Ep. 4 -- Pay Day


For all the poor souls with student loans, here comes the dreaded thing all graduates fear most of all: a notice in the mail.

Welcome, weary travelers, to The Inn Between. Join Gabriela Jones, a recent botany undergrad, in her new job as Innkeeper near the rural town of Shearwater.

New episodes bi-weekly on the quarter moon. Written and read by Bailey Loveless

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LAND ACKNOWLEDGMENT: This podcast is inspired by and recorded on the Indigenous lands of the Coast Salish people of the Pacific Northwest. We celebrate and honor these ancestral lands and their stewards--past, present, and future.

THEME MUSIC: Yonder Dale / Tiny Surprises / courtesy of www.epidemicsound.com

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[Intro Music]

Welcome weary travelers, my name is Gabriela Jones, the new innkeeper of The Inn Between, where the trees are green, the rooms are cozy, and the guests are just a little bit strange. Come on in and prop up your feet—metaphorically speaking of course—and pour yourself a cup of coffee.

[Intro Music]

Spring has had a steady start. After the visit from my first ethereal and mysterious guest, visitors have been slowly turning up, especially on the weekends.  It was a bit jarring to have the house go from totally empty to a sudden swirl of activity, but I’ve been grateful for the work and still have had quite a bit of time for myself. Most of the guests have been truly wonderful and easy-going. I met a sweet old couple from Canada, a pair of young backpackers, and one man with a goal to bike across the country.  There’s only been a few more self-check-in guests, but most of these have come in and out without a word, not even in the guestbook.

I’ve been able to work on the garden after breakfast. The kitchen counters are currently full of sprouting seeds, while I’ve been preparing the raised garden beds by turning over the soil. The goats, Toil and Trouble, seem to like to watch me work. They often stand at the fence and stare at me with their unearthly red and blue eyes (Still no progress on identifying their breed, but I’m sure they’re just waiting for the opportunity to eat all of my carrots).

In the meantime, the general store owner Nancy and her 26 grandsons have kept the fridge fully stocked and helped me keep things running smoothly. I briefly met 3 of the 26 who came by once in the truck with some more hay for the goats. They are not quite as enigmatic as their grandmother, simply unhauling the hay then tipping their hats goodbye, but I am so grateful for their help all the same.

I wish I could say it has all been this pleasant. Unfortunately, it began with a piece of mail on a certain Thursday.

That morning already started with a middle-aged, dirty blonde-haired woman and her husband checking in right after breakfast. As I took their information, she glanced at my name tag and said, “Here you go, Gabby.”

“Gabriela,” I gently corrected with a smile.

“Sure,” she said, but as I handed her the keys to the Mouse Room, she said, “Thanks, Gabby,” then bounded up the stairs. I know it’s not a big deal and I’m sure the lady meant nothing by it, but it’s a personal pet peeve of mine to give unsolicited nicknames. 

Already feeling a bit annoyed, I went out to the mailbox where an official-looking envelope addressed and forwarded to me waited. And it was the very thing that all recent graduates dread most of all: notice that student loan repayments are due.

Now I know some folks are not comfortable with publicly talking about money. I distinctly remember my 4th-grade teacher telling me it was rude and in bad taste. But I also know a lot of my friends back home got that same notice in the mail, as did everyone else who graduated last fall, so maybe some of you can relate with this. And I hope your student loans caused you less anxiety than mine have.

Now you might be wondering what the big deal is. After all, didn’t I take this innkeeper position away from home to repay my student loans? Yes, I did. But there was one problem. You see, at this point in time, I hadn’t actually received any pay yet for my work. And while I’ve come to appreciate the lack of oversight in my job and getting to run the place on my own, I still had no way to contact my employer Mr. Leake to find out when I should be expecting my first check. After finishing my chores that day, I spent the whole afternoon combing through the old innkeeper Mrs. Carol’s unorganized, handwritten notes to see if I might find anything to give me a hint. But nothing helpful turned up.

So the notice sat untouched on my nightstand the whole weekend, causing nothing but unease and alarm any time I saw it. It’s funny how a little piece of paper can keep you up at night.

Matters were not helped over the weekend by the blonde woman in the Mouse Room who insisted on calling me Gabby every morning over breakfast right up until the moment she drove away on Monday. Even so, while she and all the guests had left that morning, the pit in my stomach had not. Feeling cold and miserable, I put on my favorite comfy cardigan and went out to check the postbox. Inside was in fact another piece of mail waiting for me. This time it was a package, small but heavy, wrapped in brown paper and tied with an emerald string. No return address, but scrawled in the corner was the name: Kasper Leake. Recognizing the last name, I furiously tore open the package, stopping only to make sure to save the beautiful little green string in my cardigan pocket.

On top, there was a note. It read:

Sorry I’m late, and please rest assured it will not happen again. As way of apology, I have included one extra payment. Please expect pay every other week in the post from now on.


