Story of the Week: The Camping Trip

The Camping Trip by Renee Asher Pickup

camping

The canvas tent does little to keep the heat or the sounds of unbridled testosterone at bay. The cat is alternating between licking himself and jumping to stare intently in the direction of gunshots and carousing outside. I didn’t want to spend Labor Day weekend working on a typewriter with keys that have to be pounded on to work. My fingers keep sliding through and getting caught between the keys. The dogs come in at night and sleep on rugs scattered on the dirt, so the cat jumps on me, fur in my face, making my nose itch and my eyes water. Bill doesn’t go anywhere without his cat. When we first met, I thought it was cute, the little gray furball riding shotgun in his truck, curled up on Bill’s lap at restaurants with outdoor seating, walking alongside him down the long driveway to check the mail. For a cat, I guess he’s pretty cool. But after six months I just want to have sex without an audience.

We’re sitting around the fire and all his stupid redneck buddies are drunk. I don’t know why I ever agreed to come on this trip. I guess it’s the same reason I’m still with Bill. He was supposed to be a fling. Something I needed to get out of my system. I was supposed to fuck him for a couple weeks, get over my ex, and be able to tell people, “Yeah, I dated one of those crazy rednecks with a big lifted truck and a gun rack once.” But he is so nice. I couldn’t bring myself to blow him off. After two years with my asshole ex, a nice guy was a real luxury. He fixed my sink. He opens doors and calls me “Darlin’.” He brings me flowers at least once a week. Just when I started getting used to him, I lost my job, then my apartment. Of course, Bill offered to let me move in with him. Maybe I got used to being in a relationship after two years. Maybe I couldn’t bring myself to face another breakup so soon. Maybe it’s just easier to sleep in the same bed you fuck in.

Bill sits next to me and I’m overwhelmed by the most foul odor I’ve ever experienced.

“What the fuck is that smell?”

He puts his arm around me and pulls me in close. “Baby, that’s deer piss.”

I swallow a little vomit that’s made its way into my mouth.

“Deer piss? Are you kidding? A deer peed on you?”

All his friends laugh at me, he’s chuckling like the awe-shucks-cornfed-redneck he is and says, “No, Darlin’! Not real deer piss! This is fake deer piss. You spray it on ya and the deer come runnin’!”

I’m living with a man who sprays artificial urine on himself. A man who can’t take “no thanks” for an answer when he invites me to go hunting with his friends. He said, “Don’t you writers like to go commune with nature or something? You can get all kinds of work done while we’re up in the deer stand.”

Biting my lip, I decide. That’s it. I’m leaving him and his stupid cat and those smelly dogs. The cat comes out of the tent and climbs up on my lap. He flicks his tail a couple times when I sneeze and I swear he knows he caused it.

Everyone goes back to their tents and campers and Bill follows me into ours. He calls it “the command tent.” He got it from his grandfather who bought it at an Army surplus store. The dogs are snoring and there is dog food and water spread out all over the makeshift floor. Inside the tent, the piss-odor coming off Bill is almost too much to handle. I slide out of my clothes and bend over my bag to find a pair of sweats to wear to bed.

I feel his hand on my waist, sliding down and around my crotch. He puts his lips on the back of my neck.

“My god Bill, are you really coming onto me right now?”

“What?” He grins, grabbing at my tit when I turn around.

“You fucking stink, that’s what.”

“Awe, come on!” he says, the beer on his breath adding to the stench of piss.

I slap his hand away and he pushes his lips against mine. I push him away again. “I’m going to sleep in the car,” I say, throwing on sweats and a t-shirt, desperate to get away from the smell.

“It’s not real piss, I told you that! Hell, the bucks love it! Brings ‘em right to you. Get’s ‘em all horny.”

“Then go fuck a buck.”

I push past him, and at the same moment both dogs wake up and start barking like Armageddon is coming. I hear something outside, snorting, stomping. The breeze picks up the flap on the tent just in time for me to see the biggest fucking animal I’ve ever seen stomp right through the campfire, embers spraying out from under its hooves. It’s backlit by the moon and it looks like a giant, mythical beast with huge, twisting, tangled horns. As it charges into the tent, I jump away, huddle in the corner and realize it’s a buck. I see Bill – eyes wide, face pale with fear. I hear the air escape his mouth that should have been a scream. As the buck plunges its antlers into him, lifting him from the floor, for a moment, I think I’m going to miss him.

The buck thrashes him, his body flopping like an old dirty mop. It kicks a back leg and kills one of Bill’s dogs on contact. His friends aren’t around, even though they had to hear the thrashing, barking, and screaming. When the buck is done he shakes his head until Bill’s body is free from its antlers and turns its head. He looks right at me. I’m huddled in the corner, crying, shaking, snot all over my face, and it looks me right in the eye. We stare at each other for what feels like an hour. Then, he turns and walks out of the tent.

I realize I’m holding Bill’s cat against me, arms tight around it, and he’s purring into my chest, curled up like a kitten. I look down at him and he rubs his head on my chin.

****

Renee Asher Pickup is a mellowed out punk rocker living in Southern California. She is the Society & Culture editor at Dirge Magazine, class facilitator at LitReactor, and will be hosting the upcoming Guttersnipes podcast at Out of the Gutter. Renee writes fiction about bad things happening to flawed people and stands by the statement that From Dusk Till Dawn changed her life.
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