Public Key (Lxv)

I followed him uphill towards the main lodge. He wasn’t entirely walking in a straight line. Neither was I. Getting drunk on a mountain-side was definitely a challenging activity.

He stuck his head into the main lodge to see if anyone was looking for him. They weren’t. As far as I could tell nobody ever was. We had that in common. Besides being neighbors, expatriates, friends, and drunk.

We walked side-by-side over to his house. It really was an unobtrusive thing. It was stuck into the side of the mountain so that it was really only visible from right in front of it. And the only thing in front of it was a descending hillside, followed by a cliff-face and a few miles of rocky canyon.

It must have been a real challenge to put it there. Its concrete foundations were tall and wide and seemed to go pretty deep into the hillside. I had the precise stare of a drunk, and so I noticed these things. Even at the expense of watching where I was putting my feet.

We got up to his front door. He put his key in the lock, but took a moment before he turned it. I could see him giving consideration to something. I knew that something was me.

I came to a conclusion, turned the key and opened the door.

The apartment was dark. He turned on a little light. We went through the living-room, where I’d made my sick-bed. We went through the kitchen where I’d eaten half my bodyweight in Cape mandarins. We went into his bedroom, which wasn’t much bigger than mine. There was a hammock across the room and a futon in the corner. The futon had sheets on it that were carefully made. I would have bet my shoes he slept in the hammock.

On the far side of the bedroom was a closet door. It looked solidly built. He still had his keys in his hand, went up to it and unlocked it. I was pretty curious by that point. I would have been heart-palpitatingly excited if I hadn’t been so boozed up.

The closet was much as you’d expect: too many clothes on too small a rack. The clothes looked quite nice. I don’t think I’d seen him wear any of them so much as once.

He reached out and grabbed them all. As one he pulled them off their rack and threw them, carefully, onto the floor.

In the darkness I could make out a big dial on the far wall. He put his hand on it and turned it, back and forth, like a safe.

Okay, I was pretty fucking fascinated now.

I didn’t hear it click. Maybe it didn’t. But he reached around until he found a handle and then he pulled. The back wall of the closet swung out, and he went through the opening.

Close it behind you, he said. I nodded, though he was looking away, and did as I was told.

We went down a short staircase. There was wood on either side and rock overhead. At the bottom of the stairs Oakley found a lightswitch. But it didn’t matter. There were enough lights down there to make me think it was day.

That, I realized, was the point.

I was in a big long room. Three walls were concrete, one was sheer rock-face. There were no windows, there were no doors. What there was, was pot.

Marijuana. Plants. Yeah, a fucking jungle.

Holy shit, I said. Probably several times.

There were lights hanging by chains from the ceiling. There were big plastic pipes coming and going. There were bags and barrels of fertilizer along one wall, shears and gloves along another. At the end of the room were stacks of plastic bins. And something that looked like a giant fax machine, with big rolls of heavy plastic wrap leaning against it.

Holy shit, I said.

Yeah, said Oakley. Yeah. Right?

I turned to him. This is all yours?

He cracked a giant smile. Yeah, all mine. Built it all myself.

I realized I didn’t have anything to say.

I grow weed, he supplied.

Yeah, I said, I’m getting that.

I figured it was cool with you-

Oh! Yeah. Totally. No. I mean. What. Jesus, this is really fucking cool.

Glad to know I have your approval.

I… fuck.

It’s good work, he said, walking along a row of musky jungle – one of them. Works me five, six hours a day. Good, honest work. I know it’s drugs, but, this is the only real work I’ve ever done. Honest work. Least I think so.

Yeah, I said. Totally.

Your eyes are the size of fucking apples, he said to me.

I considered several responses. I settled on flipping him the bird.

He laughed.

Oakley, I said, how the fuck-

It’s pretty simple, he said, once you get the hang of it. I’ve got three wells so there’s always enough water. This is farm country, fertilizer’s pretty easy to get. I draw a lot of power but nobody really notices up here. And I mean, it’s not like there’s really the law out here. This is my country, but I can still know my country’s pretty fucking far from anywhere.

Yeah. I mean… yeah.

I was in pretty bad shape when I got here. I was really fucked up. I got it into my head to grow a few plants. Before I knew it I was planning, I was building, I was fucking going to town. Never really stopped after that.

