driver barks as he stops in front of a long dirt road that disappears into the
visible from the road at all.”
expects me to walk into the woods on a dirt road that is God knows how long.
bag as well. I could barely carry my suitcase to the front stoop for him to
place in his truck.
he tells me. “Company rules.”
five dollar tip.
When he exits the cab I take a moment to
compose myself. I’m already so far out of my comfort zone I feel like I’m
having a panic attack, and I haven’t even made it to the camp yet.
an intelligent woman with a doctoral degree, I remind myself. You can do this.
already on the side of the road waiting for me.
had to wear a dress and pumps. In my defense I don’t have much else in my
wardrobe. Work attire and lounging outfits for around the house are about it.
When I teach I always wear a dress or a suit with dress shoes. I wouldn’t be
caught dead outside of my home in one of my lounging outfits.
extremely generous. The trail is much rockier and uneven than I initially
thought. The shoes I’m wearing are not even close to being appropriate for the
conditions. I’ll be lucky if I don’t turn an ankle.
My suitcase is another problem entirely. I
can barely make it a few feet before I have to set it down. The muscles in my
arms are already throbbing and I haven’t even made it far enough to spot the
end of the trail yet.
got many hours of sunlight left. Even if it takes me several hours walking a
few steps at a time I should make it there before dark.
I’ll be in a bit of trouble.
I’ve had about all that I can take. My feet are blistered and aching. I’m
afraid when I finally remove my shoes my feet will be bloody as well.
lift the suitcase again.
is no water but only rock
and no water and the sandy road.
Those words from T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste
Land’ seem appropriate right now. I take a seat on my suitcase and wipe the
sweat from my brow with a tissue that I just happened to have shoved in my
pocket. I can’t even remember the last time I sweated. It may have been in high
school when we were forced to play those utterly horrendous sports in our
Physical Education classes.
career this year. I was finally promoted from Associate to Full Professor.
Edgar had been hinting that when he retired I was first in line to take over as
Chairperson of the English Department. I was just a few months away from paying
off the mortgage on my house.
and I’m sitting in the middle of the woods helpless to do anything about it.
Edgar was not happy when I told him I needed to take a month of personal leave
and he’d need to find a substitute to teach my classes. That coupled with the
fact that my arrest and conviction has tarnished the reputation of the institution does not bode well for me still
having a career upon my return from this journey into the wilderness.
The sun is starting to get higher overhead,
and it’s beating down on me. I’m not sure how much of the blistering brightness
my pale skin can take. I should probably edge closer to the tree line where
it’s shaded, but I’m too exhausted to move.
suitcase when a large pickup truck whizzes by. I try to raise a hand to wave
the driver over, but to no avail. My arm won’t lift high enough.
screeching halt, reverses and heads back towards me.
feel like cooked noodles. They’re so weak I can barely control them as I move
towards the truck.
out of the vehicle. The driver is a young, petite woman of Asian descent.
From the neck up she’s beautiful, with long
silky dark hair and perfect features. From the neck down she’s dressed like a
man. She’s wearing well-worn jeans, black combat boots and a green Army jacket.
definitely not friendly.
camp for troubled teens.”
like you’re ready for the wilderness, and you’re definitely not a teenager.”
“I’m court ordered to be here. Community service.”
me beyond the main road. I’ve been walking for hours.”
presumably for me to place my luggage in the empty truck bed.
I do my best to drag the suitcase over to
the truck, but I feel like my muscles are on fire. There is no way I’m going to
be able to lift the suitcase into the back of the vehicle.
for several moments.
it’s no heavier than a rag doll and tosses it into the back of her truck. Then
she slams the tailgate of the truck closed.
have some advice for you. Never pack more than you can carry.”
Before I have a chance to respond she
marches over to the driver’s side of the truck and hops in.
vehicle and stare at it for a few moments. I’m five feet seven inches tall. The
woman is easily five inches shorter than me and she got into the truck with
very little effort. I have no idea how I’m going to climb into this thing,
particularly in my dress and heels.
