“Well where’s the hood?” he asked.
“The hood?” H- replied in kind.
“Which side is the hood facing?” he repeated.
The father-daughter duo were back in the tent from an early morning bathroom run. H- had really needed to go.
“Yeah, on good sleeping bags like yours they put a hood where your head goes for when it is super cold,” he explained.
With wide eyes and delicate hands she proceeded to maneuver the sleeping bag around until she thought it matched her father’s words.
“Good,” he confirmed. “Now get in like normal,” he suggested. “That’s right. Now-”
H- needed no further instruction. Once in, she pressed her head up against the top of the hood and pulled down on the sides, experiencing that sensation which must fall within the bounds of what more studied men call pure delight. Soon, no longer seen by H-, he observed that she had let the hood fall over her eyes all the way down to the tip of her nose. After she fiddled with the drawstring she carefully exposed her finger from within the bag once more, this time to touch her nostrils.
“What are you doing?” he inquired, chuckling to himself.
“What?” she feigned.
“Were you just checking to see if you could still breathe out of your nose?”
A pause–probably much longer for the girl in the dark.
I’m still in Tolstoy’s short stories. Again, one particular sentence just struck me as perfect. So here’s the challenge: In the below comments, let’s see if we can write with similar excellence. (One sentence.)
The bonfire was extinguished, the forest no longer looked as black as before, but in the sky the stars still shone, though faintly.
Here’s my attempt: The young boy stopped running, the city moved even faster, but he still felt her hand in his, though now she did the squeezing.
The woods are
Always darkest first, I remember.
It’s just the two of us.
He says we need to hurry because
It’ll be too dark to see
Each step directly in front of the last,
The trail’s raised edges keep my vanishing course sure.
Darkness encroaching, he says to go faster.
I am struck by terror.
It is dark,
We’re separated from the group,
We are alone.
He is big,
I am small.
Could I out run him?
The plants are coming faster now,
Like my heartbeats, thoughts,
I want to sprint,
Campfire voices announce the end.
I look into his eyes.
He says he’d rather not
Be out so late next time.
Breakfast at 7:00 am with his woman, a quick shower at 7:45, and they’d be out the door by 8:30 on their way to the home store. After picking up a few essentials it would be time to head to the hardware store. He desperately needed a new tool for weeding, and also a bit of potting soil. Oh, and winter fertilizer. If things went perfect, they’d be driving away from the hardware store at 11:00 on their way to meet friends for lunch at 11:30.
It wasn’t quite a sit-down restaurant, but the couples hadn’t seen each other in what seemed like forever, so he budgeted an hour and a half for the lunch. Farewell handshakes and hugs would conclude at 1:00 pm, so he figured they could be pulling out of the parking lot at 1:05, which would leave plenty of time to drive to the ‘burbs for their nephews game. The kid was only 6, so it wasn’t exactly organized. From his perspective it was more like a bunch of adults forming a fleshy boundary which attempted to keep sacred childhood. Either way, he was excited to see his sister and brother-in-law.
From there, the plan was to split-up for an hour or so to clean up. Then everyone would meet back up at 6:00 for some Colorado-style pizza. He figured they’d be out of the restaurant by 8:00–8:30 at the latest. Afterwards everyone would return to their respective homes, and have a nice quiet night on couches.
Yep, he was pretty proud of himself for having such a thought out plan, but now it was time for bed.
Pulling the covers up–awkwardly as usual–to warm the back of his neck, he shut his eyes, smiling.
He awoke. Widening his eyes as if that helped him regain consciousness faster, he reached for his phone. Seeing the time before noting who was calling, he read “5:30” with some confusion. “Who would be calling so early on a Saturday?” he wondered to himself. The screen informed him who it was, and he couldn’t help but smile.
“Honey,” he said. “Honey, wake up, wake up,” he said shaking her.
“What time is it?” she mumbled.
“Huh? Why? That doesn’t matter. We’ve got to cancel our plans for the day. The mountains called. They’re open!”
