Swamp Bear Goes to College

The grounds of the college were all grass covered hills. I never would have guessed.

After high school, I drove cross country, came back, started working for myself. Skipping college completely.

I was hired by the college to rebuild the concrete pond in the center of campus. At the time I was building waterfalls. I’d get little jobs, lug quarried stones and boulders into backyards. Construct hand made waterfalls into their swimming pools in New Jersey. Just me, a wheel barrow, some shovels and a case of beer. People talked, recommended me to each other.

Sometimes I’d get a weird job that would send me somewhere unexpected. This job was that, for sure.

I parked my beat up blue pickup next to the pond. It was early. A wet and foggy morning, many hours before classes. Every surface covered in a layer of dew.

I unloaded my submersible pump, threw it in. Started to drain the murky brown water down a steep hill, into the woods next to the empty student parking lot.

As the concrete pond drained, I started to think, soon, the kids were gonna start to appear. Some of them, surely would be people that I didn’t want to see. Kids I had gone through school with. They’d continued with school. I’d bailed.

I didn’t drink at the bars in this town because I didn’t want to see any of them again. But, here I was.

The water disappeared leaving behind a thick soupy brown green sludge that reeked of decay. Putrefied leaves. Some dead fish. Old plastic solo cups, a beach ball, a green frisbee.

I’d have to go down there and get all the sludge out of the pond.

I knew it, too, that’s exactly when they would find me. These people. When I was down there in the filth. They’d find me then and they’d wonder what the fuck had happened to me. I wouldn’t have very good answers, either.

I stated to scoop the leaves into my rusted metal wheelbarrow, took that down the hill almost slipping on the sharp incline. It was slippery as fuck. I caught myself, on one knee, my heart fluttering wildly. My knee cut up and bleeding.

A little while later. I took out the shopvac and stated to suck the remainder sludge.

I decided it was too hard to get all the way to the bottom of the wet hill. I started dumping the sludge down the side of it instead. Nobody would be the wiser, it wasn’t too visible and it wasn’t hurting anything. It was good fertilizer for the grass.

Then, I went to lunch. Some strip mall near by. $5 chicken lo mein lunch special. Egg roll. Dr. Pepper. My fortune cookie said this, “You Will Be Judged For Your Heart”

When I came back to the college, the lots were jammed with their shiny cars. They’d arrived. Bumper stickers for all kinds of stupid things I couldn’t relate to.

I walked back, glancing in some windows. I wondered about the classrooms. What was it like to sit in a college class? I hadn’t minded high school, I’d done fairly well. It was just that I couldn’t think of a single thing that I wanted to study in college. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write short stories and novels I was pretty sure that college would only kill some small part of me that I needed to save and never expose to correct operating procedures, rules of the road, color between the lines.

Sometimes I still think art is better when its stupid.

I thought that as I climbed into the scummy pond. Getting more of the filthy stench and slime all over my bare legs, my neck, my face.

“Hey!”

I looked up.

It was a girl that had been in my home room class, I couldn’t recall her name. Long blonde hair. A white dress. High cheek bones. I think I’d seen her recently working as a hostess in a restaurant by the bowling alley.

“What are you doing?” she said, mocking me.

“Eh, working.”

“You’re filthy! Look at you!”

“Sure”

I was embarrassed. More kids came. I recognized a few more faces. They all stopped, looked at me, just like I was an exhibit that had come to their zoo. They seemed to really be enjoying this animal on display here in the center of campus.

“You in school here?” the nameless blonde hostess asked.

“No.”

“I see how that’s working out for ya.” she said.

I looked around at the kids, I was very interesting to them. Did they think I was a swamp bear? That this was my natural habitat? Down here in this filthy fucking pit?

“Go away.”

“What?”

“I’ve got work to do.” I was short, I was curt. I didn’t like being the butt of her attention. She took my attitude and amplified it back at me.

“Great idea to skip college, huh?” the girl said.

I wondered, had I gotten her drunk and fucked her and forgotten about it. Had I gotten her friends drunk and fucked them and forgotten about it? Her family? Was it her mother?

What had I done to this bitch who was meaningless to me?

I didn’t say anything.

“Have a good day down there.”

I saw her walking towards the hill. It was a short cut to the student lot.

Right where I’d poured all the muck.

I didn’t stop her.

As her feet flew out from under her. I watched her crash down into the green muck that’d come out of the sludge pit where I resided covered her clean white dress.

I said, “Welcome to my world.”

To make matters worse, all the other kids were laughing at her, and I wanted to devour them too. Who would I eat first?

I flashed my eyes on them all- leveled my eyes on a girl in a mini-skirt. She would do just fine.

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