okefenokee cover image okefenokee
68 pages

atlanta, ga


we don't see any thing that resembles the campsite of last night. the canal is a dead end, and there is no building or fire pit around the landing. i remember that the trail marked on the map went across the island. i had assumed that this meant we would be paddling through a canal, but the scale of the map was too small to show it. now i get the idea that they waterway stops on one side of the island, and we are expected to carry our stuff over land to continue in the next waterway.

we decide that it is best if we walk down the path and find our destination before we start hauling our canoe through the woods. i get our canteen; beth takes her bug spray. the path is pretty straight and level. i wave a tree branch in front of us as we walk, destroying all the homes of the spiders who live along the way. we soon pass an outhouse, but we don't inspect it. the trail is seeming to be a bit long for hauling a canoe across, when, through the trees, i spot a building. i point it out to beth, declaring that i remember reading about a hunting cabin that is on one of the islands. this must be it.

the campsite is sweet. there is a huge circle of benches around a nice big fire pit. the cabin looks nice and dry. there is nice picnic table, too. this place is great. we both agree that floyd's island is far superior to canal run. i say that i want to take a look inside the cabin in which we are going to be sleeping tonight. as i reach for the handle of the screen door, i can not help but notice that there is a spider the size of my hand on it. i kick the door, hoping that it will fall from the handle. it doesn't; instead, it runs up the door and through a crack that leads into the house. great. i look inside, but i definitely do not want to enter without my flashlight. i turn back to beth and ask if she is ready to bring our stuff up to the site. she is.

as we are walking back to the canoe, a deer suddenly bursts into action in the woods to our right. we did not see it as we approached, and it either did not see or hear us, or it was waiting to scare the hell out of us. it waited until we were about 10 feet away, then it leapt up and ran through the faster than i could follow with my handicapped eyes. it took us a few seconds to realize what had happened; in the meantime, i was still waiting for the bear's paw to crush my face.

when we get to the canoe, we decide that it would be easier to drag it while it is full of stuff than it would be to carry our stuff, then come back for the boat. we try to push the canoe; it doesn't work. we try to pull the canoe; it doesn't work. it is tough to haul something that is as long as a car, but only two feet tall; my back already aches from rowing, and bending down to pull a boat is only more aggravating. we stumble along the way, barking our shins on the canoe and tripping over stumps and stones. i remember that it was suggested that we bring some rope for pulling the canoe; i had ignored this suggestion.

now that i see the wisdom of the advice concerning the inclusion of rope in the supplies. i look through our stuff to see what may be of use. i take the life jackets out of the boat, and i pull the straps from the loop. then, i tie the straps around the frame of the canoe. now, we can lift the boat by the straps, using the nice padding of the life jackets to prevent our hands from being cut by the nylon straps.

this works for a little while; we are making good progress until one of the straps breaks. i give the other one to beth, so she can pull, while i push the boat from behind. after a dozen or so rest stops, beth tells me that she can't pull anymore; what i don't tell her is that i am just as exhausted from pushing. we decide to switch places. after twenty seconds, i see why she couldn't pull; i imagine that she is simultaneously wondering how i managed to push.

finally, we get within sight of the cabin. as soon as we reach the clearing, we drop the boat and have a little cool down stroll around the site. not wishing for a repeat of yesterday's vomiting episode, i drink as much water as i can. after checking the underside of the table for spiders and other critters, i lay down on it. the stiff, filthy wood feels great.

our next task is to find out where we are supposed to go the next morning. i have trouble seeing where the continuation of the trail might be, so we walk along the edge of the clearing, looking for the most likely place. we find a promising spot; there is a long stretch of open trail leading straight in the opposite direction from where we entered.

swinging our tree branches against any spider webs that my block our path, we saunter down the path. it soon becomes a path less direct than its beginnings. we find ourselves wandering around bushes and stepping over fallen trees. eventually, there is no longer a trail before us. we don't see how we could have gone the wrong way. we both agree that there was no other path leading from the camping area. we admit that we must have missed something along the way, so we turn back. we follow the familiar spider webs that mark the trail, but we never see anything that looks like another path.