Waking up, he kept his eyes closed. He was uncomfortable for sure. Besides feeling like he was sleeping on uneven ground, he felt a disabling heat surround him. It was a stifling heat. He thought back to the last thing that he could remember. He knew he was not alone. He knew they had traveled to this place, their destination. But where were they? And where was she? And why was it so hot?
Sweating, he could feel his pants clinging to his legs as if he had just climbed fully clothed from a hot spring. A curiosity overtook his movements and he reached out with his hand blindly feeling for anything. He felt something hot. That’s all he knew for certain. Suddenly he felt, not cool air itself, but the memory of cool air–the memory that cooler temperatures existed somewhere not too far from where he was.
Time taking effect, he began to remember where they were. It was a campground. They had setup their tent, and she wanted to take a rest. He couldn’t believe his luck, and so they both crawled in the tent, sun blazing. He remembered that before dozing off into a restful slumber he reassured himself that she couldn’t get into too much trouble within the confines of a tent, especially not a four-season, dual-door, dual-vestibule beaut like his. Still, she did have a sleeping bag, a water bottle that emptied at a rate equivalent to a sippy cup, and Pingu, her pink penguin.
Finally, he heard her whispering. It was unintelligible, so he made the decision to open his eyes and see she was up to. Looking towards her whispers, he was immediately struck by a fear brought on by the inexplicable. Her hair was soaked. Her shorts just below her waistline were soaked. In a moment, realizing she had not ‘rested’ but stayed up playing for who knows how long in a hot tent with no vents open, her sweaty hair made sense. But why were her pants wet? She was a potty trained three and a half year old. Then he finally heard a full sentence as she guiltily turned, pouring water into her hand.
“Okay Pingu, we’re almost done with your shower.”
No doubt durable, the brown, rubber coated metal picnic table was exploding with sandwich ingredients: two loaves of bread, two packages of ham, two packages turkey, one package of pepper jack cheese, one package gouda, one bottle of mayonnaise, and one bottle mustard. Present also were the sides to include individual bags of chips, apples and oranges; and dessert–nutty bars. Lastly there were sandwich bags. All this was resting amidst coolers filled with beer and dinner, a couple camp stoves, their personal cookware, and some French presses lazily soiled with the morning’s coffee grounds.
As socially graceful as possible they all took turns preparing their lunches that they would then carry in various forms of Camelback backpacks. Each person’s pack matched their personality. The veteran’s was camouflage, the ladies’, trim. The photographer’s had pockets large enough for a professional quality camera; the different guy used a modern word for fanny pack.
Once packed, the group packed the unused food in the cars, and grabbed the morning’s trash bags. Ah, bears. The probably unnecessary precaution justified itself through the addition of the slight thrill of danger. That and being prepared is never a bad thing.
The hike now well under way, storm clouds populated the distant horizon. The group pressed onward. The intervals between the unseen lighting’s thunderclaps decreased as the distance they traveled above the tree line increased. A light sprinkle had not yet become annoying as they began to notice most of the blue sky had become shades of grey.
One party became two.
As those with significant others present headed back down, the alone-and-unafraid pressed their luck.
Unifying them all was a hunger. Friend helped friend as they unzipped each other’s packs and grabbed the sandwiches. Was it the rain? Was it the hiking? Was it the company? Whatever it was, they had never tasted as good a sandwich as at that moment. And never had smiles spread so quickly.
Upon finishing their chocolaty peanut butter goodness, the two groups discovered they weren’t so far apart after all. The clouds parted and the sun’s return was interpreted only as it should have been—the punctuation to the joy incarnate they knew to be lunch on the trail.
One wake up. That’s all that stood between him and the mountains. Having just arrived home from work, he decided to go ahead and bring the necessary gear stored in the garage into the house. Man, he hadn’t used his blue Kelty external frame pack for years. Lifting it off the bottom shelf of the tall grey wooden shop-cabinet in the garage, he was immediately awestruck by how familiar the metal felt within his hand. The memories came rushing back.
