Copper Flames

24 08 2009

We had big plans to go camping Up North. Only it started to rain a little before we got there. Light, misty, warm drizzle. Jacks drove us to Loon Lake. It’s on a seasonal road. If you’re not from there, you’d never find it. There’s one shitter, a hole in the ground. You better bring your own shower. Otherwise use the lake. We put down our tarp, assembled poles. Red to red. Blue to blue. And we raced to get the tent in standing position with rain fly. Every so often the wind would rustle the branches, sending us a pseudo down pour.

These were last minute big plans. We were doing this in the dark, using the car head lights. But we managed. Had a tent. 2 air mattresses. A shower/shitter. A screened in picnic area—only that soon turned into a Daddy Long Legs Haven.

We had hot dogs to roast and marshmallows to toast. No firewood. Anything that might have been used as kindling was soaked. No paper to start. Not that we could have fit anything more into my little hatchback Kia anyway.

Uncle Smoothie saved the day with dry logs and a can of gasoline. He brought Cousin T along. We had invited him to camp with us. Gasoline fire is quick but doesn’t last. The logs wouldn’t start. Cousin T threw some scrap paper in the fire. Only it wasn’t scrap. It was Uncle Smoothie’s truck title. Oops. Mostly we had a smoke signal. The fire didn’t really get going until it really started to rain. We retreated to the tent and fake farted until we fell asleep laughing.

The rain subsided by morning. We were able to get a second fire going from the coals. French Press Coffee and drinkable oatmeal. The coffee was good. Then it started to rain again. We played cards with Cousin T and then switched to scrabble. Only we gave up on that because he kept cheating. Hiding letters in his hoodie.

The tent started to leak. Wet pillows. Wet bedding. Wet ass. We packed the valuables and drove to Grandma’s where we dropped off Cousin T. We headed over to Mom’s for a shit and a shower. We thought things might clear, but there was a permanent cloud. We ended up throwing the muddy wet tent in the back of Mom’s truck. Nothing folds up nicely after camping. There was no way it would fit back into my little Kia.

Mom fed us a garden vegetable dinner. Beans with bacon. Zucchini & summer squash with butter. Corn slathered in butter. Sliced tomatoes. And oatmeal cookies. I think that’s all we ever do when we’re Up North. Eat and drink coffee.

When it stopped raining that night, Mom drove us to Head Quarters. Deeper into the woods on seasonal roads somewhere on state property. That’s where her boyfriend, Rob had been camping for the past 2 weeks. It looked like Rob had been out there longer than 2 weeks. The disorganized random shit he had out there—garage sale items that he had picked up: craftsman tool boxes, miniature pewter statues, lamps, kids toys.

Uncle Hiram was out there against medical advice. Mom wouldn’t shut-up about his congestive heart failure and COPD. Said he was killing himself with the drinking and his smoking. He’s an adult. Maybe killing himself was the point.

And Mike Kane had been living down the hill for the past 2 months in a reconstructed shack with a shitter on the lake. Seriously, you could sit on the toilet and look over the lake. He was the peaceful hippy type with a longish beard, a wooden stick for a cane, and stocky black dog. Jacks and Mom had talked about the Kane curse. Something bad happens to all of them by someone else’s hand or their own. Suicide, murder, cancer. I wondered how he was cursed.

I didn’t know it until we were driving away that Mike Kane had only been out of prison for 6 years. Stabbed a guy for $50 dollars while he was fucked up on crystal meth. Did 25 years. He was the nicest guy.

Uncle Hiram brought his stash. Said he paid $50 for 1/8th. He got ripped off. He’s blind. The shit was brown. So they smoked the oregano and pretended to get high for Uncle Hiram’s sake. He would fall asleep intermittently and wake up in the middle of a conversation and just start right in. I don’t think it was from anything he was smoking. I think it was a combination of lack of oxygen and elevated blood sugar from the beer.

I sat on an old boat seat low to the ground watching the copper flames. Every so often I would pick a Daddy Long Legs off my hoodie and throw it into the fire. There we were surrounded by trees and dark sky. And the only way to get in or out was by a two-track dirt lane.

It’s weird how the most peaceful, beautiful night was a night with a bunch of old men. Far away from the sulfur smell of the city and the orange night sky. No houses. No hum of traffic.

Jacks and I went 4-wheeling the next day on a different seasonal road. Traveled 30 miles and hardly saw a house. We were even lost for a little while. But we felt so free.

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