this is just to say

...hello! And that I am alive, just getting my ass kicked by the adjustment to full-time work. (Also that I've admittedly been spending more time socializing than writing the past couple of weekends...)

But more is coming. More of me, more of Riley, more of Chaucer, more of everything. There is no shortage of content, only of time.

I'm moving in a couple of weeks so I need to spend most of my free time getting for that. But once I'm settled I'll be closer to work (read: shorter commute! more leisure time!), which will make everything a lot easier. I hope.

In the meantime, much May love.

goats

Riley is worried about the goats. Goats she's never seen. Goats she knows next to nothing about. Goats the sale of which was arranged over the phone, triangulated between herself, her boss, and a gentle-sounding rancher named Flavio.

Flavio called Riley late on Sunday, troubled about the circumstances under which he'd just delivered four goats (including a baby and its mother) to one of Baxter's properties. Namely: in the dark of night, to a peculiar man he'd never met before, who paid him by check. A man who'd insisted on the late-night delivery, despite Flavio's objections. (I'll pay you extra, whatever you want. Money's not an issue. Just bring the goats tonight. Can you do that? Can you drive them down tonight? If not I don't want them. I'll find someone else.)

"It's okay," Riley assured him. "The check isn't going to bounce." Riley told the rancher a bit more about her boss's businesses so he'd feel at ease. "He's weird. For sure. But there are caretakers on that property, and the animals will be looked after." This was only a slight exaggeration of the scarce information she had. She knew Thorne had a few acres of land in Palo Alto, and that there were animals on the property. She knew that at least one gardener visited regularly, and that there were tenants living next door whom Baxter paid to handle some of the upkeep. But she couldn't say--not with any genuine truth--that the goats were and would be fine. Not yet, anyway. But damned if she wasn't going to make sure of it, as soon as possible. Riley loved goats.

Which is what she changed the subject to, with Flavio. A baby! Three weeks old? Riley asked all the questions she could think to, about what the animals would need that Baxter and his staff might not know.

"Hopefully I can go see them this weekend," she said. "I've let Thorne know how much I'd love to visit the ranch, and when I do, I promise to report back. With pictures," she added.

After she'd ended the call Riley reflected, not for the first time and certainly not for the last, on the unpredictability of her job. Yes, her boss could be nightmarishly difficult. Yes, he took sadistic delight in making her jump through hoops of fire. But then: goats.

Goats.

see no evil

Of all the stupid, pointless, utterly time-wasting--

Riley's inner monologue was interrupted by his call. She plugged her left ear against the chaotic din of the bustling toy district and pressed the phone tight against her right. "Hi, Thorne." 

"Hey babe. So what's going on? Did you get the monkeys?" 

"Well...no." Riley took a deep breath, steeling herself. Nothing to be done. It was her fault for getting such a late start today. "The shop is closed. It was closed when I got here." She paused, then added slightly defensively: "All the others are still open."

Thorne sighed heavily, and she felt herself slip down a notch. Maybe a few. This was not the indispensability she was going for. But goddamn it, it was ninety degrees in downtown Los Angeles today. If she'd come out any earlier she'd be soaked with sweat and useless for the rest of her day off. As it was she was already overheated, grumpy, and way behind on sleep.

But Thorne wasn't in the mood to yell. Maybe he was tired, too. She was going to get off easy today. "Alright well maybe she just went to lunch." At three thirty? Riley was doubtful. "Check the other stores in the area and the double back to hers, okay?" 

"Yep. Will do." Riley stopped there. She wanted to say something assuring and competent-sounding, about how she'd do laps up and down the noisy, filthy streets until she found her boss's monkeys. She wanted to tell him that she'd had the sense to call ahead and get the shopkeeper's assurance she'd be there until five, and that when she'd walked up to a shuttered storefront she'd immediately begun hunting elsewhere. But she knew that as far as he was concerned, the conversation was over. Orders had been issued. Time for the soldier to salute and fall out.

She slipped the phone back into her pocket and took stock of the situation. Her assignment was simple enough: find a store that sold or would order the talking, dancing, battery-operated stuffed monkey that for whatever reason Thorne Baxter had taken a liking to, and buy $1000 worth of them, so he could pass them out as gifts. 

But it wasn't the assignment that was troubling her, despite the fact that so far no one in the dozen shops she'd visited even recognized the toy she dangled in front of them hopefully, much less were interested in ordering it from China. It was the inanity of the errand. This was not what she'd signed up for. This did not even remotely resemble light office work. And this was just the latest in a series of utterly random and seemingly absurd projects Baxter had tasked her with since starting. And at some point, Riley was sure, that list would be complete, and she'd be out of a job. Because how much nonsense could one eccentric millionaire inventor cycle through before he got bored and got back to real work? And what would she assist in then? Riley knew Baxter was too much of a control freak to delegate any important responsibilities. He simply thought everyone was too stupid to get it right. How many times had she heard him ranting? Gotta do it myself. Gotta do every last goddamn thing myself. Bunch of idiots around me. Bunch of fucking idiots!

Riley shrugged it off. No use worrying about things that hadn't happened. For now, anyway, she had something to do, and something to get paid for. That's all that mattered. If she could come through for her boss on the small things, maybe he'd entrust bigger things to her down the road. Then she'd be indispensable. It was possible. 

An hour later, however, and Riley had not come through. The monkey Thorne wanted was apparently one of a kind. A fucking unicorn. No one knew anything about it. They shook their heads helplessly, some even averting their eyes as if what Riley brandished were dangerous. Crawling with Baxter's bad vibes, perhaps. Oh sure, there were other monkeys. Plenty of soft, cuddly, plush dolls with embroidered smiles and squishy tummies. But none of the rough, black-furred, mean-looking toys her boss liked. What was it about them, anyway? And why monkeys? Why not teddy bears? Everyone loves teddy bears. Monkeys, though--there was something going on there, Riley knew. Some hidden insult. Some message Baxter wanted to send. You are all fucking monkeys, every last one of you. And I am king of the jungle. 

An old man in a tattered t-shirt and jeans pedaled by in front of her, his bicycle retrofitted with a platform for stacking flattened boxes. The jumble of cardboard was strapped down tight--the discarded shells of mass-produced, factory line fun. On impulse, Riley snapped his photo, and he smiled at her. She nodded back, then marched forth on her fool's errand feeling, for some reason, ever so slightly less foolish. 

---

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Hey kids, how goes it. Listen, if you're enjoying Riley's adventures here then come check her brand new Instagram account, @righthandriley! Expect exclusive, behind-the-scenes content (namely, photos) that you won't see here, plus captions so long you'll instantly regret following! Or maybe not, maybe you're a glutton for my shitty prose.

I'm keeping the account private and capping the follow count off at 100, since I do need to be careful about privacy and I guess I have some dumb idea that I can keep things under control that way. Probably not. It's all probably a huge mistake. But my mistakes have always been your entertainment, amirite? Also I'm not accepting follows from private accounts, sorry. But as long as you seem normal and not nefarious, we're good.

- E