“You only need sit still long enough in some attractive spot in the woods that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves to you by turns."
I led Kevin, Big Pi and Little Pi to an area near the pond where a large flat rock had been abandoned from a time when glaciers covered the most of this area 16,000 years ago. I set the pot that held the fish on the rock and pulled the fish out and set them side by side in front of me. I handed the pot to Kevin “Kev, can you fill this pot with some water for me?”
Kevin took the pot and walked over to the pond and dipped it in the water and brought it back to me. I poured some of the water on the fish and pulled out my knife and began to gut my catch. As I did so, I explained to my camp guests how to slice the fish open and remove the insides. I made quick work of the cleaning and deposited the cleaned fish in the pot with the water and rinsed them off. I took the waste and threw it in the pond and then dumped the waste water into the pond as well.
As I headed back towards the fire pit I looked over my shoulder and saw the brothers staring at me. Little Pi’s eyes were wide and his mouth was hanging open, his older brother looked pale and he was holding his stomach with both hands. “C’mon guys, I have to get these things on the fire or they will go to waste.” I said and beckoned them to follow me. “Kevin, you want to gather up some more wood? We’re going to need a lot to last through the night.” I added.
“Sure Skip” I heard Kevin say behind me. “Big Pi, you want to help?” he added
“Uh… yeah, sure.” I heard the boy say weakly.
“I think I’ll help too.” The younger brother squeaked out.
I continued towards the camp site focused on getting dinner cooked. I got the fish salted, peppered, and even managed to throw some wild onions on them before I wrapped them up in tin foil and placed them on the highest level of the cooking rack. I then sat back, lit up a cigarette and watched as my camp mates brought armfuls of wood to the small pile I had made earlier. In no time the pile of wood grew large enough to not just last us one night but several.
By the time the fish were ready to eat my three new friends looked tired, dirty and famished. They sat around the fire talking in breathless, incomplete sentences. Kevin was warning the Pi brothers not to dig into the fish immediately, but to wait a few minutes for the food to cool down enough and then he went on to describe the blister on the roof of his mouth from the fish he ate at lunch.
I took the wrapped fish off the grate, set them on the ground in front of me and opened the foil. The aroma of the food filled our nostrils and I could see my visitors leaning in to get a good view of the source of the evening meal. “Where’d you learn to cook?” Little Pi asked. His voice breaking the hypnotic reverie we had all seemed to fall into.
“For camping? In the Boy Scouts years ago.” I answered. “Well, that and my dad used to take us camping a lot. I’d help him fish and I’d watch my mom prepare the food.”
“Smells good.” Big Pi chimed in.
“Wait ‘til you taste it.” Kevin said knowingly.
I tore three sheets of tinfoil off the roll I brought with me and set one fish on each sheet and handed them out. “Sorry I don’t have more silverware. I didn’t know I was going to have visitors.” I said
“No problem man, we can use our fingers.” Big Pi answered “Besides we’re the ones crashing your campsite. I’m just glad I don’t have to spend the night at home.”
I sat back and gave the Pi brothers a quizzical look and then looked at Kevin, he was staring at me and shaking his head in a manner that told me to let the statement go. I shrugged and nodded back at him and picked up my fish and began to eat.
Nothing much was said while we ate, but the noise of lip smacking and burps filled the campsite and I knew I had done a decent job of making our meager meal tasty. When we had finished eating Big Pi passed out some cigarettes, I lit mine with a stick I had been poking the fire with, when it was lit I handed it to Kevin. He took the stick lit his smoke and passed it on to Big Pi who lit two cigarettes and handed one to his younger brother.
“Is he old enough to smoke?” I asked.
“I’m old enough.” He answered for himself.
“And if we don’t give him a smoke, he runs home and tells Mom and Dad I’ve been smoking.” The older brother answered. “Don’t you?”
“If you can do it, so can I. Aint nothing you can do that I can’t.” he said defensively.
“Guys, knock it off.” Kevin said. “If you two start fighting, I’m going to kick both your asses.”
“I’d like to see you try.” Little Pi challenged.
That statement earned him a smack upside his head from his brother. “Knock it off, or I’ll take you home and tell Mom you’re acting up.”
Little Pi sat there rubbing his ear and puffing on his cigarette. “You didn’t have to hit me so hard.” He pouted.
Kevin stood up and stretched his arms out wide “I need to take a piss, any particular spot you have marked for that Skip?”
“Yeah, up near the bend in the trail over there.” I answered as I pointed towards the entrance I came in on. Kevin stared at where I was pointing. The light was fading fast as the sun started to dip below the tree line.
“Ok, I think I see it.”
“Just walk about fifty feet that way and you’ll see some bushes that look like they’ve been half eaten. That is where you can piss.” I said.
As he headed off towards the makeshift bathroom, Big Pi stood up and headed off after him. “Wait up Kev. I gotta go too.”
“What about you?” I asked Little Pi
“Nah, I’ll go later.” He said and then added “Thanks for letting us hang out with you.”
“It’s no problem. Besides, I’m new here and I could use a few friends.”
“Is that what we are to you?”
I looked at the boy, he was staring me right in the eye and I could barely get a read on what he was thinking “Well, yeah. I hope so. What do you think?”
“I don’t know. I’m just glad we don’t have to sleep at home tonight.”
“So I gathered. What’s up with that?”
“Nothing… Hey, so you were a boy scout? That’s cool. I don’t think there are any clubs like that out here in the sticks though.” He quickly changed the subject.
“Yeah, I was, but I haven’t been one in a long time.”
“So you remember the stuff you learned there?”
“Yup, I remember lots of stuff. Especially once I’ve done something a couple of times.”
“Think you could teach me some of it? Like the gutting of fish and cooking them and camping and stuff.”
I looked at the kid and nodded “Sure, I can do that. But it’s not that hard to learn. I think I have my old handbook I can loan you if you want to read it. Most of the stuff in there is pretty basic…”
“Yeah, that would be cool.” He interrupted me his voice filled with hope and his eyes filled with eagerness. “When can I get it?”
“Um, well, I am supposed to be back home in a couple days so I will get it then.”
“Oh, ok.” He said a bit defeated.
“Don’t worry Little Pi, I won’t forget. Besides, something tells me you won’t let me forget.”
The voices of Kevin and Big Pi started to become apparent and Little Pi got quiet and said softly “You’re right. I won’t.
“Hey knuckleheads… What’s going on?” Kevin questioned.
“Not much, just getting to know each other a bit. What took you two so long?”
“We were talking about what to do tomorrow. Big Pi suggests we go get the bikes and take you to the dunes for some riding. You do know how to ride don’t you?”
“Matter of fact, I do.” I said.
“Alright!” Little Pi shouted. “Tomorrow is going to be awesome!”
“Calm down man, it’s not like you haven’t ridden before.” The older Pi said as he sat down next to his brother.
“What are the dunes?” I asked and for the next several hours my new pals regaled me with stories of their adventures on dirt bikes jumping mile long pits of death and sending rooster tails of sand a hundred feet in the air with the machines.
By the time we went to bed the moon had risen to its apex and started to fall into the waiting arms of the trees that surrounded us. I can’t speak for my fellow campers but my dreams were filled with exhaust fumes and screaming motors.