Me and Mortimer—Chapter Six, “Gone Camping”

Well, like I promised, I put my foot down and insisted the family go campin’ with me up at Pine Lake instead of goin’ to Marine Land. The wife didn’t wanna go campin’ with me—sez she’s not one to rough it and sleep outdoors in a tent—Hmph! I guess, like most delicate women, she prefers shopin’ malls and sidewalks instead of fresh air and nature! And the kids—’specially the kids—they didn’t want to go campin’, no way! They had set their heart on visitin’ Marine Land on Vancouver Island, and no amount of persuadin’ or bribin’ on my part could convince them otherwise!

Sheesh! Kids, now-a-days. They just don’t have no appreciation for nature anymore! Anyway, like I said, I put my foot down and told them, it’s my way, or the highway! Even threats of lowerin’ their allowance wasn’t gonna persuade them otherwise.

Turns out, when I gave them that kind of an ultimatum, they preferred the highway. So, come late Sunday night, when I was packin’ my pup tent and fishin’ gear into the car, I decided to give them a final chance: enjoy nature, or eat smog in the city.

Again, they stubbornly chose smog over fresh air! So, come Monday mornin,’ I just started off for Pine Lake all by myself!

Of course, nobody told me that it was a long weekend so there was more campers at the lake than ants in a anthill! I had to drive around for a while, but finally found a spot that was a bit distant from the lake itself. The ground was a bit soggy from last night’s rain, but my pup tent had a waterproof floor, so I wasn’t gonna get wet sleeping at nights—at least I hoped not to get wet.

I just got my tent up and settled down when a guy with one of those god-awful dirt bikes, snortin’ noise and exhaust, comes roarin’ down the trail, almost on top of me, not slowin’ down or carin’ about my safety, and splashes mud all over me and my tent! I jumped up and was gonna grab his bike and throw it in the lake, but he was too quick for me.  He just goes roarin’ off, laughin’ like a insane hyena that had just escaped from the zoo, sprayin’ more mud in my face on the way out.

I forgot to pack some extra water for washing, so I had to walk all the way down to the lake to wash off the mud. Of course, it was dusk and the sun had just set and the night air was gettin’ cool, so after washing myself, I shivered all the way back to my tent where I had forgot my towel. I lit my small camp stove, and it gave me enough heat so I could stop shiverin.’

What a way to end my first day campin’!

I was woke up early next mornin’ by a bunch of noisy crows squabblin’ over some smelly thing they had found near a tree stump. I threw a stone at them and they scattered. I tried goin’ to sleep again, but couldn’t, so since I was awake anyway, I thought I might’s well get dressed and try some fishin.’ Trouble was, a dozen other guys had the same idea, and all the nice spots were already taken. So, again, I had to move up a ways over some slippery rocks before I could get into an area of water that I thought might hold some fish.

Lucky for me, I caught my first fish in less than half an hour of casting! But, now I had a problem. No use me catchin’ more fish, ‘cause I could only pan fry and eat one fish and I didn’t want to quit and go back to my tent so soon so I released that fish back into the water, and baited my hook with a new worm and kept on fishin.’

That was a mistake! Noon came, and I had not caught another fish! A guy just down a bit from where I was fishin’ caught four beautiful, nine-inch-long lake trout, so when he packed up and left I took his spot, hopin’ I’d have the same luck as he had.

Three o’clock, and no luck! The fish just wasn’t biting for me today, and I was startin’ to get a bit tired, standin’ like this in the water in my waders, so I just packed it up and walked back to my tent. Lucky for me, I was smart enough to pack some extra grub—just in case—so I opened a can of Spam and had it for supper, pretending it was a lake trout that I had caught. To help with the taste, and make me feel  better, I even imagined that I had fried it in butter, lightly salted and turned to perfection, over my camp fire.

Evening was turning out to be just perfect. There was no wind, and the lake was calm and smooth as glass, reflectin’ all those nice evening colors of the sunset. God just don’t make more beautiful evenings than like tonight!

But, that nice evening didn’t last long. A bunch of young punks, closer down by the lake itself, decided to have a party! I could see them haulin’ out cases of beer and settin’ them next to a huge fire they had built out of dead tree sticks the lake had washed ashore.

My hunch was right. By midnight, them punks was hootin’ and hollerin’ and makin’ more noise than a bunch of howling banshees at a family reunion!

