May Long Part 2
A light drizzle fell from a grey, suffocating sky chilling Bill and Hunter to their very bones. Fifteen minutes after arriving, Paco already had a huge blue tarpalin erected as not only shelter between the RV and some trees, but also as a windbreak, and was chopping wood like there was no tomorrow. Bill and Hunter on the other hand, had already given up on putting the tent up, and were sitting at the picnic table near the fire pit, each drinking a tin of Molson XXX strong lager.
By the end of the first beer, the girls had the tent up, Paco had quite a respectable pile of wood going. Kate and Sara were standing under an umbrella, working on the second two-litre bottle of Rockaberry, mercilessly teasing the boys regarding their apparent ineptitude at what should by all rights have been an extremely simple task.
Hunter stood up, tossing his empty can of beer into the recycle bag and grabbed another from the massive cooler, as Bill attempted to light a cigarette, his disposable Bic sparking impotently. Hunter shivered and pulled open the side door of the motor-home and stomped inside. Bill threw his useless lighter into the surrounding greenery in disgust, and carefully put the bent cigarette back into the package he had apparently sat on and crushed at some point since their arrival on site. He looked at the flattened package of du Maurier King Size, and exhaled, shaking his head. Why didn’t I think to bring more than one pack of smokes? They hadn’t been camping more than an hour and already Bill was looking forward to getting back to the city.
Inside the Winnebago, Hunter sat in the booth trying to write in his notebook, with little to no success. He snapped the red hardback closed and jammed it back into his army-green rucksack, unable to come up with anything worth while. He too was beginning to get a bad feeling about this trip… he looked out the window to see the girls smoking under the umbrella now. Kate wearing white gloves to prevent nicotine stains on the fingers, Sara apparently didn’t smoke enough to have to worry about it, or she just didn’t care. Either way, Hunter couldn’t remember ever seeing any nic stains on her fingers, but then he never looked that closely either. To Hunter, the girls looked to be having a grand old time so far and he found himself envying them a little for that. Bill was standing over by the fire pit now, staring at it as if he was trying to will the semi-damp wood to combust with the power of his mind, Charlie McGee style. Hunter shut his eyes, remembering the RV ride out…
Hunter was dreading this moment. It had been years since he had last seen Catelyn. Well, years since he had actually spoken to her. Technically he had seen her back in March when he and Paco and Bill were out wasting time at the downtown Eaton Centre Mall. The boys were heading up the escalator when Bill spotted Kate looking at the window display of one of the shoe stores.
“Ah, fuck,” Hunter grumbled under his breath as he looked for an escape route. He turned left at the top of the escalator just as Paco was calling out to get her attention. Hunter jumped on to the escalator to level 3 and shielded his face from view with the collar of his coat, then peaked back over his shoulder like some kind of half-assed secret agent. All he needed was a newspaper with eye-holes cut in it and he would be laughing. Bill and Paco seemed to be having a wonderfully animated discussion with Kate, who in turn reached into her shoulder bag and pulled out (please let it be mace!) a business card (damn it!) that she scribbled something on to the back of. Hunter tripped at the stepping off point and stumbled into a grey-stripped suit with his ear glued to a huge brick of a Motorola DPC550.
“‘Scuse me,” Hunter muttered as he rushed over to the railing to espy the proceedings in front of the shoe store from what he considered to be a “safe” distance. Looking down, it seemed to Hunter the conversation was ending when Catelyn said something. Bill shrugged, while ever helpful Paco looked around, spotted Hunter above and to their left, spoke, then helpfully ratted Hunter out to her. She seemed to roll her eyes, then shook her head. Hunter stood back from the railing and walked to the “down” escalators. When he caught up with the boys there was no sign of Kate, much to his relief.
“You just had to point out where I was trying to hide eh?”
Paco threw a dismissive hand into the air, “Ah, whadareyougonnado!”
Almost three months had passed, and now Hunter was sitting shotgun in an RV, with two soft, well manicured hands covering his eyes.
Kate took her hands from his eyes, and smiled mischievously, “Yeah, I know. I haven’t called you that in years.”
Hunter agreed, “I think the last thing I remember you calling me was… ‘bastard!’”
Kate wrapped her arms around his neck and shoulders, moving in closer, “Well you know me, I’ll always forgive, but-“
Hunter finished her sentence, “Never forget.” He turned around in his seat, and looked up at Kate, finally seeing her for the first time in years.
* * *
The door rattled and creaked open and Bill stepped into the gloom of the RV. He looked at Hunter sulking in the booth, arms crossed, a scowl on his face. Outside, Paco was still chopping wood, he now had a pile three feet high and five feet long.
Bill popped the top on his Molson XXX, “What’s going on?”
Hunter took a sip of his beer, “I’m sitting down, to enjoy my holiday.”
“Well get your ass outside, we gotta start a fire.”
“A fire? We may as well sit around a cigarette!”
“We get a fire going and you’ll warm up. Besides we can’t let the girls do everything! Lighting a fire will at least show them we’re not completely worthless.”
This seemed to perk Hunter up some, “You’re right. Lets do this thing!”
“That’s the spirit!”
