Once again, for your reading pleasure, a story written as an assignment for school. The guidelines for writing were to think of a real life situation then fabricate a story around it. About 10 percent (maybe less) of this is fact from a true story in my life.
What’s That Noise?
My back is killing me. I have to pee so bad that pains are shooting across my belly. The baby’s gentle breathing is holding a steady rhythm twice the speed of my snoring husband lying next to me. Well, he isn’t exactly lying next to me. Rather we are entwined together and sort of doubled over to fit into the back of our little compact car with the back seat folded down.
The dreadful noise that has kept me awake all night seems quieter now, somehow muffled, as darkness begins to give way to the sun that will soon be rising over Tunkwa Lake. It’s funny how even the tiniest bit of light chases away fears and brings comfort. Still, the sliver of light is not strong enough to spark the bravery I need to actually get out of the car.
Through the condensation on the car window I can see the tent with its door still unzipped and flapping in the breeze. As the hump in the seat digs into my back, I see the foam mattress inside the tent lying there teasing me with thoughts of a soft comfy sleeping pad.
It is completely my fault that we are in this position, but I am unwilling to take the blame, so I lay here cursing the male primal instinct that has made my husband insist we take our baby son camping “so he can learn to be a real man.”
I have to admit that the area is beautiful. The 700-acre man-made lake is on the Thompson Plateau, half way between Savona and Logan Lake. The mix of open range and pine trees creates an environment that satisfies an outdoorsman like my husband while not totally alienating a city wimp like me.
The daytime vision of serenity had done nothing to console my reeling mind the previous evening while we lay in the pitch-black darkness of the tent. It must have been nearly midnight when we put out the campfire and snuggled into bed. It all felt so romantic: sitting under the stars, warming by the fire, enjoying nature and feeling at peace with the world. (The bottle of wine enhanced all this, I’m sure.)
We had been in bed just long enough for the chill to start to leave my frozen butt and sleep begin to take over my thoughts.
“What’s that?” I inquire of my husband, whom I expect to know everything. He is, after all, the experienced camper.
“I don’t have a friggin’ clue.” His reply only increases my fear.
The bizarre noise apparently means nothing to him, and his breathing becomes heavy and relaxed, competing with the sounds permeating the tent from outside. My heart, meanwhile, is beating hard and fast in my ears; I am holding a glimmer of hope that it will actually drown out the noise that is piercing the darkness. It is like nothing I have ever heard before: kind of a deep roar, it almost sounds like the terror of something being tortured. It is a sound I can easily imagine coming from the depths of hell. There are occasional moments of silence but for the most part the sound is unabated. I cannot hear any other campers moving about. Surely someone out there packs a gun. Someone must know what it is and be able to save us all.
I imagine every possible scenario. I know there are cougars in the area; I have never seen or heard one but I don’t think this is the type of noise they would make.
Guilt washes over me and mixes in with my fear. Why did I bring my helpless little baby into the woods to sleep with just a thin piece of fabric protecting him from predators?
I can visualize the psycho “Bushman of the Shuswap” roaming around our campsite. The escaped criminal has outwitted police for a couple of years now and remains on the loose in the area, living off food and clothing taken from vacated homes and cabins. But he is living in hiding; he will act in silence, I try to console myself. On further thought, I am sure there is no way a human being, psychotic or not, can make that noise.
I know Okanagan Lake has the legend of Ogopogo, a large sea creature, living in the water. I can’t recall any such stories from the Kamloops area. I don’t believe in such things. Do I?
I do know one thing. I will not spend one more minute in this flimsy little tent. I shake my husband. “Hon, can we sleep in the car?”
“I’m scared. I’ll never sleep out here with all that noise,” I confess. At least the car will provide a metal barrier between us and whatever lurks out there in the darkness. It should also help to muffle those excruciating sounds.
Every marriage has defining moments when you know “this is why I married that person.” As my husband packs up all the bedding and the diaper bag and heads into the darkness towards the car, I have one of those moments. But I have no time to dwell on it. I scoop up the baby and, in what seems like one leap, I am in the car.
The rest of night is restless and I have never been so glad to see a day dawning. The noise can still be heard but is far less frequent and quieter, almost hoarse. I can hear the chugging of a motor as a fisherman pulls on the cord to start his boat out on the water. I take comfort in the fact that someone else is up and about and has not been killed and eaten.
The sounds and events of the night are not so prevalent in my mind now; I am more consumed with the fact that I have to pee so badly. As I lay here, I wish I had been brave enough to get up a half hour earlier while it was still totally dark. I could have taken half a step away from the car and squatted on the ground, but now it is too light out. The sound of wood being chopped in the distance tells me that people have started to awaken.
I spy the baby’s empty bottle lying next to him on the front seat… could I use it as a bedpan? We brought lots of them along. I can just throw it away. No, what if my husband wakes up and thinks it is apple juice for the baby. I can’t risk it. Besides, I am sure my bladder is housing a lot more than eight ounces anyway.
I inhale deeply and my breath catches in my throat as I crawl out of the car and pray all the way to the outhouse.
It is a good thing I am already sitting, and my pants are down. I can tell it is coming from not too far behind me. My mind is racing. How am I going to get back to the car, now? I certainly won’t be leaving the outhouse until someone comes to the door. I refuse to be attacked alone.
Mustering all my courage, I climb up on the toilet seat and peer out the vent hole at the back.
There, about 100 feet away, is a calf that has strayed from a herd of cattle that wanders the open range. It is stuck in a small ravine and cannot climb out. It has been bawling hopelessly for its mother. The hours of constant mooing have caused it to nearly lose its voice; it is drooling and frothing at the mouth. The sight, on a normal day, would have brought tears of pity to my eyes. This morning, after the night of terror I have spent at the hands of a cow, and a baby one at that, all I feel as I peek out this little hole in the outhouse is anger and humiliation.
On my way back to the campsite, I pass a couple of men who are headed to the calf’s rescue.
I crawl into the tent; I know I have about 2 hours to sleep before the baby and my husband wake up. Sleep comes fast and I have pleasant dreams of retribution: I am grilling a Grade A steak on the open campfire…
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