Thursday, March 14, 2013

Short Story Thursday-A Walk in the Woods

Throughout my life I have dated a lot of men in the military. I must be bad luck because every single one of those boys that I dated, who were in the military, were sent to either Iraq or Afghanistan. Luckily enough every single one of those boys made it home. However, each one of them had to go through a sort of detox/rehab/transition training before they were allowed back around civilians. One of the boys put it best when he told me that they were reminded over and over that they didn’t need to kill someone who was just trying to pull a pen out of their pocket.

After hearing about this I believe that school systems need to offer a similar service to their teachers at the end of each school year. It could be a spa and nap extravaganza in which motivational tapes play over loudspeakers reminding us that we don’t need to utter the words “Excuse me, I’m talking now NOT you” “You forgot your homework AGAIN?” or “Where is your pencil” for at least two and a half glorious months. I think that I should pitch my idea at the next faculty meeting!

Since I doubt that anyone in the school board office is going to go for an idea that involves actually spending money on teachers, the other teachers and myself decided to come up with our OWN rehab/detox/transition into summer training. Somehow someone decided that the best way to do that was to go camping (it must have been one of the boys). The day after school let out Emalee, Tim, Adam, Rachel, Kate, Jake, myself, and three dogs traveled over the river and through the woods to our campsite far away from children, textbooks, and teacher’s dirty looks.

Did We Take a Wrong Turn at the Hay Bale and end up in Egypt?
When we got to the campgrounds the sun was shining, the birds were chirping, there were no children in site, it was paradise. Of course, the absolute second we started setting up our tents the skies opened on us and dumped the entire Atlantic Ocean on top of us. We all rushed back to our respective cars not a second too soon because as soon as we shut the doors hail started pounding down all around us. I began to wonder if we were starting to experience the first of the plagues of Egypt.

We sat helplessly in our cars and watched our tents being blown away. For the next few hours we amused ourselves in various ways (ie: played Uno, called each other and whined, drank and ate things from coolers, and discussed possible escape routes). When we were finally able to get out our cars the good news was that we now had waterfront campsite. The bad news was it was because our entire campsite was under a 4 inch blanket of water. A couple of extra friendly park rangers came by and helped up drain our sites and we happily, albeit soggily, returned to tent constructing.

Insects and frogs

When our campsite was finally up and running the boys set to work putting together our first fire. I don’t know what it is about boys and fire but it must be some innate thing that is triggered within them whenever they get their hands on lighter fluid but they cannot help themselves from playing with it. It is like they magically de-evolve into Cro-Magnons with only one thought, “Must. Make. Fire.” Within no Time (thanks to the 143 gallons of lighter fluid) the boys had a roaring fire going that could have warmed an entire third world country for three years.

Everyone sat around the campfire singing, telling stories, telling jokes, and watching the boys throw buckets of lighter fluid on the fire and scream for more and more wood and food. We were all having a marvelous time until the American Youth Soccer League decided to pull up next to us. Normally, this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but to a group full of teachers who want nothing more than to forget children are a part of this world, it’s a big freaking deal. They were well behaved enough but we sat around contemplating and plotting various ways to torture and make them leave. It didn’t work but it was another fun step in the healing process.

As soon as darkness fell the insects descended upon our humble abode feasting on us like we were an all you can eat buffet in Vegas. It was so bad I believe it drove a few of us to hysterics. I remember that at one point Emalee started talking to the mosquitoes that were landing on her ankles saying, “I can see you, stop that!” We had to remind her that they could not actually hear her so far gone was she with her mental facilities. On top of all of this, we had to dodge the hundreds upon hundreds of frogs that had appeared from the depths of the earth and acted like little land mines all around the campground. Every few minutes we would hear someone shout out an unintelligible sound and we didn’t even have to ask, we knew that they had either been bitten again or stepped on a frog.

Finally, we all retired to our tents with a sense of foreboding about the next day ahead.

