Part Two – starting here? Read Part One first!
Mark snapped me back to my job: keeping campers safe.
“I’m calling the police.” I said, a spontaneous reaction that pleased me. Maybe I really did know what to do. Maybe I knew more than the security guard. More than the adults. With renewed confidence and a sense of duty, I marched back to the office.
As I reached for the phone, I thought, what do I say? Campers were crowding in.
The dispatcher had questions: “A gorilla? A real animal? Is it loose?”
“Well, probably a person in a gorilla suit. Riding a bicycle.”
“Is anyone injured?”
“No. I don’t think so. He’s scaring people. Throwing bananas.”
“Can you see the gorilla now?”
I turned the question to the campers, “Can you see the gorilla?” They clustered at the windows, tucking their heads into the ruffles. Mumbling, no…it’s dark…there a glare, let’s turn this light off…
“No, um…we can’t see the gorilla.”
By the time I hung up, the gorilla had disappeared. Campers headed back to their families. Alone, I locked myself in. I worried. I wondered where Mark had gone. I paced. After a while, I nodded off. It was almost midnight when the police arrived. Flashing blue and red lights lit up the office. Out on the porch, the campground seemed normal, quiet and peaceful except for the flashing lights.
“We got a call about a gorilla?”
I tried to tell them everything. Pointed out the bananas on the ground.
They nodded. Took notes in tiny spiral notebooks.
“Where is the security guard now?” one of the officers asked.
“I don’t know, he’s usually in the booth, but…”
They checked the booth. Mark wasn’t there. The officers split up to walk around the campground. Moments after they vanished into the shadows, Mark was beside me.
“I never saw it again,” he said, squinting. He adjusted his cap.
“Maybe the police will find something,” I said.
The police talked to a few campers but found nothing.
“Well, if the gorilla comes back, let us know.”
We watched the officers get into their car and drive away.
“Fucking nuts,” Mark said.
I watched his bow-legged walk as he went back to the booth.
That night I had nightmares about the Planet-of-the-Apes-eyes behind the mask. About Bigfoot lurking in the campground. My mind whirled. Was the gorilla real? What if something happens during the night?
The next afternoon I asked Darlene, the morning shift gal, if she heard anything.
“About what? A what?”
“Right, I know. Crazy. But last night there was a gorilla here.”
No one had said anything. I was disappointed. I had expected a buzz in the campground. I imagined basking in praise. Being recognized for outthinking security guards and adults. I wanted to be held up as a model employee.
“It really happened!” I said. Darlene was busy getting her car keys from her purse.
“It was scary!” I said as she maneuvered around me toward the door.
Darlene left; I was alone in the office. The ruffled curtains made me feel sad. The gold wall phone seemed to accuse me. Call the police for any stupid little thing. I wondered if the gorilla had really happened. Maybe it was a dream. Then Mark came in.
“Last night was fucking hilarious!” he said. “Can you believe that shit?”
I blinked. Laughing, Mark slapped the counter. He turned away shaking his head and leaned back on his elbows.
“That dude was one realistic looking gorilla,” he said.
I exhaled. It had happened. To Mark and me. I waited for Mark to tell me what an amazing job I did handling the situation. He didn’t. He wasn’t quite as sexy to me after that.
Later that evening the owner, my big-boss, eavesdropped on a phone call. Other employees had warned me that he did this, to ensure an employee was on-point.
“The village seems expensive. Is it worth it?” a caller said.
Whenever a caller asked me this question, I answered truthfully. They had to know that Amish buggy rides across the covered bridge cost ten bucks per adult and were not included in the entrance fee. I owed it to them.
This may have been what my mom meant when she called me “too honest.”
“Well, are you planning to camp here, in the campground?” I asked the caller.
“Then it is totally worth it because the entrance fee is part of the campground registration fee-.”
“WHAT?” The big boss’s voice barked through the line. Startled, I dropped the phone. As I grappled with the curly cord that attached the handset to the receiver on the wall, I could hear him bellowing.
“ARE YOU SUGGESTING THAT THE VILLAGE ISN’T WORTH THE PRICE?”
“Hello?” I heard the caller trying to understand what was happening.
I considered hanging up as I slid the handset against my ear.
“Hello?” the caller said again. Then she hung up.
In the static silence I heard the owner’s heavy breathing.
“ARE YOU THERE?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Did you just tell that woman that the village WASN’T WORTH IT?”
“I told her that camping here was—“
“Don’t EVER SAY THAT AGAIN!”
The line went dead. I placed the handset into the silver cradle on the wall. No one told the big-boss about the gorilla! He had no idea that I had single-handedly saved hundreds of campers. I grabbed the phone’s handset, ready to dial the big-boss and tell him. But then, I hung up.
I’m so stupid, I thought. Weakness in my knees, I sank to the stool behind the front desk. I knew that I would be fired, if not tonight, soon. For a flicker I thought I could walk out right now and never come back. But I didn’t. Instead I applied for a new job.
I was surprised to get an immediate offer, just a few miles away in Paradise, PA—a brand new steamboat-shaped hotel surrounded by a moat in the middle of a cornfield. I worked both jobs for a few weeks, then one day, I was fired. By the big boss’s mother, who ran the country-crafty candle-perfumed gift shop. Her exact words were: “We don’t need you anymore.”
I didn’t need them anymore either. What I had needed from my evenings in the office I got, not from Mark or the big boss or the demanding campers, I have the gorilla to thank. He taught me that I could do something.
One evening, just a few months after starting my new job, some concerned guests approached the front desk. They told us that a man in full military fatigues and boots walked into the Steamboat’s swimming pool. The two adult front desk clerks twitched and wrung their hands. They all looked at me. I stepped out from behind the front desk and made my way to bow of the boat.
“I’m so sorry sir, but you’ll need to get out of the pool. I’d hate to have to call the police.”
He complied and dripped on the carpet as he walked back to his room.
Relieved guests thanked me. “Of course,” I told them, brushing it off. However, walking back the lobby, I stood straighter, adjusting my bow-tie and red polyester tuxedo jacket. I felt like a superhero. I remembered the gorilla, and my heart softened.
Who was that gorilla? I wondered.