In my immediate family are three sisters. There’s Rachel, the eldest followed by Sarah and I am the baby. The fall of my senior year of high school, Rachel who was twenty-years-old, left the comfort of our parents house and moved into a little green house with our cousin, Mandy who was also twenty. Mandy has a younger sister who was a senior, like me. Oroville was a peculiar little town on the border of Canada in the state of Washington. It was so small that Rachel and Mandy’s old houses were within a few blocks of their new house. Us five girls grew up as five sisters and the new green house became the haven for the three younger ones to spend time at after school and on the weekends.
The Green House, as it has ever since been known, stood small and cozy. There were only two bedrooms, a small living room, a kitchen, and a garage which was off limits to everyone by order of the landlord. Shortly after moving in, two men began to haul splendidly worn-in second hand furniture into the garage. Upon questioning the pair we learned that these two would become the next door neighbors of Rachel and Mandy as the garage had been converted into an apartment of sorts.
The man who had rented the apartment was Gordon, a fifty-something hippie who I knew in passing. Of course I knew everyone at least in passing, this was Oroville remember. Gordon got around via a bicycle with a handy wire basket attached to the front which was usually used to transport six packs of Miller High Life or the occasional Swanson’s chicken pot pie. His hair was cut shortish, though sloppy, as though he waited until after the six pack to grab a shears and trim it himself. He had a unkempt beard on a face that had spent many years in the sun. His attitude was the epitome of carefree. Gordon did not have a career of any sort with the exception of sporadic odd jobs such as painting houses which was evident in the stains made on all of his clothing. There seemed to be no differentiating factor between work and play clothes. He was, and remains, one of the kindest people I have ever known.
Beau did not technically reside in the garage with Gordon, though nobody really knew where he lived or what he did for a living or even his approximate age. He skipped self inflicted haircuts and it was possible that his beard had not been touched since he was…well, like I said, his age was a mystery. While Gordon seemed to limit his indulgence of spirits to those bicycle six-packs, Beau was well known in town as a drunk, though certainly not a belligerent one at that. The most out of hand behavior he displayed was his constant catch phrase, “Are you mad at me?” After which the inquired would deny any anger. The follow-up question was occasionally, “Wanna get some Chinese food?” “Sorry, Beau, the nearest Chinese restaurant is at least a two hour drive”, was the only appropriate response.
Gordon and Beau spent much of their days sitting outside the garage in rickety patio chairs drinking a variety of beverages, both lively and tame. It took no time at all for us girls to get to know them, well. Being as neither of the men had vehicles, we would carpool to places like the general store and the supermarket, a tidbit that seems slightly odd to begin with, but becomes town gossip when you took into account that my family owned the town’s grocery store and Mandy’s owned the Oroville Pub. We were looked at as the offspring of the town’s pillar citizens who should associate with other pillars. We certainly did spend time with a variety of people. Rachel was once asked if she was actually talking to “that guy” with a finger pointed at Beau who donned a messy flannel, camo fatigues and boots with the stains of who-know-what on them. “Yes, I like to keep the weirdoes on my side.” she replied to the busy-body.
Rachel and Mandy turned their humble cottage into a warm home for themselves, often cooking elaborate meals out of the cooking magazines they stocked up on from the newsstands. Salsas were jarred, Chili’s were frozen and sometimes, they over did the quantities on their experiments which was great for their little sisters. One day, after making a enormously satisfying amount of spaghetti, they made up two dishes to bring over to Gordon and Beau. I volunteered to bring the food out to the men, who were thankful and showed it by the growls in their bellies. Gordon wanted to re-pay us for the thoughtfulness, and though I protested he went back into the garage to get something. I stood there waiting and talking with Beau. After a few short moments, he returned with something hidden in his palm. He paused in thought, and opened his hand to reveal not money, but a joint for me to return to The Green House to share.
We girls still snicker about that story. Though we were not naïve, and knew the type of activities that certain people partook of in their homes, it was still a delicious shock to be rewarded for the dinner, with drugs. Whenever I visit Oroville, I try to ask around to see how those two are doing. So far as I know, they remain refreshingly odd.