in the hills


By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 16 May 2022

I'm skipping around in my life story a bit because certain episodes fall neatly into 'themes'. The title nails this one. The year is 1985 and I'm my own very lucrative business. But I like a secondary partner for company and to do some running around. I've just left my first partner who's place was perfect for work. But he had a latent heroin addiction which grew and grew over the year with all the money he made with with me, over ten thousand a month. I had a friend Louie who seemed to know all sorts of people in the Bay Area. I could never figure out how he knew such a divergent set because he was shy, not into drugs and partying very often, a carpenter, tall blond with a brush cut, a young Republican you would guess at first appearance, and only a friend of a friend to me as we rarely met and talked much. But he heard I was looking for a new partner and dragged me to a gay and lesbian diner one Sunday morning where I was introduced to 'K', who in one aspect of my business, the sales department, was miraculous.

‘K’ had previously run a small restaurant, a hamburger joint, in some little town four hours North of San Franscico with her female lover who was such a radical lesbian that she had recently broken up with ‘K’ and moved to a compound of like-minded feminists not far from ‘K’s ranch, so radical that they prohibited any man from entering their gate, at the barrel of a shotgun. ‘K’ told me bits about this fascinating partner and their ‘compound’ over the next few months as we sat together, alone in the otherwise silent hills, doing lines and sitting up late at a table dimly lit by one low voltage light bulb.

At first I’d ask questions but got vague replies. She was reluctant to share. But we came to a deal. I’d tell ‘K’ all the stories I could think of, of powerful women in history, women who rose in stature and character way above men, stories she loved to hear and was totally ignorant of. I started chronologically with the Greeks, the mythical Electra, Media, Antigone, the real Aspasia, then leaders like Zenobia and Boadicea, but also more recent exemplars like Lucretia Borgia, Marguerite of Navarre and Thomas More’s eldest daughter, Margaret, whom he educated so well she was one of the best Latinists of the age. I also described ‘George Sand’, Jane Carlyle and Jane Wilde, ending with Simone de Beauvoir, almost exhausting my whole encyclopedia of ‘femmes savants’, as we had nothing much to do but sit and talk. We didn’t play cards. All these women were paragons of beauty and intelligence and strength. I even loved retelling their stories.

‘K’ listened intently, visibly fascinated, soaking up every story and name, her eyes gleaming in the dim 12 volt lighting, her forehead in a sweat in the middle of the night, probably writing them down after I went to bed in the camper outside. She could research them as material and cannons, (or canons) for her own personal inventory, and I bet she did. All stigmatized and abused people want examples of their type who rise above and successfully defy the prejudices of the world. But I doled these stories out slowly, (we were together there the first time for three weeks) and in return I asked for details of her radical partner and their life together, with each piece of information traded, (like cards) before the next was dealt.

She described her partner as short, trim and cute, with long, black hair which ‘K’ loved to comb each morning, after they showered together. Men were always hitting on her. There was no explanation for her radicalism, except a love of radicalism itself. She’d read books, many more than ‘K’, had gone to college and was a die-hard lesbian. But this ‘Waco’ Texas nonsense even ‘K’ couldn’t explain, because she loved her and their split up, sudden and without explanation, hurt her deeply.

She was beautiful and that was a big part of ‘K’s infatuation with her, ‘K’ being much plainer looking, skinny and tall and blind without her glasses, but the ‘alpha’ in the relationship, being strong-willed. The only thing ‘K’ told me that made any sense was that her partner often talked about the planet being destroyed and men’s stupidity in managing things, their extreme screw-ups and ‘the end of days’ soon to come.

She lived with six or seven other women who wanted to make their compound totally independent from the world, with solar panels, a spring and a farm, growing all their food. They weren’t quite there yet and had money and sent one member to town on rare occasions when they needed something they couldn’t make, like a pump. ‘K’ had visited there once and declined the invite, as her girl was now in love with another, which she couldn’t bare to witness. She also told me the poverty and hard work on that farm would be too much for her. ‘K’ loved money and other things, one of them being cigarettes. That’s why she was working with me, to get rich and comfortable in something more than her present ‘shack’.

I wondered what books this female enigma had read. ‘K’ didn’t know, she only read magazines and it annoyed her to no end that the one subscription she received in her mailbox ten miles away was Ms. Magazine. She had copies all over the cabin and I would call them M.S. magazines (multiple sclerosis) and she’d scream back at me: “no, it’s Miss magazine”.

We had a curious friend-enemy relationship. First of all, she hated men. I equally disliked tall, skinny women who wore glasses. I know this is a strange prejudice in me but I hate glasses on a woman, (excepting sunglasses). It’s some quirk I never could shed. She had seven cats in her household and I hated cats. They’d bring in dead mice on a daily basis and drop them on the floor.

If she’d had more feminine traits and wasn’t such a radical lesbian I would have been in bed with her. I slept in a camper forty feet away from the house. Hers was a one room affair with her mattress in a corner, and always unmade, dirty sheets, not the most attractive love-nest. She wore old jeans and put her hair in a ponytail. Then again, her jeans were tight and she did have a lovely ass. But she was as unfeminine and unsexy (in all her mannerisms) as Judge Judy. Even her voice was as harsh.

Our work required us to stay up late each night, thus lines and our long talks, which were civil and oddly enjoyable for the both of us. Our few snide remarks and bouts of sparing just livened them up. She’d never had intimate talks with a male before, full of rich and fascinating knowledge which she hungered to learn. And what I did on the counters next to us, getting up every few hours to check on things, was making us piles of money. She knew that all too well, so she was as nice as any man-hating feminist could torque herself to be, always trying not to show it. I was her teacher all this time and she my pupil. The fact that I never made advances in those predawn hours only added to the strangeness of the scene, because I knew I very well could have and she so compromised as to have to agree. But once again, Don Quixote and Seneca and Johnson prevailed. I chose the higher road.