on the way back to the campsite, i see something slide across the path. my eyesight is too poor to determine what kind of snake it was; our plan is just to treat it as if were definitely poisonous and not go anywhere close to the place it had slithered. we safely cross the obstacle and continue towards the campsite. i hear something rustling in the trees to our right. i tell beth to stop and listen; we don't hear anything. we walk a little bit further, and i hear it again. i am positive that it is something to my right, but i can't see anything. i tell beth to direct her superior sight into the woods, expecting her to find a black bear charging us. there is nothing there.

when we get back to the campsite, we look back towards the path. it still appears to be the only possible way out of the campsite. we decide to give the search a rest for a while and walk around the cabin. i see an old water pump behind the cabin, and i go closer to inspect it. as soon as a grab the handle, swarms of mosquitoes attack us. we run back to the front of the cabin, seeking an escape. when we turn to see if we have evaded them, we find the other trail. it is not across the clearing as we had thought, it is practically behind the little building.

grabbing another branch for spider-protection, we stroll down the path. we are pleased to find that the distance from the cabin to the water's edge is only a few dozen yards. seeing that everything is under control, we walk back to the campsite to set up for the evening.

the first thing we both want to do is inspect the cabin. i remember that it is a hunting cabin that was built in the 1920's, when this island and the swamp were privately owned. it looks to be in remarkable shape and also looks very comfortable for a 'cabin'. however, i have never been in a log cabin before, but i imagine, though, that if you are rich enough to own the okefenokee swamp, you must be rich enough to have a decent cabin built.

we kick open the door, so any spiders that may still be hanging around the area may have the chance to flee. i shine the flashlight around the door jamb, searching for the missing spider. it seems to have vanished, for the time being. we creep inside for a closer look; we are pleased with what we find. the entrance room contains a huge fireplace and a substantial amount of shelves built into the wall. there are three doorways leading to other rooms. the room on the right has a nice big table; the room on the left has more shelves and a rack for hanging various things. the room in the rear of the cabin has a door to the outside and a door to another room full of junk.

the place is very dark and stuffy, but also very clean and solid. i don't imagine that many animals hang out inside the cabin. we look through the rooms, then decide that they best choice for a sleeping room would be the room on the left. i can't wait to sit in the main room, though, in front of a roaring fire of burning trees or brooms or tables or whatever dry wood i can find in the swamp.

we find the sign in sheet, and we make up a phony arrival time and departure. we were supposed to have left floyd's island this morning, and we should be arriving at canal run right now. i am actually happy that events ran backwards. i don't know what i would have done if we got stuck at canal run from noon until night; we would have gone stir crazy. looking at the other dates that people have stayed at the cabin, we can see that august is indeed a slow month for the okefenokee; we are the first group to stay here in weeks. heat? insects? people are weak.

we go back outside to arrange our piles of crap. for me, the main goal is to dry out everything as much as possible. here, we have almost infinitely more space and resources than we did last night. i tie some of the pink nylon string, which i had originally bought for a library project in junior year of architecture, to a couple of trees. i hang our various articles of soggy clothing along the line; the sunlight is still filtering through the trees enough to perhaps do some good towards drying them.

there are a number of wheelbarrows located around the site. i push two of them to spots which are about six feet apart. across them, i place a long wooden pole that was lying on the picnic table. i unfurl the sleeping bag and drape it across the pole. on the side of the clearing, there is an odd wooden structure that resembles the monoliths at stonehenge; the mystery is not the same, though, for i can tell by the carvings that this monolith was built by the boy scouts of america. it appears that the structure is meant to hold paddles when they are not being used for canoeing. this is certainly a waste of wood, but i can't fault their benevolent hearts as i hang my tent from the ridiculous thing.

as i step back to survey my handiwork, i have an epiphany. i look at all the carts and wheelbarrows around the site, and the fingers snap inside my head. these carts are for carrying gear from the campsite to the water and back! i had originally thought they must be here for some maintenance or construction on the cabin, but now the purpose is clear. when i begin to tell beth this, i find that she is the process of having the same realization.

i curse. if the previous users of the carts had left them near the boat landing, we would have known what to do with them. instead, we don't see them until we've already carried our stuff and our canoe half a mile through the woods. i curse again.

this is the greatest place i have ever been.

