Eric’s fingers were sticky; stained a sickly green to the second knuckles.
11 hours straight trimming, examining, and focusing on the leaves. The heady smell of the marijuana plants fading then returning with every snip.
There was a promise for the summer. A sure thing.
“We can pull in three to five grand easy,” Aaron said, “take the earnings and put something down on a house in Detroit. Property values are still trash out there and we can swoop in, build something up, and flip it once the market goes hot.”
Eric believed Aaron. He always believed Aaron even when he said he didn’t believe him.
“Who got us out of there?” Aaron asked. “Who got us the car and cash to make it out to the Emerald Triangle? It’s only a few weeks work.”
Better for it, Eric thought as he rubbed his calloused hands. The color was still there after multiple washes. The smell too. It journeyed with him out back to the car at night. Woke him up sometimes if he scratched his beard while sleeping.
Aaron wasn’t in the front seat sleeping. Too busy wandering around with those French kids.
• • •
The barista called them Trimmigrants.
“That’s a dumb name,” Aaron said.
“But it’s true,” a stranger pointed out, “we’re the same as any of the Mexicans picking strawberries.”
“That mean we getting Mexican wages?” Aaron asked sarcastically.
It made Eric feel uncomfortable. The work was hard, and they acted like it was glamorous. The promise of that cash was all they talked about; what they’d do with it, how many grams of this or tickets to this the money would buy. Dozens of disappointed parents whose presence was only the ping of non-stop mobile notifications—bank transfers and texts. Eric knew to take his breaks on Friday mornings—parent paydays—for fear of losing his temper.
“You can’t go losing that temper again,” Aaron warned him, “Only three more weeks and we’re gold.” He laughed looking at his hands. “Shit man,” he said, “we literally got green thumbs.”
• • •
Harold, the owner, was a slight man. Always wore sunglasses. Harrumphed into and out of the trimming room on good days. On bad days he screamed blue murder at the women that didn’t respond to his awkward advances.
Not many of the women lasted. Only Aaron’s friends were left on the last day—pay day.
But there was no pay. There was no Harry. There was nothing.
The French girls cursed and smoked. The greenhouse was locked and emptied. A mess of tire and boot tracks covered the dirt in patterns—it had rained the night before. They took all the product and ghosted.
“I don’t think this was Harry’s land,” Aaron said.
“You said this was a sure thing.” Eric almost slipped on a wet patch of dirt.
“We’ll find him,” Aaron said, “We’ll get our money. You think I’ll let that motherfucker do us dirty like that?” He made a show of it. Paced and hollered at the empty greenhouse. The girls laughed and applauded his anger.
The cops were beginning to usher the trimmigrants out of town. Picking season was done and nobody wanted to look at the help while celebrating their profits. Eric volunteered to pack up the car. Aaron ran off with his girls for one more night. It was better that way.
Eric packed the trunk. Moved a few boxes and found a pair of boots—mud-caked, Aaron’s size. There’d only been one night of rain and Aaron always wore Vans. Leaning in, Eric noticed the trunk stank like his hands.
The realization burned Eric up something fierce. The cool off wasn’t happening anytime soon. Eric finished packing up, but before that pulled the tire iron from the trunk’s spare tire kit and slipped it under the passenger side seat. Waited hours for Aaron to come back, but Aaron did—nice and drunk.
“We’ll have our cash by tomorrow.” Aaron leaned back into his seat. Closed his eyes. “Believe me, I got this.” He was snoring in seconds.
Eric dug his heels back and felt the weight of the tire iron against the soles of his shoes. He stared at the road and tried to believe in Aaron more than the promise beneath his seat.