Kasper Leake

Thinking I was out of the weeds, I sighed with relief as I opened the rest of the package. But instead of a check or cash, four strange coins fell into my lap. They were unlike any I had ever seen— large, amber, and not perfectly round. On one side were two embossed holly branches, and the other was 6 little houses in two rows. Apparently, this was my pay, but I had no idea where it came from or how to use it, much less get it into my bank account and onto the federal treasury to repay my loan.

So I biked into town and began at the bank. The clerk, Janice, at the Shearwater Bank was all too happy to help me set up an account, but she had no idea what the little coins were or what I might do with them. Janice kindly suggested I should go to the pawnshop down the street for more information, assuring me that Gerald, the owner, was an expert in rare coins. Pawn Shop Gerald too was stumped as he looked them over. He told me that the metal was quite odd, and he wasn’t sure how much it would be worth. I made one last stop into the General Store, but even Nancy, my usual source of wisdom and knowledge, gave me an apologetic shrug. “Sorry, lassie,” she said, “Can’t help you there. Mrs. Carol said was not one to talk about money or much anything else. In any case, she said nothing about it to me.”

The coins were heavy in my pocket as I biked home. I went straight to my room. And it’s not easy to say this, but one look at that student loan notice on my nightstand, and I burst into tears. It may not be polite to talk about money, but like it or not, it’s something we all need and I think most of us have experienced at least once in our lives what it feels like to be in want. I hope fortune finds all those who have, because it is not an experience I wish upon anyone.

So there I was, a puddle on the floor, bawling my eyes out, and about ready to pack my bags and quit when a gentle rap on the door.

“Are you alright in there, miss?” said a quiet masculine voice that I assumed was a man.

“I’m sorry,” I quickly apologized, trying to wipe my tears away and get myself pulled together. “I didn’t know anyone was here,” I explained.

He told me not to worry, that he had used the self-check-in, then had heard me crying. He kindly asked if there was anything he might be able to help me with.

I did my best not to start sobbing again and explain my situation as quickly and quietly as I could. He asked if he could see one of the coins. Embarrassed, and not wanting a guest to see me in such a state, I slid one of the coins under the door.

I heard the scratch of him picking it up off the floor. “Oh these?” he said with familiarity before quickly sliding the coin back to me. “Yeah, I can see why you would be confused. What you need for one of these is a money tree.”

“What do you mean?” I asked him.

He explained that they weren’t from around here, that they grew in an outlandish place far far far away, and so unfortunately it was unlikely that I would find one.

I asked him if he meant a Pachira aquatica, a tropical wetland tree native to South America and commonly known as the money tree?

He said “No, nothing as fancy as that. But luckily for you, I just so happened to have one of the seeds in my pocket.” He then asked if I would be willing to trade for it. When I asked what he might want, he said, “Oh anything really, it doesn’t have to be fancy, any old knick-knack will do. Just give me something you think is pretty.”

Shrugging into my cardigan, I looked around my sparsely decorated room. Then my fingers twirled around something, and I pulled the emerald green string from my pocket. It truly was a lovely color, and I thought perhaps it was equivalent to one seed. So I passed it under the door and said, “It isn’t much but will this do?”

“Very nice,” said the man. “What a rich color. It’s so nice seeing the extraordinary infused into something so common.”

 I heard him rustle around then pass something under the door. “Plant it at sunset, then in the morning, put the coins in the hollow. That ought to do it,” he said before his footsteps receded down the hall.

The seed was a little kernel of a thing, and honestly listeners, I was tempted to throw it into my compost bin. How could this tiny seed possibly be a solution to what felt like an overwhelming problem? But sure enough at sunset, you would have found me outside digging a little hole near the mailbox. I’m not one to throw away seeds after all. I can’t help but want to see what they might grow into.

I went to bed thinking I might be the victim of an absurd practical joke, but when I awoke in the morning, I looked out the window, and there in the yard was a giant, new tree shading the post box. The leaves were a crisp, dark green color that capaciously spread through the boughs and very much reminded me of the emerald string. In the center of the trunk was a small hollow, just big enough to fit my fist through. I placed the coins inside as the man had instructed, and when I reached in again, the coins were gone, transformed into neat dollar bills with my expected amount. Neatly folding the bills into my wallet for safekeeping, I began to weep once more, this time with joy and gratitude.

When I returned inside, I saw that the guest book had been left open at the reception desk. Across the page laid the emerald string, and hastily written next it were the words:

Never underestimate small gestures or simple things.

Till next time, listeners,

Be kind, be generous, and don’t forget to water your plants,

Gabriela Jones

[Outro Music]

Hey, it’s Bailey Loveless, writer and reader of Gabriela & The Inn Between. Thanks for tuning in to this week’s episode. If you enjoyed the show, please consider supporting via Ko-Fi, link in the show notes below. It costs less than your favorite latte, and your contribution keeps the show self-sustaining and advertisement free. To submit short prose or poetry to be featured in the Guestbook segment, please send us an email or visit our website for more information, link also in the show notes. New episodes of Gabriela and the Inn Between release twice a month during the quarter moon phase. I look forward to seeing you on the next episode. In between time, keep warm and keep well. See you next time, folks.