Camping. Short Story.

It’s my mums graduation today, so I’m off back to U.C.D. for the ceremony, should be interesting!
I haven’t been up to much, went out with friends, read some books, all that jazz. Been writing a lot more too, which is always a good thing. I have a vague outline for what I’m doing now, but it remains quite vague, I know the general things that happen but not the reasons why, which if anything, is just as important as what happens. No good having a villain who just crashes about the place because they’re a villain and that’s what they do. I think I’ve got it figured out a little, settling in the broader reasons/implications with the characters/city.

On with the show!

_________________________________________________________________________

“This is stupid.”
“It isn’t stupid.”
“It’s stupid and I want to go home.”
Travis sighed, “Give it a chance at least, will you, please?”
“Ugh. Fine.”

Travis continued walking, it was a bad idea. Stacy was right, why the hell did he think that this would be a good idea? Hell. When was the last time he’d even thought about camping and hiking? It would be fine. He had books, they had supplies. They’d be fine and hey, they’d all be learning this together.
“We’re not that far from the camp site at least.”

Silence.

Fine, if they wanted to sulk, he’d let them sulk. Why should he let their bad attitude ruin a wonderful time? And it was wonderful, the weather was beautiful, the sun shining down, trees providing plenty of shade. It was great. He paused for a second and drank a glug of water, he held it out to Katie, she ignored it. “You have to drink. You can’t get dehydrated out here.” Bobby stepped forward and took the canteen, “Kiss ass.”
“Hey, leave you’re brother alone, he isn’t being a kiss ass, he’s being intelligent. You could learn from him young lady.”
Katie rolled her eyes and jutted out her lower lip.
“Don’t pout.”

She shook her head and started walking again. Good. Travis hoped he ruined her huff. She was building to one all day. The car was too slow, then it was too warm, then she couldn’t get a cell phone signal. She was thirsty, but not for water, she was hungry but she wanted a burger, she wanted this, that and everything. Travis knew the divorce was hard on the kids, but she was starting to take things too far. Therapy wasn’t helping, it had been the therapists idea for camping, get them to all connect again, just him and the kids. Stupid idea. He took another breath then put the water away, if she wanted to be a brat, he’d let her be a brat.

“C’mon, let’s go.” He clapped Bobby on the back and started walking again. Bobby was taking things in stride, he was a pretty level headed kid and Travis sometimes found it hard to believe he was the younger one. God help them when puberty took a swing at Bobby if it was this bad for Katie. Though she had always been emotional and one to take things a little too personally.

 

When he caught up with Katie she was standing in a small stream, shoes and socks off, backpack lying on the ground. “What are you doing?”
“Taking a break.”
“We don’t have time for a break.”
“Well, my feet hurt, ok?”
“No they don’t.”
“They do to, I’m probably going to end up covered in blisters.”
Travis unslung his backpack from his shoulders, “Bobby, how are you doing?”
“Fine.”
Travis looked at Katie who was staring at the trees. He held his tongue. No use turning Katie against Bobby too. “I guess we can take a break for a few minutes.”
Travis settled onto the ground, Bobby let his pack drop to the ground and started stripping off his shoes. He watched them both, he did love them, he really did, but sometimes it was difficult. He tried not to laugh when Bobby “accidentally” splashed Katie. Pretending to have seen nothing when it happened. A few seconds later the two of them were laughing and splashing one another. Travis let it wind down. They sat down a few moments later and he decided it was as good a time as any for lunch. They weren’t in any great rush. The area they were in was a fairly easy place to learn camping and if anything happened, they weren’t too far from civilisation. They were only here for a few nights as well, the kids would see, tomorrow they’d start enjoying things and when the time came to leave they wouldn’t want to go.
Katie remained mercifully quiet until they reached the campsite, then it was nothing but complaints as they assembled the tent. When it was finally done, she collapsed onto the ground and let out a theatrical groan.
“Bobby and I are going to look for wood, you stay here and guard everything.”
She waved her hand in a general acknowledgement.
“If anything happens, yell, we won’t be too far.”
“Mmhmm.”

 

They returned a short while later with a smallish pile of wood. He was nervous leaving Katie alone for too long, she could be impulsive. It wouldn’t do to have her run off into the woods. When they returned the camp was empty, Travis felt his heart thudding heavily in his chest, he opened his mouth to yell for her when Katie opened the tent flap, “Ugh About time, it’s starting to get cold.”
He closed his mouth clicking teeth together. “Well, if you were cold you could have helped us get the wood. Would have warmed you up.”
“I thought I was supposed to guard everything.”

Travis didn’t reply. There was no point in continuing with that line of reasoning. In no time they’d end up screaming at each other. He was the adult here, he couldn’t stoop to her level. He took a deep breath.
“Ok, fine, do you want to help make the fire then?”
“If I must.”

 

It took them longer than Travis expected, even with matches, to get the fire going, but soon they’d a small blaze cracking merrily. “See, this isn’t so bad, is it? We have our fire going and soon we’ll have some hot food.”

Katie stared at the flames sullenly, Bobby stood, announcing he was going to get some more wood. “Don’t be too long ok, and don’t go to far. Stay where you can see us at all times ok buddy?”
“I promise.”
“Good.”
He watched Bobby go for a second, then felt a thin thread of unease in his stomach.
“Will you go with him, or do you want to stay by the fire where it’s warm? I don’t like him being in the woods alone.”
“I’ll go.”

“Thanks, same goes to you though, stay close, I don’t want either of you to get lost.”
She nodded as she walked away.

They were gone for a while, at first he didn’t notice, but then it started to get dark. He was getting worried. Maybe he made a mistake. He should have gone too. He stood, then sat back down. The therapist said it would help them be more confident and independent, show that he trusted them. He looked up at the darkening sky. He did trust them, he didn’t trust the woods though. He stood again and looked around,
“Hey guys, it’s starting to get dark, you probably have enough wood.”
Silence.
His heart began to thud faster.
“Guys, this isn’t funny, answer me right now.”
Silence.
“If you don’t answer me right now you’re going to be in big trouble when we get back, grounded and all electronic devices removed.”

He moved over towards where they had left the campsite, he just had to stay calm, they wouldn’t have gotten too far, and they knew if they got lost they should stay still until they were found. He could find them, right? Call out, leave marks on the trees so he could find his way back, he could get them and they’d be fine and then they’d come back to the fire and laugh about it.
Something cracked behind him, Travis whirled around, then released the breath he didn’t know he was holding Katie and Bobby walked into the clearing, each carrying a large bundle of wood.

“Ha! I got way more than you did earlier.”
“Yeah. Yeah you did.”
“Are you ok?”
“I’m fine. Did you hear me calling you?”
“No, we didn’t, but we were talking on the way back. We would have been faster but this one had to pee.” Katie dumped the wood she was carrying.
“Ok, I don’t want you going off alone again, ok? I was starting to get worried.”
“calm down, we’re not total morons.”
“I know. I can’t help it, it’s what dads do.”
Bobby set his wood down, “sorry we made you worry dad.”
“It’s ok, it isn’t your fault. Just stay a bit closer if you go out again, ok?”
They both nodded.
“C’mon, we should get started on food. It’s getting late.”
The rest of the night passed quickly, they ate and talked and laughed. Just before falling asleep, Travis thought it was a miracle, after they started on dinner, Katie hadn’t complained once.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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