These Wild Woods
“That’s the house I want to live in.” My sister pointed out of the car window, half rolled down, at the wide Victorian house just off the town green. It was July and America Drapes hung from each ledge of the balcony. The wood seemed almost wet and the entire home looked sticky with a thick coat of yellow paint, except for the edging, which was a rusty color. Our mother laughed and the pudge under her chin jiggled. She pointed out the greying cinderblock sprouting from the back of the home like an industrial wart. Old Tolland County Jail and Museum. My sister said she wondered what was inside. I told her when we were old enough to drive we would go and take a tour and examine the Sherriff’s office and follow the manager into a cell to be locked behind the irons, and we could get sticky with cobwebs and bring screw top flashlights to communicate with dead prisoners. I don’t think anyone ever died there. The closest I’ve come to walking in, past the ten cent Ye-Olde-Candy-Shoppe on the corner, was the time I worked crew for the Summer Community Theater and had to spray paint Cinderella’s giant shoes in the parking lot. If you look in the gravel you can see chunks of slate that sparkle.
“You could go to that casting call in the paper – the old high school is going to be in a movie!” Mom turned onto Old Cat-hole Road. I always wondered why no teenagers had stolen the sign – Old Cat-hole sounded like what you’d call the vagina of your grandmother, maybe, or one of those women who drove forty miles to the capital to eat dinner at a Long Island style country club. Like a catfish trying to be a cougar. I turned to mom and explained that you had to have a student ID, and you had to check in at the school, and my only connection to the public school system was being the private school chick in the chorus who volunteered to do everyone’s makeup for Who-ville. The bend of Old Cat-hole rounded the old high school building with it’s 70s attire – brickness and flats. The whole thing was drab and dull but apparently Wes Anderson found it inspired something extra spooky. That’s what he said, anyway. It was probably just cheap. Across the highway and hiding behind some trees lay the new high school riding free in a clearing. The hills bulged around the tiny campus and it was suffocated by trees. My mom dropped me off around the circle. I followed Shelby and Kat into the impressive glass building. Sunlight streamed through the line of skylights into the cafeteria: a mise-en-scene that could hardly be rivaled by the drab get-up of the high school down the hill. Shelby told me the next summer they only ended up getting two days off for bomb threats and that the movie Wes filmed had been a crapper.
It took me 8 years to realize that a trailhead began across from my house. When dad walked me up it, his wingtips were immaculate and he had to unclench his tie to keep it from snagging on low hanging branches and the late-blooming mountain laurels. We took a wrong turn and ended up nestled in skunk-weed. Neither of us was out of breath, but Fred was, so we tried waiting for him. His four stubby legs hit the dirt harder and his white belly dragged across the ground, making it appear, by our tracks, as if two people were marching through the mud being tailed by a very large slug. If you have never seen a corgi attempt to hoist himself over a fallen log, I highly suggest it, though you may need to prepare yourself for the constant stops and starts as he sniffs his snout across the ground, expecting chicken tenders or hallucinogenic frogs or what ever it is small dogs are into these days. At the top of the ridgeline we found a pile of boulders pretending to be a hill. “The knob,” a helpful trailhead told us. It did not look anything like a penis – but it reminded me of one. Crevices littered it where bears and bobcats could hide. A week later, after dad scraped the stains from his wingtips, I guided Matt up the rocky slope at dusk where we carved our names into a tree. I cut too deep and the letters look like monster teeth. Matt carved his too lightly and you can’t even read them.