It was a chilly Friday night in December of 1996. I was at my mom’s house reading the novel Carrie by Stephen King. I love all of Stephen’s early stuff. Salem’s Lot. The Shining. Pet Cemetery. Hell, I even like Cujo. But Carrie, in my opinion, is his first and best. He turns the Cinderella story right on its head, creating a masterpiece in the horror genre.
Sadly, I’m not too crazy about Stephen’s new stuff. I tried reading the sequel to The Shining, but I couldn’t get through it. I’m also tired of his politics. I hate it when famous people lecture me as if I’m some ignorant serf working the fields. I don’t give a flying fuck about his opinions on abortion or gay marriage. Just shut the hell up and tell me a vampire story.
Anyway, the phone rang in the middle of the night. I knew it was Korea.
There was a young American lady on the line.
She said, “May I talk with The White Buffalo?”
I said, “Speaking.”
“Hi, I’m Ms. Jones, and I’m calling from Seoul. I got your name from an agency. Are you still interested in coming to Asia?”
“Are you currently working?”
“Yes. In fact, I teach English at a school in Texas.”
“So you’re actually a real teacher with state certification?”
I felt very excited. My ship had finally made it to port.
She said, “Then why do you want to come here?”
“You already have a nice job.”
“Yeah, but I’d still like to see the world before I die. I’m only in my twenties”
“But none of us at this academy are actually teachers. I’m the manager, and even I’m not certified. I have a degree in anthropology.”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s not like I’m a brain surgeon. I’m only a teacher with a four-year degree. No big deal.”
“It’s a big deal to me. Why would I hire a potential rival who might take my job? Sorry, but you’re overqualified.”
She hung up the phone. I was completely flabbergasted. It remains the weirdest interview in my life. And trust me. I’ve had some strange ones.
I walked downstairs to smoke a cigarette. Juan was watching television on the sofa. He could barely keep his eyes open. Back then, he only needed to sleep three or four hours a night. That guy was pure energy.
He saw me and sat up.
“Was dat Korea?”
I nodded. “But it didn’t work out. The manager says that I’m overqualified.”
“I told joo many time, Buffalo. Korea just not good for a man like joo. Dat country is looking for losers. Trust me on dis. Just go get another job in America. What about Alaska?”
“Jes, Alaska. Alaska pays da highest for teacher in da United State. Joo might freeze joor balls off, but what the fuck? It is a land of adventure.”
“Maybe you’re right. Maybe Korea just isn’t a part of my destiny. But that’s OK. I have a job. Who fucking needs it?”
Texas didn’t have the internet back then. The only way a guy could find a new gig was through the newspaper or word of mouth. I looked at the Sunday classifieds under the education section and saw a public-school job that was only a thirty-minute drive from my mother’s house. Furthermore, it was in a well-paying district without many minority students.
“Mom, mark my words. I’m going to get this fucking gig and become a principal one day. Maybe I’ll even be the superintendent in a decade or two. I shit you not. I’m tired of screwing around.”
She smiled. “I have no doubt.”
I called the number on Monday afternoon. I knew in my heart of hearts that it was my destiny to remain in Texas as a happy educator who got lots of pussy on the weekends. The position was mine.
“This is Jefferson High School. How can I help you?”
“Yes, I’d like to submit an application for the job advertised in the paper.”
“Sorry, but it’s been filled.”
“What can I say? Our district is popular.”
I was crestfallen.