Last weekend we took the scenic drive up to Rainbow on Rice Canyon Road. The road twists and winds its way north from hi-way 76 through the back country to Rainbow. We stopped for dinner at The Rainbow Oaks Restaurant. To us it is the best comfort food restaurant in San Diego County.
After a great meal with homemade pie Nome seemed quite mellow, so I took a chance. “I wonder if Cactus Jack is open today” I asked innocently”. Nome glared at me across the table.
“You know darn well he’s open. He lives in that rat-hole computer store of his. Where else would he be?”
“True” I said cheerfully, “and since we’re in the neighborhood perhaps, as a professional courtesy, we should stop in.”
Nome snorted, “Professional and courtesy are two words that don’t fit Jack.” She paused “If you really want to see Jack, buy me another glass of wine and promise me that I won’t have to get out of the car or talk to that snake.”
“It’s a deal,” I said.
I do understand why Nome doesn’t like Cactus Jack. He drinks, cusses, chews tobacco and bad-mouths everyone. He’s unethical, lies right to your face and will cheat you every chance he gets. I think it’s the fact that Jack has no redeeming qualities whatsoever that makes him so interesting. I like him.
Jacks store is a couple of miles East of Rainbow at a dusty crossroads. We pulled into the dirt parking lot at the Rainbow Computer Emporium. Jack was in a chair on the porch of the old bunkhouse that is his home and place of business.
Nome pretended to be asleep, snoring loudly with her mouth wide open. “Hi Jack how’s business” I said as I climbed the steps. Jack pushed a whiskey bottle into my open hand.
“Take a tug on this and have a seat. I’ll tell you somthin that’ll blow yer mind,” said Jack excitedly. I hesitated but I figured the alcohol would kill any germs that Jack backwashed into the bottle so I took a long pull and handed it back. “So what’s up Jack”?
Jack wiped the bottle top on his shirt and took a swig. “I’m in the equipment rental business and makin a fortune,” He grinned.
“What kind of equipment” I asked.
“Stereos, TVs, sound stage amplifiers, computers, tablets, kitchen appliances, camping equipment, you name it, I rent it”
I turned my head and looked through the open door of Jack’s store. It was nearly empty. “Where’s your rental equipment inventory? I asked.
“That’s the best part of all,” said Jack “I don’t need no stinking inventory.”
“I don’t get it Jack. How can you run an equipment rental business without any inventory?”
Jack leaned toward me and lowered his voice as if he were sharing a dark secret. “Most of them big box stores like Fry’s and Best Buy has 15 day return policies right? I nodded. “ When folks rent stuff I go buy it, rent it out and when they bring it back I return it and git my money back.”
What if they keep it for more than 15 days? I asked.
“No problem, Jack cackled, “my rental contract says if they keep it past 10 days they own it. I already got their credit card number so I charge em 20% mor’n I paid fer it.”
With that Jack stood up. “I gotta git this notebook PC back to Fry’s afore they close. Rented it to a feller for a business trip, he paid $25 a day for 10 days. I got $250 from him and now I’m gittin back the $495 I paid fer it from Fry's. Easy money.”
Jack headed for his pick-up and I got back in the car. Nome asked, “what was that all about?” I said, “you don’t want to know.”