Camping Trip, Pt. 3

The aluminum hull plowed over the relatively still surface of the reservoir. Pockets of mist, churned by our passage, scattered like the down-tufted dandelion heads Joaquin and I loved to blow apart. That vapor which didn’t escape in the wake of our breeze flecked our clothing and exposed skin while its fatter cousin tapped down gently all around. Was our vessel truly cruising above the water or beneath it? Strange stuff.

“Stranded?”

Where did the water stop? Where’d it begin?

Strange how we compartmentalize things and fabricate opposites, like water and fire. Strange not because this isn’t a useful activity. It’s necessary to define things, to identify and understand the chaos. What’s strange is how then we walk away from our mental palace, admiring it from afar. We pretend someone else built it. Holy ghosts. Priests. Kings and queens. Presidents, prime ministers, and chancellors. Warriors certainly! And my parents. They made this world we so humbly live in, but not us.

It was not I who decided where the water separated from the land and air, who decided when it wasn’t water enough to be water anymore. I made it someone else’s responsibility. When, in actuality, all of it is my creation. Of course, I had a lot of help and tutelage, but only I live within this space I’ve chosen to be reality. Only I can live here. I’m the only one suited to it. Even if I do frequently bungle it. It’s as if upon my birth I’d been handed a coloring book and a box of crayons. Some people praised me for coloring within the lines and others praised me for not. Some praised me for drawing my own cats and dogs and some praised me for inventing unusual things. And of course, there was a lot of scolding too. Lots. And then as my proverbial coloring book got full and worn and sad looking I discovered not as many people liked what I was creating as much as I’d hoped. I lost my “how clever am I” smile. At some point, I made it my parents’ fault. The warriors et al got a lot of the blame too. “It’s not my fault!” I shouted. “I didn’t make the world this way.”

Oh but didn’t I?

We navigated the reservoir for twenty to thirty minutes with thoughts like this roiling about in my anxious brain. A foreshadowing of things to come. Then, finally recognizing our island, basically a long and densely forested sandbar, we cut northward past the headland into the strait between the island and the mainland. We excitedly studied the trees growing just beyond the rocks and brambles complicating the shoreline. We wondered if we would ever even find a way into the wilderness. The forest seemed too dense to enter.

“The forest seemed too dense to enter.”

As I pulled the rudder, bringing us around the eastern tip of the island (and the sandy cove we’d claim for our campsite) my right hand ached in the familiarly strange, numb manner. It reminded me of work. The carpentry job. I loved the work but hated the job. Mostly I hated what it was doing to my hands. I hated what it was doing to my creativity and my family time too. And then there were the problems I’d been having with the boss-man. The signs that he didn’t have a place for me on his team were all there. The out-of-the-blue explosive anger and the acidic condescension. Then, just as quick, he’d be this jovial, encouraging, southern gent again. And the thing was I was quickly losing interest in his shenanigans too. Shit!

Distracted by self-pity, I cut the engine too soon. We were drifting toward the beach but none of us felt sure we had enough propulsion to beat the current and make the shore. I tried to restart the engine. Three pulls on the cord and nothing.

“Oh my God,” Rita said, her voice tense with alarm. “The motor broke?”

Just then, Steve who’d been eager to escape this tin pot hell jumped overboard and began swimming for the beach. His harness was attached to a long, thin rubber tether. Before long he was towing us. “You’re a genius,” I muttered. Soon, Rita and I were laughing our asses off.

We cheered him on: “Good boy, Stevie!” And then I jumped in after the dog and heaved the boat the rest of the way up on the coarse, yellow sand.

Rita looked me dead in the eye when she climbed up the beach to me with Kino in her arms. “Are we stuck here?”

“Stranded?” I looked at her sheepishly. “No, I just forgot the engine was still in gear when I tried to restart it.”

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