Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Snug Harbor Part 9

Who then can so softly bind up the wound of another as he who has felt the same wound himself.  ~Thomas Jefferson

            It took us a while to prepare the camp for our departure. It had taken much convincing on my new friends part to get me to give up my new found home away from home and join them by moving to the safety of Kevin’s backyard. Where it seems, most of the group camps in the safe shadows of the suburban veneer that we all know is as fragile an egg but pure as a sewage plant.
            All my questions about the haunted house and its location were segued into another story, ignored or, in most cases; I was told to ask Mikey. When I asked him the only answers I received were “Just wait, let’s get out of here first.” And then he would go back to packing up his equipment.
            Frustrated I went back to breaking down my tent, cleaning my gear and trying to get everything packed up. By the time I had all my things packed up, the rest of the group had been sitting around the extinguished fire pit, smoking cigarettes and offering snide bits of helpful advice. I tried to shrug off all the comments and focus on getting my backpack on and my duffle bags in hand. It had been a long three days and I hadn’t planned on taking everything back home with me.
            As I stumbled towards the group, who were in various stages of securing their own gear to their bodies and standing up, Little Pi walks over and relieves me of one of my bags. “Thanks man.” I say.
            “No problem Skip. I don’t have anything to carry anyway.” He answered.
            It took us almost an hour in the early morning heat to get to Kevin’s back yard; we were all tired, hot, sweaty and thirsty. We dumped all of our stuff on and around the picnic table in the back yard and flopped our bodies down wherever we could. No one spoke but the sound of our heavy gasps filled the yard and drowned out the noise of the neighborhood.
            “Christ I’m thirsty. Is there anything to drink?” I heard someone ask, I was too tired to look who was talking.
            “We have drinks in the house but I’m too tired to go in.” Kevin answered.
            Grunts and groans filled the air and then I saw Mikey appear in my peripheral vision, he was walking towards the back door of the house. I lost sight of him as he made his way around the swimming pool. He appeared a few minutes later dragging a hose with cool water streaming out of the end.
            “Here ya go you lazy fuckers.” He said with a grin and then added “You all owe me some smokes for this.”
            Just seeing the water had an amazing affect on us, we were filled with renewed energy and managed to make our way over to the hose. We each took turns filling our stomachs with the wonderful, life giving and body refreshing water. When my turn came, I took small sips and tried to not drink too much but instead let the water pour over my head to wash away the grime and sweat from the hike. This action also quickly cooled me down and I was in a much better mood when I made my way over to the picnic table and sat down.
            Big Pi was sitting there already and he handed me a smoke. “Let’s not do that again.” He commented.
            “Not my longest hike, but it was one of the hottest. Shit, I could use a bath or better yet, get in the pool.” I commented.
            “Can’t get in the pool.” Kevin said from behind us. “My dad has not shocked it yet, but we can get in the pond.” He offered.
            I looked behind me at the pond, there were algae on parts of the surface, bugs were flitting back and forth over the surface, some ducks were swimming in the middle of the water and there were some squirrels and chipmunks scampering around the shore. “Hmm, we can swim in a pond where there is scum on the water, birds are shitting in it and I’m sure the animals have done the same but we can’t get in a semi-clean pool that hasn’t been shocked yet? Now that’s funny.” I said with a laugh.
            I guess most of the group didn’t get my humor because the only one who laughed was Mikey. “Yeah, that is kind of fucked up.” He agreed.
            Still silence from the crew. We must have sat there for about thirty more minutes before anyone started to move. I was refreshed and hungry and I asked Kev if there was anything to munch on. He got up and motioned for us all to follow him. We assembled in the garage and Kev pulled out some sodas from the refrigerator and handed out bags of chips to everyone.
            As we stood around filling our stomachs Mikey informed us we had better get going if we were going to make it to the haunted house. Everyone agreed and we headed out.
            Mikey led us and instead of heading out to the street he walked towards the pond in Kev’s back yard. There was an overgrown foot path which led to the back side of the pond. As we made our way through the overgrown vegetation I saw abandoned rusty lawn mowers, bicycles, yard tools and even an old pickup truck. I made a comment about the stuff and Kev informed me the stuff had been there when they moved into the house years ago and the property had once belonged to a farmer before he sold it to developers.
            The path wasn’t wide enough for us to travel side by side so it was all single file hiking. Kevin was in front of me and Teresa was behind me. “So, what is this place? What’s the story? And has anyone seen any ghosts there?” I asked eagerly.
            “You should talk to Mikey, he knows the story best and he was there when the place burned down… well, sort of burned down.” Teresa told me.
            I nodded and tried to make my way up the path to Mikey. As I nudged past each person in the group they all had one thing or another to say about where we were going. “It was bloodbath”, “The cops never found all the bodies”,  “There were satanic marks all over the house”, “Someone said it was a crazed mental patient”, “It’s all bullshit” and other mutterings filled my ears. I really did not know what to expect from Mikey and as I came up behind him he turned his head, smiled and said “I was wondering if you were going to get up here.”