now that i have plenty of time and plenty of space, i am ready to cook like a son of a bitch. i take all my cooking told from the bags and spread them across the table. the mess kit is still full of pancake residue, so i place it on the ground, hoping that ants will clean it for me, like they did a certain turtle shell that i placed near and oak stump in our backyard at woodbridge trail. today, though, my father is not around to destroy the turtle shell or the mess kit with the lawnmower.

today's lunch menu consists of cous cous and hummus and bagels. there was supposed to be a course of vegetables, but i forgot to put them in my bag, so i am afraid that they are rotting in the trunk of the car back in stephen c. foster park. i feel that we have enough other stuff, though, to keep our bellies full and our hearts content.

i have already mixed the cous cous with the essential herbs and spices; i neglected to include the sun dried tomatoes that i was advised to bring, mainly because there is nothing redeeming about that which sun dried tomatoes offer to a meal; they create a horrible feeling in my mouth and an even worse taste. as if these abominations are not enough, i have from a reliable resource that they are poisonous.

beth wants to make an attempt at putting together the pieces of the stove, and i do not make any attempts to stop her. i change this policy, though, after waiting ten minutes for her to finish with it, only to find that she has made no progress towards completion. since i would like to eat this afternoon, i take the stove from her and piece it together properly and expediently.

i set the flame alight, then position a pot of water on the top of the burner. as expected, the water is boiling within seconds. i stir the cous cous into the water and fit the lid onto the pot. i watch the pot expectantly; i have never been able to cook cous cous to my satisfaction. about half of the attempts i make at cous cous end with a pot full of undercooked kernels. the only thing i can imagine to do in this situation is to add more water, but all this accomplishes is gummy cous cous in a pool of starchy water. the other half of the attempts end on the other side of the scale; some of the cous cous in the middle of the pot is tolerable, but the majority of it is burned and fused to the sides and bottom of the pot. these are the failures that i must endure under the familiar conditions of the kitchen. sitting in the woods with a stove that i have no idea how to use seems to me to be a course for certain disaster.

i figure that the best thing i can do under the circumstances is to leave the cous cous to its own devices. i bring down the flames of the stove and take my hands away from the project. i turn my attention to the hummus instead. what we have is a bag of powdered instant hummus; this is a most vile concoction, a true mockery of the ideal, but it is the best suited for the conditions in which we find ourselves. in the security of my home, i have tried many recipes for homemade hummus; i found all the results to be lacking. i feel that the pivotal factor in the preparation is the food processor, a tool that i lack. i have had to substitute blenders and hand mixers; none of these tools are able to from the chickpeas into the proper consistency.

today, we have the detestable powdered version. all it requires for completion is water, oil, a fork, and a powerful wrist. putting all of these elements together, i create a passable substitute for real hummus. my foresight enabled me to perform a few acts that would provide us with a hummus superior to the mud they expect us to eat from the box; before we left the city, i slipped a few of my own secret ingredients into the mix. i taste it; it worked.

when i can be patient no longer, i lift the lid from the cous cous pot. the sight now beholden is an amazing one. i am looking at a cloud of cous cous, a thunderhead that is ready to burst from the copper pot. water pours from my mouth. i turn off the heat and grab my fork. i shovel a few bites of cous cous onto beth's plate, then i abscond with the rest of it.

it is a fabulous treat to enjoy. i have never encountered cous cous this perfect. every grain is an entity unto itself; none cling together. every morsel is consistently moist; none are under or overcooked. the secret ingredients are strategically located throughout the mass; none overpower the others. we both agree that i have made the perfect cous cous.

we finish the scrumptious meal and destroy the mess that we had made. i motion that we should gather all the things that we are not going to use later today and move them into the cabin. this should keep them safe from rain, bears, and any other invaders to our domain. we take most of our things and hang them on the racks in the room that we plan on using for a bedroom tonight. while i am hanging the bags, i hear beth in the other room. i hear her say that something is 'sad', so i go into the next room to see exactly what it is. she is pointing to a sign over the fireplace. it is difficult for me to read without my glasses, but i interpret the sign as 'don't stand at my grave and cry; i did not live, so i did not die.' i do not think that it sounds too 'sad'; the dead person who is apparently doing the speaking here is clearly concerned with folks being too broken up about his death. he leaves them this poem so that they can feel better, knowing that he does not want them to grieve too much. it might be a little sad that he 'did not live', but that is a sadness that pretty much all the humans in the world have to face.

