The Trickster Diaries/Chapter 3
Doing the landscape design work for Roger and Jeannine’s Victorian was not easy. It was on a steep hill so the plan was to terrace it in four sections using old stone to hold back the ascending sections. The overall concept was lush English countryside and the focal point was a large English garden centered between the house and garage whose shape mirrored the hexagonal design elements of the house itself. Roger, especially, gushed with excitment everyday after work when he’d review my renderings, the aerial schematics, irrigation system plans, sample plant and stone and statuary, wall building materials, etc..
It should have been a great time. Free room and board, a fantastic salary, so on, but I was horribly conflicted keeping Jeannine’s secret—our secret—from him.
Running kept me sane.
Even back in the high desert, then in L.A., running and yoga were things I pursued as if training for a 5 or 10k road race. But here, running on pine needle packed trails through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park mixed with speedwork on the outdoor synthetic track at UCSC was a kind of utopian dream, always in sharp contrast to evening’s scene of being caught between two people who barely looked at each other, rarely spoke without fighting.
One day, however, was far different from the rest. I’d been there four months. It was early February, 1996. Except for some closing details involving vendors, contractors, my work was essentially done. So off I went into the Redwoods.
It was a damp, cool, patchy cloud, filtered sunlight morning. I was definitely on personal best pace for the course and distance with a ton in reserve. The thought crossed my mind: “Clean living?” I laughed, answering myself out loud: “Nope. Can’t be that.” Just ahead was a blind left where the lower branches of the trees actually crossed the trail, creating a kind of tunnel, and just inside the tunnel, eating something…
Instead of fear the immediate release of adrenaline created exhilaration instead and I picked it up and ran right at the great cat who scampered off into the underbrush as I got close. Then, maybe 100 yards past its bloody victim I began sobbing, inexplicably, and came to a dead stop.
That night at dinner I told Roger and Jeannine about encountering the lion.
Roger: You’ve got to report that, Rico.
Me: What? If I report it they’ll hunt it down and kill it.
Roger: They’ll sedate it. Relocate it.
Jeannine: Bullshit, Roger. This isn’t some episode of Wild Kingdom. And even if that is what happens, it could be a mother. It might have cubs somewhere.
Roger: How would you feel, how would either of you feel if Erin and her friends were hiking around up there and it attacked her, mauled her?
Jeannine: Uh, unlikely?
Me: Yeah, I’ll say.
Roger: Still, you have to report it. If you don’t I will.
Me: You’re unbelievable. Screw you.
I got up, rinsed off my plate, thanked Jeannine, went downstaris, closed the bedroom door and began packing.