            “Yeah, wasn’t easy. Everyone seems to have their own idea about this place and what happened. Each story is different but they all seem to think you know what happened.”
            “Yeah, I know what happened. Hell, I even got to watch some of the fire.”
            “So… what happened?”
            “It’s not a really long story, but then it’s not a very short one either. But it is full of crazy.”
            “Ok… so what happened?”
            Mikey lowered his voice and sped up a little, I quickened my pace to keep up with him. “About five years ago a family built a house back off of Nero Lane, it was a real nice house too. One of the biggest built at the time. Hell the place had a three car garage and they even had a nice boat in the backyard and the house was built at the back of the property so you really couldn’t see it from the road.” Mikey let out a little laugh “I remember we used to go to the site at night while they were building the place and steal plywood and two by fours to help build the ramps at the Pit for our bikes.”
            “Anyway, the dad was some big shot in Green Bay and the mom didn’t work. They had a little kid, she was like three or four, and when they finally moved in a bunch of us hid in the woods and watched them. I mean, hell, it aint like there is a lot to do out here so we have to entertain ourselves and watching peoples stuff unload from trucks is about as exciting as watching paint dry… but it was something to do.
            “It took them a whole weekend to move in. They had all sorts of new stuff and then they had a huge house party. Cars were lined up and down Nero Lane and they invited everyone from the surrounding neighborhoods to come. My folks went, so did Kevin’s but nobody else really went from our neighborhood. Anyhow, Kev and I hid in the woods again and watched the party. It was a real blowout too. There were three grills cooking steaks, chicken and burgers. Coolers of beer and wine everywhere and music blasting so loud the animals didn’t return for three days after.”
            “They seemed like real nice folks and everything was fine with them for about a year or so. Then, one day, the dad starts coming home later and later and the wife, she gets involved in one of the country clubs or something and gets this babysitter to start watching the kid. Now, the mom, didn’t even try to get one of the local girls to watch the kid, she hires this grown woman from Green Bay to watch the kid while she is out doing her Country Club stuff. So the dad comes home almost every night of the week to this Babysitter.”
            “Nanny” I interrupted.
            “What’s that?”
            “If she was an older woman, she must have been a Nanny. They do more stuff than a Babysitter does and get paid more too.” I added.
            “Who’s telling the story Man? You or me?”
            “You are Mikey… you are.”
            “Good… so the old man comes home to the baby… NANNY everynight and then she goes home. The mom usually got home a bit later. This sort of stuff went on for… hmmm… must have been about six months or so and then one night the dad comes home and no one is there. No nanny, no kid, no wife. I can only imagine he was pissed off.”   
            “So this stuff starts happening more and more. The guy is not happy at all. One time Kev, Big Pi and I were sitting in the woods looking at the boat and he was in his shed pounding the hell out of something and cussing up a storm. It was some funny shit man. And when the wife came home with the Nanny and the kid he starts yelling and screaming at them. Man, he looked completely nuts so we got out of there as fast as we could.”
            “We stayed away from there for about a week or so, school had just started and our folks wouldn’t let us out too late at night. But one Friday night I was headed over to Kev’s house when I saw smoke over the trees so I ran through the woods to see what was going on… when I got to the back of the families property I saw the house was on fire. Damn fire was so hot the boat was melting on the trailer it was sitting on. I could hear people yelling and screaming from the front of the house and I tried to make my way around the property but when I got to the shed I couldn’t go any further…”
            “Why not? What happened?” I questioned eagerly.
            “Well that’s the really weird part. As I got to the shed, I saw smoke coming out of the windows and near the roof. But what stopped me was the crying.”
            “Yeah, it sounded like a little kid or a baby was crying in the shed. It freaked me out. Just the awful wailing noise. It didn’t stop either. Not to take a breath, not to scream for help… just one high-pitched scream of pain.” Mikey stopped walking, his body was shaking and I saw he was fumbling for something. I head a match being lit and smelled the acrid smoke of a cigarette. Mikey straightened his back up and it seemed his whole body shuddered in the now afternoon light.
            “You ok Mikey?” I asked quietly.
            “Yeah man… I’m good.” He started walking again without saying anything. I turned to look at the rest of the miscreants I had fallen into friendship with and they all had the same look on their face. It was as if they knew what part of the story Mikey had come to. Their heads were down; they refused to make eye contact with me and the woods seemed to be closing in on us. I kept walking, in silence.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Viva Revolution!

A nation under a well regulated government, should permit none to remain uninstructed. It is monarchical and aristocratical government only that requires ignorance for its support.
Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1792

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. 
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. 
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: 
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. 
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. 
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Snug Harbor Part 8

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.