My summer job is in an office park on the south end of Reno. There’s nothing but space on the south end of Reno, space and median strips and T.G.I. Friday’s, so I get an office to myself with a flotilla of rolling chairs and a huge window pointing at the other end of the park. Shade trees, rock bluffs. Seen from outside, the window turns out to be a one-way mirror: keep the sun out. The ceilings are raised to pharaonic heights; in the bathroom I feel like I’m at the bottom of a jar. A bright kitchen is stocked with coffee, all the diet soda you can drink, a calendar with nothing marked for May except a note on yesterday’s date: “Paul here.”
The company’s land manager recently died of pancreatic cancer, a sad end for a really fine old Western gentleman who always reminded me of my dad’s dad. This seems to have wiped out all the company’s institutional memory of its own properties. Fortunately I’ve worked on most of the properties in the past and still have the data kicking around inside my computer. I start up the Windows application I wrote, it generates a spreadsheet about the gold mine: everyone is amazed.
With gold up past 900 dollars an ounce, it’s a good time to be in charge of a producing mine. All the hallways and offices have aerial photos of the site hung up. This is cheap decoration because they’re required to order the photographs anyway, but they aren’t skimping on much else. Someone in the next office says into the telephone, “We’re going to want to do another transactionyeah, two million. Yeah, two million U.S.” Every two weeks they’ll cut me a check with a number that is not two million, but for purposes of incongruity might as well be. The executive assistant recommends to me a list of lunch places including Café de Thai, which in my world is one of the Reno restaurants where I can’t afford to eat dinner. On my first day we break at three and go to a bar because the younger of the company accountants just got his bachelor’s degree. They hand him a card stuffed with bills and pick up the check for everyone’s beer. I talk with my new supervisor, the company geologist, about books. He loves Sinclair Lewis, is iffy about Updike, is very pleased to have discovered a consistency error in a Faulkner novel. You ought to try Bernard Malamud, I say.
At home it takes a while to ease away from the numbers I’ve been crunching all day. My stepfather gets home, we jack up the car that got me over the mountains and change the oil and filter. Wrestling with objects carries my stepfather to heights of invective: why do those sons of bitches at the auto shop overtighten these goddamn things with their goddamn air wrenches, retards, reprobates, cocksuckers, this hand wrench is a fifty-year-old tool, it was pristine until I had to loosen one of these these fucking overtightened gaskets, why the hell’d they put the filter back here under the fuel injection, have to be a midget to repair it. Then he wipes off the oil pan with a torn bit of pajama flannel and says in his Bullwinkle J. Moose voice, “A clean car is a happy car.” The quail on the roof laugh at us. They take off, flying low to the ground with wings buzzing so fast for such fat little birds; they look like huge bees. The sun has sunk under the mountains but still lights the duple contrails of the jet moving far up over this weird brown land, Nevada, gold and squalor, half my home.
nice images...your stepfather sounds like my soulmate...have you no mother?
Mother was last seen in Tucson behind a giant margarita glass; until Thursday, she's having a better time than I.