May Long Part 3
The night surrounded them on all sides, swallowing the boys in darkness. Everywhere outside the weak, yellow circle cast from the beat-up red and white Eveready torch was black as pitch, and seemed to be closing in like the trash compacter walls on the Death Star. Bill, Hunter, and Paco tripped and stumbled over tree roots, and half-buried stones, cursing at the shock of sudden drops, humps, and invisible gopher holes. At the rate they were going, this latest trip to the lavs was bound to take them all night.
The first trip had been at dusk, and just that little bit of light had been enough to make it a simple exercise. This latest trip happened at some point after 01:00, and if it weren’t for Bill stumbling on yet another root, a flash of light might never have found the men’s toilets just off the path to their left.
Paco pushed between Bill and Hunter, claiming the right of First Pish™ and within seconds they could hear a contented “Ahh…” as Paco relieved himself. Bill went next, handing the Eveready over to Hunter. The door swung shut behind him on its creaky hinges and rusted spring mechanism. He waited a few moments for his eyes to adjust to the gloom, as much as they could anyway. Bill was surprised at how very little the outhouse seemed to stink compared to earlier in the day. He had been expecting a great, horrid stench monster to assault him relentlessly, punching him over and over in the olfactory senses until he was at last forced to hold his breath. He opened his fly and let loose his stream, and it was good. Ah beer, he reflected always merely rented, and never owned.
Hunter was last, and when he was finished, Bill fished out and distributed a handful of KFC wet-naps. He had been picking them up and hoarding them for the past month in preparation for the trip, and needless to say the boys were grateful as the camping area had no running water anywhere that they could find, and the water in the RV wasn’t running for some reason.
“Finished?” Bill asked when it looked as though the boys were done wiping their hands. “Right, give ‘em here.” Hunter and Paco handed the balled up bits of napkin back to Bill who opened up the outhouse door, and tossed them down the hole into the piss-stanky abyss.
Their eyes must have been getting used to the dark, because it seemed they weren’t tripping over everything, every few steps. Paco stopped suddenly, so suddenly in fact that Bill almost ran into him.
Hunter looked around, and said in the voice of Ren Hoek, “What EES EET man?”
“Look up.” Paco said, pointing.
Bill looked up and saw mostly branches and trees, thrusting skyward, gently waving in the cool night breeze.
“I think he’s looking for Predator!” Hunter joked.
“The stars you fakking morons!”
Bill and Hunter looked up, way up and stood gobsmacked. Through the gaps in the canopy of trees the billions of stars of the Milky Way stretched out into eternity across the night sky. It was more stars than any of them had ever seen before, having all grown up in cities where the light pollution made such sights impossible.
“Holy-“ Hunter began.
“-shit.” Bill finished.
“It’s incredible indeed…” From Paco.
Hunter didn’t know how long they were staring up at the sky when Paco suggested they head back, but thought it must have been at least ten minutes.
The boys made their way a little further down the trail when Paco made a sharp left onto a smaller path.
Bill needed to know, “Where you taking us?”
Bill, Paco and Hunter were five minutes in to the so-called “shord-cut” when Paco stopped again. He silently reached to his chest and fingered the polished stone meddalion he wore on a leather strap around his neck. He was staring straight ahead, listening…
Hunter stepped up beside him, and said quietly, “What is it?”
Paco said nothing and continued to rub the stone pendant around his neck. Now Bill was on his opposite side.
“Paco,” Bill said, and again Paco said nothing, “Paco! What the hell is wrong with you?” Bill was beginning to feel a little alarmed.
Paco looked over at Bill as if surprised to see him, then finally spoke, “There’s something in those trees, to the left I think.”
Both Bill and Hunter froze. Could it be a bear? A mountain lion? They had no idea and both squinted intently in the direction Paco was staring. A minute passed, and finally Paco looked down, taking his hand off the polished stone pendant.
“I guess it was nothing guys.” Paco took a few steps forward and stopped again.
“Not sure Hunter, maybe just a feeling… it’s scaring me though.”
Hunter’s neck hairs were standing on end, he chuckled nervously, “That’s bullshit! I know you Paco, and you ain’t afraid of no man!”
Paco looked over at Bill, then Hunter, “Something out there is waiting for us… and it ain’d no man!”
A sudden rustling of leaves, and snapping of twigs behind them had Bill and Hunter scared shitless as they spun around ready to face whatever it was that was coming out of the woods for them, only to be blinded by the intense light of a large Maglight™ flashlight.
“Where the hell have you idiots been?” The voice was Sara’s. She lowered the flashlight, Catelyn was standing beside her with her own mini version of the quadruple D-Cell Maglight™ that Sara was carrying.
Catelyn twisted the light off and clipped the mini torch to her belt, “What kept you? You were gone ages! The we heard you crashing about and whispering. You realize you’re only a few meters from the campsite, yeah?”
