Simon Frost’s small well-worn civic ascends the one lane unpaved road that leads to the State Park lodge and trail entrance. The journey that was once so nerve racking has become second nature to him, and often not as carefully driven as it should be. His head bops in rhythm as he raps along to the stereo;
“And this is like a miracle, to linger past your passing,
a blessing that’s lasting: a horde fast amassing.
Please forgive loved ones who aren’t missing you,
photo albums they’re not reminiscing through.
Remember what the preacher at your funeral said:
it isn’t quite a tragedy, you’re not quite dead...”
With the cabin coming into view Frost stops rapping and pilots the civic over the gravel parking lot. He comes to a stop in the closest space to the lodge, the one marked and reserved for the on duty ranger. Frost turns the car off and feels a sense of relief as he always does that his car did not die on the way to its destination. He steps out of the civic and stretches while depositing his thick key ring into his pocket. Frost then leans down and reaches into the passenger seat from the open door. He grabs his official Ranger’s hat and places it on his head. Next he grabs his extra-large extra black coffee from Jimmy’s Grindhouse and places it on the roof of the civic. Frost shuts the unlocked front door then opens the back door to retrieve his messenger bag. As he does he catches sight of his reflection in the window. “I look like I’m in a fucking costume.” He mumbles, still not used to the look of the brown ranger’s uniform on him. He slings the messenger bag over his shoulder and grabs the plastic shopping bag containing his lunch. With the messenger bag over his shoulder, his lunch in one hand and the coffee in the other Frost moves toward the stairs leading up the porch to the Park’s main entrance. The lumber used on the porch and stairs has sizable gaps between each plank and a sign beside the entrance lets visitors know to be careful not to drop anything, as it could easily fall through the cracks.
The old wooden steps creak under his weight as he makes his way to the front door and realizes the key ring is in his pocket, again. With two fingers Frost awkwardly fishes into his pocket with the hand holding his lunch bag to retrieve the keys. After fishing vainly for a moment he manages to get a finger through the key ring. Slowly Frost brings the keys up and shuffles them with his knuckles to try and take hold of the main entrance key. “I don’t know why we lock it, no one is ever up here.” He mutters to himself in frustration.
The key ring slips from his hand and Frost fumbles for it. As he leans forward the top comes off his coffee cup and the hot dark liquid splashes into his crotch before spilling down his thighs. “Fuckin’ swell.” He says, watching the warm liquid’s steam rising in the early morning air.
Frost throws the empty coffee cup past a trash can and a sign reminding him this is a bag in-bag out park, then thanking him for his courtesy in this manner. Even if he loses his keys Frost knows he can get down on his ass and scoot through the basement window, but would just rather not do that.
Frost’s knees creak as he slowly squats to see the key ring hanging in the slot between two pieces of lumber, equally above and through the gap. With two steady fingers Frost takes hold of the warm coffee soaked ring and pulls up the keys. He rises awkwardly and then unlocks the main entrance. The door opens and he steps inside the Ranger’s Head Quarters moving toward the main desk.
Frost holds the wet keys away from his body with two fingers as he moves past the giant taxidermy black bear. “Still no picnic basket?” He asks the bear as he does most mornings. “I thought you were smarter than the average bear.” Once behind the desk Frost drops off his lunch and messenger bag before heading to the small employee bathroom at the end of a very narrow hall off the main room. In the hall leading to the bathroom on the left there is a small staircase that leads up to emergency quarters in case any of the rangers get stuck here due to weather. Though in Frost’s case he suspects that it would be less likely due to incremental weather, and much more likely due to his civics engine being temperamental.
Frost moves past the doors on his right labeled ‘Bear Emergency’ and then ‘Communications’ room. A whisk of air from the large floor level vent that leads into the basement causes Frost to shiver as the coffee soaking his legs draws goose bumps from his skin. The last door on the right is the bathroom, which reads simply, ‘Employees Only.’ Once inside Frost washes off the keys while trying to avoid looking at the mirror above the sink. He has still not gotten anywhere near used to the image of himself in the Ranger’s costume as he thinks of it.
A lifelong city boy Simon Frost has only held this state park job for three months. While there were elements from his urban home he missed, like not needing a car, he could no longer deal with the people. With a BA in social work Frost had grown tired of watching the droves of depressed souls that entered the Welfare building every day. The unending stream of shit stories was just overwhelming, and he knew based on the available data the trend would only continue. The few people he could genuinely help were but a few droplets of water in a large bucket that was his workload.
On his off hours he drank with what he called his friends but now considered enablers as they all shit deservedly on their bosses, and lamented their comfortable existences. No one had any real hobbies or interests so they created social drama that Simon always seemed to be policing and fixing.
While he cared for his girlfriend, the two had been drifting apart physically and emotionally for years. With each passing day they were more and more consumed with their jobs, but they had created a no work talk at home rule. This left little else to do but go drinking with their mutual acquaintances and watch TV, though they would always compromise and neither was ever watching what they wanted to. Sexually they had been growing distant long before Simon’s metabolism slowed to that of an adult and the obscene amount of bar food and beer began to take up permanent space on his ass and gut. As they began to go out separately Simon had learned that she had been seeing and having sex with another man, and he noticed her mood and demeanor improving. Without ever letting her know he knew Simon said that they should spend some time apart and offered to move out. After crashing on a co-worker’s couch for a week he had found, applied to and been accepted over the phone for his current ranger’s job.
On his way back to the front desk Frost looks down, peeling his pant legs away from his thighs, and remembers the spilt coffee. Once behind the desk Frost sits down and kicks off his boots. Next he slides off his pants and leaves them in a soppy pile beneath the desk, and him in his Batman boxers. Next he pulls his lunch, a chicken salad out of the plastic grocery bag and places it in the small fridge behind him, next to the old CB radio and the window overlooking the park. The view allows him to see the ranger’s storage shed beside a tall thick oak tree. Past this are three marked paths for beginners, intermediates and the advanced. With his lunch away Frost turns to the main desk and out of habit searches briefly for his coffee, before remembering why he isn’t wearing any pants.
After cursing his poor short term memory Frost slides his wheeled high backed office chair to a nearby filing cabinet and pulls out his coffee maker. He sets the machine on the desk, fills it with grounds before getting up and returning to the bathroom to fill the pot with water.
With the whirring and bubbling as the machine brews behind him, Frost again remembers about his pants, or his lack of pants, which is when the front door opens and he realizes the day had officially began.