Camping and Other Things (5) (The Girl Next Door)

I thought that Dad had suspected something, when I returned to our campsite.

“Where in the world have you been? Do you have a girl hidden in the forest, or something?” Before I could reply, he just laughed and shook his head, as if that was too funny to consider.

“Let’s get dinner going, otherwise we’ll have to start eating roasted pine cones a la Jack! Don’t look so sour, it’s only a joke!”

We had gathered a number of twigs from the forest floor, and began to place them in the fire ring. “If it had been in the middle of the day, then we could have started it with my eyeglasses!” said while he began slapping his pockets, and looking concerned. “Have you seen my glasses anywhere? I hope I didn’t lose them..”.

Nope he didn’t. “Uh Dad. They are right there on your forehead!”

“Of course. If they had been a snake they’d have bit me!” He laughed even more than I did, which made him think of something else, when he had been camping with his father.

“We had stopped at the filling station, and when I got out of the car, my Father used to yell, “Drain the kids and Fill the radiator!” He had said it loud enough to embarrass me in front of any- and everyone, but he didn’t seem to understand. Don’t worry about that kind of thing happening with me, because I am a lot more aware of things like that!”

I wasn’t too sure about that, but we just had to wait and see. We had a grand meal of canned beans and peeled carrots. We had forgotten the carrot peeler, but decided that it was all right without it. My Mother would have yelled and stomped her feet, telling us that some slimy earthworm had done number 2 on that carrot, and we should not eat any type of vegetable without peeling it first! We felt like real rebels, when Mom was not around!

I purposely saved a portion of beans, and a carrot or two when my Father wasn’t looking. I even offered to clean the dishes, which made him beam like I had won some sort of prize or something. “I knew your upbringing would show itself one day! Your Mother would be so proud of you right now.” He started to wince, and stutter after having mentioned my Mother, which made him start to stretch his arms and yawn profusely. “Time to hit the sack, I would think. The hay, you know? Hit the hay! Oh, never mind. I’m taking my glasses off now, but you can stay up while longer and look at the stars. Goodnight!”

He started to snore the moment his head hit the pillow, causing me to find my flashlight and other things for my meeting in the forest with “You know who?”

I made up my sleeping bag in such a way, that it resembled my form all tucked down deep inside. I set off into the forest, thinking about killer owls and giant rats waiting to swoop down upon, or up upon my poor soul, infecting me with some Gosh awful disease, or so. I could hear my Mother’s voice when she found out that I was destined for a life of pain and suffering! “I blame your Father of course, and the girl next door, who else could it be?” Hey the girl next door hadn’t even entered the picture tonight, but if my Mom found out about her being here, it wouldn’t be long before she got all of the blame, forcing us to move away from her and her wily ways.

“Hey! Ranger Rob! Come here!”

She sure had some interesting names for me. I guess, it helped her to accept me for what I was, but I wish she would say my name, at least once, before I shuffled the mortal coil. I had read things like that in some of Dad’s magazines. I hope, I used it correctly, but then I had to copy it down before Mom caught me, and accused me of looking at Girly Magazines. “Mom, they are just Better Homes and Gardens”.

“As long as you aren’t looking at National Geographic! Unclothed native women in Guinea are not the best things to see, for an impressionable young man like yourself.”

That just made me want to subscribe to National Geographic all the more, but Dad said that Fly Fishing Digest was the most important thing to get. Heck. He didn’t even own a fishing pole, let alone a fly fishing one, but that it neither here, nor there as the say.

“Look here, and see what I’ve discovered!” She led me over to a large fallen tree, with a cave-like opening on one side. “In there! Go on. Get going!”

It was my turn again, it seemed. Why me? Why should I go into some dark and slimy hole, with creepy crawlies, and the like hanging in my hair!

“Go on in. Are you a fraidy cat, or something?” No girl was going to call me a fraidy cat! I grabbed my flashlight and went deeper into the darkness. I felt her body pressed up against my back which seemed to make it all worth it. So far anyway. “Look there. In the Corner!” I squeezed my eyes together, and tried to see, what she could see. It looks like an old suitcase, or something?

“Exactly!” she said with an air of triumph. “A suitcase in a hidden hole, deep in the forest! Come on. Grab it and take it outside. We’ve got to look inside.” As I bent down to fetch it, she followed my movements, like we were glued together. When I rose up again, and turned to go. She kissed me without warning! Clever Boy! My Hero!”

I only wished, I had gotten more warning about what was to come. I had been imagining that kiss differently somehow, perhaps sitting on her bed, thinking about falling to the ground and breaking my arm, or looking intently in her eyes, and making my move, as it were. Instead of standing in the dark, and slimy hole with an old suitcase in my hands. I guess, I should have taken advantage of the moment and kissed her back, but she was already pushing me out of the hole, prodding me with her elbow, or something else equally as unpleasant. “Come on, you Ninny, get a move on”.

We half dragged, half carried that heavy suitcase into the clearing, while huffing and puffing without stop. “You seem to be out of breath!” “I guess, you aren’t used to being kissed by a real woman!” I was just about to comment on that statement, when I heard a voice calling to me in the darkness.

“My God, Where Have You Gotten To? His Mother is going to kill me if he’s gotten himself lost, or something worse. I told him to find a nearby tree, if he had to do something. Drat it! Where is that flashlight?” Then a lot of crashing and cursing was heard, as my Father stumbled about in the darkness.

“Shhh”, she said to me, as I was about to call out to him. “Don’t say a word, until we’ve hidden the suitcase.” I was about to tell her that it had been perfectly safe in that dark hole, but she would not have agreed of course. It doesn’t do any good arguing when girls have made up their minds! I know, because my Mother was like that, and she was a girl once, I think.

“I’ll put it on my bike and take it home with us, when your Weekend trip is over. We’ll do the investigative part, when we are back at my house.” I just nodded my head, which was rather silly as it still was pitch dark and everything. I gave her the food for her dinner, and a few extra blankets that we usually keep in the car in case of a flat tire. My Mom insisted that my Father not get his clothes all soiled, while trying to get the lug nuts off the wheel. “Think what the neighbors would say, if they saw you rolling around in the dirt, like some sort of Canadian Mud Wrestler! Heavens to Betsy, if that sport ever gains popularity over here, then we might as well all call ourselves Canadians! And no self respecting American would ever want to be called a foreigner, abandoning all hope, and learning some foreign language!”

I really wanted to look deeply into her eyes, but she was gone in the next moment, as if she hadn’t been there at all. “Hoo Hoo”, said an owl above me, when suddenly a figure showed up beside me. “Where in the world have you been?” said my Father, sounding all tired out and disheveled, after having combed the woods for his long-lost son. “Did you get lost, or something?”

“No, I just awoke after having had a nightmare of sorts, and decided to take a short walk in the forest.”

“Well, it’s nothing to get upset about. I still have nightmares myself from time to time. You know, like the garage burning down, and not having anyplace to fix things, and ending up having to talk to your Mother, and the like. I’m glad they don’t come that often!”

No. I guess that would be the worst thing to happen to a nice guy like my Father. I really was happy having the chance to go camping with him. We got to know each other a bit better, without having my Mother around.

“We should do this again”, said my Father, while eating breakfast out of a new can of beans the next morning. “Things really taste different when eating them in the Great Outdoors!”

True. True. And a kiss from a special someone is also different, when outdoors. I only wish I knew, when the next one was coming, and what I had to do to deserve it???



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