So the books-

Okay, so I launder drug money. But still-

OAKLEY-

Shut up, it’s just weed.

OAKLEY-

Okay, okay, fine. I grow it, harvest it, dry it and cure it. Twice a year or so I dump a crop on a guy who drives it down to SA. He pays cash. I launder as much as I can get away with through this place. The rest is over there.

He waved his hand off towards a corner, I saw a safe about the size of a refrigerator.

So you’re not hurting, I said.

Not so much.

There I was, feeling bad about you losing fifteen hundred a month on me-

Yeah, I wouldn’t worry about that.

Why- I mean-

How much do I make?

Uhh… yeah. Sorry.

A lot.

Sure.

It’s all hydroponic down here. I get yields about a kilo per square meter.

Blank stare, coming from Yours Truly.

That’s really good, he informed me.

Oh. Cool.

Yeah. It’s-

A kilo per square meter.

Yeah.

A kilo of, of pot.

Yeah. Of, of pot.

So – fuck you – so – I mean – how many –

How many square meters?

Yeah.

Well, the room’s thirty-five by ten. I think I’ve got about two forty under plant.

Holy shit.

The space might not be used as efficiently as it could be-

Oakley?

What?

So you get two hundred and forty kilos per year.

About two hundred kilos. Maybe a little more.

Uh huh.

Twice a year.

Uh huh.

It’s not that big of a deal, really. This is South Africa. That’s where it goes, anyway. It’s a lot easier to grow here then, like, Sydney. And people don’t have a lot of money. And the cops aren’t nearly as harsh, not at a local level. So that doesn’t bring up the price like it does. Nothing like America.

So what’s, uhh…

I get nine hundred, a thousand rand per ounce. Depending on things.

An ounce.

Yeah.

So am I gonna have go to through every unit conversion, or-

35 ounces per kilo. 430 kilos last year. Don’t go cross-eyed, it’s about two million US a year. After expenses.

Jesus fucking Chr-

Yeah, if I’d been a lawyer I’d barely be making twice that.

Oakley, it’s-

It’s a job. It’s a cash crop. I sell and people buy. Yeah, that’s safe’s full of money. I can’t spend any of it. I can’t take it anywhere. I laundered three million rand last year. Three million rand. And that’s with having this place full up every night of the year, that’s with this place being the most popular fucking bushcamp in world history. I’m cleaning a fifth of the money I’m making, and even that I don’t got shit to spend it on. The rest is just sitting in that safe.

Oh. Oakley. You poor. Poor. Mother. Fucking-

And you know what they do to drug dealers down here, right? he asked.

That stopped me. No.

Pretty much what they do to drug dealers in the US. But instead of twenty years, they take about twenty minutes.

Oh.

And I say this, mostly so you’ll stop looking at me like I’m a different person-

Oh. Sorry. It’s just-

I know. Listen, I know. I’m very proud of what I’ve done down here. And I’ve never shown it to anyone before. So that ridiculous gob you’re wearing really just makes it all worth it.

I just shook my head.

But I’m not just showing off, he said. I wanted you to see this.

What? Why?

I wanted you to know what I do. I-

Oh, fuck. Listen, Oakley, I know, you know I’ve got no problem with your business – it’s pretty cool, really, I don’t care what you say – but I’m not, you know, I’m not –

I’m not trying to recruit you into the fucking drug trade.

Oh. Um, yeah.

Just shut up for a minute, will you?

Okay.

Can you do that?

I nodded.

Good. Yeah. I brought you here for a reason. I wanted you to see this. I wanted, I want you to know that I trust you. And I want you to trust me.

I nodded, up and down, up and down.

Just… you could go to the police, the SA police, and get me in deep shit in minutes. Deep fucking shit. I’d be a fucking dead man. Do you get it?

I nodded. What was he saying all this for?

Okay. Good. I want you to know that I trust you. That I’m trusting you with a lot.

Oakley, I-

Just fucking listen to me! I want you to know that. And… fuck, I…

What?

I just, I have to tell you something.

What?

He took a deep breath.

I cocked my head. Oakley, what-

He looked me hard in the eye.

The Canadians just put out that they’ll pay a million bucks to whoever turns you in.

 

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~ by davekov on 1 March 2011.

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