“In Missouri, we hunt deer and after you shoot them you drill holes in their hooves and hang their bodies by trees-” I interrupted Chance, my co-worker, a tall, tan, surfer with broad shoulders and long sandy blonde hair. “You hang dead Bambies in trees?” my eyes were spinning around and around in my head and I felt like I suddenly had to pee, that frantic type of urge when you are nervous and your body compensates by forcing you to urinate every few minutes. “Deers, not Bambies,” Chance said and continued. “Then we skin them and take their guts out. I don’t even wear gloves when I do it.” “HOLD ON,” I said, sweat dripping down my forehead. “You reach inside a dead Bambi, that is hanging from a tree, and you pull out it’s organs with your bear hands?” Chance nodded, his blue eyes looked worried. “People in LA think I’m a barbarian,” he said nodding. “But in Missouri, thats what you do. You hunt.” From first glance, Chance looks like he was born and bread in California, but the second he opens his mouth, everything comes out dripping in the dirty dirty South and you realize he grew up tossing deer innards over his head before untieing a dead deer from a tree and bringing its flesh home to Ma for dinner. “But just you wait, when the apocalypse comes everyone in LA will be dead and I’ll be eatin’ deer and rabbits.” “Bunnies too?” I said, “Like Jim Morrison?” Chance and I work together in Malibu, at one of the coolest stores I’ve ever been in, in one of the best locations I’ve ever worked in (minus Hawaii), right across from the pier on PCH, and our boss has a bunny named Jim Morrison. “Yeah, rabbits explode when you shoot them, just poofs of fur. I could show you how to make traps and maybe we could hunt Jim- I mean not kill and eat him obviously, but catch him in traps.”
I imagined Chance and I running around the store, which contains a teepee, rock stage and coffee bar, setting traps and releasing this tiny ball of fuzz named after the infamous Doors front man, The Lizard King, and trying to catch him for sport. “Chance, do you kill cats?” Chance paused, “Now, I don’t like cats all that much, but I don’t kill them.” “What about dogs?” “No, never dogs.” “What about birds?” “Of course, crows are extremely smart by the way-” “What about other animals people domesticate..like gerbils?” “Why would you kill a gerbil?” he asked. “I feel that way about Bambies,” I said somberly. Chance rolled his eyes, “You know, y’all pay tons of money for ‘organic grass fed beef’ or whatever, but out on the farm where I grew up, we raised the cows, fed them and ate them. I mean thats as organic as you get. I actually knew where my food came from.” “Because you were raising them….to…slay…” I said slowly, my world rocked and rolled. The Lizard King. I looked at Chance standing there in his oversized tank, cameo pants, and flip flops. Strange…Alien. “Chance, I have camo crocs you know,” I told him. “Camo crocs? Now that’s ugly,” he responded. “But they would match your pants!” I pointed out. “These are my lounging pants,” Chance said. I thought about myself, getting home after a long day and kicking off my boots and slipping my feet into my crocs, footwear that if I ever needed to blend into the wild with ease and comfort, I could wear. “But why are you wearing your lounging pants to work?”
Chance had wandered onto the porch where he began cutting the bushes in the front of the store. I grabbed a broom and followed him. As he chopped and I swept, the ocean mere feet away, a car drove by and some guys hollered out the window. Chance looked at me. “Why do people do that?” I asked, “I tried that once to a guy and nothing happened.” “What’s supposed to happen?” Chance asked. “When I worked in construction we used to holler at hot cats all the time, it’s just for fun. You’d be on a roof in the heat and some hot cat would walk by and you’d just be like, ‘YeeeeEEEEeeeeeeEEEEE look at that!” I stood holding the broom and staring at him in silence. “Hot cats?” I repeated. “Yeah, hot cats” he said. I put my broom down and popped my hip out, flipping one side of my hair with my hand, “Chance, let’s stand on the porch and holler at them hot cats soakin’ in them sun rays at the beach just there across the waaay.” Now it was Chance’s turn to stand there staring at me, in silence, holding gardening shears. “Look at that taaaaall drank of water! YeeeEEEeeeeEEEee!” I exclaimed as a middle aged man with a farmers tan shuffled by, pausing to squint at me in confusion. “No, no,” Chance said, “I don’t think you hollerin’ at hot cats is a good idea,” he said gently grabbing me by the shoulders and leading me back inside.