while we are in the room, we take a closer look at it; we must determine if sleeping in the cabin is really what we want to do. of course, we'll have to sleep on the hardwood floor, but this can be no worse that the ground outside. i don't know about beth, but i am quite content to sleep in the floor; i have done so for at least half of the nights of the past three years. apart from the floor, the only real question is that of spiders. the ceiling is high above our heads; it is too high for me to view anything definitively , but beth assures me that it seems to harbor several spider webs of no inconsiderable size. we must ask ourselves if this is going to be a problem. surely, the woods outside are just as rife with spiders, but at least out there, we won't be cooped up in the same room with them. outside, the spiders have a whole world in which to play; in this room, the only thing they have to do at night is climb down the walls and across the floor and over our faces and into our ears and mouths. i vote for sleeping outside.

if we are going to be staying outside, someone might as well construct the tent. we share the task, i drive the stakes into the ground and push the poles into place; meanwhile beth fits the poles together. with two people working on it, the task only takes about twice as long as usual. i lay our sleeping bag on the floor and roll around on top of it. as i suspected, there are stumps and roots and rocks poking into my back, despite my efforts to find a comfortable spot to place the tent.

it is not quite time for bed, yet; there are still a few hours left to pass before sunset. part of the beauty of today's canoe trip was its brevity. we left canal run at about 9.30am, and we arrived here at floyd's island before noon. it was a true delight after yesterday's trip 10 hour voyage through hell. the only problem with today's trip, though, is the lack of activities on the island. we have been everywhere around the site, and neither of us is prepared to go on an expeditionary voyage into the unknown part of the island. i would be willing to try it if i had my glasses, but as it is now, i can't see three feet in front of my face, let alone three black bears in the same location.

so we busy ourselves with trips to the bathroom. beth and i walk down to the outhouse for a further investigation. beth waits on the ground while i climb the platform for a closer look. i open the door, keeping my foot against it, preventing an alligator-sized gap between door and frame. i peek through the crack. there are no wild animals lurking near the toilet, so i step into the room. the interior is fairly clean, but one thousand and one flies are swarming about the room. i look into the waste hole, wondering if there are any snakes waiting to bite someone on the ass, it is too dark to determine with any certainty. i grab some tissue paper from the stack and i run out of the outhouse. i am perfectly willing to take my chances in the woods; i will let beth decide on her own location for urination and defecation. she hears about the flies and darkness and she makes the decision to avoid the outhouse.

i ask beth to stay where she is while i go for a walk. i stroll down the trail to a point about half way between the campsite and the water. i duck under some branches and make my way through the bushes to an opening several yards away from the trail. i kick the leaves and branches out of the way, then i scratch a little pit out of the earth. i am afraid that it is against the refuge rules to relieve oneself in the swamp, but i don't know if this rule applies to the islands, too. regardless, i drop my pants and squat over the hole i had dug.

i remember being in stone mountain park with my father and one of his mistresses about eight years earlier. we were visiting the park on this particular day because it was time for the annual chili cook off. after tasting all the chili samples we could handle, we all decided that we would walk up the trail to the restroom. walking along the trail, i noticed some movement in the woods to our left. i looked up the hill to see two women stumbling through the trees; i saw them in just enough time to see one of them pull her pants to her knees, exposing her womanhood to everyone with the acumen to keep their eyes on the world around them. she proceeded to squat to the ground, presumably to do some business. i turned my head, my tender eyes having seen enough.

when my own business is finished, i stand and pull my pants to my waist. i kick some dirt and leaves over the pit. i don't want to leave the paper lying in the woods, so i set it on fire with my remarkably reliable lighter. everything looks to be in order, so i stroll back to the campsite.

without revealing to many gory details, i try to explain to beth what is involved in the process i have just performed. i mention the digging hole and the burning of the paper and the burying of the remains, but i leave her to figure out the rest on her own. she leaves the table, then walks behind the cabin. i don't know what happens next.

now that our business is done, we are at a loss for something to do next. fortunately, nature takes care our problem for us; it starts to rain. beth runs to get the sleeping bag from the tent, and i pull our clothes from the line. carry our things to the cabin, and throw them onto the covered porch. we stand on the steps for a while, watching everything get soaked. most of our stuff has already been put in the cabin; the only things left outside can stand to get wet.

