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Ripton, VT: North Branch School

Ripton, VT: North Branch School
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I drove out on snowy spring days or in the dark evenings of early summer, to Cornwall and Salisbury and New Haven and Shoreham and Lincoln. I took off my boots in the houses of strangers and asked that they trust this place I might create, which I did not know how to create. I went to see a prospective student, Steve, up on North Branch Road. His mother, Tammi, told me to look for the blue trailer with cars in the yard. There were lots of junk cars–rusted, hoods up and wheels off, a Toyota truck filled with bags of trash. The yard was littered with transmission parts, hubcaps, empty soda bottles, Tonka trucks, deflated soccer balls, retired chainsaws, and piles of seasoned firewood hidden in the overgrowth of jewel-weed. A pen held an assortment of bedraggled, rain-soaked chickens and a belligerent, menacing turkey. A small garden of red and yellow snapdragons marked the way to the door.

I sat at the kitchen table with Tammi, Steve, and his father, Brian. The ashtray between us was filled with ashes and stubbed-out cigarettes. Steve was gangly, with a thin neck, acne, eyes sunk deep in bluish eye sockets, greasy hair hanging over his eyes, his silk basketball shorts hanging down over his knees.

“What subjects do you like?” I asked.

“Uh, history, I guess,” he said slowly.

“What history?”

“Um, like the Revolutionary War?”

“What about it do you like?”

“Um, it’s like, I don’t know, pretty interesting, all the battles and stuff.”

“You like sports?”

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