The Cat House really fell to disarray after Rob and I left. After all, Doc and Mark were working and carousing and drinking and smoking pot and not much else. There was simply no time to clean. Besides, they didn’t really believe in cleaning. Not cleaning had almost become a religion to them. If Jeff wasn’t Mark’s best friend, nothing ever would have been picked up or wiped down. That’s not to say that Jeff was a clean freak; far from it. He would just have moments of disgust that forced him to perform some perfunctory household chores. He put in minimum effort and yielded minimum results, but at least someone was doing something about cleaning.
When I moved in with the baby, the first thing I had to do was to turn their world upside down and truly give the entire Cat House a good scrubbing. I think even the strays were shocked at the way the place shaped up. The carpet was disgusting from bachelor druggies living there for so long, but there wasn’t much I could do about that. We didn’t own a vacuum cleaner, so I just swept the rug with all my might; a little trick I had learned in Big Sur.
Doc worked at The Gold and Silver as a cook, and Mark and Jeff worked on the floor of casinos. Most of the people I knew in Reno worked in the casinos in some capacity. Doc worked the evening shift, but Mark and Jeff worked at night, which meant that they were around all day long. I was working the morning shift as a waitress at The Sands Regency Hotel and Casino on North Arlington.
I had finally found a good babysitter, after going through a lot of scary rats. There was the babysitter who didn’t show up at six-thirty in the morning to get my son, so I went to her motel room, and discovered she was too busy getting drunk to watch Zach. I owed her for a few days of babysitting, but decided not to pay her because she clearly broke our implied contract by choosing to get drunk instead of watching my son.
Weeks later, she showed up in the cafeteria for Sands employees and began threatening me. She was screaming and going crazy, and had to be escorted out by security. She then found out my address and began sending me threatening letters. I decided I’d better pay her the money I owed her, because I had a baby to protect, and I didn’t want the crazy lady showing up at our house.
I found a babysitter in the paper, and started to take a bus to bring Zach to an apartment complex to a woman who advertised as a professional babysitter. The next day, I brought Zach there in the morning, and the woman told me that she was up all night listening to gunshots, and that was not unusual. I made a mental note that I had to find a new babysitter as soon as possible. I showed up to pick Zach up after nine hours apart, and he was still strapped into his stroller in her living room. Obviously, we were not returning to this professional’s home.
When I was still in the motel, I had a boy-toy (that’s what they called them then) named Billy who was nine years my junior. We were never serious; he was never serious with any of his girlfriends, including the one he lived with. He did come around a lot though, because I bought beer, and because we really had so much fun together. Billy was a wannabe gigolo, but I thought, a gigolo with a heart. He began babysitting for Zachary.
By the time we moved into The Cat House, Billy and I had a real relationship, even though it was really strange. He watched Zach in the day, and we played together at night when he wasn’t with his live-in girlfriend, or any of the others. He never shirked his responsibility to Zach though, and I was really happy that I finally found someone who cared about Zach. Billy watched Zach and was around even after we moved into The Cat House. We were still having fun together, going to the Nevada State Fair, to a Pantera and White Zombie concert (where we saw Rob and the Stripper), and to our favorite bars with our friends.
Our friends were really people I had met and brought together. I met Garrett Smith when I lived at the motel. He was staying in a motel up the street from mine. He introduced himself as “Smith.” I asked what his first name was, and he told me “Garrett”. He had long brown hair and a full beard, was overweight but looked at peace with his body, and only wore tie-dyed tee shirts. He was kind, smart, funny and a real cool dude. We started hanging out, and when I moved to The Cat House, he would come to visit.
I was also having a great time with Jeff, Mark’s friend, who had become one of my best friends too. We were alone in the house most afternoons, as Mark slept all day, and Jeff never slept. Jeff wasn’t much older than I was, but had a full head of grey hair that made him look much older. Once, he asked me to cut his hair, and I believed I could, but we found out I am not a good hairstylist when he ended up looking like George Washington. I cracked up, but I don’t think he was too happy about it. We always had a blast just doing stupid stuff, though. Many afternoons, we would play Pantera’s “Walk On” or some other song we both loved, and march around the living room and sing and laugh.
There also was Mark Espinoza, another person I met at the motel, when he and his wife Lisa would come to see their friend Chip. We became fast friends, and often went out as a foursome, even though I was not involved with Chip. One day Mark and Lisa took Chip and I out to eat, and told us that they were getting a divorce. It was shocking the way they were so cool about it, but I could see in Mark’s face he was just putting up a façade. I got him alone and he opened up and told me Lisa found a new man. They had been together since high school, and it really crushed Mark.
When I moved into The Cat House, my friends came together, and Jeff and Garrett Smith and Mark Espinoza and Billy and I all began going places together, or just sitting around the living room drinking beer and watching Zach do cute things in his walker. When I introduced Garrett to the others, I would say, “This is Garrett Smith”, to which he would reply, “Just Smith”, so we all started calling him “Just” and the name stuck and seemed to suit him. We clicked as a crew, and I was as happy as I had been in a long time.
Billy was part of the group until one day when he had the baby out, and came home drunk. I freaked out because Billy was driving all over the place stinking drunk with my son in the car. It was really the last straw, as I had begun to realize that having a boy plaything was sucking my wallet dry, and not very satisfying, since I was sharing him with a lot of other women. I began screaming, and grabbed Zach from Billy’s arms, but he didn’t get what I was yelling about and was telling me to calm down. That just pissed me off more, so I put the baby in his walker, and pushed Billy right out the door. He said he still had things in my house, and just like any fighting woman worth her salt would, I threw all his things directly at him. A shoe made contact with his head, which was extremely satisfying at the time.
Now I was without a babysitter again, but I had just met a man named John who worked maintenance at The Sands who said his wife loved babies, and she would really enjoy watching my son. I found him, he called his wife to tell her we were coming, and we took a ride over to his house in Sparks, right next door to Reno. His wife Darlene came running out of the house very excited to see the baby and was very kind and gracious towards me, and I really liked her. I thought, I have finally found a safe place for the baby. I started to relax and thought maybe things would finally go our way.
In order to get Zach to Darlene’s house and get back to The Sands by seven in the morning, I had to wake up at four-thirty. We didn’t have a phone in The Cat House, so I would get myself and the baby ready, then go to The Carrows Restaurant behind our house at five-fifteen and use the payphone to call a cab. I used the same cab company every day, and everyday got the same cabbie named Scotty. Scotty would drive us to Sparks, I dropped the baby off, then he would drive me back to Reno, and I would just make it to work on time. I was never late though.
Things were working out and I was very happy, until one afternoon, when I came home to find Doc, Mark and their friend Scooter smoking something out of tinfoil. I didn’t know what it was then, I had never seen anything like it. I only knew that it scared me, and left the house and went to The Carrows and called Darlene. I told her I thought the baby and I were in trouble. Fifteen minutes later, John was there, and told me to pack all of our things up. We moved in with John and Darlene that night.
Next time: Sparks, Mark Espinoza, Mom-Mom and Phil