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Camping trips are a good way to escape your busy city life, slowing down to enjoy nature; with or without friends. You can choose the peace and quiet of your campsite, or you can venture further away. There is hiking, fishing, boating, a beach and much more to occupy your time.
Don’t forget that camping is a social endeavor. There are often others around you from all over the country. Some travelling through on a break, some relaxing for the weekend, and some there for other reasons…
James left the camper wearing an old white t-shirt, blue shorts, and six-year-old white sneakers; he never wore nice or new clothes for this process, nor did he shower before, he always showered after emptying the black and gray water from the camper. He pulled a pair of gloves from his pocket and put them on. Walking over to his truck, he lowered the tailgate and pulled the gray container to him, removing the lid. Picking it up he carried it to the side of the camper.
Lynn looked at the contents, which all looked strange to her.
“It’s all the cables, hoses, and connectors for emptying the waste. I use them at the dump station when we leave, and times like today, when we are doing a partial.
James connected his hose to the camper black water side of the Y adapter at one end, and the other to the Smurf. He pulls the black water lever on the side to release the liquid. The hose straightened and started to flow through quickly. James was watching the waste hauler fill up when the black water hose disconnected. He slammed the lever closed and angrily looked away. Lynn was over his shoulder, about twelve feet away, biting her lip and trying not to laugh.
He was splashed with the black dirty water about the face, his shirt, shorts, and shoes. It was all he could do not to cuss out loud, to act out in anger. Looking over at Lynn, it was obvious she knew, obvious she saw; making eye contact with her, he saw she was trying not to laugh. Lynn looked on, still biting her lip. She did not laugh, nor did she say she was sorry, or offer to help. She started to shake, and after looking away, she burst into laughter.
James reconnected the hose and placed an old towel over where it connected to the Smurf. Keeping a foot on it, he pressed down and stood up, leaning back as far as he could. He stretched forward with one hand, and slowly released the lever. Success! He watched until the liquid line was 3/4s full before pushing the lever closed.
“That’s how it was supposed to have worked the first time,” James said laughing.
By now, Lynn had finished laughing.
“I’m sorry,” she managed, before again biting her lip.
He attached the cod pin into the handle after connecting it to the Smurf. Gently pulling to the right, he turned the blue Smurf around and walked slowly to the truck, pulling the Smurf behind him. When he was close enough, he put the end over the ball of the hitch, and searched for his second cod pin, he didn’t have it. James checked inside the truck, the container that the hoses were in, and his pockets; it was nowhere to be found. I’ll have to drive slowly, he thought, as he told Lynn he would be right back.
James disconnected the hose and placed it back in the plastic container and loaded it back on the truck. He closed the tailgate, got in the truck, and looked around before pulling out onto the road and turning right. He would be going uphill, and as long as he drove slowly, all would be fine. He rolled down his window and listened as he drove. He heard the noise from the plastic wheels rolling over rough road. Occasionally a wheel would hit a rock or piece of gravel, making a bit more noise, but all was well. He rolled his window up, put his blinker to turn right, and started to gently apply his brakes about a hundred feet before his turn.
He started to come to a stop, and that’s when it happened. Lynn was watching James drive down the road, slowly hauling the blue Smurf behind him, when it separated from the white handle and started coming down the hill. The handle stayed on the truck, throwing metal sparks several feet behind him as it bounced against the road. As he came to a complete stop, a car passing him stopped and beeped their horn. Rolling his window down, the woman excitedly told him he was dragging something. Looking out his rear-view window he saw the blue Smurf rolling down the hill. He thanked them and turned around after it.
Lynn watched in horror as the blue rectangle full of shit travelled back to her. It would move a little to the left, then a little to the right, but for the most part, it stayed on the road. She saw James turn his truck around and speed up, but he would not make it in time; she doubted she could. Looking at the campground across the road from her, she saw a couple working together on their boat. The man would ask for a tool, and the woman would hand it to him; they were oblivious to what was going to happen.
“It’s full! It’s full! Watch out!!!” Lynn shouted at them.
The couple looked at her, and then down to where the noise was coming from. Coming straight for them, totally out of control and unmanned, came the blue rectangular waste hauler. Lynn crossed the road and tried to intercept it. She would not make it. James was going the maximum speed that he could, and he tried to intercept it. He would not make it. Just when Lynn thought it was over for them, it turned to the right and went into the grass. That slowed it down tremendously, and with a slight incline, it came to a complete stop, one foot from the couple’s boat.
“Hi! I’m Lynn,” she said to the couple, laughing.
James pulled up and got out, apologizing. He too introduced himself.
“This is Tom and Shannon. They’ll be here all week long,” Lynn said laughing.
“Well, I smell right now. Let me take care of this and we’ll stop by later this afternoon, if that’s OK,” James said.
“Sounds good,” the woman said.
“I’m not shaking your hand,” the man said laughing.
Lynn left to go back to the camper when James moved the waste hauler back to the truck and secured it with some wire. Taking off back up to the hill, he had no issues making it to the dump station and emptying the Smurf. Rinsing it out before he attached it back to the truck, he headed back, his tail between his legs.
