walk up to his Visitor Center--he's trying to promote nut-tasting tours like wineries! Fat chance.
His secretary asks if I have an appointment. I tell her who I am and he generously lets me have a few minutes.
He booms "Hello, hello!" and talks on and on, giving me no room to say why I've come. He knows why.
"That land you bought out in the desert has ruined you, hasn't it! Sunk all your money into it instead of modernizing your farm! And now you have to sell, huh. Well, I'll do more than make you a good offer. I got a job for you, Tom!"
So my name is Tom now, not Chris? I did buy a craggy desert site as a spiritual retreat years ago. Not to make money on--I've left it natural and always will. Sunk no money in, taken no money out. Just refreshed my spirit. What's he going on about, "ruined"? My farm's in better shape than his! I'd forgotten how patronizing he can be.
"You can have a job tomorrow as a manager at the canning factory!" He processes his crop; I sell mine fresh. I've scolded him about the canned glop he sells.
"Sorry, I can't take your job." I don't say a word more, I'm so offended. Just turn and walk out. He's insulted, outraged. No one says no to HIM!
He sends his assistant, the cannery manager, after me. He's an equal opportunity employer, I'll give him that: his manager is a huge fluorescent pig, rainbow colored, as luminous as neon. The pig believes in progress. In an excess of zeal, the hog aims great lightning bolts of energy at me, flashes of heat and current and light. I dodge the bolts behind the trees... they sizzle and splat on the trunks, and I can't help thinking "his poor trees..."
And all the while, the electric pig is screaming:
"YOU COME BACK HERE! WE OFFERED YOU A JOB!"
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