Paco spoke up chuckling, “We got lost, it was Bill’s fault.”
“Says the man that was in the lead!”
“Ah, whadareyagonnado?!” Paco laughed.
Bill looked over at Paco, “You were in on this weren’t you? You and the girls set this up to scare the shit outta Hunter and me!”
Sara laughed, “Come on guys, we’re just through here.” She led them down a small path, and in seconds they were back at camp.
* * *
Bill was shivering in his sleeping bag, covered with two blankets, but still freezing even as the sun came up around 05:30. He looked over at Hunter who was curled up with his back to him, fast asleep in his blue and grey Spalding® sleeping bag. He didn’t look to be freezing like Bill was. Indeed Hunter had said the night before that the Spalding® was supposed to be good up to –15c. It was nowhere near that cold, but Bill’s old, raggedy Coleman® bag wasn’t what it used to be, that and the manufacturer had made no claims, as far as he knew as to how warm it would keep him. Bill pulled his Canadian Forces Parka over the blankets and tried to reposition himself. The ground under the tent wasn’t exactly soft, more hard, lumpy and uncomfortable and it reminded Bill how much he hated nature. Give him his waterbed, and a proper roof over his head any day over this. He shook his head in disgust. Ferchrissakes! Now I have to piss!
Bill threw the covers off and pulled on his four-hole Doc Martens, grabbed his parka, unzipped the tent and headed to the outhouse.
It was another hour before Hunter awoke in a haze. He rolled over and noticed Bill was gone. The sun was heating up the interior of the tent nicely and Hunter could hear someone outside tending to the morning fire. The sound of a beer can top popping made Hunter grin. Bill’s getting an early start on things I see… He rolled back over and closed his eyes for a moment thinking he could sleep all day.
There was a rustling outside the tent and the sound of the zipper opening and closing. Hunter thought it must be Bill coming back in for something. Clothes rustled and hit the floor, Hunter decided to pretend to sill be asleep. If Bill was changing, he would give him his privacy. Cool air touched his back ad Hunter’s sleeping bag was unzipped. Hunter’s eyes were wide open. He laughed a nervous laugh.
“Hey buddy, I’m all for keeping warm, but I think it only fair warning that I’m naked in here!”
A voice that was not Bill’s whispered into Hunter’s ear, “Well that’ll save us a bit of time then.”
Hunter rolled over, “Kate!”
Catelyn smiled and crawled into the Spalding® with Hunter, as naked as he was, then zipped it up behind her.
“Hunter started babbling nervously, “Is that your catch phrase now because I have to say I kind of like,"
Catelyn shut him up with a kiss. The time for talking was apparently over.
When Hunter woke up again it was around 10:00, Catelyn was gone and the tent was unbearably hot inside. Hunter threw on some clothes and boots and stepped out, feeling good for the first time since arriving in this bug infested wilderness.
Sara, Paco, and Catelyn were sitting by the fire, which was huge, way bigger than it should have been in Hunter’s opinion, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves. Paco was reading his book, Sara was pounding yet another Rockaberry 2L, (how many of those did she bring?) and chatting animatedly with Catelyn. Hunter stopped by the cooler, the ice was mostly melted now. He reached in and grabbed a beer, then put it back as he was feeling an almost overwhelming need to urinate. Halfway down the path to the loos, he ran into Bill coming the other way.
“Hey man, you’ll never guess what happened!”
“You fucked Kate in the tent.”
“Uh, okay how did you…?”
“You think that thing is soundproof?”
“Ah, yeah of course not.” Bill turned around and they walked and talked, Hunter continued, “Well it’s been a few years since we were together… but maybe it’s time again.”
“Time for what exactly?” Bill knew the answer before asking.
“Time for Kate and I to get back together.”
Bill was unconvinced, “Really. And how does she feel about this?”
“Nothing was said, but I’m sure we’re both on the same page.”
“On the same page eh? Last month you said you were over her for good, and now one fuck later and you’re suddenly back together. Look Hunter, you’re my friend, my closest friend, and we’ve known each other for a long time,”
“Sometimes it seems like an eternity..” Hunter joked.
“AND I know that you seem to have got more than you bargained for on this trip already but…” he trailed off
“But what?” Hunter needed to know.
Bill stopped, the sounds of the campground surrounded them, birds sang, grasshoppers buzzed and chirped, the noises of other campers laughing, the crackling and popping of fires. “I just think that things aren’t going to go the way you hope. This isn’t some lame ass RomCom where the two incompatible lovers live happily ever after together.”
“I know that.”
“Do you? Just be careful okay? That girl’s like Loki. I wouldn’t trust her as far as I could throw her.”
Hunter continued walking, and Bill followed, “Low Key? I don’t know who or what that is.”
