Evelyn is definitely a city girl. Camping isn’t exactly an itch she needs to scratch.
But for Kier, she makes an exception. Bet she’ll never make that mistake again. Enjoy!
“C’mon, mom, keep up!” Kier yelled from a bend in the trail.
Evelyn, struggling with the aluminum folding chair she’d insisted on bringing, called back, “You could carry my chair for me, you know.”
With a put-upon air, newly teenaged Kier said, “You wanted the chair, so you have to carry it.” He turned to his best friend Barry. “That’s one of the rules of camping, isn’t it?”
Barry shrugged. “I guess so. I mean, you and me’re fishing, so we’ve got to carry the fishing stuff, right?”
From behind Evelyn, a deep voice said, “I’ll carry it for you. It weighs, what? Five pounds?”
She turned to watch Barry’s father striding along the trail behind her. Not overly tall, the fit history teacher was lugging a large backpack and towing a cooler on wheels.
“No, I’m good. We’re almost there, aren’t we?”
“Well,” he said, “it’s about half a mile away still.”
Evelyn closed her eyes. Why did I let Kier talk me into this? I’m not a country girl! I’m used to paved sidewalks, ready access to restrooms, and my own bed at night, not that pathetic blow-up mattress and sleeping bag I had last night! And don’t get me started on those yipping little dogs in the next campsite!
She sighed deeply. “No, I’m good. Just ribbing the kid.”
Jerry Sheridan smiled as he passed her on the trail. “That’s the spirit! You can rest up for the return trip while the boys are fishing.”
Evelyn rolled her eyes and trudged on, every step hurting. Yesterday, she’d made the mistake of wearing the new hiking boots she’d purchased just for this trip. That mistake had earned her several blisters, so she’d replaced them with her old, well-worn sandals for today’s trek to the fishing pier.
She muttered to herself, “Right. Press on, Mr. Drill Sergeant. Hup, two, three, four.”
* * *
“Isn’t this great, mom?”
Evelyn walked up beside her son and gazed across Lake Chabot. Yep, she had to admit it was beautiful. Maybe it was even worth the hike, she thought sourly.
“Okay, boys, bring your fishing gear out here on the dock and let’s catch some fish for supper,” Jerry said, beckoning to them.
Evelyn watched the boys hurrying away and swung around. Where to put her damned heavy chair?
The cool shade under the fringe of trees called to her. Stumbling up the slight rise, she found a mostly-level spot, unfolded the chair, and sank down with a sigh. With her eyes closed, she could almost imagine she was on her own porch, with a cool breeze wafting across her face.
Something tickled her arm. After the frenzy she’d been in when she discovered little black beetles sharing her sleeping bag last night, she opened her eyes wide, swiveling around, looking for danger.
It was only a leaf. Well, a lot of leaves brushing her arm. She tried to make them leave her alone, but to no avail. With an exasperated sigh, she levered herself up and moved the chair to a more open area.
“There! Take that, you pushy plant!”
Down at the water, she heard her son crowing, “Got one!” He turned his face toward her, beaming. “Look, mom! Supper!”
She smiled and waved. Maybe this camping trip wasn’t such a bad idea after all. At least Kier’s happy.
* * *
Evelyn wasn’t in the best of moods by the time they got back to their campsite. She hadn’t thought about the forty-five minute return trip—uphill! And why was she so itchy all of a sudden?
“It’s too hot,” Barry whined.
Wiping the sweat from her brow, Evelyn smiled at the young man. “I agree. It wouldn’t be so bad if there were a breeze, but walking uphill in this heat is getting to me too.”
Beside her, Kier said, “Maybe the wind will pick up and cool us off, mom.” He spun around a few times with his arms out. “Look, I’m a helicopter! I’ll blow some air your way.” He began whistling, scaling up in pitch, imitating the sound of a helicopter taking off.
At that moment, Evelyn felt the air stir. “Keep it up! I think I feel a breeze,” she teased at him.
Suddenly, a gust of wind came rushing down the path and knocked the little aluminum chair out of her hands and into the weeds on the side of the trail.
“Okay! Enough with the wind!” Evelyn joked at Kier.
Looking abashed, Kier stopped whistling and ran over to help her retrieve the chair.
“Sorry, mom. I didn’t mean to make you drop the chair.”