She’s very good at glaring. Despite her small stature she’s quite intimidating.
need to figure out how to get inside of this truck.”
her way around to my side then gives me an extremely hard shove right on my
buttocks which propels me enough that I’m able to climb into the seat.
truck, leaps into her seat with the ease of a rabbit then slams her door shut.
The woman doesn’t say another word to me as
we head down the dusty road toward the camp.
what appears to be a main building. It has a placard which says: The Wild Way Administration.
heels. The woman opens the back of the truck, hoists my suitcase out of the
truck bed and tosses it on the ground.
not even a thank you. She marches back over to the driver’s side, leaps into
the truck like a frog, and drives somewhere behind the administration building.
not sure what to do. I don’t feel like dealing with my suitcase so I just leave
it where the woman tossed it. There’s not another soul anywhere so I don’t
think it’s in danger of being stolen. Not that my clothing and books would be
of value to anyone but me.
administration office. The building is really just a large cabin, much like all
of the other smaller cabins scattered about the heavily wooded property.
try knocking, then pounding, but to no avail. The place appears to be deserted.
The person with whom I spoke on the phone,
Turner Wild, the program director, told me specifically to report to the camp
today. I even wrote it down. He was very short with me, much the way the Asian
American woman was, so I wasn’t able to get him to commit to a specific time.
motivated to walk over to any of the other cabins, which are a significant
distance from this one, several hundred yards at least.
doesn’t have any chairs, or seats of any kind, so I guess I’m stuck standing
here for a while until someone appears, or I figure out something else to do.
when I glance at my watch I realize only twenty minutes have actually gone by.
Time seems to pass very slowly when I don’t have my nose firmly planted in a
the administration building. Panic begins to set in when some tree debris fly
off the roof and nearly hit me.
Then I hear stomping—loud, heavy
stomping—right above me. Is it possible for a bear to climb on a rooftop?
breathe. I’m going to get killed by a bear and I haven’t even started working
bark, pine cones.
bears don’t know how to use hammers. Is Turner Wild on the roof? Or maybe the
woman who gave me a lift in her truck?
“Hello?”&l t;/s pan>
presumably Turner Wild, jumps down from the roof and lands on the porch next to
on the porch rail next to him and wipes his dirty hands on the sides of his
The man is different than how I pictured
him from our very brief phone conversation. I thought he’d be a lot younger,
maybe late twenties or early thirties, but he looks more like he’s my age,
outdoorsy. His brown hair is cut in a short, military-style haircut. His strong
features look a bit rough and weatherworn. His dark jeans and t-shirt are tight
fitting and display every one of the large muscles on his exceptionally
from his belt. I’m not surprised he runs
a wilderness camp. It would be difficult to imagine someone who looks the way
he does doing anything else.
Operations Forces in the military. I could picture him in one of those SEAL
teams like the one that killed Bin Laden.
vocations for this man: killing bears or killing Bin Laden.
stares at me. I’m immediately uncomfortable. I wonder if there is any way I
could contact the judge and tell her I’ve changed my mind. Fifteen months in
jail is starting to seem much more desirable than a month in the woods with this
else to do. “Hello, I’m Dr. Daniels.”
he looks me up and down. “What kind of doctor are you?”
I immediately bristle at his ignorant
comment. I hate when people say that. “For your information the word doctor is
derived from the Latin word docēre
which means to teach. The title Doctor has been used for centuries in Europe as
a designation for someone who has obtained a research doctorate such as a Ph.D.
Thus a person with a medical degree is more accurately described as a physician, not a doctor.”
condescending way imaginable, like I’m some kind of pet. “Whatever you say,
still on my arm. I can feel the heat from his body move through mine. It’s
before he removes his hand.
flowing down my limb. “Why did you call me Doc? This isn’t a cartoon. You’re
not Bugs Bunny.”
He laughs again. I don’t like people who
laugh so easily. I’m immediately suspicious of them.
reason to laugh.”
up tighter than Dick’s hatband?”
make sense? I have no idea what he means, but it feels like an insult. And he’s
smirking, which makes it worse.
getting down and dirty. Living in the woods. You can’t wear a dress and heels.”
something other than Doc. Dr. Daniels would be fine. Or Ms. Daniels. Or my
first name, Bly, if you insist. Just not Doc.”
that be better?”