when the lighting begins to strike, i notice the proximity of the aluminum canoe to the cabin. thirty seconds later, i am dragging the canoe back down the trail, placing it as far from the cabin as i can carry it. for good measure, i flip the boat to prevent it from filling with water.

since i am already getting drenched, i decide to make an attempt to get the tent to dry land. i pull the stakes from the ground and put them into my pockets. i try to lift the tent, but it twists and flexes in my hands; i can't get it off the ground. the damn water bag is the tent. alone, the water bag is almost to heavy to carry; when it has nothing to support it but a flimsy nylon tent, one might as well be floating lead balloons.

i have the tent in my hands, and i've gone through the trouble to pull up the stakes, so i might as well finish the job that i have started. i drag the tent twenty or thirty feet across the ground. when i get to the porch, beth pulls on the top of the frame while i try to lift the water bag from the bottom. i can't find it, but i hear it raking across the rough floorboards of the porch. the images in my head consist of nylon being shredded and water bags bursting.

despite the dangers, we manage to get the tent on to the porch. i climb the steps and get under the shelter. we tie some cord around the columns that support the roof. i hang the clothes again, but i have very strong doubts that they will ever be dry again. they are so dirty, that i don't plan on wearing them anyway; trying to dry them seems to be my last attempt at remaining civilized.

we spend the next couple of hours sitting on the porch, watching the rain and lightning. we read and reread all the brochures reading the same brochures thirteen times begins to bore me. i pick up my wretched body and walk around the porch. i play with the water that is falling over the edge of the roof; i use it to fill my canteen, telling beth that i plan on drinking it later. she is disgusted and disapproving; she tries to warn be by reminding mm of the outcome of my last experiment with drinking from this canteen. i tell her that she'll be singing a different tune when she runs out of water and begins begging for mine. i stroll into the cabin, hoping to find something fascinating that i might have missed before. i examine the shelves in the main room; all i find is a huge can of beans and a box of crackers. the crackers have been opened, and all but a couple of broken pieces have been eaten; actually, even the pieces that have been left are currently being eaten by some kind of mold or moss. i throw the crackers to the ground.

i move to the room to the right. the only thing in the room is the table. i look on the underside, searching for the omnipresent spiders. i do not find any, so i find that the table is suitable for use. i drag it to the doorway, only to find that it is too wide to fit through it. if i want to take the table outside, i'll have to place it on its side and have beth help me twist it around the corner. i decide that it is not worth the trouble, especially as i don't have any specific purpose for taking the table outside anyhow. i leave the table where it is.

i pass through the main room on my way to the back room. there is some nasty rope in the floor; the floor is where i leave it. i peer into the very back room, looking over the piles of junk . most of it defies description or imagination. i have no idea what most of the stuff is, and even if i know one of the item's purpose, i don't know why it is on this island. my hope had been the discovery of something amazing, something that no one had realized they had left behind. all i see, though are twisted curtains rods, split bowling balls, and bent tire irons; there is nothing that i would carry home with me.

the back room has a door that leads outside. i open it and look to see where it leads. i find a small brick platform with a little roof; it looks nice and dry, so step onto it. the view is of the backyard. i can see the mosquito-breeding water pump and the trail that we must take tomorrow. i look through the window and see that beth is still sitting on the front porch, facing away from me. this seems to be as good as time to make water as any, so i open my pants and go to it. while i am answering the call of nature, i notice a bucket on the side of the platform. i cover up myself and carry the bucket to the front porch.

i try to use a combination of the bucket and life jackets to create a comfortable seat, but i find it is impossible. the only purpose for which the bucket is suited is covering my shoes so that no spiders or scorpions try to make them into a home when i am not looking. this is no way to allow my shoes to be open to the fresh air, but i would rather have stinking shoes than feet ridden with spider bites and scorpion stings. no matter how i arrange the shoes in the bucket, i am always afraid that there will be a tiny crack through which a spider will squeeze, as it intentionally seeks its way to my shoes in a deliberate attempt to bite and kill me. beth says that i am being paranoid; i accuse her of wanting me to be stung.