I guess somebody musta complained to the cops about them, ‘cause it wasn’t long after midnight when two park rangers came by and sorta busted up the party and ordered the punks out of the park.

I started walkin’ down to the punk-party-that-was to add my complaint to the park rangers, but it wasn’t necessary. By the time I got down there, the punks were already on their way out. But, talkin’ to the rangers, I did find out some news I was glad to hear. Remember me tellin’ you about the guy and his dirt bike that nearly ran over me? Well, turns out that he hit a fallen tree just a bit past me and my tent and he and his bike went flyin’ and tumblin’ down through the brushy slope, nearly into the lake itself! He ended up with a broken collar bone and a broken ankle. And I didn’t have to throw his bike into the lake. When he hit that fallen tree, that tree did a better job on his bike than I could have even imagined!

Well, the rest of the week at the lake was pretty quiet. I did catch a few fish and ate them for my supper—I like ‘em best when they’re fried in butter and with a bit of salt on them, so the week wasn’t entirely wasted.

I guess I could mention to you about a little incident that happened on Thursday. Thursday, just before noon, I had caught my fifth lake trout of the week—a real beauty, I might add, only this time I wasn’t gonna be silly enough to throw it back into the water and keep on fishin’ like I did on Monday. No sir, not this time! “Once fooled, shame on you. Twice fooled, shame on me,” I always ses.

I unhooked the fish from my line and carefully laid it on a rock outcrop in the water just behind me and kept on fishin’. Well, not even a minute later—with my luck, wouldn’t you know it—and quicker than a politician can deny he said somethin’ stupid, a sea gull swooped down and snatched that fish off the rock, and before I could turn and grab it back, it and my fish was gone!

“I hope you choke on it!” I yelled and shook my fist at that departing thief. I was so upset I just spit in the lake and quit fishin’ for the day. Lucky for me, I still had one can of Spam left, so I had that for supper!

Lookin’ back over the week, it was disappointing. I got a rash on my arms from all those mosquito bites—and, of course, forgot to bring insect repellant with me to stop ‘em from bitin’ me. I tore a long rip into the seat of my pants from a branch I accidently fell against, so after that, I had to watch that I didn’t expose my backside to anyone I met on the trail, and I accidently spilled into the water the remaining can of worms that I was using to bait my fishin’ pole. All told, I was havin’ a bad week, so decided it was time to get outa here!

When I arrived back home late Sunday night I found my wife and kids had their travel bags all packed and ready to go first thing Monday mornin’.

“You had your holiday, now we’re having ours!” she bluntly told me, without so much as askin’ how I enjoyed my campin’ trip.

“—Oh, and here.” She passed me a postcard that the mailman had delivered to the house. It was from Mortimer.

“Welcome back to work on Monday!” the card read. “I missed our arguments!”

Sheesh!”

About Albert Schindler

I was born on the 27th of February, 1931, on a farm near Hubbard, Saskatchewan. As far back as I can remember I had a spirit that would not stay earthbound. In junior high, I remember taking first place for a short story in which I described my terrifying encounter with a dinosaur. In outer space – that is, when the teacher wasn’t directly speaking to me, I went where Buck Rogers wouldn’t dare go. I was more of a Calvin in Calvin and Hobbes type of guy, with my own, personal, very powerful, transmogrifyer always at the ready. In my ‘teens and twenties, I pushed aside my Calvin alter ego in favour of making a living and didn’t take seriously again my ‘writer’s bug’ until my late 30s. I still saw that the world as full of exciting things to learn and investigate, which my writing reflected in the several articles and a couple of short fiction pieces that I wrote and sold, including over 30 children’s radio plays for Alberta’s ACCESS Radio. Unfortunately, I abandoned my budding writing career in favour of starting my own business as a sign painter. Now that I can officially call myself ‘retired,’ I plan to resume my writing career, only this time, writing mostly fiction. Why fiction? I have lead a great, adventurous life in which I made many mistakes (the ‘adventure’ in life), that have taught me some very important lessons and allowed my spirit to grow to unimaginable proportions, inconceivable to me while still in my thirties. In fiction, I believe, one can adventure into both the inner and outer consciousness of man and the universe to infinite levels where only the boldest dare peak. Convention holds that article writing has to be factual – oh, you can be creative in how you present your information, but ‘fact’ (whatever that means) still must have its parameters in article writing, whereas fiction is limited only by the size of a writer’s spirit, and so far, I haven’t been able to fathom my limit.
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