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Excerpt from

Eureka, California
Giano Cromley

My name is Lewis Montgomery Lapin, but most people call me Trigger. They say I'm high-strung and that Trigger somehow fits. I used to bitch and moan about it, tell people how much I hated the name. But I've learned it's a useless fight. The more you try and change these things, the harder they stick.

I'd only been living in Eureka a month before people at my new job picked up on the nickname. I was surveying for an engineering company that designs roads and sewer systems in the forests of northern California. Before this I'd been doing construction in LA, but things went bad for me down there and I had to leave. It had been the usual shit: problems with my girlfriend Sherise, some outstanding debts, and even a few legal issues that its really best not to get into. Basically the kind of stuff that'll dog a guy no matter where he finds himself. Eureka has a population of about 25,000 people, so I figured it might be a good place for me to get straight after LA. I was all about the fresh start.

My job with Imhoff Engineering was pretty sweet. Most of it involved wandering around the forests, surveying sites for construction projects. They've got computers and GPS stuff to do all the heavy brainwork now, so things were nice and simple. Probably the worst part of the job was that I was partnered up with this tight-ass named Slate. He was one of those conservative types who calls himself a libertarian. Whatever that means. He was always listening to these wind-baggy radio shows and bitching about how the government's ruining the country. We were an odd couple. But, in a way, I think Slate was a good influence on me. His tight-assedness helped me curb some of my wilder ways, which was what I'd been planning on doing by going to Eureka in the first place. So, overall, I had few complaints about my setup.

The first week in August, Slate and I were slogging along this forest trail, trying to get some topo readings for a new logging road. It was a hot Friday afternoon and we were pretty much off the maps. Redwoods rose up like giant towers, so big around the two of us together couldn't have stretched our arms around them. When you get deep into the forest like that, things take on a different feel. The air crackles with the sounds of birds chirping and unseen animals slipping through the undergrowth. It's peaceful in a way. But occasionally it could drive me a little psycho. If I'm not careful with silences like that, I can get trapped inside my head, which is not always a pleasant place to be. Sometimes I just wished I could hear the sound of an ambulance siren or the reassuring rumble of a trash compactor to break up all that weird nature-silence and the thoughts and memories flashing through my brain.

We were walking along this trail and it was stinking hot out. I was in the lead, carrying a tripod with a scope on top. It was heavy and awkward, and it kept getting snagged on the brush. Slate was whistling some church tune with that hollow sound people make when they're not good whistlers. I was fighting my way through a patch of tall ferns, trying to wrestle the branches out of my face, when the ground went kind of spongy underneath me. It must've rained earlier that day because I was on a slope of slick vegetation and every move I made caused me to slip further down the hill.

I turned to Slate and tried to reach out for his hand, but I missed, and gravity had its way with me. I started picking up speed down the hill, like some skier who's in over his head and doesn't know how to stop. Eventually, I tossed the tripod to the side and tucked into a roll and everything went green until I landed on my back on a soft patch of dirt. I was woozy for a minute or two, but then collected myself and found the tripod lying on the ground next to me. I fiddled with the dials and looked through the scope. Everything was in proper working order.

"You all right down there, Trigger?" Even Slate, the conservative tight-ass, called me Trigger, which, I have to say, surprised me a little. He never struck me as the nickname type. Slate was his real, god-given name.

"Yeah," I called up to him. "I think everything's going to be all right."

It was only when Slate got down to where I was that I bothered to look around.

"Well, I'll be darned," Slate said. He was shaking his head slowly. "Son of a gun."

All around us, in neat little rows, was a field of pot plants. A couple hundred big ones.

I should probably mention here that Eureka is in Humboldt County. Which they say is the best place in all of America for growing marijuana. In the local bars you'd hear stories about fields like this one how they're run by Mexican cartels and patrolled by wetbacks carrying sawed-offs. Last year a couple college boys from San Francisco came up and wandered into one of these fields and started acting like kids on Halloween. Their bodies were found a few days later in a reservoir outside town. Their tongues had been cut out.

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