This situation was filled with so many ironic twists that I did take some spry and perverse advantage of it. I didn’t care a hoot if our project worked or failed. I had lots of money and she didn’t, or at least not nearly as much as she wanted. She also wanted my skills with such a passion she could barely hide it, with almost a lust in her eyes. I could dispense or withhold critical details as I pleased and she knew it. If she displeased me I could walk out at any time and leave her with nothing. I’m sure she wondered long and hard why I made no sexual advances, (as she thought all men-beasts would). She must have been secretly pleased and relieved at this continence on my part, but probably wondered equally hard if it was something in her, if she was so unattractive that I nixed the thought.

And I saw this too. No man and woman in their early thirties, so apart from the rest of the world, so alone and stuck together in a lonely cabin in the middle of nowhere for three weeks, day and night, didn’t think of sex. It would be as natural a thought as eating or drinking water, and probably as frequent. We even had booze, (cases of beer which we both drank copiously) and lines of speed to fuel the fire. But I never did ‘pinch’ her half as hard as I might have, for the most intimate details about their curious lives, their bedroom foreplay and kisses, as all this crossed my mind in our late-night conversations, a movie at least in this media barren world.

She spoke of their love affair and life together and their split-up in generalities and had no colorful adjectives or details to enliven it. She was a bland narrator, one who doesn’t know what lights up a scene with a single, telling word, unimaginative. She was a perfect businesswoman, the best, pragmatic and on time to a tee, and in this role she served me better than anyone else in money matters. So I took no notes of our conversations and lost interest after these first week for any journalistic peek into the lesbian world I was hoping for.

I always considered myself a radical. Now the idea of such a woman, not only against society but men too, was intriguing. I wondered if there were men like that, a mirror faction that hated society but women also as some deadly enemy. Chuck came to mind. I could picture him in Waco. But women, that was an idea that broke all the laws of nature and millions of years of human evolution. Were they were born-again Amazons? I wanted to meet this Penthesilea, but not at gunpoint. As ‘K’ began to enjoy my late night stories, she opened up and told me what she knew.

Her partner in business and love just wanted to make money so she could afford to leave the world of men forever. The hamburger joint was doing O.K. with a steady stream of customers, but the slender profits would take years to meet her goals. So they started selling pot, right at the drive-through window, in little bags, with your hamburger, to the steady customers they knew. This bumped it up a bit but not enough. So they moved up the next notch to cocaine. Business skyrocketed, the money was flowing in. But they both knew this was a limited-time offer, before a bust, so they sold the business to an unwitting buyer, showing him their fantastic books, for another big profit and got out just in time after six months of white powder specials. ‘Cheeseburger please, with one dash of mayonnaise’. ‘That will be twenty seven dollars sir’. They disappeared into the hills, safe and sound.

But I never got to meet this Amazon queen with a shotgun in her hands. ‘K’ showed me a Polaroid picture of her one night, both of them arm in arm in white T-shirts and jeans, so she haunted my imagination for a while, as a person I was dying to meet. She was a beauty in that picture, petite, and in my mind, deranged, and so doubly attractive to me, the ‘pity’ effect once again kicking in. But that’s as close as I ever got to this brief fascination. I asked ‘K’ once to drive me to this nearby ranch, I was so intrigued. She told me it would be too dangerous for me, (possibly getting shot) and damaging to her reputation, revealing a secret.

In our first rendezvous I told ‘K’ that we’d clear over twenty thousand a week each, easy, but I liked to take a week break after each transaction, just to enjoy life, and that I could supply everything, forever. She was all ears. After our talk it was time to see the place. So a few days later Louie and I got into his Toyota truck and drove up there. He knew the way, having been there several times, (I could never figure out why). It would have been impossible for me to find it, as the dirt road had so many forks in it, with no road signs, even instructions would have been impossible.

It was a beautiful Fall afternoon and after viewing the property, the small ranch house, trailer, sheds, generator, Louie asked if we could take her three-wheeler, all-terrain vehicle out for a spin. Louie drives this little motorcycle and I sit behind him on a bumpy ride as we speed up and down hillsides, ever faster and ever steeper as Louie is determined to test the limits of this loud machine.

And he does find the limit. Determination and perseverance will get you to your goal. He attempts one final, very steep and rocky hillside. We get a running start and race up. The bike revs loudly as we grind our way up but right near the top the incline increases ten degrees and all of a sudden the bike overturns and we’re tumbling down, with the heavy machine, to the bottom. The A.T.V. isn’t damaged and as Louie pushes the bike off him and then gets off of me we stand up, brush ourselves off and think we’ve only suffered minor cuts and bruises. We drive back to ‘K’s place, talk some more, drink a few beers and Louie and I set off for the three hour ride home.

As we get to the highway, I tell Louie to pull over at the next liquor store as my shoulder is beginning to ache. I want a bottle of wine to dull the pain. I drink the whole bottle on the way home but the pain increases. At Louie’s, where I still have my room, I take a shower and now the pain at the top of my shoulder is reaching a screaming, unbearable degree of agony. I dress and call ‘C’, telling him my plight. He’s over within minutes with some brown, Mexican heroin. He lays out two lines on my desk, he does the larger one and hands me the straw. I snort the line, not even an inch long and within seconds the raging, excruciating pain in my shoulder vanishes. This happens so instantly and completely that I feel like one magically transformed from a whining cripple to a superman who now wants to go out on the town, all night.

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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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