Bill was exasperated, “Loki, the trickster, brother of Thor, from Norse mythology! Jesus man, you gotta pick up a book once in a while!”
They came up on the outhouses, Hunter opened the door and could hear they flies buzzing around inside, “Well, Bill I tell you I got a different feeling this time, we’re both older, more mature. I think she’s looking for a real relationship now and I think we may just be able to make it work.”
Bill turned back towards the path, “If that’s what you think then you have to go for it,” he paused, “but I have a bad feeling about this. It can only end badly.”
Hunter nodded grimly, and stepped into the outhouse.
* * *
The RV was gone by the time Hunter got back to the campsite. A feeling of alarm crept up into his guts. Could they have left him behind? No they wouldn’t, of course not. They certainly wouldn’t have left the cooler full of beer if they were leaving for good. He stopped by the cooler and grabbed a beer. Catelyn was sitting on the picnic table with her feet on the bench smoking one of her Pall Malls. Hunter walked over to the tent and opened the flap, reaching into his rucksack he pulled out a pack of chocolate flavoured Phillies Blunts, he slid one into his mouth, then pulled the rucksack over his shoulder. He went to the picnic table and sat down beside Catelyn, and lit up his cigar.
“Where’d they go?” he motioned toward where the RV had been parked.
“When did you start smoking?”
“What? I don’t know, before I moved into Lond Ho, just after college. Why do you care? You’ve been smoking since high school!”
“Oi! Don’t get your knickers in a twist! I was only asking! They went into Canmore for some groceries because apparently nobody remembered to bring any food…” She looked at Hunter with a crooked smile.
Hunter put his rucksack down, flipped open the top flap, and pulled out an old, battered, Toshiba twin deck cassette player. The machine had certainly seen better days. He had it since the ninth grade and it had been everywhere with him. Most recently Hunter took it on a trip with Bill to visit their friend Jeri at the Alberta College of Art where it had sustained a kicked in speaker grill, and more than its share of paint and Rhoplex™ spatter. Still to spite the years of blasting punk-rock and general abuse, it worked pretty well. Hunter put in a tape marked “Punk Mix 1138” and pressed play. “Hateful” by The Clash burst from the speakers. He took a pull from his cigar and blew a smoke ring, feeling relaxed for the first time in ages.
“You know I never actually enjoyed camping.” Catelyn said, lighting another Pall Mall.
Hunter looked at her, the freckles across the tops of her cheeks and nose even more visible in the bright sunlight, her thick cascade of ringlets seeming to sparkle golden as they flitted about in the light breeze.
“We did go, mind you but camping really not the same in England. We’d mostly just go spend the weekend at a caravan park in Skegness. Once during school break we spent some time at my uncle’s cottage near Penrith. I mostly recall being bored quite a lot of the time while my brothers snuck bottles of ale and the adults played cards.” She took a drag of her smoke, then flicked her ash into the fire.
Hunter spoke, “I never did much either as a kid as far as camping goes. I seem to recall we had a tent trailer.”
Catelyn looked confused, so Hunter explained, “It’s like a small caravan with canvas sides like a tent, it folds out so you can sleep in it.”
Catelyn nodded, “Oh, yes okay I’ve seen one of those before.”
Hunter took a long swig of beer, “Anyway, for someone who doesn’t like camping, you were pretty wicked prepared.”
She smiled, “Oh yes, once again you forget how clever I can be. I guess it’s because you’re always so used to being the smartest bloke in the room. I did my research before coming out. No point in being caught unawares is there?”
Hunter nodded, “You’re right about being prepared, but I never forget how smart you were, uh, are.”
“Which brings us to why I came out here with you and your mates,”
Hunter cut in, “I think I may have an Idea…”
She put a white gloved hand over his, “Oh, I’m not quite sure you do,”
Hunter interrupted again, “Lets just out with it okay, you want us to get back together and my answer is yes. Of course. Absolutely.”
“I mean it might be a little hard for our friends to deal at first but,”
“Stop it Joe.”
He looked at her.
“That’s just not on.”
“We are NOT getting back with each other!”
“But this morning,”
“Hunter we CAN’T get back with each other. Period.”
Hunter was annoyed now, he had it all planned in his head, and now it was falling apart around him, “Why the hell not?”
Catelyn steeled herself, took a deep breath, looked Joe Cornelius Hunter straight in the eyes, it was the conversation she had been dreading all weekend, and now it was happening, she spoke.
“His name is Omar, he’s forty-one years old, he’s an oil executive, I’m marrying him next month.”
Hunter’s jaw dropped open as the ash fell from his cigar and disintegrated on the ground below.
Holy crap! Who knows what could happen next??!! Tune in March 9th for Part 4 of Lond Ho Adventures: May Long!