In lulls at work, I always ask Chance to tell me a story. He doesn’t even pause to think of one, he just starts going on and on about a truck rolling down a hill or a fat girl running into a barbed wire fence and I sit there listening, silently lusting after a childhood in Missouri. “What adventure,” I tell him. “I told that story about the fat girl running into the barbed wire fence in my public speaking class in high school,” he told me. “The class looooved it.” If you ever want to escape the la la land-ness of Los Angeles, all you need to do is befriend someone who grew up in the middle of the woods. The other day I noticed there was a suspicious looking jar of peanut butter on top of the fridge. The jar had a picture of cartoon Peter Pan on it under the words, Peter Pan’s Creamy Spread. “Chaaaanceee,” I yelled. “Yeah,” he appeared from around the corner. I stood holding the jar, “What’s this?” He looked confused, “Peanut butter,” he said, adding, “you’re on crack.” I never knew that peanut butter could be rachet before I met Chance. Sweet sweet Chance.
Besides pretending I am from Missouri all day at work, I meet cute beachy couples who I both love and loathe equally. There is nothing more uplifting and soul crushing than seeing a tanned golden couple holding hands and wearing cute hats strolling around dancing to The Rolling Stones music playing from a record player in the store. Will I ever be part of a beachy couple who shop for clothes together? Where is my cute hat man who does adventurous things and fights for the woman he loves? I think to myself, perched at the coffee bar, shoving spoonfuls of Chance’s rachet peanut butter into my mouth. The other night, I was doing just that when a tall, tanned young man strolled into the store, and paused in front of the baby clothes. Oh great, he’s probably a cute young dad shopping for his newborn daughter-where’s the peter pan peanut butter. He turned around and smiled at me, a big white smile. What a hot cat, I thought, noticing his big light brown eyes. “This is a cool store,” he told me. “Yeah,” I said my head bobbing up and down like a goon. As we started to talk, I learned that this hot cat is a musician who grew up singing in church in Colorado, who in his spare time tutors special ed children. From my serial dating, I now have various lists of characteristics I would like to find in a romantic partner and a good looking musician who teaches special ed children is on the dream list, the list I gluttonously made without reservation of reality. “So will you be around here all summe-” he was asking me before being cut off by a frantic blonde haired woman barging into the store. “I need to make an exchange!” she said breathless, like she was alerting me to someone drowning across the street. “Well, I’ll let you get back to work, it was really nice to meet you,” he said and off he went out the door. I reached my arm out, nooooo, I whispered, curse the fickle finger of fate.
I was left with this woman, this old bag, who I was now looking at with such contempt, almost wanting to ignore her completely and just begin writing my ad that I would later post to the missed connections section on Craigslist. Man who cares about children and music with great hair, please come back, sales girl trippin’. “That guy was really cute,” the woman said to me. I wanted to fling her ill fitting sweats up into the air and scream. “Alas,” was all I said. She looked at me and in my head I heard Chance’s country drawl, “Jeaaaan, you’re on crack.” I helped the woman and a few hours later, began closing the store. As I was turning off the record player, a guy riding a vintage motorcycle pulled up in front of the store. In walked hot special ed man. He rides a vintage motorcycle? Wait, am I on crack? Is there crack in this Peter Pan Creamy Spread that’s making me hallucinate? “Hey,” he said. “I know you were telling me that restaurant on the pier is good and you’ve never been..I thought I’d come back and see if you’d be here next Sunday, and if you’d want to get dinner there with me.” I stood there baffled. “A date? Next Sunday?” He smiled. “Yeah, a date. Next Sunday.” I felt like I had to pee. He came baaaack. My heart will go on.
I am aware that it is sad and pathetic that a man making the effort to come back into my place of work after meeting me and asking me out is so thrilling to me, but in the state of the world today, where single people live with the constant fear and anxiety of their ex tinder dates breaking into their apartments to kill them- it is truly refreshing to experience something normal and old timey. That, and the refreshing realization that there are people out there skinning deers and eating rabbits and just having a jolly good life.