“So I’m trying to have a quiet retirement without the family claiming all my time,” said Grand-cousin Pedro as he handed round the freshly brewed coffee. “While you two want to avoid being dragooned into working for Ernesto at what he wants to pay for the next four years.”
“But without Ernesto actually teaching us anything,” confirmed Sanchez. “If we were going to learn a trade or a craft, well that’s what indentures are supposed to be about.”
“He sounds like my generation’s Tia Raquel who wanted to keep having housemaids when no-one wanted to be a housemaid anymore for the amount of money she’d always paid them,” commented Grand-cousin Pedro. “After she was stopped from taking the girls’ clothes so they couldn’t go somewhere else when they found out how little she paid for what they did, she kept trying to get the family to send younger cousins to stay with her.”
“Ernesto wants fruit picked, pigs fed and the house looked after,” explained Lara. “He calls it ‘giving them life skills’ and says that’s why he doesn’t pay what the work is worth.”
“But he’s precious sure not to get people who don’t already know how to do those jobs,” added Sanchez.
“So why does the family let him get away with it?” Grand-cousin Pedro added a dessertspoon full of condensed milk from a resealable tube to his coffee.
Lara and Sanchez looked at each other, then Lara said, “We think he knows where some incriminating bodies are buried.”
“Quite likely in our family,” observed Grand-cousin Pedro drily. “Most of mine are in Denver or Laredo. Now, I have a proposition for you two.”
“What sort of proposition?” Sanchez sounded suspicious.
“You two know that I’m not dead, I’m trying to avoid certain family entanglements at this time, and you’re trying to avoid certain other family entanglements. If you tell the family that your task here ended at my graveside, then I can help you two with an opportunity to set up independently.”
“How so?” Sanchez asked the question but both of them were looking at him with cautious, speculative interest.
“I can show you the opportunity, introduce you around, and maybe help you with a no interest loan if you don’t have the cash you need yourself. Also,” he admitted, “I want neighbours I can trust. You’d have to support yourselves, of course, because what I’m offering is independence.”
The two younger cousins looked at each other and Lara said, “We can send a picture of the gravestone to Grandma. It’s much easier not to tell everything when you’re not there.”
Sanchez added, “Aside from that, what do we need to do?”
“Two places neighbouring mine are being sold for defaulting on county taxes,” replied Grand-cousin Pedro. “No doing of mine I hasten to add, and I wish to have some say in who I gain as neighbours. Cooperson who lives between me and the Oak Ridge Road corner is squirrelly enough for an enclosure at the zoo, and I don’t need any more neighbours like him.”
“And we just buy these places for the tax money?” Sanchez sounded sceptical. “What about other bidders and the taxes that aren’t overdue enough for the property to be sold for them yet?”
Grand-cousin Pedro sighed. “That interest free loan I talked about will take care of the rest of the taxes, but I’ll want to be paid back, and honestly most people around here will pity you for having me and Cooperson as neighbours.”
This is now followed, eventually, by What's In The Crate? There may be intervening events.