Evelyn couldn’t help herself, she laughed. Does he really think it’s his fault that the wind blew the chair out of my hands. He’s too old to believe he had anything to do with that, isn’t he? Her professional curiosity was piqued. He’s thirteen. He’s known for years that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are fantasies for little kids. Surely he doesn’t still believe that magic is real. She shook her head. He hasn’t shown any other abnormalities. Well, other than the time he thought a tiger was something called a tigla and then freaked out, convinced it was going to eat him. But he was just a baby then.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a woman’s scream. Looking up, she realized they were almost back to their tents.
“Get out of my hampers, you vermin!”
Rounding the last corner, they beheld Barry’s mother waving a soup ladle like a sword at a foraging coyote.
When Mira Sheridan saw their party, she shook the ladle once more and backed away from the tan and rust-colored dog-like creature cowering by their car. “I heard noise in the kitchen area and there he was, head buried in the food boxes!”
Trying not to smile, Jerry said, “Well, you sure showed him who’s boss.”
Mira glanced back at the coyote in time to see the black tip of it’s tail vanishing into the brush.
She huffed. “I did, didn’t I.” Looking at the boys, she asked, “And what’s for supper?”
Eagerly, Barry and Kier opened up the cooler. Inside, six silvery fish rested on a bed of ice.
“This enough for all of us, you think?” Kier asked.
* * *
Around them, the campgrounds had quieted down as families sat down on logs and folding chairs for supper in the great outdoors.
Evelyn had had enough of her little aluminum folding chair, so she perched on a large log, watching Kier as he watched Mira fry their catch in a large wrought iron pan. The sizzle of fish was making her mouth water.
Absently, she scratched at her arm.
Jerry, beside her on the log, asked, “Something wrong, Evelyn?”
“No, just my arm’s been itching since the lake. It’s nothing, I’m sure.”
“Here,” he said, leaning over, “let me take a look.” He hummed to himself, turning her arm over and peering at the back. “Uh, you didn’t come in contact with any bushes, did you?”
“There was one that kept invading my personal space. Down by the lake while you and the boys were fishing. Why?”
“Oh, no. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that was a poison oak bush. That’s why your arm itches. I warned the boys, but I guess I forgot to warn you. They trim it back so you’re safe on the trails, but you have to be very careful if you venture off.”
Evelyn jerked her arm away from him and examined the skin. Tiny blisters were forming along the back and red ridges showed where she’d been scratching. She groaned.
“Not again! I got poison ivy when I was a kid. They warned me to keep clear of the stuff, but I didn’t think about that.” She shook her head. “Not your fault, Jerry. I should have known better.”
“I’ll get the calamine lotion. At least you won’t itch as much and can enjoy the fine dinner our boys have provided.” He smiled and went into one of the tents, bringing back a familiar pink bottle. As he smoothed the lotion on her arms, he said, “It’s a good color on you, don’t you think?”
* * *
They were almost done packing up the next morning when Barry came over to help tear down the tent she’d used.
“Hey, Kier, are you still going to go to HydraCon with me? I’m gonna be Chewbacca this year. Mom’s already got the fake fur to make my costume.”
Kier eyed his friend. “Well, you’re sure tall enough. I guess I get to go as Han Solo, then.”
“Whoa! What’s this about a costume?” Evelyn asked.
Kier turned to her, a worried look on his face. “Uh, did I forget to mention that part? Everyone wears a hall costume. I thought I told you.”
“And am I expected to make this costume?” she asked, fear gripping her heart. I don’t know how to sew. How am I going to make a costume?
Kier sighed. “That’s why I asked Maeve to make it. Duh!”
Relief washed over her. She made a mental note. Give Maeve a raise. That woman works wonders with this kid.
Kier and Barry had just finished packing up the tent as Evelyn loaded the last of their things into her van.
After saying their goodbyes, she and Kier hopped into the van to head home.
As she turned the key to start the engine, Kier asked, “Did you enjoy yourself, Mom?”
She sighed heavily. “Aside from the blisters on my feet and the poison oak rash on my arm, you mean?” She tilted her head for a moment, thinking over the events of the weekend. Then she nodded. “Yes, it was nice to spend some time with you and your friends. But, please, please, please, whatever you do, don’t ever make me do it again!”