I don’t know what had gotten into Dad? He never was like this before. He usually spends his time in the garage, fixing or breaking things as the mood hits him, but camping?
I never thought Mom would go along with his idea. She has too many worries to trust us out in the wilderness all alone with bears and wolverines and the like!
She insisted on us taking the family tent. “Cosmic Rays”. “Cosmic Rays come from, well the Cosmos, and they are as dangerous as Communism!” I wondered if our neighbors, who had built themselves a concrete-lined fallout shelter, were aware of this new fact? I only thought it was because of some confused Russian who was talking on a Red telephone, and had leaned on an equally largish button, sending missiles over to us? My Mom failed with that argument. “Jack we don’t need a fallout shelter, think of the spider webs!” If there hadn’t been spider webs, we’d probably be sitting in our bunker, every evening after watching TV.
“The tent will protect you from Hooligans as well!” I’m not sure, but I would think that those Hooligans would be able to find the tent entrance and pummel us, if of course that is what Hooligans usually do, but Dad wouldn’t buy any of her arguments. “My Dad and I never slept in tents”, which he said with such conviction that I thought Mom would blow a fuse, or throw a towel in the air. She liked those kind of fits of temper to show us that she meant business when it happened.
My parents just stood across from each other, staring and making faces as if they had blown up too many balloons. You know how that is? When you finally figure out how to blow, and hold at the same time, it feels like you are going to faint, or your cheeks will explode! Well, they didn’t say anything else on the subject, but each of them probably thought that they’d won that argument! Dad might even have thrown the tent in the trunk for good measure, but didn’t intend to use it, no matter what!
We were only driving to the local forest, about 5 miles away. We could have walked home, if we had been attacked by Hooligans or, Cosmic Rays, but this was to be a Father-Son weekend, so nothing could go wrong with that, or could it?
Then the next problem showed up.
“Going away! Camping! Are you daft? I’ve made plans for us, BIG PLANS. You just can’t go away on some hair-brained scheme to commune with the squirrels! How could you do this to me?”
Yeah. How could I do this to her? How was I to know that her BIG PLANS were to be done on this weekend? Sheesh! Women! Now I had to convince Dad that we should stay home instead.
“No”, said Dad. “No and No. We are going camping this weekend. Period. I’m not giving your Mother the satisfaction of thinking that she won this round! No. You’ll just have to play with your little friend next weekend instead”.
My little friend was a Woman! Didn’t he see that? I guess when you get married and all that icky stuff, you forget about how girls make you crazy, and you want them to do so! I can’t explain it any other way, and it boggles the mind to do so. I wanted to please her for whatever reason, or no reason at all, but then…Gosh…how she is making me crazy!
We loaded up the car with more than we could use in a month of Sundays, and set off on our weekend together. My Father told me about how he and his Dad did this kind of thing all the time, and not just to get away from his Mom. At least that is what he said, but it seems like he began to doubt his Father’s intentions for camping so often. “We went fishing and I threw rocks, and we camped out under the stars, yep that’s how it was with my Dad and I.” It sounded like my Father and Grandpa really had some good times together, but they didn’t seem to see eye to eye on so much these days. Grandpa used a lot of his time being old and all, and my Father used his time hiding in the garage.
As we drove to the campground, I swear, I saw a familiar looking bike following us on the road. “Dad, isn’t that….? Oh, never mind. I just thought I saw something behind us”. “Mirages only occur in the desert”, said my Father. “Maybe you’ve gotten heat stroke, or something?” said while laughing, and staring intently ahead toward the looming forest.
We talked about where we should camp, but couldn’t quite agree. “Dad look over here. There is a fireplace and everything!”
“No. We are roughing it, as he looked out of the front windshield, while sitting on the front seat sipping a cola. We need to feel like we are way out in the Boonies! Over there”, said while pointing to a rather bushy spot with rocks strewn about. “There is the perfect place for us”.
I joked, and said that “we had left our Machetes at home”, but Dad only tuned the radio to the next station humming as he did so. “Do you hear that song there? That was popular when your Mother and I first went out with each other. It’s a funny thing, but….” he abruptly turned off the radio and slammed the door. “Enough of that. Now it’s time to camp!”
We cleared an area that had few stones and leaves lying about, then laid out our sleeping bags. “Now it is time to relax”, said my Father, and promptly took out a book on Fly-Fishing and proceeded to read. “You go out exploring or something, and we’ll meet again around dinnertime. You can’t imagine how canned beans taste in the great outdoors!”
I kicked a few stones, and started to walk into the forest. It sure was dark between the trees. I almost became afraid that some crazed Canadian would jump out from behind one of them and.. “BOOOO” – You Ninny! Really scared you, didn’t I?” It was her. My friend with ideas. “How did you find us?”
“It’s not like you were secretive about driving away, with things falling off the top of the car, and your Mother yelling something about Cosmic Rays are really Commies in Disguise! I kept an eye on you, and tried to keep up as much as possible. Your Father didn’t notice me at all, not even when he swerved to avoid hitting that squirrel, and darn near caused me to drive my poor bike into the ditch. What were you talking about anyway?”
“Oh, he was telling me about what he did when he was young, but his soft drink spilled on his pants, and when he tried to stop things from going bad, that darn squirrel ran out in front of us. I sure hope it has 9 lives like cats do?”
“Cats do not have 9 lives, OK. They are immortal and come from the 10th planet in the Solar System.”she said with a lot of conviction in her voice.
Wait a minute. We only have 9, with Pluto being the last one”.
I said 10! The last planet is invisible, or else we would be driven crazy with the thought of immortal Cat lives. Now you’ve gotten me way off the subject at hand. We need to coordinate some things, before your Father starts wondering where you are.”
I liked, how she knew exactly what she was doing, but not why I needed to be involved in her plans? I couldn’t figure out why, I was the one, who needed to be high up in trees, and dangling out of windows, when she was perfectly able to do so herself? I’d like to think that I meant something special to her, and wasn’t just her patsy, with me doing the dangerous things, so she would avoid getting hurt herself! It didn’t matter to me, because I thought that she was perhaps the grooviest girl, I had ever met, and probably the only one who ever spoke to me for more than 10 minutes at a time!
“Look here Poindexter, here is what we need to do. After it gets dark and you’ve eaten and all, you need to meet me here at 10 o’clock. The next most important thing is to bring me some dinner, because I had to hurry up in order to follow you 2, which didn’t leave me time to get any food for my trip. I only managed to throw a blanket on the back of the bike for my bed.”
I started to wonder, how she was going to keep warm at night with only a measly blanket, and was about to suggest that we snuggle up close to each other in order to….
“Where have you gotten to my boy?” Have you scared all of the squirrels away with your rock throwing?”
Dagnabbit! It was my Father.
“Shhh. Don’t say that you’ve seen me, OK? I’ll be in a world of hurt, if he finds me here with you. I’ll just make like a tree, you know?”
I looked at her like I did, but I didn’t.
“Look here Einstein, “Make like a tree….and leaf…” It’s a joke. Gees Louise don’t you ever get out, and live life at all? You are darn lucky that we are such good friends, otherwise you’d just be a nobody once again….”
She’s right, you know. I probably would be just a nobody, if……..
Continued in part 5.