The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it. –Henry David Thoreu
When the deer left we looked at each other and smiled and then we became embarrassed at our openness and quickly looked away. I crawled out of the tent and went and sat by the fire pit. I picked up a stick and started to stir the ashes in the hopes of finding some hot coals left over from the night. I didn’t know how to deal with the raw emotions I had felt towards Teresa. I didn’t even know her, hell; I didn’t know anyone in my camp. We had all really only met the day before. Well, with the exceptions of the Pi’s and Kevin. I was so lost in trying to sort out my emotions that I did not hear Teresa approach me from behind.
“Hey, everything ok? You sprinted out of the tent like your hair was on fire.”
I turned and looked at her, her hair was a mess but looked amazing; the rising sun seemed to accentuate the brown ringlets as they bounced off her shoulders. Her face, mostly covered by shadows only showed hints at the sparkle of her eyes and teeth, my eyes traveled slowly down her body, her Journey concert t-shirt was clinging tightly to her torso accentuating her curves and making it uncomfortable for me to sit on the overturned log. “I’m fine.” I lied. “I just needed to get out of the tent. Besides, everyone will be up soon and I need to get the fire going and see what sort of rations we have to eat.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Sure, if you could get my backpack and the plastic bag sitting next to it and bring it here that would be great.”
She turned and left.
With my distraction gone, I set out to get the fire going once again. I managed to find several hot coals and within minutes I had a small fire going. I checked all the pots and pans to make sure they were clean, only two were a bit dirty so took them down to the pond and rinsed them out as best as I could. When I got back to the fire pit Teresa had taken out all the food in the backpack and bag. I looked over everything and realized I didn’t have any meat. I asked Teresa to start getting some water to boil, grabbed the .22 rifle and went out to check my traps I had sent over twenty-four hours earlier.
Thirty minutes later as I approached camp I saw the campfire was going well and my camp-mates were all awake and sitting around the campfire nursing sore heads. I walked past them all and hung my catch from a tree limb while I put the gun away. When I crawled out of the tent I saw Little Pi standing by the fresh kills.
“How’d you get those?” he asked.
“I set some traps the other day. Don’t know when they were sprung but they don’t look like any other animals have messed with them and there were no flies on them so they should be good to eat. I just have to skin and clean them. Then we can eat.”
“Can I watch?”
I looked at him and realized I had promised him I would show him some camping skills yesterday, “Sure. If you think you’re up to it.” I said as I untied the two squirrels and rabbit from the tree. “I don’t think we should do it by the campfire though. There is a real nice rock over by the pond we can use and once we clean them we can wash them off.”
We walked quietly to what I had come to call “the slaughter rock” in my head. When we got there I placed the food down, pulled out my knife and started the skinning process. I described to Little Pi each cut and slice. I had him hold each animal’s front legs as I peeled the fur from them and I showed him how to not cut through the intestines and stomach as I gutted them. He was fascinated and asked many questions. By the time we got to the last squirrel I handed him the knife and guided his hand as he inserted it into the soft belly of breakfast.
We washed the animals in the pond and I tossed the innards in the water for the fish to eat. I then took the furs and laid them flat on the rock, fur side down so they could dry. We then headed back to the fire pit. Little Pi wanted to carry the animals so I let him, as we approached we could hear moans and groans from just about everyone sitting around the fire. “Morning guys.” I said. “Hope you’re hungry. Mother Nature has provided us with a feast.” And that is when Little Pi started to wave around the skinned carcasses of breakfast.
The campsite was filled with sounds of gagging and several members headed for the bushes. I looked at Teresa and she was standing over the fire laughing, Kevin had fallen off his log and was holding his stomach. Big Pi and Mike were two of the members making some terrible wrenching noises from the bushes. I let out a chuckle and grabbed the skillet, filled it with some oil, and then I started to dismember breakfast and toss the bits and pieces into the skillet.
By the time the meat had seared, everyone in our party had returned from relieving their bodily fluids and the scent of fresh food filled our own safe harbor. When the meat had been cooked enough I gently place each piece into the pot of boiling water along with a can of corn, peas, beans along with a liberal amount of salt and pepper. The aroma of the food started everyone’s stomach rumbling and mouths salivating.
“How long ‘til it’s done?” Mikey questioned.
I stirred the pot and looked into it, bits of vegetables floated in a clockwise manner and every now and then a piece of meat would pop up to the surface. “It should be about twenty or thirty more minutes.” I replied. “Say, I have some aspirin in my medical kit, if you all want some you’re welcome to it, also, if you take a quick swim it might help clear your minds a bit before we eat.”
Everyone wanted some and I told Teresa where the medical kit was and she went and got it and passed out the over the counter pain killer to everyone and then all the guys headed to the pond and stripped down to their underwear and waded in. The girls all hung out at the campfire staring flames. “Don’t any of you girls want to take a dip?” I asked.
“We didn’t bring any bathing suits and we can’t just strip down naked with those over excited knuckleheads.” Karen answered for all the ladies.
“You could go in your underwear like the guys.” I suggested. “It’s going to be a while and there really is nothing to do but sit around and wait for the food to cook. Unless you want to gather more firewood or get some water so we can boil it and have it for later.”
The girls all went about their way, except for Teresa, she hung with me and she filled me in on the dynamics of the group. It seemed to me that everyone had pretty much tried to date everyone else. Well, as long as they weren’t related. And I had come into the fold just as all the bad feelings and resentment had started to settle.
“Do you think anyone will make a big deal of you and I crashing together last night?” I asked her.
“Nah, from what I understand I was dared to go in there and I’m not really interested in anyone in the group. Sure, Mikey and I used to fool around a bit but that was months ago.” Teresa said off-handedly.
One by one the group returned, the guys soaking wet and the girls with armloads of dried limbs. I checked the food and all the vegetables and meat was floating on the surface. “Chow is ready, time to dig in. I don’t have much in the way of camp silverware but I’m sure we can share.”
“Don’t worry about that.” Mikey said, “I brought along a bunch of silverware and bowls. We can just divvy everything up.”
Big Pi spooned the food out, and handed the bowls to his brother who passed them around to everyone. We all ate in silence and when we were finished everyone had a smile on their face.
“Ya know, we should show Skip the haunted house today.” Karen said.
“What haunted house?” I asked and I looked into the grinning, mischievous eyes of camaraderie.