My father’s car lurched over the bumps in the dirt road, the trees reaching out and touching tops from both sides of the road, creating premature darkness. I sat beside him in black pants and collared shirt. My power bangs touching my eyebrows, too much eyeliner, but in brown, to look natural.
From the road, all that was visible was a small ranch house. There were yard decorations, and signs that said things like “inspiration” and “hope”. We checked the address and it was right. My father said he’d wait for me.
He asked me if I’d brought anything to write on, and I said no. It was my first interview and I didn’t want to hold anything. I didn’t want to own anything, because what if it was wrong? My father dug up a green three ring notebook from behind one of the seats and handed it to me. I told him no. He said I couldn’t go to the interview unless I brought it. I grabbed it, and near tears, got out of the car.
The camp director greeted me at the door, a friendly man, looking like a squirrel. Mr. Walters. He reached out his hand and I gave him a weak, confused, female handshake. He led me through his kitchen, complete with dirty dishes, and through his living room into a small side office. He dug through his papers and asked me why I wanted to work for him. I told him I loved kids and I wanted to be a special education teacher. I told him I had babysat before. He told me all about the camp and the children they reached. He was friendly, seemed deprived of human contact. I had several planned questions to ask and I asked them when he asked me if I had any questions about the camp. Then he told me he’d like me to come work for him and brought out the tax papers and I told him I’d turn 16 in three weeks and he said he could wait to file them until then.
He offered to give me a tour of the camp. We left his house and got into a golf cart. I noticed my dad was gone, and I thought he’d probably got bored and went to the store or something. I had to sit too close to this squirrel of a man and I put on my seat belt because the terrain was unfinished. His stomach sat over his belt and his cheeks were full.
Huge holes filled the dirt road and he veered to avoid them. The camp itself was down this road about a mile and I wondered when we would get there. The camp was unfinished. Some of the buildings were missing doors and windows, while others were complete with flower beds. The donation brick tiles covered the walkways. In the twilight, I looked for other people. Maybe other counselors. Grounds men. There were none and that choked me a bit. My mother said never to allow just a man and me in a non-public place. For lots of reasons. Mr. Walters told me kids were coming next week. The camp was opening in a groundbreaking ceremony. He told me they were hurrying. There were huge open pits in between cabins, big enough to fit a car in.
The tour felt like both a great opportunity to rape a 15 year old girl and a normal part of an interview and it felt like it could go either way. I was balancing.
He asked me if I had any questions. I said I didn’t. I got quieter. He started talking about the nature center and asked if I wanted to see it. I said I didn’t care, trying to avoid rudeness. My stomach dropped as he pulled down an even more rustic path leading into the woods. He asked me if I liked the camp and if I thought I could work well here. I had no idea what he meant, and said yes, and my voice moved.
This drive was short and I noticed the deep brown of the forest floor. The air felt open and full of green. He asked me to come in so I could see the look-out window. Where the children could see the birds. I followed. I put my face up to the binoculars. He said you could see into the trees. He chatted as he pushed the tables and chairs back from their jostled positions, from supposed earlier classes. I heard him walking.
When I took the binoculars away, I couldn’t see him. The room seemed darker, with apparently no electricity and things felt wrong then. I called out to him. Maybe he’d walked into the woods. He liked nature. I walked outside and saw nothing. The golf cart was still there. I sat down on that beige vinyl.
I waited at least ten minutes. It thought about looking for him. Wandering into the woods. I thought about what if he fell. What if he was working? He’d seemed loose about this interview process. Maybe I was supposed to wait. It grew darker and I started playing with the golf cart, trying to get it to go. Trying to learn, but not so much that it would be obvious if he walked up. I called out again. In the end, I was too embarrassed to take the cart. What if he was hurt and needed it. He could be waiting for me to do something.
I decided to walk back, to find my dad. I wondered if I’d made it all up. I thought about how I didn’t know what an interview was. Maybe I didn’t know what to think. The empty cabins had window holes of unknown and the black lake let off too much moisture into the air. Panic came up in my throat and I started sprinting over the trails, conscious that my limbs felt young, the nature pushing in around me with green and brown fingers.
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Portland Fiction Project
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