Parking the truck where it was before, he disconnected the Smurf and rolled it back underneath the camper. He placed the lid back on the plastic container and started for the camper.
“Oh no you don’t,” Lynn told him.
James looked at her, stopping dead in his tracks. She was pointing to the picnic table, where his clean clothes were piled up. She then pointed to the distant comfort station and laughed.
James walked to the building, entered the second shower stall, and stripped down to clean up.
Across the creek and miles away, Brian watched from the safety of his car as the thunder and lightning played havoc with his nerves. The flashes came in pairs as they lit up the sky. Before the last one had dissipated, and his vision returned, thunder announced its intentions anew. The sky was once again dark as clouds rolled in, followed closely by rain, catching him off guard. The irony was that he had arrived in plenty of time to have safely made it inside, but he found himself easily distracted. Brian had looked in the rear-view mirror and noticed his hair to be a mess. As he was fussing with it, the wind picked up and the first flashes of lightning lit up the early evening sky. He ignored the light show and began fighting with his windblown hair. Before he knew it, the rain was coming down in torrents and he was stuck in his car.
He waited several minutes more, watching as others got soaked before they even made it halfway to the front door. He watched on as at least three couples were thoroughly drenched before disappearing safely inside. One couple decided to forego tonight’s activities altogether and turned around before even making it halfway. Brian could wait no longer. If he was going to go, he had to make his move now. Looking around in the back seat, he rummaged for an umbrella for a few moments before giving up. Making a run for it, he jumped out and ran through the puddles, locking his car door with his remote as he went.
Opening the front door, he stepped inside onto the rug and waited until the dripping slowed. He breathed in deeply and enjoyed the smells. Looking around the large open room, he examined the pizza joint and searched for his friends. It was not unusually dark, but the lighting was soft. Double brass sconces hung around five feet high, adorning the walls about every twenty feet or so. Other than those, the only other source of lighting was from small globes that hung below the fans mounted irregularly from the ceiling.
The walls sported assorted pictures in various sizes consisting of cowboys, old city buildings, and depictions of days long gone. In all actuality, there was not much available space for new pictures at all; the walls were as busy as the business was. Maroon painted paneling reached upward from the floor to the height of four feet. From there, beige painted cinder blocks took over, and climb up to the dark colored, stained wooden ceiling.
Every week for the last three years, Brian had enjoyed coming here for pizza, beer, and a good time. It was not always a Friday, or Saturday that he came; sometimes his friends would do weekdays. He can remember this place being smaller years ago. The building was twice as big now to accommodate the growing business. Additional square tables were added, as necessary to allow for adequate seating. Each table had napkin holders, salt, and pepper shakers within reach. Parmigiana cheese and crushed red pepper shakers were visibly missing, but available upon request where you placed your orders.
Other than the pizzas and games available for patrons were the nice collection of beers available on tap. Other varieties were available in bottles, but the six that were on tap were by far the major draw. This place was successful for many reasons, but one might say it was due to their simple business model. They sold pizza, subs, and oh yes-beer; and they’ve done so for over forty-five years.
The best thing about this place was on the emphasis of accommodation. The plethora of small tables were easily put together to seat any amount of people. Each table was big enough to hold plates, pizzas, and pitchers of beer-the three Ps, as his friends called it. Scanning the busy room for the third time he gave up and ordered a Blue Moon on tap to occupy his time until his friends showed up, or at least until he found them; he still wasn’t sure he hadn’t missed them.
Finding a few empty tables next to each other, he pulled them together and sat down to watch professional basketball; it was after all, Monday. He looked at the score that flashed on the screen and realized he did not have a dog in that fight, Brian did not care for either team; although he was enjoying his beer, he soon came to a sad conclusion: all that was left now was to eat his orange slice and walk back up to order another.
Standing up he noticed how unusually cold the room was. The room was colder inside than it was outdoors, which was unseasonably cold; but inside it was almost too cold. This was possibly due to a few weeks of unusually below normal temperature weather. The sun was barely seen on a single day over the last two weeks now that he thought about it. He could not help wondering how next week’s weather would turn out, he could do with a little less rain, and more sunlight.
Walking back to his left he passed several tables on the way to the small bar and paid for his beer. Nodding to the bartender he smiled and turned around to walk back to his table in front of the large screen TV, where he found his friends. They had pulled three tables together and were looking at menus and drinking beer-without him!
“Hey! Put that beer down!” he yelled as he approached their table.
Away from the campsites and back at the main gate, Mary was awoken out of a deep sleep by an approaching vehicle. The first thing to run through her mind was the now all too evident fact that her daytime job was interfering with what she loved to do.
“I’m too young for this,” she chuckled.
Mary looked around the small shack, shaking the cobwebs from her head. Sniffing a few times, she turned to face the old coffee maker. The smell of burnt coffee was not too far from that of toast. Looking at the cameras she checked both directions before looking at her side window, but there was no vehicle. It’s coffee, not toast, so it’s not a stroke, Mary thought, shaking her head.
