Dearest writers and readers, Joining Dee at Grammy’s Grid for another short story prompt link party with my story entitled “Detente.” Unlike previous prompts, the prompt for November was this photograph below. Upon seeing the image, I had a dozen story ideas dancing around in my head but settled on this piece of almost fiction.
These opportunities for creative writing are so enjoyable to me, partially because I don’t tend to overthink things…a rear rarity for me. I just write. Dee encourages participants to “Just start typing and see what you come up with!” My story, “Detente” is mostly fiction based on what might happen if PC and I went camping.
I came across the event on Facebook. On one of the pages for a Franklin Mountain Facebook group. I ‘liked’ the “Introduction to Franklin Mountain Camping” event immediately but did nothing more than that for a few days. However, when I couldn’t stop thinking about it, I decided to share the event post on my own Facebook page.
But Paul didn’t bite.
About a week after initially discovering the activity, I returned to the post I’d shared to tag my husband, inviting him to like and perhaps consider the camp out. As soon as I typed his name on the post, I heard the ‘ding’ notifying me that the invitation had popped up on his laptop screen. He looked up at me from where he sat with his computer on the other end of the couch and asked, “A camp out?”
“Yeah, a camp out.” I replied, the first words we had spoken to each other in hours.
“Nah, I don’t think so.” Paul returned to his computer game “World of Tanks Blitz.”
I sighed and returned to my blog reading. A few hours later, we turned off our devices and went up to bed.
It had been another long week in an equally long month. Worries about our parents, our job situation, our finances had kept us awake most nights and sleep deprived most days. As the month ended, it came time for me to review my autumn bucket list and write a blog post updating my progress. So many things accomplished but one of the activities I had most looked forward to – an overnight get-away – had gone unfulfilled.
Taking the Bull by the Horns
Until 3:00 am that night, I tossed and turned in bed. Falling asleep for fleeting moments of fitful sleep. Waking even more worried. Then I remembered the Facebook event and thought back on childhood memories of family camp outs. Quick weekend getaways and long summer vacations in our $300 Coleman pop-up trailer pulled by the family station wagon. The enjoyment I had gotten as a child from camping. From warm summer evenings under the stars, the smell of a simple supper cooked outdoors. The sounds of cicadas, frogs, birds, and lapping lake water, river water, babbling brooks outside our window screens. In the winter, pretending to window shop for Coleman stoves and lanterns in the Sears and Roebuck catalogs. Circling catalog photos of battery-operated lights, portable potties and showers that would take our primitive family adventures to a whole new level of comfort.
I rolled over in bed and felt for Paul. He was finally sleeping. Would I wake him if I got up? I eased off the bed and paused, standing on my side to see if he stirred. He didn’t. Tip-toeing to our closed bedroom door, I silently grabbed the bull by the horns on my way out of the room and softly padded downstairs to register us for the camp out.
I fell asleep instantly upon returning to bed but dreamed of a gentle rain falling on the canvas of a tent.
The Horns Change Hands
The next morning, while Paul showered and shaved for work, I packed his breakfast and lunch, wrapping his sandwich in a printed copy of the camping registration form I had completed online last night. Spent my morning half anticipating-half dreading hearing from him at lunch time but there was no call.
When I heard his car pull into the garage at dinner time, I became a little nervous. What if he was mad that I had registered us for this introductory camp out? We could always just forfeit the registration fee and not go. I held my breath waiting for him to come into the house. But he didn’t. I could hear him milling around in the garage instead. So I opened the door leading to the garage just enough to see what he was doing.
There was my Prince Charming pulling shopping bags from the trunk of his car. Academy Sporting Goods. He saw me peeking from the crack in the door.
“If we are going camping, we are going to do it up right. I had enough ‘roughing it’ with 23 years of ‘camping’ in the military. Give me a hand with this, will you?” He held out a large bag in my direction.
Detente: Like a Christmas Cease-fire
There were sleeping bags, foam pads to lay them out on, battery-operated and kerosene lanterns, one of each, a Coleman stove, mess kits, lawn chairs and a fold-up portable potty. It was as if Paul had somehow been able to travel back in time to inspect all of the items I circled as a child so long ago in the Sears catalog. We brought everything into the house and laid it all out on the den rug. Tears welled up in my eyes.
“But you don’t even like camping!” I whispered, inspecting a package of biodegradable toilet paper.
“I don’t. Or I didn’t. Somehow sleeping under the stars in the Army loses some of its charm when you do it in the middle of a German winter or a South Korean summer.” He looked up from the shiny Swiss Army knife he held in his hand then added, “I like you, though. And if you like camping, then I will try to like camping, too. I have a feeling it might be better as a civilian with a porta-potty and a foam pad under my sleeping bag. And real food instead of MREs.”
“But I didn’t mean for you to go out and buy all of this stuff that we really can’t afford right now. The Facebook post said we could borrow everything we need from the Franklin Mountain Parks and Wildlife office. I just thought we would use their stuff.” I explained, fighting to speak around a choking feeling in my throat.
“Something about borrowing a community porta-potty doesn’t appeal to me. Besides, we have been really good about not spending money this fall. Academy had all their camping stuff on clearance. And if we are going to do this, we are going to do it right. We are going to be comfortable – as comfortable as sleeping on the ground can be. And we are going to be together, which makes everything better. Merry Christmas, hon.”
Introduction to Franklin Mountain Camping Event
Saturday’s weather was crisp but the sun was warm. There was a concrete slab and picnic table at each site. The tent popped up just like the directions said it would and easily accommodated our sleeping bags and the porta-potty, with room to spare for our backpacks and cooler. After our 2 mile hike up to the campsite area, our burgers and potatoes tasted ten times better fried up over a campfire.
The park rangers hosting the event proclaimed us to be old pros at camping from the looks of our site and asked why we had registered for an introduction to camping event. We laughed and explained that we were both old hands at camping, although never together. I fibbed saying we had misunderstood the event to be an introduction to camping in the Franklin Mountains and not an introduction to camping period. The ranger laughed and shook our hands.
From our lawn chairs, the stars above were dazzling without competition from the lights of the city below. We roasted marshmallows for s’mores and drank cheap wine from our metal camping cups. And then settled into our sleeping bags for the best night we had had in a long time, detente.
How do you feel about camping? Growing up did your family take camping trips? Have you ever camped as an adult? I have taken my daughters camping twice or three times may be. In a tent. Would love to have a little pop-up camper like my parents had or maybe an RV. Nothing fancy but just something kinder on my body than a concrete slab and sleeping bag.
Thank you, Dee, for these opportunities to just write. I enjoy them so much. This is a creative writing exercise for fun and without a lot of editing…or over-thinking. If you like to write, join us for the next link up. And if you like to read, check out my last story here, if you like.
Thank you for stopping by, my friends. Enjoy a restful weekend before the holiday crazy begins.
Hugs and kisses,