I set off to Hindman on Sunday, July 24, with feelings of anxiety, all for selfish reasons. I knew that I was being housed in Preece, way up on top of the hill, away from the action of the main campus, and I honestly was not happy about it at all. I had requested to room with a specific person and the request was not honored. I arrived to find myself rooming with not one, but two, complete strangers. In the midst of my personal internal sulking, I told myself, at least I got here early enough to claim the double bed under the bunk bed, because there’s no way in hell that I could climb up and down that ladder three times a night to go to the bathroom. I tried hard to have an outwardly positive attitude, though, because it wasn’t the fault of my roommates or anyone else in Preece that this was where I had been assigned. I cheerfully introduced myself, let folks know that I would be driving to and from all meals and classes, so they were welcome to ride with me in Rupert at any time. I sat food out in the commons area and invited everyone to partake of snacks at any time they wished. I determined to make the best of the situation. No matter what.

The first night, after dinner, we were being treated to ice cream from a local ice cream truck from Hindman.And then the movie The Evening Hour, adapted from the novel of the same title by Carter Sickles, who was one of the Hindman instructors this year. I signed up for dinner dishes that first night — we only had to sign up for one shift each this year, instead of the usual two — so I would have that out of the way for the week. We got to the ice cream truck line to learn that he only had shaved ice, no ice cream. A little voice inside me started bitching and I told her to shut up and enjoy the shaved ice and movie! Carter sat beside me at the movie viewing, which unnerved me a little initially. What if I didn’t like it? Would he notice if I made faces unintentionally or something? Stop, Chrissie! It’s outside in the dark, for Pete’s sake! Just enjoy the movie and quit stressing out about everything!

Monday’s classes went well. I sat in on poet Nickole Brown’s class before going to my own class, Short Story, with Jayne Moore Waldrop. I wrote something from a prompt in Short Story class that I actually really liked, and worked on it more later, coming up with a brief humor piece that I read on Wednesday afternoon in the participant readings. Monday night, though, I skipped the Techno Contra Dance, and stayed in Preece to work on homework. Which turned out to be a good thing, because I was sick as a dog. I vomited vehemently, barely making it to the tiny toilet area of one of Preece’s bathrooms before getting so ill that I found myself hugging the commode.

I didn’t figure it was Covid, but given where I was, and the fact that many people were masking and social distancing, I thought it would be best to err on the side of caution and arranged to get a rapid test from the administrative offices after breakfast on Tuesday morning. I tested negative, then went on to classes for the day. It was raining. Hard. Relentlessly. What was normally a trickle running out of the little stream by the James Still Building where we had classes was a pretty good current passing through by early afternoon when I headed back over to the main campus in Rupert for lunch. I took a photo, in fact, because it was so unusual a sight. I still wasn’t feeling 100%, so I stayed at Preece and worked on homework again Tuesday night, passing on the evening social scene down at The Gathering Place.

Wednesday came. More rain. Still rain? We really weren’t sure if it had paused long enough to consider it to have stopped since it started. I knew the forecast had called for rain the whole week before I left. I had even remembered to take my umbrella. But honestly, umbrellas seemed pretty useless in the downpours that ensued. In class that day, we workshopped my piece. It was received pretty well by my classmates. Ironically, the parts that I had added to make it fiction, and therefore Short Story instead of Creative Nonfiction, were the parts that people seemed to have the most problems with. Which tells me that I should probably stick with what I know and am good at. Although I still think it was good to be in a different class this year. Perspective makes a difference, sometimes. That evening, one of my roommates asked about a jar of special something that I had brought along for the week, so we went up to Preece between the evening staff readings and the first annual Troublesome Trivia Night, to fill up some cups with another building mate from Preece (also in our Short Story class). Then I joined Erin, Courtney, and Chelyen’s Trivia Team, anxious that I would look like an ignorant idiot compared to everyone else. (I think they asked me because I’m more likely to watch TV than most anyone else at Hindman, lol!) At any rate, I fought back the anxious feelings and actually had a really good time. I knew more than I thought I would. Our team came in third out of seven. We were a little bitter — it had been promoted as “even last place will receive something,” so we honestly thought that EVERY Team would receive something — it turned out that only the top two and bottom two did. But Robert Gipe is a good man, and when his Team came in second place ahead of ours, he came over and offered their copies of Dopesick by Beth Macy to all of us (I was the only one who didn’t already own it, so I thanked him). [Sidenote: Beth was supposed to be our keynote speaker on Thursday night, but had come down with Covid the weekend before, and was only going to be able to be with us virtually, instead of on-campus, as originally planned. Yet another wrinkle to the original week’s plan that couldn’t be avoided.]

After Troublesome Trivia, I walked over to The Gathering Place, where some folks inside were doing tarot readings with animal cards, and others were hanging around outside playing music. I’d shared the remainder of my special jar with another new friend, and headed in to take a seat at the table. I’d never had a tarot reading, although stuff like that honestly fascinates me. When my time came, I got a Hyena for my Past, an Eagle for my Present, and a Camel for my Future. The person conducting the reading didn’t know me at all, so I found the accuracy of the cards’ meanings as applied to my personality/experiences to be pretty interesting. Around midnight, a few of us decided to head back up to Preece. I told the other two to hold on and I’d go get Rupert — no point in all three of us walking in the rain. Yet again, as I pulled out of my parking spot between the Administrative Offices and the Footbridge across Troublesome Creek, I found myself thinking about how much I would have preferred to have been staying in Stuckey, the building only a portion of the way up that hill, much closer to the action, where I could have walked to from The Gathering Place that night, instead of driving back up to Preece. I told myself to stop. The week has halfway over, for Pete’s sake. Let it go, Chissie! Next year, I thought… Next year…

I can’t write the rest of this. I tried and rambled for two pages about the flooding that came as a result of those days of continuous rain. I’m not ready. Maybe I never will be. There were floods. They were random and horrible and people lost everything they had. They need help. I’m trying to help. I need to help. But I cannot write the rest of this story right now…