i take our food and wrap it in the plastic bag. i carry it into the main room of the cabin, where a rope hangs from one of the rafters. i pull the rope towards the middle of the room, so it will be away from the walls and any critter that may be capable of climbing them. i lash the rope to the cords around the food bag. it holds pretty tightly; again, the only concern i have is with spiders crawling down the rope.

when the rain has stopped for a while, we venture out into the clearing. the rain as left as quickly as it arrived; there are almost no clouds in the sky. i think that it is safe to move the tent back to the ground. before we place it, though, we perform an extremely intensive search of the ground to make sure that there are no rocks or roots or obstacles of any sort. this is a waste of time, i am certain, for as soon as we lay down in the tent, we are sure to find ourselves laying on a tree branch or something equally uncomfortable.

the sun is getting pretty low in the sky, but there are still a couple of hours left until the light disappears. i tell beth that i am going to lie in the tent for a while, not because i am tired, but because i am tired of the flies that are swarming around my head. the rain seems to have tripled their populations; these flies must replicate in water, the same as gremlins. beth has other plans; she intends to visit someplace behind the cabin. i don't ask any questions. instead, i climb into the tent and lay down; objects of all sizes poke into my body.

beth returns after a little while. when she gets close to the tent, i hear her shouting. i hop from the tent to see what is happening. beth is pointing to something behind the tent. i turn in time to see an armadillo scurry under the cabin. beth is beaming with pride because she found a wild animal in the swamp. i do my best to deflate this pride; i tell her that i have seen plenty of animals, but i didn't feel like pointing them out to her. i add the idea that if she had not forced me to ride in the front of the canoe, i wouldn't have lost my glasses, in which case i would have discovered even more animals. she ignores me.

we both get into the tent. after i murder all the mosquitoes who flew through the door when it was open, i lay down on the obstacle course that runs under the tent. i write back and forth, trying to mold my body to fit the contours of the debris on which i am forced to lay. not to my surprise, i can not do it; i remain as uncomfortable as i can possibly be.

while i am rolling around the tent, i hear a thunderous noise. something makes me believe that the food has fallen from the cord and hit the floor of the cabin. i tell beth that i am going to check on it, and i leave the tent. i kick open the door of the cabin and shine my flashlight into the building. i don't see any raccoons or possums messing with our stuff, which is still hanging faithfully from the rafters. i enter the cabin to examine the cord and knots. it didn't fall, but is could have fallen; that is the problem here. i start tugging on the cord, to see if it is holding well; i fear that every tug weakens the knots, so i have to tug again. just when i begin to think that i may be in the cabin all night, checking and double-checking the food stash, i get the feeling that i need to leave the room.

i have never been gripped with fear before, but whatever is happening in the cabin sure seems like this is what it would feel like. there have been periods of time when i have been concerned, worried, shocked, fretful, wary, nervous, or intimidated, but this is the first time that i have ever had a sense of general terror in every part of my body. i quickly look about the room, but i see nothing of which i should be frightened; regardless, i have a remarkable desire to get the fuck out of the cabin. i let got of the food and move towards the door. i do not move too quickly, as that would reveal my fears; i stride casually to the door, every step terrified that something, i don't know what, but it will be horrible, is about to happen to me. i open the door and bolt out of the room. i jump off the porch and tumble on the ground; my body is hurtling too quickly for my feet to keep up, so i land on my knees. clawing the earth with my hands, i scramble to my feet and sprint across the clearing. when i reach the tent, i turn and look behind me; there is nothing there.

i brush myself to get rid of the excess dirt and leaves, and i crawl into the tent. the only thing i tell beth is that the food is fine; i do not tell her about the episode in the cabin. if i do ever tell her about it, it will be long after we have put this island far behind us. i don't care what happens to the food now; i am not going into that cabin alone ever again. i lay down and close my eyes, because that which i can not see cannot hurt me.

if i filter out the right layers of noise, there are some pretty interesting sounds coming from the woods around us. the first thing i can hear is the fly that is circling our tent; it knows that we are hiding inside, and it is trying to find the weak spot of the tent to attack. it is flying circles around the tent; i hear it buzz loudly by my head then softly by my feet. it keeps this up for twenty or so circles, then it stops for a rest. it waits until beth and i assume that it has given up or died of exhaustion, then it begins a whole new round of sorties.

