A long distance hiker named Chris “Clean Shave” Miller is the only one to respond to a job inquiry I place on Instagram. He lives with his family nearby and needs some extra cash. When he comes to the farm for the first time we speculate about him and determine that he is sane enough, and perhaps has been in the military because he wears a marines t-shirt, his hair is short and neat, no beard, a mischievous gap toothed grin, with a good handshake.
So I clean out a dusty camper at the farm stand for him to live in; it’s housed many a migrant worker, even C. Willy lived there a few years back. It lacks running water and power, there is a bottle of half drunk tequila covered in dust that I try to take but then my boss asks one day, “Where’d that bottle of tequila go?” So I give it back. There is a Bee Gees album, and a small figurine of a Mongolian warrior that C. Willy picked up while traveling, and when I ask him if I can have it, he all of a sudden misses it and wants it back, and places it on his car’s dashboard, but it falls over all the time.
Chris’s first day is brutal; it is blazing hot, and for eight hours we plant hundreds of pepper plants over black plastic, stabbing the burning soil with wooden trowels, sweating, aching backs, nauseous, wondering how we were going to do this all summer. In the midst of this madness, I ask him life-story and getting-to-know-you type questions like “How old are you?” and “What do you like to do?” His responses don’t make sense ; he claims he doesn’t know his age, that he’s an alien, went six days without eating on the Long Trail, and is writing a murder-mystery about a woman hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail. He tells me all this while we work ALONE together, me and some random dude from Instagram, damn what did I do? Maybe he came here to murder me I think.
That night I hear every creak and bump. I can’t sleep so get high, then get paranoid and text C. Willy from under the covers…If he kills me, please take care of my cat Carl Marx.” But C. Willy can’t, he says, because his throat would close up.
So I imagine all the ways Chris will murder me on the farm. Like, maybe, he’ll slash my throat with the sharp end of a corn husk, and he’ll look like a combination Beetlejuice, Pee Wee Herman, Jack in The Shining, and The Joker while doing it; a maniac with a maniacal laugh and mismatched socks.
Chris “Clean Shave” Miller is an excellent murder-mystery and adventure writer, a genuine good dude, and hardworker. He’s written several books about long distance hiking. I recently read his book Hiker Midnight: Appalachian Trail Horror Stories. His writing is highly entertaining, and witty. Check it out!