Ailments upon livestock
The next morning I woke up happy to find out that our water had not turned to blood during that night and began to think that the day was looking up. The boys cooked a scrumptious breakfast of bacon, eggs, and bagels while the girls lounged by the campfire. After breakfast everyone trudged down to the pontoon boat with our libations, boat totes, and flippy floppies prepared for a day O’ relaxation.

We could not have asked for a more perfect day. It was 80 degrees and sunny with a slight breeze. We all clamored onboard and set off without any real plan in mind. We were still within site of the boat landing when my puppy realized he was utterly and completely sea sick. Who knew so much vomit could come out of such a little animal. We all took it in stride, consoled the poor creature, hosed the vomit overboard, and continued on our path to nowhere.

After a few hours the boys decided to fish off one side of the boat while the girls decided to swim off the other. No sooner had the swimming ladder been lowered had Adam's black lab jumped from the boat and grabbed the fishing lure. Adam had to jump from the boat and remove the fishing hook from his dog’s mouth. Sadly, the worm was not spared in this heroic rescue as the dog had swallowed him whole (RIP Earthworm Jim).

We all swam and splashed happily for awhile before climbing back on the boat for a rest. Tim, not realizing that Adam was still in the water and mere inches from the motor blades, turned on the boat. I was the first to notice Adam's splashing and screams of, “what are you doing?! The boat! Turn off the boat! Turn off the boat!” Luckily all of Adam's appendages were spared more or less and we all concurred that we had cheated death enough that day and chose to pack it in and head back to the homestead.

Darkness upon the land

We got back to the campsite and the boys immediately began to get down to business starting their fire discussing how it was going to be, “the best fire EVER! So much better than last night’s!” I was concerned by the nugget of information seeing as how I had suffered 3rd degree burns over 90% of my body from the fire on the previous night. However, I went with it because if I learned anything from camping it is that you don’t come between a man and his fire.

We were all pleasantly surprised to find that the American Youth Soccer League had been replaced by what seemed to be a man and his daughter in a neat and tidy pop up camper. The sing a longs, stories, and jokes from the night before continued until late in the night. Around midnight the girls decided to take a group trip up to the restrooms before bed. We grabbed our lantern and headed out. We quickly discovered that the young girl from the camper next to us had decided to follow us and use out lantern light as a guide. We didn’t think anything of it until we came back to camp and discovered the man from the site next to us had come over to talk to the boys. The two strangers retired to their campsite and strange moaning and slapping sounds could be heard for the next few hours.

Our group sat around the campfire contemplating this strange event and coming to the conclusion that the only possible explanation was they were serial killers from West Virginia targeting us in a murder plot and the thought of our looming deaths turned them on. We all went to bed a little more scared of the dark than normal and not really able to sleep.

At about 2 A.M. we heard a rustling in a campsite. I was quite certain this was the end for me and began to hide under the covers when I heard ADam say, “Guys you’ve got to see this!” I peeped out of the tent to see that a HUGE albino skunk was rooting through our picnic area. I have never seen anything like it before or since. I called out to the tent next to me that was housing Kate and Jake and said, “Guys hurry up this is amazing!” I probably shouldn’t have rushed them because the next thing we heard was a loud “THUD!” and Kate crying out in pain. At that moment I became convinced that the albino skunk was just a diversion the campers next door had used so they could murder Jake and Kate without interruption. After a lot of commotion we learned that Jake, in his hurry to see our little nightTime visitor, had pulled out his flashlight too fast and had clocked Kate right in the eye. After awhile we all had a good laugh and when to sleep a little less apprehensively.

The next morning we packed up our campsite and headed home a little more banged up physically than we were before we got their, but a lot more emotionally stable than when we got there.

The only issue is that I am still quite certain that those creepy campers from the next site over are going to come back and kill all of our first born children one day in order to complete the plagues of Egypt cycle.

Despite all the befuddlements and insanity I would whole-heartedly recommend camping for all your future relaxation needs!

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