There are any number of fuck ups that can occur in bush camp and I think I’m learning to take most of them in stride. I’ve woken up to 15 cm of snow on the ground in mid May and frozen water lines, and the propane regulator frozen so that the gas can’t run through the lines. I’ve been moved with a day’s notice to a new forest three hours away from home base (and had to three point turn the over heating cook bus on the trans Canada while towing a water trailer ) and had to find out that Sysco doesn’t deliver there. Sysco has smashed entire cases of eggs and in my drug addled next day brain I’ve fucked up placing orders.Things have broken or frozen or gone not according to plan. Personal drama has occurred and been resolved. But I never accounted for the possibility that my assistant would turn out to be a remorseless sociopath.
Pre season in the midst of the winter blues I had my doubts about the cook I met while I was belligerently whiskey drunk at the GO station two years ago. I was carrying my knife roll; I’d just finished filming a segment of an old bosses new YouTube cooking show and was in fine fettle when he started chatting to me. Needing a second approaching the season, he expressed interest and I hired him. There was no indication that he would spend literally six hours straight talking about buttholes, fucking girls in the ass, deny evolution or otherwise be a pain in the ass, until we were stuck together in the car for the twelve hour drive up north. “I have made a mistake,” I thought while screamig “Shut the fuck up for five minutes!” I don’t think he sleeps. I think he may have laid in his tent at night and stared at the ceiling unblinking. I don’t think we ever saw him blink.
Differences in personality and political leanings aside, he was a good worker until he decided the job was too easy and basically tuned out. I’m left questioning his credentials. The bush does weire things to people especially if there’s anything going on already; he found out it wasn’t the place for him and that everybody in camp hated his fucking guts but rather than quit or correct the behavior he decided to try to get fired by sabotaging me on a deeply personal level at bush prom and then pull the classical abuser move and make himself look like the victim to cancel out the bad behavior by going behind my back to the camp manager and crying about me being mean. Rewind.
A few nights prior I had brought to fruition an elaborate scheme involving a kiddie pool filled with jello for jello wrestling at prom. A little lit after gin, I’d enlisted assistance by saying ‘Help me make this jello or you’re fired.’ That’s obviously a joke. I can’t force somebody to help me boil dozens of liters of water to fill every hotel pan we own with jello and then fill every fridge with it and then clean up the next day. Yet this is the incidence he chose to focus on, after going to a friend of mine at prom abd intentionally telling her about something pretty shitty I’d done the year before that didn’t really need to come to light. That scheme backfired when it only solidified our friendship and reliever the tension of the secrecy. During an enforced and mediated meeting in which we tried to make our work relationship continue to stagger along, I apologized for the jello and the firing jokes and waited patiently for the return apology for being a literal sack of shit. It never came- reports later reached me that he said “I don’t apologize. Ever. I don’t think I did anything wrong.”
Having been fucked with and not being the forgiving type, I enforced a new staggered shift schedule in which we were never on the bus at the same time, if there was overlap I wore headphones and if we had to communicate it was via written prep lists. Collectively as a camp we watched with horror as he proceeded to have a psychotic break. Julia came to get a coffee from the secret cook coffee stash one morning and turned about face to quietly leave when she heard him talking to himself on the bus. “Ooh Jakob,” he cackled. “You’ve been a bad boy. You’ve been a bad bad boy.” We didn’t exchange words for an entire four day shift while we stood an an obviously unsustainable stalemate. I am not an unreasonable woman but I do not tolerate bullshit behavior either. The next day off rolled around and I was made aware of ways he was making other people in camp uncomfortable and the mad shit talking he was doing about me behind my back. At the shop picking up my car the Big Boss, not usually at work on a Saturday, saw my face and asked what was wrong. I divulged all and the words were barely out of my mouth when he said ‘Thats it. He’s gone. He no longer works here as of today.” He added later “It’s nice to see you smiling again. I’ve never seen you look so distraught.”
When the news was broken to my second cook he smiled and was happy. He had wanted to leave, he said, and thought maybe he had done it on purpose to get himself fired. While waiting for somebody to drive him into town we heard him talking to himself again, always in the third person. “Jakob doesn’t like the yelly birds!” he murmured darkly, “No he doesn’t like them at all.” Knowing he was leaving in disgrace, he didn’t say goodbye. As the truck drove my problems off in a cloud of dust, I cracked a beer and seared off a celebratory steak. “Don’t fuck with me brah.”