“Hello Diana,” April said happy at the unexpected call. She liked Di. “I haven’t talked to you in a long time. How are things in paradise?”
“Expensive,” Di said in her usual blunt fashion. “The population has bled off a bit. People who could afford it have returned to the mainland and other countries, but the price of food has gotten crazy. Just about everybody who can has a garden, and vegetable poaching is a hot topic on the news. They are concerned with over fishing too, and trying to control it.”
“I’d have thought you would be safe from poachers way out on a dead end road on a ridge,” April said.
“We are, from that direction. Fuel is scarce too, so nobody wants to climb a long winding road on foot to cause trouble. But we have had way too much activity downhill on the other side, in the nature preserve. People collecting plants and I suspect hunting. I’ve been able to curtail some of it just by flying a drone over them. I think they assume it’s the rangers if they see a drone and avoid the area.”
“So you have a garden too?” April wondered.
“You have a garden neighbor,” Di told her. “And your caretaker comes over and helps with mine, for shares of course, since I have more flat area. We also put some things over the property line in the preserve that won’t go wild and become invasive exotics. For example I have a ton of garlic thriving just on other side of my stone wall. Nick even takes some to town and sells it for me. Even Adzusa plays at tending the garden when she’s in residence, but she’s mostly off working.”
“I know, I hear from her even less than you. She will drop me a text now and then, but seldom a live call. She visits some real nasty places I’d never want to go. Low bandwidth is the least of your problems those sort of places,” April said, and made a face.
“Yep, she’s entertained me with a few stories,” Di admitted. “And I’ve taught her a few tricks from my experience visiting third world holes, like brushing your teeth with beer. Nick likes it when she’s home because he feels better to go into town. Even if he carries his phone to monitor the alarms it takes him a long time to get back up the hill, and you better not count on the Sheriffs this far out.”
“I’m probably not paying Nick enough now,” April worried. “I have him go to the neighbor on the other side, the old Japanese couple, the Gotos, and he does yard work and stuff for them too.
“Not so much anymore. They informed us about six months back that they had some relative die back home in Japan and they would be gone for some time to attend to family obligations and settle legal matters. They hired a live in caretaker of their own. He seems like a nice young man and he has a garden on their property too. We trade things a little. I never could get ginger to grow for me. The damn stuff is delicate. You just look at it cross-eyed and it gets some exotic mold and dies.”
“I’m surprised they had money to hire help. I had Nick taking them food now and then because they wouldn’t take a gift chit for the store after the first time.”
“April, you can get people to take care of a place for free now, just to have a place to stay. Some who went back to the mainland have done that so their place doesn’t sit empty, or worse, get squatters. Your man Nick is out of school now and doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to find a different full time job. If he found something in town he’d probably be apartment sharing with five or six other young people, and in a nasty neighborhood. He’s better off where he is, and it’s safer out here. Crime has gone up with bad economic times.”
“Are you doing OK?” April finally thought to ask.
“Oh Honey, I saw this coming a long time ago. I’ve been ready for it since about the time you were born. I’d rather not be too specific on open com, but I’m set pretty well. It’s hard to time these things, but it’s like watching a dead tree across the fence in the preserve. You can’t predict which day it’s going to fall over, but it’s dead certain that’s what is going to happen.”
“OK, but if you need help don’t be afraid to tell me,” April offered.
“There’s one small thing,” Diana admitted. “I might be gone for a few weeks. I’d like to be…more like you. You know? Can’t do that in the islands here. So I’d like to shut things down and lock the storm shutters closed. I’d link my security system to yours and have Nick monitor it, do a walk through twice a day and feed Ele-‘ele. Is that OK?”
“That’s fine, but if I get the drift is it safe to be more like me? Not just the legal problem but the…illness side of it?” April asked.
“I have friends who assure me they are almost certain it doesn’t pose a future hazard, and it isn’t going to be a legal problem much longer. At least not in the islands,” Di said mysteriously. “The only other thing is…if Nick does have some problem he can’t handle I have a security company on contract to respond. They can have four armed operatives here in five minutes, but I’d like Nick to be able to tell them to land on the aircar pad on his roof if it isn’t smart to land in my yard. That would involve you with something that might otherwise be just my problem.”
“I trust your judgment. I’m already involved with you. Do what you need to do, and I’ll share expenses if they do have to respond. Aircars burn a lot of fuel, that has to be an expensive service.”
“Yeah, I can’t get groceries delivered anymore because of the fuel cost,” Di said. “We’re too far out. I have a little electric runabout besides the Jeep. I go to the bottom of the hill and meet the guy making city deliveries now. We transfer it and I bring it back up the mountain. If the power goes down I have enough panels to recharge it too. Of course it doesn’t take any charge to get to the bottom of the hill, so it has a full charge to climb back. I bring Nick back up if he can time it right too. He goes into town a couple times a week and tries to let me bring him back. He puts his bicycle on the roof rack and it can lift both of us and my grocery boxes, but not super fast. It’s a heck of a climb to do on a pedal bike.”
“Is it hard to feed Ele-‘ele?” April worried. He was Diana’s Newfoundland, and huge. It must take a lot to feed him, April guessed.
“As I said, I saw this coming. I’ve got a three car garage with one and a half cars,” Di joked. “Starting a couple years ago I filled the other space with a pallet of rice and stuff, and damn near a ton of kibble. I’m a real islander, so I like Spam and can make a can, or other supplies, last a long time bulking it out from the garden. Out past five years I might have problems, but I think things will change a lot in five years.” Di added a delayed wink to that supposition. April really wanted to talk to her face to face with some privacy.
“What does Nick do if he’s not in school now?” April asked. “I don’t pay him that much cash money, and he seemed the ambitious sort to me when I met him. Does he have part time work too?”
Di raised an alarmed eyebrow and pursed her lips. Apparently that wasn’t an easy thing to answer.
“What you pay him is hard currency. It goes further. He meets people, friends, at a couple coffee houses,” Diana said carefully. “He’s active, and they talk a lot. Besides that he’s writing an epic Hawaiian novel. He read Michener’s “Hawaii” in school and it left him unsatisfied. He’s determined to do it with better historical accuracy, and take up where Michener left off mid-century, including what’s happening right now. In fact he figures it will be maybe five volumes and the last one will be things that happened during his life, though he claims it won’t be a history book. So he doesn’t see finishing it until he’s much older. He says the history is already set, and he just has to be honest about it. The rest that is happening he vows he’ll have the depth to write about when the time comes. It’s a remarkably honest self appraisal for a young person.”
“Is it bad for him to be associated with me?” April worried, a new thought to her.
That visibly amused Di. “I’m not sure which of you is the worse influence. You two are a lot alike despite the obvious differences.”
“OK. It sounds like things are stable for you right now. When things are going good I’ve learned not to mess with them. I have no idea when I’ll get to come enjoy my home again, but things change. I’ll just be patient and we’ll have a good visit when I can,” April promised.
“That or I may visit you if you wait too long,” Di warned. “I’ve had a hankering to see what things are like up there for a long time. Things will settle out and I’ll get a chance eventually.”
“You’re welcome to be my guest if the lift capacity ever catches up,” April offered.
“Thanks,” Di said, reaching for her disconnect key. “You’re a good kid.”
Coming from Diana April didn’t take offense at that.