Twenty minutes later and the drizzle had long since abated, but Bill and Hunter were no closer to solving their fire problem. Additionally, and unfortunately the very second the drizzle stopped, the BUGS came out. By the millions. All of them seemingly ravenous for Human flesh. Mosquitoes, biting flies of every kind, hornets and wasps, all of them seemed to emerge from their hidey-holes with one thing burning in their collective mind; to accost and therefore drive Hunter and Bill absolutely stark-raving mad.
Five minutes of swatting, waving, and spitting the bugs from his mouth was just about enough for Hunter. Bill seemed to have given up on the fire for the moment and was chanting: “There are no bugs there is only Bill,” over and over like a mantra. It wasn’t helping to keep the insects away. Hunter sprinted back to the RV and fumbled through his rucksack for the insect repellent. It was a tiny clear plastic bottle with a green spritzer on top and green writing. Hunter smiled and made his way back to the fire pit.
Bill looked down at the tiny bottle and was doubtful, “You sure there’s enough of that stuff to last the weekend?”
Hunter swatted at another mosquito, ‘It doesn’t take a lot. This, my droogan brother is Muskol™. Its main active ingredient is Deet, and it contains the absolute highest amount of Deet available by law. It’s actually banned in three states!”
“And we’re gonna put this… chemical on our skin?”
“I never said it was banned in Alberta.”
Bill swatted at another mosquito buzzing incessantly in his ear, “All right give it here.” He snatched the bottle from Hunter and started spritzing the insect repellent on to the palms of his hands, he then rubbed it onto his face and neck, before proceeding with covering the rest of his bare skin with the stuff. He finished with a quick spritz over his clothes, then Hunter did the same. When finished he offered it to the girls and Paco but was surprised when they told him the bugs didn’t seem to be bothering them. Bill was silently annoyed by this revelation, as it didn’t seem at all fair that the bugs only had a taste for the flesh and blood of Hunter and himself.
Then it was back to the fire situation. Bill wadded up some paper and threw some twigs on top and was lighting match after match and throwing them on to the pile of “kindling” hoping something would catch. This was clearly not working, and both he and Hunter knew they needed a different plan of attack.
“You know what we need?” Bill said to no one in particular.
“Like, more paper?” Sara suggested.
Bill wasn’t expecting and answer, “What? No darlin’ not more paper, we require an accelerant.”
“Ah,” Hunter nodded knowingly, “Paco!”
Paco was finally sitting down in a chair under the RV’s awning relaxing. He was swigging from a bottle of Canadian Club rye whiskey, and reading “My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist” by Mark Leyner.
“What?” He barked, not looking up from his book.
“You got any lighter fluid, or something?”
“It’s under the sink.”
When Hunter returned with the greasy tin of so-called “odourless” Kingsford Charcoal Lighter Bill snatched it from him and began soaking the paper and wood in the pit. When he thought he used enough, he tossed the tin back to Hunter who, not ready for the throw, juggled it for a few tense seconds before gaining control, and putting it down on the picnic table.
Bill had the matches out, one of them primed to strike, “Ready?”
Hunter nodded, “Do it!”
There was a FOOM! The fire was lit! Hunter and Bill congratulated themselves and were on their way to grab some wood pieces from the pile. They never noticed the fire had burned itself out mere moments after ignition.
“Oh, come on!!” Hunter snarled upon returning to the pit, dropping his bundle of logs.
Bill threw his sticks to the ground in disgust, “Well I’m all outta ideas!”
Sara wiped the rain from the picnic table bench and sat down in a huff. “Come on guys! It’s getting cold again!”
Kate was standing back by the tent with the black and red umbrella sitting on her shoulder. She took one last puff from her Pall Mall and flicked the butt into the pit. She snapped the brolly closed with the flick of her wrist, gave it a quick shake and had it zipped up and closed in a matter of seconds. She stepped over to the fire pit, removed her white smoking gloves and went to work. She quickly gathered up several small, thin pieces of wood from around the stump Paco was using to chop, then set them up in a tee-pee shape in the middle of the fire pit.
“Paper.” She said, and Bill tossed her a crumpled piece of Wednesday’s Calgary Sun newspaper from the picnic table. Kate un-crumpled it, tore it in half, then carefully placed it on top of the small pile of kindling twigs she had piled under the tee-pee of wood only seconds before. Quick as a flash she had her Zippo out from one of the leather pouches on her belt and was lighting the kindling and paper in several spots. She leaned in and blew into the kindling three or four times, and in less than thirty seconds had the fire going well enough to add some bigger pieces of wood. She stood up straight, and brushed the grit from her hands.
“And, that boys is how you build a proper fire. Now which one of you is going to fetch me a lager?”
Hunter and Bill almost fell over each other running to the cooler.
A low chortle, followed by a loud guffaw came from the direction of the RV. Paco put his book down, then took a swig of whiskey, “You guys really are a couple of fakking pussies aren’t you?”
Bill and Hunter stood with a can of beer in each of their hands, and looked at each other for a moment before the thought occurred to them that perhaps Paco was right.
Next time: a BIG fire! More Drinking! And Catelyn reveals to Hunter the real reason why she came camping with them! All this and less! Be here in February for part 3 of Lond Ho Adventures: May Long!