This story appears in my new book A Creature Wanting Form.
A childhood friend had died and we were sharing photos in the group chat going remember this and remember this like you do when someone dies and here was one of us at Boy Scout camp a certain number of years ago. There we all were in our tight green cargo shorts and the socks pulled up high with everything else that would ever happen to us still to come and I thought of climbing trees and digging holes and rowing boats and shooting arrows and running three-legged races etcetera but the one memory that has stuck with me the most from my half dozen summers out there in the stolen state forest was from my first night ever away at camp. I would have been about twelve or thirteen and I was getting set up in my tent and I was nervous to be away from home and I had to go to the bathroom real bad and so I walked a safe distance out into the thicket where no one could see me and squatted next to a tree and emptied fifteen pounds of turds directly back into my dropped shorts. A marksman couldn’t have hit a more direct bullseye. Not a single drop made it onto the ground.
It was like pitching a perfect game.
After I had buried the evidence in a shallow grave and cleaned myself up for what felt like four hours I told my dead friend what had happened and he said you idiot there’s a bathroom we’re supposed to use just down the path over there.
So my training as an outdoorsman was off to an inauspicious start.
A couple days later I shot a gun for the first time and did some Native American themed ceremony stuff that probably wasn’t great in retrospect and then one night my dead friend and I slept directly under the bright celestial canopy with the entire universe as our blanket. I never felt more anchored to the earth. That I’d have to suffer under the boot of its cursed gravity for as long as I lived and never once breathe in how a second planet’s air tasted.
There was a noise in the near distance that sounded like an animal and this other child asked me if I thought there were bears out there and I said yes of course to sort of scare him. Putting the flashlight under my chin.
Turn that off he yelled at me and he meant it sincerely so I did. Like the effect of the light was echoing back at him from later on.
There were certain types of bears you were supposed to confront. For one you would make yourself seem big and loud to back them down and certain types you were supposed to play dead for and neither of us could remember which kind was which lying there in lower-class outer space. How the hell was I supposed to know the difference between species of bears? I didn’t even know how to shit in the woods correctly which is something people and bears have been doing for millions of years without incident.
I’m just gonna run for it either way my dead friend said. I know you’re not supposed to but I’m going to take off running if I see one he said which I considered a personal offense because he was always so much faster at everything than me.