Continued from the previous chapter, here.
Asa drove from the Pronghorn Independent School District campus back east, crossing over the southern branch of Pronghorn Creek and skirting the park on the south side of Pronghorn Pond, following the aptly named Park Street (State Highway 411 when outside of town) across South Main (State Highway 701–true of North Main, too) and across the low bridge that crossed Pronghorn Creek just after Shallow Branch joined it, just upstream from a small lake that had formed from a rock-fall early in the Zapata settlement of the area.
I remember swimming in Caída de Roca, Asa thought as he drove by–and there were still children swimming in it, risking the bites of turtles and probably snakes of one sort or another as they did. But just over the bridge was Asa’s destination: Pronghorn Community College. A roundabout–the only one in the town, really–caught the end of the bridge, as well as East Water and College Streets. It also received what an impressive front gate the the motto Discimus, “We Learn,” inscribed on it, and Asa drove through that gate, following signs to visitor parking.
Parking the car and putting up the sun shade, Asa grabbed his folder of resumes and CVs, and he looked around, trying to find a person to direct him to the central offices. A few students passed him by, earbuds in place, walking quickly; Asa followed more slowly. They’re clearly heading to classes, and I probably don’t want to look like I’m accosting them. Soon enough, though, he found himself amid squat, two- and three-story buildings, and more students–and some clear faculty–were striding about with purpose, not lingering in the febrile warmth of a Hill Country late spring day.
As Asa looked about himself, someone approached him from behind. From a stentorian woman’s voice, he heard “Can I help you?”
Asa turned about, somewhat startled, nearly dropping his folder. He saw a formidable woman in the cadet blue uniform of the local police, a badge on her left breast proclaiming her an officer, a nameplate on her right identifying her as Gonzales, and three chevrons on her sleeves showing her as a sergeant. “Y-yes, ma’am,” Asa stammered out. “I was looking for the central offices.”
Sgt. Gonzales came closer, and Asa found himself looking up at her. She was a powerfully built woman, solid and seeming to bend the world around her. Her face was set in something of a scowl as she asked him “Why?”
Asa, still not having recovered, continued stammering. “I-I was told that the college might be hiring, and I wanted to put in for a job.”
The sergeant nodded brusquely. “I’m headed that way. Come along.” She gave a jerk of her head towards a two-story building set off to one side, and Asa took the direction thus given. Gonzales fell in behind him, a few steps behind and to his left. He felt his back clench as he walked with her behind him, his face flushing in the warm day and with the added warmth of embarrassment. I feel like I’m being marched to the principal’s office–and that happened often enough, he thought as he and Gonzales crossed the open middle of campus and entered into the refreshingly air-conditioned office building. Asa noted the name of the building–New Meriwether Smitherson Hall–as he entered.
“HR’s up the stairs and down the hall on the left.” Gonzales pointed. “Have a good day.”
She strode off, and Asa found his eyes following her. I do not want her mad at me, he thought before shaking his head and following the finger that had been pointed previously. The stairway was quiet and empty, not the sweeping cascade meant to impress, but one tucked off to the side and meant to get people from one floor to another quickly and unobtrusively. The hallway was another such construction; painted and carpeted in plain, neutral tones, a couple of paintings hanging to add some sense of elevation. A plaque beside one caught Asa’s attention. They use student art for decoration. “Hm.”
Asa reached a glass door with “Human Resources” etched into it, and he went through it. He was quickly greeted by another voice–quieter and happier than Gonzales’s–asking “Can I help you?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Asa replied to the woman; the nameplate on the desk at which she sat read “Arlene Davis.” “I heard in town that the college might be hiring, and I’d like to put in for the job, if I may.”
“Sure! What position were you looking for?”
“Well, I’ve got degrees in English and have taught it; I figured a teaching job in comp or lit would be the best fit. But I’ll apply for most anything you have open, if I can.”
“You’re in luck, then. Dr. Martinez, the English department chair, just sent over a job announcement. Let me see if he’s in.” Davis picked up her phone and dialed a number. It as evidently answered; Asa heard her say “Dr. Martinez, this is Arlene in HR. There’s a gentleman–” She paused, and Asa said “Asa Pemewan.” “–Asa Pemewan, here asking about a teaching job.” A pause. “I’ll send him over.”
Davis hung up the phone. “Dr. Martinez says he’d like to see you. His office is LeBeaux Hall 321. So that’ll be on the third floor of the building just the other side of the library–and that’s the one out beside this one.” Davis paused. “Actually, would you like me to talk you over?”
“I think I can get there, Ms. Davis. But I do have one question.”
“Is Dr. Martinez Dr. Arturo Martinez?”
“Why, yes, yes it is. How did you know?”
“Lucky guess.” And maybe a lucky break for me. “I think I might’ve gone to grad school with him.”
“Oh. Then I’m sure he’ll be glad to see you again.”
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