The CO had parked his SUV in front of the wood pile and stepped out without closing his door, leaving his vehicle running like an ambulance. Mary reached for the coffee maker and turned it off. The first of several yawns escaped her, killing the cacophony of numerous crickets. It would be several minutes before the coffee pot would be cool enough to be cleaned. Several minutes after that process she could make another pot; Mary needed another pot.
shuffling her feet across the floor she made her way to her chair in front of the cameras and got back to work. She had no longer sat down and spun around to view the cameras when someone stuck their head in her window. Mary fell out of her chair screaming. Looking back up from her new angle on the floor she noticed his smiling face and DNR uniform.
The CO had been watching the volunteer from the edge of the window, just outside of her angle of vision. Upon his first glance he saw a middle-aged woman with thin shoulder-length, straight blonde hair. She had an attractive body, so she had to be widowed a few times; possibly due to killing her partners with sex, he thought. It wasn’t her diminutive hourglass shape, it wasn’t the way that one’s eyes strayed to her if in a police lineup, it was her small, perfectly rounded head. Stunningly beautiful for her age, he thought, smiling at the woman through the window.
“I’m sorry. I thought you had seen me pull up. I did not mean to startle you.” The CO replied through a crooked smile.
“No biggie. I saw lights coming in, just lost track of them. How can I help you?” Mary stood up and awaited his response.
“Security inspection. I’ll need to review your weekly report and check surveillance tapes,” he answered.
Without hesitating she opened the door and moved off to the side.
“I’ve never had one before, so you’ll have to let me know what you need,” Mary smiled.
“Sure. It won’t take too long,” he said, closing the door behind him and locking it.
Turning around a few times quickly as if looking for something specific his question was answered before even asking it.
“Burned coffee. It’s one of those things that sometimes gets away from me,” she acknowledged embarrassingly.
“Ah. Well, my name’s Scott. I need you to show me that the surveillance works,” he stated as he produced his small clipboard and pen.
“Well, here’s the inbound traffic, and this one’s for leaving.”
“Nice,” he whispered, checking off a box before looking back up to her.
“It can be paused, restarted, fast forwarded,” she quickly demonstrated.
“OK,” he replied, checking more boxes.
Looking up at her he thanked her by nodding and checking off a few more boxes. Making eye contact he softly spoke.
“Mary, is it?”
“Yes,” she replied as if in trouble.
“Mary, ever been robbed at gun point before?” he asked pulling his service weapon from his side.
Mary’s heart sank. Her breathing seemed to stop. The CO watched on as she slowly turned white from head to toe. Becoming overly nervous, she looked around the room with her eyes, finally remembering to breathe.
“Open the safe.”
“It doesn’t open to 9 a.m.,” Mary responded without thinking.
“Use the override. I won’t ask you again,” he said smartly.
Mary entered the sequence 911 and the small brown door clicked before opening an inch and stopping.
“Put it all on the floor.”
She took hold of the door to open it wider. Slightly bending forward, she reached both hands in and slid the contents on to the floor. She slowly raised back up and looked away from the man.
“Get on your knees,” he commanded.
“Please. Don’t. There’s no need for this; take your money,” Mary pleaded.
“Knees,” he sternly said by raising his 10mm pistol to her chest.
She went down to the floor and again lowered her head to the side. Other than noticing that the floor was uncomfortably hard, she saw only his shoes. They were old, cracked leather boots covered in places with dried red clay.
“Been hiking around Cemetery Trail looking for mushrooms?” she asked anxiously.
Hours later, and miles across town, the CO was driving towards the campground. Maybe arriving during the off hours would provide him some leeway for his investigations. He was not sure what he could discover about their camping trip, but he hoped to get a lead on the area they were staying in, what campers they were using, or even their campground site numbers. He would find them. He would use any resource he had access to; he was after all, a CO.
Time to replenish body and mind, the CO thought as he pulled up to the stop sign. Looking right he saw the lights turning on in the convenience store.
The sign read: snacks, beer and bait inside. He took notice of the missing comma and moved on.
He put on his right turn signal and pulled into the parking lot, stopping parallel to the building. He turned off his vehicle and started walking to the door.
Looking through the window he saw her. Behind the counter was a petite young woman with blonde hair. She had acne, she was short, about 5’2”, and she wore a black ball cap. The woman was packing a 9mm on her right hip, locked and holstered.
Upon first glance, although slightly unattractive and moderately homely, she became a woman of interest when she radiated a “hands off, I can take care of myself” attitude by moving around sporting her weapon at her side. It drew attention away from her face and to her body. All he wanted to know was, could she?
The CO walked in and turned over their business sign to closed before he locked the door. Looking around at the distracted woman, he smiled and greeted her.
“Sodas and snacks?” he asked, pointing to the left.
“All along the back wall, actually.” she smiled.
Smiling still, the CO nodded and walked straight ahead. Grabbing an energy drink, he quickly turned on his heel to watch the woman. He had to make sure no one else had come in, and that she had not noticed the fact that he had turned her sign over and locked her door. Seeing that she was still wiping down her counter and organizing what was there, he quickly made his way back to her.
He extended his left hand with a twenty to her right side close to her handgun. She smiled.
“Out of twenty” she stated as she reached out to accept his bill.