The best waves in weeks were head high and pumping at Pleasure Point, reason enough for a pair of his somewhat more reliable workers to be hours late. It was a common enough occurrence in an environment where no reasonable explanation was to be expected, not from a dedicated Santa Cruz surfer. Landlocked expectations do not technically adhere to moving surfboards when thrashed by sets of gnarly waves originating in the Sea of Japan. Zeno could only hope that at least one of them would show up at some point. No guarantees, though. Even if Zeno’s Rolled and Twisted Dough did have an important deadline to meet by order of prickly Steve Jobs. No one of sound mind or body wanted to be on the wrong end of that spontaneous combustion.
Apple, now a corporation, was celebrating, and Steve Jobs wanted a big cake. Woz too. The company had hit one million dollars in sales for the first time, and it was still only May. They wanted more than enough cake for all comers. They were up to fifteen employees. Plus guests. Plus hangers-on. Plus strays from streets and nearby bars and alleys. They’d all want cake. And an extra piece to take home as a souvenir. The tolerable Steve Jobs would get stoned and smile at his own beneficence. Unlike the prickly Steve Jobs who did not tolerate excuses from the lame and bereft.
But what about those stalwarts Zeno could depend upon to help out in a pinch? Oh yeah, that’s right. There were none.
His predicament therefore called for quick and decisive decision action on the wing and the fly, hardly ever a good idea in astronomy or physics.
He repeated an unoriginal mantra, “I can do this.”
Zeno had no problem with any dire implications of talking to himself. He did not believe he was any more crazy than any other subnormal specimen of an unevolved species. Evolution was an imperfect process, after all, that took lots of time. Mistakes needed lots of time to be made. He was desperate because lots of time was what he lacked.
He added, “If not now, when?”
Not very deep below the surface, however, and wobbly atop it on spanking new crutches tethered to a short lease, Zeno knew he should never have attempted to slither down the steep, rocky grade in the Santa Cruz Mountains to reach his patch of blooming weed near the bottom. Where else was he going to end up other than topsy-turvy in a gully with thorns stuck to his tender ass and stubbled cheeks? He failed to recall a number of important lessons absorbed and passed on by his ancestors in escaping from slavery in Egypt. Follow a path, maintain a pace, hold tight to limbs. Don’t think too fast around sharp objects. Don’t push too hard, or too far, too near a thorny edge. And don’t be stupid and forget about the crutches. Because scuttling down a ridge on a tender ass does not qualify as climbing higher. And stupid always is and does what it is and will be.
The audible shards devoid of all wisdom that rushed like an ill wind out of his mouth while in the act of tumbling, though loud, were hard to understand. What good are cheap words after all the profits in an exchange have been swept up by numbers and pictures? Nothing intelligible he could say was going to be any match for the depths of ancient graves. He gasped from the pain in his sprained and swollen ankle. That was the result of another regrettable mistake in a bar at closing time. Like duh.
But he had plenty of time to scrub his wounds with dirt and revisit his misadventures at the chilly bottom when he could not get up. High noon passed without a smoking gun. He was left with one crutch. He crawled into a ray of sunshine that split the redwood trees. He plotted a comeback. He pulled thorns. He assessed wounds. He licked blood. Periodically, he trumpeted a weak call for assistance.
Maybe Woz would be able to persuade prickly Steve Jobs to calm down. Maybe he worried too much. Maybe it would all turn out for the best. Maybe admission to an intensive care unit under general anesthesia would induce some human kindness. Maybe one crutch was enough. Maybe if he nodded off for a spell. Maybe he’d feel better when he woke up.
Then he was shaken awake. He did not feel better. He started to abruptly feel worse. A sharp toe was attached to a cute boot. It was not tickling him.
He said, “Ow.”
“It doesn’t look like it to me.”
She kicked him again. She was grinning. She seemed to think there was something about kicking a good man when he was down that was funny. The man must have missed the joke.
“What’s wrong with you?”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“I’m the one standing on my own two feet.”
“What kind of lame answer is that?”
“Is that a sword in your hand?”
“What does it look like?”
“It looks like it’s sharp.”
“It’s a machete.”
“I asked you a simple question?”
“You’re on my property.”
“You’re still on my property.”
“I didn’t start out here.”
“No one ever does.”
“What’s the machete for?”
“Is that really necessary?”
“You’re still on my property.”
“If you’ll help me up, I’ll just be on my way.”
The vast tract of property owned by her family for more than one hundred years surrounded his measly plot of loose dirt that straddled the San Andreas Fault. Her family had grown apples in the Pajaro Valley below the Santa Cruz Mountains for three generations. She had never heard of Steve Jobs or his newfangled computer. She was not impressed with the explanation. The only apples she knew or cared about were sweet and sour and delicious. Her ancestors from Croatia used to hunt the fleeing ancestors of Zeno for the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. They carried swords, not machetes, also for the purpose of cutting. But she reluctantly agreed to help him up and out as long as he enthusiastically agreed to be on his questionable way. He had to promise he would never come back. No problem there. He had just enough time to simmer the weed in the butter for only an hour less than optimal before baking all night. There was plenty of cake.
What a happy Steve Jobs never knew never hurt him.