The outermost flap pocket was bulging with a several yellow trash bags which doubled as poor-man rain covers for the pack when necessary. His very own four season, dual door, dual vestibule Eureka K2 XT tent finally rendered those unnecessary. He put them aside.
Curiosity took over. He wondered if the pack still had the devotional and music books from scouting days. Yup.
What other treasures did the pack contain? Muskol–the best insect repellent available. Ah, deet. He chuckled to himself as he remembered that he used to derive great pleasure from reading other brand’s deet percentages knowing they had only puny, laughable amounts of deet. Yes, Muskol was the best ever, and it was his.
What else… Oh, here’s something: a Ziploc bag filled with materials for a homemade first-aid kit. What’s this? Three quarters. “Wow,” he startled himself not realizing he exclaimed that out loud. It all came rushing back. His scout leaders always recommended carrying a few quarters in case a pay phone was needed. Those quarters had been in that bag, in that pack for over 15 years. Those three quarters exemplified the two most eloquent, powerful words he’d ever heard: Be prepared.
Happy Labor Day.
Confused, this was the first time he could remember seeing anything other than milk in a one gallon jug. He eyed the waitress suspiciously. Licking his lips at the mention of homemade root beer, he believed the milk jug proved its homemade claim while simultaneously casting a shadow of doubt regarding the health code. The root beer was fantastic.
Hannibal, MO is where he found himself. Why? Who can remember such things? Besides the root beer, he remembered hearing about Mark Twain. He has yet to meet a man who can forget about Mark Twain once they become aware of him. He also remembered his parents being at the restaurant, so he knew it wasn’t a boy scout trip–the main reason he would’ve been in Missouri.
Ahh, boy scouts. Some of the happiest moments of his childhood occurred because of the boy scouts. Almost every boy scout event etched at least one memory into his mind. Those green Eureka Alpine tents. At first, his fourth grade hands had trouble setting them up, but the older boys gladly taught him to work smarter not harder. Building fires, hiking, sleeping out under the stars, canoeing–all things he would’ve never done if it hadn’t been for troop 428.
Boy Scouts. That was a long time ago. As he grew to be an older teen, he wanted to own more gear himself. Coincidentally, his family was on vacation in Wyoming, on a ranch, where he first laid eyes on a Cabela’s master catalog. Not knowing the treasure he’d stumbled upon, he fumbled through the pages at first. It was the tent section that caused him to slow down. And slow down he did. Reading the description of the 3-person, 4-season, dual door, dual vestibule Eureka Summit XT, he could hardly contain himself. And for only $229! Unfortunately, even though a second trip to Wyoming from Kansas required a drive through Sydney, Nebraska where the flagship showroom store was located, and even though they stopped and it was near his summer birthday, his mother wasn’t having it. (Whether his father would’ve bought it is another issue. Let’s just say he learned too late in life that the man had a harm time saying ‘no’.) While crushed, the damage was temporary as he was at least happy to be heading back to the Cheyenne River Ranch.
The chance to regularly shop in a Cabela’s came into his life once again with the advent of the Kansas Speedway in 2001. This brought Cabela’s, the #1 tourist attraction in Kansas, to his home town. No more ordering from the catalog. But at this point the trouble was that he was in college and college had landed him back in NE Missouri on the Mississippi, near Mark Twain’s ol’ stomping grounds. Shopping in a Cabela’s was becoming a fantasy that was just too good to be true.
I’m happy to report the wait is over. Today, August 15th, 2013, not one, but two Cabela’s locations are opening in the Denver Metro area at 10:30 am. He moved to Denver on a whim, a decision rooted in passion. Some might foolishly count this turn of events as coincidence. He knows it to be fate. Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” He now knows the third most important day in your life is the day you learn someone loves you enough to not give up on you. For him, that day is today. Long live Cabela’s!!