Besides INTERN and Techie Boyfriend, there are three other semi-permanent residents at the ranch: two sweet and loveable Ranch Hands of the djembe-stoner variety, who like nothing more than to partake of some herbal medicine and spend all day pruning grape vines, and the inevitable Creepy Caretaker, a lecherous, pot-bellied hermit who lives in a house on the hill and whose main responsibility at the ranch is puttering around in an ATV searching for Hot and Available Young Ladies to woo, of which this vast and unforgiving landscape is in disappointingly scant supply.
Every month or two, Hippie Roommate and her high-powered boyfriend drive up from San Francisco for an all-too-short weekend visit in which they have just enough time to unpack their organic groceries, hold an elaborate tea ceremony with cave-ripened thousand-year-old Pu Erh straight off the plane from Xishuangbanna, fret over possibile mutinies among the Ranch Hands, and enjoy a brief dip in the hot tub before motoring off again in a leather-seated pickup approximately ten times more powerful than any other vehicle at the ranch. For a moment, everyone stands around observing their departure wistfully, because they are well-liked and interesting to talk to. Then, the Ranch Hands, INTERN and Techie Boyfriend return to what they do best, namely, frolicking, and Creepy Caretaker climbs back on his ATV to continue his grim search for booty.
One of the challenges of living at a remote and clandestine mountain hideaway is that INTERN is constantly running out books.
The first time INTERN ran out of books, she tried borrowing books from the Ranch Hands (whose interests run, unfortunately for INTERN, more to Eckhart Tolle than Tolstoi) and from Hippie Roommate's H.P.B (whose interests run to expensive 2,000-page volumes about the history of tea). Last week, she finally hit rock bottom. It was time to venture out from the ranch and find a bookstore.
As the crow flies, the ranch is a mere 6.14 miles from the closest bookstore (INTERN knows this for a fact; she just checked using this neat Distance Measurement Tool on Google Maps). In practice, however, getting to this bookstore involves a harrowing full-day journey.
First, Techie Boyfriend will declare that the Spaceship needs a full head-gasket change before it will be safe to drive. After that little spot of maintenance is taken care of, INTERN will chase out the family of badgers that has taken up residence in the back of the truck, and Techie Boyfriend will fire up the engine.
Once the Spaceship is (more or less) running, they will pull onto the first of several dozen unmarked dirt roads, their caravan clanking and shuddering in an ominous way each time they hit a pothole. Every quarter mile or so, INTERN will hop out to unlock one of a seemingly infinite series of security gates, each with its own combination. Every half mile or so, Techie Boyfriend will hop out to engage in tense negotiations with the local dr—er, understandably cautious, if rather heavily armed neighbors*, who control some of the dirt roads in question, while INTERN does her best not to look like a Fed.
Having made it this far on their pleasant country ramble, INTERN and Techie Boyfriend emerge onto an actual paved road, from where it is only a gorgeous thirty-minute drive (pulling over every few seconds to let a gleaming white Lexus or two whiz by in an awful hurry) to the charming little town in which the bookstore is located.
To date, they have only made this journey once. Knowing it would probably be a long time before they returned again, INTERN found herself in a state of great agitation. What if she ran out of books again in a week? It seemed like no amount of Faulkner or Gertrude Stein or short story anthologies translated from Japanese would ever be enough to last her more than a few days.
Then INTERN discovered the foreign-language section. Foreign languages. Of course! It was the perfect solution. As savvy grade-three teachers everywhere know, NOTHING slows down an over-eager reader more than a book in a language they DON'T UNDERSTAND.
For the past two weeks, therefore, INTERN has been chewing on this little tome:
That's right. Ein Top-Western. So far, INTERN has figured out that the main character's name is Wingo Rowan and that he is fighting the Comanchen und Kiowas for Kontrolle of New Mexico. Either that, or having a very long barfight concerning a dropped wienerschnitzel.
INTERN will keep you updated on her progress in untangling the plot. In the meantime, she is already in the querying stage of ein Top-Western of her own (Der INTERN Aus Kalifornia). Maybe that twenty-book über-deal isn't so far off.
*At this point, INTERN would like to make it absolutely clear that the ranch at which INTERN is staying is purely a Pleasure Ranch, not a Business Ranch, if you know what INTERN means. But folks are pretty territorial in these parts, regardless of which category they fall into, hence the Secretiveness of her location.