Alexis walked along the dirt service road beside the four-lane, passing under a large wooden sign indicating the entrance to Forest Lake RV Park. Across the four-lane was a huge truck. The entire was a complicated dance of sound and movement. Cars hummed along the overpass along Interstate sixty-five, adding to the cacophony. The small road opened up into a huge square lot, the size of at least four football fields. The dirt gave way to gravel as she continued onto the property, looking for the manager's office. Tiny patches of lush green grass surrounded each little camping site, and a small man-made pond bordered the property to the South. Alexis heard the dull roar of Interstate Sixty-Five to her right, and a faint diesel odor permeated the air. She thought it strange to locate a campground in the middle of a city. Maybe the proximity of the site to the Interstate, and a big chain truck stop, made it convenient for travelers.
The property was mostly deserted, with only three camping trailers parked diagonally among ten or more rows of empty parking spots. Alexis saw a man sitting in a rocking chair on a makeshift porch in front of a single-wide trailer. He was wearing a blue jumpsuit, whittling a stick or something, and whistling to himself. It reminded her of a scene from Mayberry, or Deliverance. A small wooden sign above the door of the trailer said 'Park Manager' so Alexis turned and walked toward the man, thinking about what she would say to him as she approached.
The man did not see her until she reached the wooden steps of the porch. When she walked up the steps, her hand extended in front of her, he put down his stick and knife, and slowly eased himself out of his rocker, with what looked like a great amount of effort.
"Afternoon Miss, what can I do you for?" The man spoke in the kind of gurgling, raspy voice people get after years of smoking.
"Are you Mister Woods?"
"That'd be me. But please, call me Viron," he extended his hand out to shake hers.
"You come in here on foot?" Viron looked around her to the gravel road. "We ain't got no primitive sites here. Spots are for RV's and campers only."
"I'm here to see about a trailer rental," she reached out and shook his hand. "Sam, from the Pink Pony sent me here, told me to mention him."
"Sam?" Viron's eyes rolled up and his chin jutted forward.
Alexis could almost hear the cogs and gears squeaking and creaking as he recalled the name.
"Sam," he said the name again, as if the gears in his mind suddenly aligned into the right position. "He's a good man. I rented to him when he first came to town. He's doing better now. Lives somewhere, north side." Viron rambled on, lost in his thoughts. "I remember him talking to me about buying that run-down old strip club. Thought he could make it into something more respectable."
Viron stopped and looked at Alexis for a moment. She saw that little sparkle in his eyes that southern gentlemen get when they are with a lady. He stood there looking at her for a moment, his hand still clutching hers, before letting go.
"I'm sorry, Miss." He bowed slightly, enveloping her hand with both of his now. "I must've missed your name."
"Oh, where are my manners," Alexis returned, in the sweetest southern drawl she could manage. "My name is Ale ... Paulina. Paulina Grey."
"Well, Miss Paulina," Viron said, as he turned to the door of the trailer. "Let me go get some keys, and I'll show you what I have."
Viron went into his trailer, leaving the door open behind him. Moments later, Alexis heard keys rattling, but instead of coming back out directly, she heard him talking to someone on the phone. She thought she heard the name 'Sam' and assumed he was asking Sam about her. When Viron returned, he had a large brass ring with at least twenty keys on it.
"The key we need is on this ring somewhere." he moved the key along the ring, one at a time as walked out in front of her toward the other end of the lot.
They walked to the other side of the park, passing the three occupied campsites on the way, presumably the only business he had on the property at the time. On the far gravel roadway stood three dilapidated old single-wide trailers. They were covered in metal with tiny windows, and propane tanks mounted to the front. Viron continued to the last trailer in the row, continuing to fumble through the keys on the ring until he found the one that fit the door.
"I know it ain't much," he said, as he opened the door. "But, the rent is cheap and the property's safe, quiet."
The trailer looked as ancient on the inside as it did from the road, the walls were covered in a simulated wood paneling. Except for the small kitchen area, the entire floor was covered in green shag carpet, but the place was clean, smelled fresh, and was fully furnished.
"What do you think?" Viron held out his hand like a model on a game show. "It's old, but I keep it clean, and the bug man just came through last week."
"How much?" Alexis shuffled her feet in the deep threads of shag carpet.
"One-twenty a week," Viron said. "But that includes all utilities. It ain't got no cable television hookup though."
"I'll take it."
Viron worked the key off the large ring as they walked back to his office. He asked her inside his office, and once inside, pulled out a rental agreement, handing it to her. His office was a small round table in his kitchen. The inside of Viron's trailer smelled of cigarettes and Aqua-Velva aftershave, and sported the same interior design as the trailer he had showed her. Alexis looked at the application. It asked for information she did not want to give, like her name, and social security number, and phone number.
"Look," she said, as she slid the paper back across the table. "Isn't there any way I could avoid all this paperwork?"
"It's the law, Miss Paulina." Viron slid the paper back to her. "State law requires it."
"You see, Mr. Woods." Alexis thought of the first lie that came to mind. "I'm just leaving a bad situation. I don't mind giving you my name and a phone number, but I just don't want my ex to find me." She gave him her best pout. "Can't we work something out? I can pay cash. Up front."
Viron stepped back and looked hard at her. His eyes were dark, intense, and piercing, with a depth that came only with age and experience. She feared he would see right through her, and into her soul, where her lie could not be concealed. Relief came as a slight smile swept across his mouth, a softness forming in his eyes.
"Alright. No paperwork," he said, taking the form from her hands and placing it back on the table. "But, I'll need two weeks rent paid up front and in cash. We'll talk about it again after that."Alexis thanked him and fished the money out of her purse. He gave her the key, and she gave him a big hug before nearly skipping back to the trailer—her new home—and conducting a more thorough inspection before testing the shower. The shower head was mostly clogged with water coming out in just a few streams, but at a stinging force. It was sufficient though, to get her cleaned up before her first night at the new job.