the next layer of sound is that of the water falling from the trees. the fall is so constant and so concerted that it sounds like something is barging through the bushes. the water hitting the ground near the tent makes me thing of footsteps. after the debacle of my last visit to the cabin, one of the last things that i want to hear outside the tent right now is footsteps. perhaps this reference created by the sound of falling water is what inspires me to hear the voices.

i am certain that i can hear a woman's voice coming from outside the tent. i am inclined to imagine that it is coming from somewhere on the other side of the cabin, near the water pump. i ask beth if she hears anything; she listens for a while, then reports that there is nothing that she can hear. there is no way that i am going to leave the tent. there is something out there, either deadly ghost women or vicious harpies or murderous amazons. what ever poor protection this tent provides, it is more than i would have if i were to expose myself; by staying in the tent, i can pretend that they, being supernatural, are unfamiliar with what they see and will stay way from it. i fall asleep still hearing the women calling.

as i should has expected, beth wakes me in the middle of the night. once again, she hears something rummaging around the campsite, and she is terrified. i think that we are too far away for it to be an alligator, and i don't think that bears have any interest in bagels or pine nuts. i left the mess kit on the picnic table, hoping that the rain water would help clean out the crap that is stuck inside the pan; i tell beth that there is probably just a raccoon or possum who can smell kit messing around the table. she seems to believe this.

right when i think that i will be able to get some sleep, something comes crashing through the bushes near our heads. beth practically stands up in the tent; i try to remain still and quiet. we hear what seems like a series of snorts. my guess is that it is an feral pig, which we read about in our guide to the wildlife of the swamp. i don't know how feral pigs behave, but i secretly wish that this one would charge and ram our tent. it would be a better demise than whatever is waiting for me in the cabin. whatever is out there, though, is not in the mood to be hateful; we hear it peaceably pass our tent and return to the woods.

my next awareness is of daylight. it is after seven a.m.; we have made it through another wonderful night in the swamp. we peek through the screen windows; there is no doom awaiting us, so we exit the tent. we part for a little while, so that we may have some privacy to do what everyone has to do for the first thing of the morning. when we meet up again, there is nothing to do but eat breakfast.

today's breakfast selection is oatmeal. it is much more palatable than the last time i made it. i am well aware of why this happened, now. today, i used the last of the oatmeal in the bag; all of the sugar and cinnamon and secret ingredients had settled to the bottom. the first day, i got nothing but unseasoned oats; today, i get nothing but mouthfuls of sweetness. we finish eating, then clean our dishes by rubbing off the food in the same manner than an old roommate of mine used to do. he probably still does, actually.

i don't tell beth why, but i ask her to get her stuff together as quickly as possible. i want to get off this island before it kills us. we go into the cabin together and pick up everything at once. we carry it to the porch and drop it. i pull a cart to the side of the porch, and we start heaping things upon it. we try to keep everything as packed as possible; i don't want a five minute rain to drench everything again. as though the clouds heard our thoughts, they begin to drop rain onto us. i throw our ponchos over the backpacks, and we climb the steps to wait under the shelter of the porch roof.

the rain seems to only be a reminder of what may happen later; it only lasts for about ten minutes. after it blows away from us, we haul our stuff to the edge of the land. naturally, i have chosen the worst cart for the job; it is already so big, that i am too short to lift the handles far enough to get the feet of the wagon very high above the ground. the cart hits every root and branch along the way, jerking itself from my hands each time. regardless, it is a better experience than having to carry all the crap on our backs and in our arms and over our shoulders. we leave the cart by the water, and we go back for the canoe.

we flip the canoe back to its proper position. we pick up all the trash that has fallen out of the boat and we throw it back in. pushing the canoe when it is empty is a breeze. we practically run down trail, pushing an pulling the canoe along the way with ease. again, i curse all the forces that made us unaware of the carts when we arrived yesterday.

when we get the canoe to the water, neither of us can think of a reason to go back to the cabin for anything; i certainly can't. we load our stuff into the canoe, then i tie the poncho around it in an attempt to defy the rain that i am sure is awaiting our departure. i leave the cart where it belongs, on the bank of the canal, where people can see it and use it as soon as they arrive. beth again insists on taking the rear position, i grumble and stumble into the front seat. beth pushes against the bed of the canal with her paddle for several minutes before finally launching our boat.

^ back to top back to zine list »

published by the angry red planet, 1997