by Auden Schendler
Though the paper now has a state-of-the-art
office, when I worked there it was based in an old church built
like a hallway. Cardboard dividers separated Betsy from the
interns, and the interns from the bathroom.
house, "Intern Acres," had no screens, and no windows in places,
just window frames. "That's good," my housemate Rick said. "I don't
have to walk to the bathroom at night, I just piss out the window."
The sink was full of dishes, and worst of all,
the place was painted like a demonstration tablet for surplus
circus paint: yellow on the outside, purple trim inside. I brushed
up against the doorframe and it came off as a unit. Rent, including
utilities, was $70 per month.
Even though my
landlords, Rob and Kay, were dying of lung cancer, they watered
their lawn vigilantly. It was as if, after their departure, they
would leave behind that tribute to their principles. Kay stayed in
her house using oxygen. Rob's forced homebody existence (he was not
allowed to use the car because he was on morphine) was punctuated
with attempts at escape. One evening, Kay dragged Rick and me off
the porch to rescue Rob, who had taken his son's ATV and was stuck
in a ditch some miles away. The next morning he drove the
ride-mower downtown for breakfast, leaving a trail of cut grass
Arriving in Paonia, I couldn't
fathom spending the summer there. Main street was as small as the
short end of nothing whittled to a point. There wasn't even a movie
theatre, and in the mornings there were no doughnuts to be found.
What would I eat?
Out of the 30 or so people I
met, each had some odd story, some reason for being there, or a
touch of the manageable insanity that grew pleasantly in town.
People came to Paonia in search of catharsis and peace through an
understandable routine. They were recovering from love, pursuing
artistic dreams, taking a breather from the world, or like Rob,
setting their house in order.
Late in the
summer, Rob recruited us to move cylindrical blocks of cement into
the road to create a port-of-entry to his driveway. Rick and I were
baffled, but performed the job good-naturedly. If we were involved
in the construction of a monument, we wanted to treat it with
Like one of Rob's missions, the summer
came from nowhere, flew by like a dream, and ended abruptly. The
three months I spent in Paonia were a lifetime. I remember a
friend's goodbye as the summer ended: "If I don't see you in the
future," he said, "I'll see you in the past." My Paonia friends now
extend from that summer like a jet trail, in view and leading back,
like a lawnmower swath of freshly cut grass curving into
summer "91, teaches math and English at Colorado Rocky Mountain
School in Carbondale.