Camping - part 1

It happens to all fathers eventually. You think your youngest child is innocent in the ways of the world, and then he comes up and asks you...well, you know. The QUESTION.

"Dad? Why can't we ever go camping?"

Normally I handle his requests for information with a very patient and caring "Ask your mother." Somehow I know, though, that this is one of those times only a dad will do. Lovingly, I place a warm hand on his shoulder and reply, "My son, camping was made obsolete with the invention of the condominium."

"But Dad," he protests, "The Johnsons camp all the time!"

Johnson! That rat. You know the type. His Christmas decorations are never up past the middle of January. Every weekend he is out hammering, mowing, and painting, always whistling as he walks around with the list his wife prepared for him, producing such a racket I can barely nap! Johnson, who deviously takes his two boys into the woods for days at a time, probably living on nothing but bug fungus or something.

"Johnson is a psychopath," I say reasonably.

You'd think that would be the end of it, but, as it turns out, my son has accepted an invitation from Johnson's son for a "guy's weekend" camping with his fruitcake father.

"I had already planned a guy's weekend!" I protest.

"Doing what, sitting on the couch watching baseball?" my son demands.

"Which is played by GUYS," I shout in exasperation. Is this so difficult to understand?

The following Saturday my son yanks me out of bed so early my alarm clock stares at me in amazement. I shuffle over in the dark to Johnson's truck, which is gleaming with evil. "This is going to be great, Bruce!" Johnson trumpets, scurrying around securing grommets or something.

"Shut up, Fred," I moan.

He frowns. "My name's Doug."

We drive for hours. "Guess where we are!" Johnson hoots at me.

I peer out the window. "Nicaragua?"

"The National Forest, everybody! Isn't it beautiful?"

"No, Fred," I tell him. "A drive-thru is beautiful. My television is beautiful." At that moment I miss my VCR so much my throat catches in a half-sob. "This is the jungle. Animals live here."

He frowns. "My name's Doug."

The beautiful National Forest was clearly designed for thinner people. The trees are so tightly packed together I can barely squeeze between them. We haven't gone five minutes before I've slipped over a rock and fallen in thick mud. "Quicksand!" I gasp. "Help me, Fred!"

My son leans over to take a picture of me sinking to my death.

"You're fine," Johnson claims. "Hey, what kind of shoes are those? Loafers? You wore loafers to hike in?"

"No, I wore loafers to CAMP in," I point out. "Nobody said anything about hiking. Why couldn't we have stayed by the truck?"

"That was a parking lot."

"And wouldn't you agree that a parking lot is a perfect place for LOAFERS?" I snap, deftly demolishing his argument.

We move on, trekking maybe fifty or six hundred miles into the woods, going places not seen since the time of Jerry Lewis and Dick Clark. Predatory trees, man-eaters, are reaching out and slashing at my arms, and when I finally make the manly suggestion that we break and have a beer, Johnson reveals his sick sense of humor and pretends we didn't bring any. Like you can have a "guy's weekend" without beer.

Finally, he stops. With a sigh, I set down my pack and go over to help him set up the tent. It smells like the sheets from an elephant's bed. The struts are made of battered aluminum; the fabric is made of mildew. Once it is erect, I peer inside and realize the only way we're all going to fit is if I sleep on top of Fred. The boys have stripped down to their shorts and are splashing around in the small stream so they'll be sufficiently muddy when it's time for bed. Insects circle my face like wedding guests gathering around a buffet.

"Wiener dogs and beans for dinner!" Fred announces, his tone indicating that flatulence gives him jubilation.

It's going to be an interesting night.

[ by W. Bruce Cameron Copyright © 1999-2003 -- { used with permission } ]


Inspirational Humor     SkyWriting.Net     All Rights Reserved.