It was a midweek morning, uneventful and lazy. I was attempting a crossword in red pen, really living life on the edge. Ghoul sat opposite, posture unnervingly straight for someone lacking seventeen vertebrae. He was browsing for a weekend getaway, which didn’t make sense since he wanted to stay close to home. And I recall ignoring his unrealistic ideas while struggling to find the right word for a young dog; five letters and ends with a Y, seemed simple enough yet the game maker’s juxtaposition was ever spiteful. Ghoul finally caught my attention.
“They spell campground with a K, how can you not like that? They’re even doing a movie night, look at this craziness,” he flipped his laptop around to a photo of Jaws playing on a stretched canvas to a floating audience. It looked good and all, but secretly, I couldn’t trust the inner tube.
“I’ll tell you why I don’t like any of this,” I shook my pen at him like a teacher scolding a pesky student. “Because I’m a man of the woods, dammit, and I don’t need to spend no ninety-nine-ninety-five to pitch a tent for the night. No sir, won’t do it.”
Ghoul scrolled up the page.
“But they’re doing a four square tournament on Saturday night. Costs a little to join but first place wins big.”
He had me at four square, and with that, we made plans.
I called out of work in advance; my old standby, diarrhea, failed to disappoint. We packed the essentials the night before: tent, sleeping bags, air mattresses, chairs, cooler of food, cooler of beer, cooler of frozen scraps of human, swimming gear, bug spray, clothes and some mushrooms. I had never tripped before, and I thought to myself, hey, self. It’s me, Sam. If we’re going to trip-balls for the first time ever, best do it at a Kampground of America.
Ghoul drove the first half. Twenty-one minutes later, it was my turn.
The KOA’s entrance was setback from the main drag, lost within a thick expanse of tall spruce and oak. I slowed into the mouth of the dirt entrance. A disheveled brown sign was lost on the side. Any recognizable lettering was too far gone, faded and sickly.
Around the first bend was the gate, a crude cylinder of metal with chipping yellow paint. I thought of police tape; caution, stay out. And there was something else, some shimmer of grey haze just beyond. I looked up, searching for an end to this curiosity.
“Pay attention,” Ghoul snapped.
I snapped my head down, then pushed down on the break pedal. We jerked forward. The veil beyond the gate appeared to expand and contract like a set of ghost lungs.
A man emerged from the woods (or the haze, I can’t remember). He held a clipboard and wore a red and black flannel long-sleeve. Why he wore non-prescription glasses, I do not know, but like all hipsters, he appeared obviously uncomfortable in his pristine skinny jeans.
Ghoul said what I was thinking.
“This guy is content with an awful manbun and his smugness confirms it.”
“Please don’t get me going. You know how I feel about their kind.”
“You do understand that you’re some sort of new age racist, right?”
“That’s not true… is it?”
The man approached the window.
“Hey-a folks, welcome to K.O.A.,” he said.
I glanced and caught his name tag: Kurt B., Day Manager, lettered in blood red.
“We’re here for the weekend. And the four square.”
Kurt attempted to hand me a brochure, but I slapped it away. I pulled out my wallet and said, “Four square. Weekend. Do you get it?”
“Yes Sam, I got it,” replied Kurt.
It never occurred to me that he knew my name before I handed him my credit card, or that his eyes glowed a furious crimson when I averted my gaze from his pretentiousness. My main concern was distancing myself from Kurt’s profound glitter beard. It was a sheen of black ebony on curly wisps, sparkling with pulsing reds. He finally finished with my card and held out his clipboard.
“If I can get you to just sign on the X’s, that’d be great,” I borrowed his pen, scribbled my name down. “By the way: the beard is called Dazzling Inferno. Has a good flow to it, right? You two have a fantastic time.”
We drove through the haze, and into the campground.
© John Potts Jr. 2016 – 2017. All rights reserved.