The Ginger Man, revisited

[Not sure why, but I’ve been gravitating towards poetry of late. Unbolt has just re-blogged a powerful poem by Malicia Frost, and in response I’ve decided to re-visit a scene from one of the stories I’ve drafted on this blog.]

Charlie stumbled through the woods, his flashlight’s beam bouncing weakly in the oppressive darkness, as he tried to follow Mike’s directions as best as he could remember (ten paces from the stream’s bend, turn left at the cedar — but the nearest cedar was on the other side of the stream). After backing into the stream a second time, he had decided to give up his search, go back to his parents’ trailer, have a few beers and forget about this crazy idea he had about his dead friend — 

When a moonbeam caught the corner of his vision, and landed on a flat surface that Charlie instantly recognized.

Forcusing on the moonbeam, Charlie fought through dense barren branches and unsteady undergrowth, ignoring the scratches on his face and hands, and a moment later saw the clearing and more of the black tarp that the moonbeam had located. With a final push of his overweight body, Charlie cleared the trees, stumbled into the small clearing, and stood before the crude structure Mike had built so many years ago.

An uncle had a tent that had been badly damaged on a camping trip, and Mike had been able to take possession before it could be thrown away. (That was Mike’s story anyway, and Charile saw no reason to challenge him on this.)  Charlie helped him with the motely repairs of duct tape and shreds of durable fabric. They were eleven, twelve at the time, the darkness that would hover over Mike’s countenance still a year or two away, his face beaming as they raised the final tent poles inside.

“Awesome!” Charlie smiled at the memory of Mike’s exuberance. “It’s like, our own little fort!” Our. And it had remained theirs that summer, the two of them retreating there regularly to read comic books. But by the following summer, the plural transformed into a singular, Mike’s invitations changing to come over to my tent.

Charlie looked over the exterior of the tent, impressed that it remained standing after so many years (seven? eight?). After that first summer they’d moved on from comics to other activities at the tent — smoking, drinking, girls. Mike never dated publicly, but would find the occassional girl who didn’t mind a little mystery. In the tent, Mike could be what he never was at school, with his family, in town. Confident. Relaxed. Daring. It was as if Mike transformed into a different person, someone who wasn’t anything like Mike, whenever he unfolded the flap of this tent, and crawled inside.

   

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