Becky is one of my oldest friends. We played flute together in high school. She and her husband, Bob, teach at the International American School in Lagos. She, music; he, math. They have a permanent home in Switzerland, and that’s where they go for the summer and most holidays; but Bob feels the need to get back to Texas every once in a while to check in with his parents and his grown kids, and Becky’s got people in Arizona. After the time spent with their families, they arrive at our door drained of energy and longing for the wine that’s on offer.
(David and I can identify. In the beginning of our time overseas, we made annual visits back to the states, wanting the kids to know their extended families; but after a few years the trips became a quagmire of miscommunications and failed expectations, and we realized that we were an interruption, not a joy. People back home were busy, focused on their day-to-day, and they didn’t want to know about our lives in Cairo or Holland or London. Finally, we gave up. Raised overseas, the boys never bonded with grandparents and cousins; but in the end, this wasn’t important at all.)
I show Becky and Bob to the guest room where they drop their small bags (they always travel light), and I lead them out the back door where, as it’s a pleasant day, we take seats around the fire pit. We’ve used our warm circle several times now and it’s proving to be an asset in our entertaining. It’s been a year since we’ve seen these two and there’s no lack of topics—David’s retirement, improvements we’ve made to the house, their plans for the next year, life in Nigeria, life in Marble Falls; everything from Fitbits to politics. I bring out hummus and pita; David pours more wine. And more wine. Two hours later we move inside for dinner.
For Christmas Anna brought us lemons from her parents' tree in Houston. Because I know how Houstonians nurture and take pride in their lemons, I want to make good use of these. The marinade for the chicken is a squeezed lemon, half a stick of butter, garlic, chicken bullion, and oregano. I sprinkle the cauliflower with curry powder and salt, massage it with olive oil, add a splash of water, and bake at 350 for thirty minutes. David butters the corn, covers it with foil, and puts it on the grill with the chicken. A nice meal.
Our friends tell us that there’s no place to walk in Lagos and that fresh fruits and vegetables are rare and expensive. It’s hot and humid there; the air smells of sewage, rot, and burning trash; the kids at the school are sheltered and sweet; the teachers live in a compound; and the swimming pool is right outside their door. We compare our safari experiences, our flight experiences, our airline preferences, our favorite cities. The four of us, we think we’re cool because we know the world.
By now it’s nine o’clock and we’ve had lots of wine.
I set out a narrow platter of sliced pumpkin bread and, as David and Becky and Bob take seats on the other side of the bar, I stand on the kitchen side of the counter and share some tale that requires extravagant gestures. A sweep of my hand sends an almost full glass of wine flying—a sea of red across my pale tile, splashing the cabinets, seeping into drawers, dripping from the refrigerator. It’s such an overwhelming mess that there is nothing to do but laugh and wipe it up. Definitely time to call it a night.
The next morning we have big headaches. After breakfast tacos and lots of water and moaning, we walk up 401. We take them to Deadman’s Hole. They are not impressed. It’s a hole. We startle a deer. We walk around curves and up and down hills until we get to the RV Park, an ugly square cut out of the native wooded surroundings. Divided into fourteen stations, with plumbing and electrical hook-ups thrusting from the earth like trolls, the place is an insult. There has been no attempt at landscaping. Hauled up during the clearing of the area, massive rocks remain, scattered throughout the property. There are no central structures, no office, picnic, play, or shower areas. The sign at the entrance, reading WWW.MARBLEFALLSRVPARK.COM, hangs between two posts, purchased at Home Depot for four dollars a piece. David searched for the website and there’s simply no such thing. There are two shabby vehicles in residence. Both have been there since it opened, a couple of months ago. The one at the back is a fifth wheel, and the one nearest the entrance is an RV. No one else has come.
“See?” I say. “I’ve mentioned it several times on my blog. An abomination.”
“Yup, it’s pretty hideous,” Becky says.
“I think they're cooking meth in the back trailer,” I tell them.
“I can see how that could be,” Bob says. “The dealer lives in the front one, a safe distance away in case the back one blows up.”
It’s satisfying to have my suspicions corroborated.
“Whose picture is that in the window?” David asks.
We all squint at the small poster, a square in the driver’s window of the RV. A dark face with red letters across the top.
“It’s Ben Carson,” Bob tells us. And he’s right. That’s exactly who it is.
And we walk on, flummoxed that a meth dealer in the hill country of Texas would support Ben Carson.