John Oliver Hodges
For those who dare, anything is possible.
My dad died in June and my wife left me in July. I tell you upfront so that if a self-pitying note creeps into my voice, you won’t ditch this before it gets going. She did it behind my back, at first. She would have continued in that vein had I not discovered his name on her cellphone, a long list of Tonys under her received and outgoing calls. It was while we were visiting my hometown in Florida during my summer break from USM in Hattiesburg where I was a year shy of a doctorate in Poetry.
Now it is late August. During my mental breakdown, an old friend lent me her shoulder to cry on. This friend had connections in the world of wildlife workers, and was friends with a Ranger who knew of a job opening that didn’t pay much, but would give me a place to get my head straight and recover from the ordeal. I withdrew from the university, and moved into a Jetstream at the trailhead of the Apalachicola National Forest in Florida, not but ten miles from where my wife now lived with this guy she reconnected with on Facebook.
My job is simple: be here throughout the day, sleep here, keep an eye on things, don’t let happen what happened seven years ago, how some teens came in and lit a bonfire that burned out of control and basically made desolate a large portion of the park area.
It’s boring, but in the mornings I run. I run and run and keep on running through the sand, barefoot the way I like to run. I run down narrow trails leading through scrub oak and up hills, dip down into dry sinkholes, and I run until I can run no more, which is about six miles, a big circle that I finish off by tripping over a log at Big Dismal sink, one of the park’s main attractions. I trip over the log and fall over thirty feet and hit the cold black water. It’s always a real wake-up call, and the fine thing about it is that I never know if when I hit I’m going to slam into the big log that has been floating around on the surface of the sink like a log in somebody’s eye for as long as any of the rangers can remember. There’s always the chance that I will become paralyzed or die, and that is comforting. I float around in the water a little bit, and then scale the clay walls and walk back to the Jetstream and start a pot of coffee. Sometimes I try to write a poem or two, but I can’t. All I do is brood. And besides that, poetry is stupid.
John Oliver Hodges wrote The Love Box, a collection of short stories published in 2013 by Livingston Press. His short stories have appeared in Crossed Out Magazine, Cleaver Magazine, Interrobang!? Magazine, and elsewhere. He is also a teacher and musician with several published books of photography. He lives in Brooklyn and spends his summers in Seoul.