“I have a job for you,” is commonly the best phrase a person can hear. But not when it’s coming out of the mouth of my dad. In that case, “I have a job for you,” could mean any number of things. It could mean you are going to drive a flatbed truck across the Canadian border filled to the brim with used Peavey electric guitars, it could mean you are going to be a pallbearer for a guy you never met, or it could mean you are going to need to dig up a graveyard in the back woods of Washington state.
My path to that last example started with a call from my dad over Memorial Day weekend.
“I bought a piece of property down in Skagit County and I want you to help me get it fixed up this summer. It’s an old farm, up past Rupertville, and I’m going to turn it into a Bed and Breakfast for your mom and me to run for when I retire in a couple of years.”
“Does mom know about this?”
“What do you mean does mom know about this?”
“But you mean you are making like an AirBNB of the thing? Maybe you should hire a professional, or two, to ‘fix it up?’”
“I have no idea what hair BandB means, but look, I know you don’t have a summer job lined up except for that radio show you keep trying to start.”
It never sat right with my dad that I was a teacher who never took a “summer job,” despite me telling him that 99 percent of the reason I decided to become a teacher was so I didn’t have to work during the summer. The “radio show” he referred to was a podcast I had given up on after six episodes that was about an unsolved murder in my hometown of Cedar Valley, Washington. A total of four downloads per-episode wasn’t enough for me to keep chasing my dream of being an NPR rock star.
“Well, my roommate offered to sublease my room to his friend for the summer for extra cash if I had another place to go, so it might not be the worst idea in the world.”
I envisioned my dad standing on the end of his fishing boat in the river giving a fist pump with his hand that wasn’t clutching a Coors original.
“I’ll pay you twelve thousand dollars the three months you are up there and you can stay on the property. Combine that with the money your roommate gives you, and you’ll be making the salary of an actual job instead of teaching.”
I hated every bone in my body for doing it, but I agreed.
My dad’s property was an abandoned apple farm that may have been a meth lab at one point at the end of a dirt road, halfway up into the belly of the beast of the North Cascade Mountain Range, a good 20 minute drive from the nearest town of Rupertville (population 642). The property consisted of a wooden homestead with three of the smallest bedrooms I have ever seen, a leaky roof, a bathroom full of wolf spiders, a guest house cabin full of discarded porn magazines from the 90s, a couple acres of undeveloped land, and a rotting graveyard.
My dad tried to gloss over the graveyard, saving it for the end of his tour, after we had split a six-pack of tall Coors cans. My small buzz took some of the sting off of the cluster of wooden gravemarkers sticking out of the tall grass at the back of the property, but it certainly didn’t help his cause that saving it for last meant it was deep dusk when we went back there.
“Jesus Christ dad, you bought a bed and breakfast with an Indian burial ground in the back of it?”
“I believe the correct term is Native American burial ground.”
“The old owner told me it’s just from the old logging days in the 1890s.”
“Oh yeah, I’m sure everyone buried in that ground died super non-horrifying deaths then.”
“If it makes you feel better, there’s a surefire way to figure out if it really is an Indian burial ground,” my dad said.
“Dig it up and if the ground is full of old Potter’s Crown whiskey bottles, then you know…”
“Oh my God dad.”
“Fine, I’ll give you eighteen thousand to stay up here and help.”
I walked back to the homestead thinking not much could have been worse than the summer I was about to embark on. My dad’s suggestion that he could bring up my old guitar and a tape recorder so I could make an album in a cabin and make it big like that “Bon Jover” hipster did help, but it in no way prepared me for the horror that was waiting for me in the gravel driveway in front of the homestead.
I stopped cold in my tracks about 10 yards from the driveway to stare at my cousin Goob’s blue and gray 1985 Chevy Blazer.
“Fuck no, dad. Goob?”
“Look, he’s the only guy who can work within my budget at short notice. The fucker is willing to do the job for basically four dollars an-hour.”
My dad and I stopped on the edge of the driveway and watched my cousin Goob sing along with some of the most-embarrassing lyrics off of Devil Without A Cause in between pulls off a Monster energy drink.
Goob was my cousin from down in Oregon. His legal name was Gabe Silver, but he couldn’t pronounce it properly until well into elementary school so everyone thought his name was Goob. Tragically stupid, he made it through high school in 4.5 years with the grace of a whiskey-drunk orangutan on roller skates before embarking on 12 years of being fully-employed sharing right wing memes on Facebook in his mom’s living room.
As much as it killed to know that I was going to be spending the summer with my cousin who may have still thought professional wrestling was real, I was relieved I wouldn’t be staying by myself. Even if it meant my nightly lullaby might literally be the Creed song “Lullaby.”
My dad left a bottle of what he called “hipster whiskey” (Bulleit Rye) and a six pack of “hipster root beer” (ginger beer) to take the edge of the first couple of nights. I let Goob borrow my iPad and it subdued him in his bedroom for most of the night while I read my Kindle and sipped stiff drinks until I wasn’t scared to lie down on the twin-sized bed my dad had set up in the master bedroom.