idol season ten | week 14 | 714 words
It was midnight in the forest, quiet but for the crackling of flames and the sounds of companionable chewing as a couple of guys milled around a clearing.
"So, where are you from?" the tall one asked.
"Me?" The other one was a big fellow, the type who clearly liked his feed. "Oh—I'm from Bear River. How about you?"
"Buck Meadow. I could swear this place was less crowded, earlier."
"Yeah. I was the only one here a while ago, and now look." He nodded toward another guy as they made their way forward. "Could be the food."
"These blueberries are amazing."
"No kidding—feels like I've been eating fish for a week." The big guy stopped. "Hey," he shouted suddenly, "slow down there, buddy! Those pinecones are for everyone!"
The red-headed guy at the edge of the trees shrugged, and dropped them.
"What's so bad about fish?" The tall guy asked. "I kind of like 'em. The sizzle of butter, the nice aroma of pan-fried trout…"
"Butter?" The big guy laughed. "My guy just would just spear the fish with a stick—like a savage—and then hold it over the flames. I went after some juice when it dripped, and got a mouthful of charred fish skin. Tasted even worse than it smelled! And then the fish cooked too much and fell right off the stick, and I had to eat the whole thing. Boy, was that disgusting."
The red-headed guy looked up as they got closer. "We talking about food? I had hot dogs today. They were incredible!"
"Oh, I love hot dogs!" the tall guy said. "And marshmallows…"
"Yeah, especially when you catch a little bit of the outside, and it's just slightly burned and all gooey inside?" The red-headed guy beamed. "That's the best!"
"Geez," the big guy moaned, "you two are so lucky. I've been out here a week, and it's been nothing but fish and, like, orange peels."
"Orange peels?" said a voice at the edge of the forest. "Why?"
"Because my guy's a nimrod or something, I don't know. He never says anything, just mumbles into his beer."
"Oh, beer." The little voice was bigger now. "The guys at my camp have been drinking since the get-go. Last night after dark, they all gathered around and started telling scary stories. A couple of six-packs later, a deer comes bounding through the camp, and then there's yelling and beer cans are flying every which way. Pretty damn embarrassing, you ask me."
The tall guy shook his head. "Where are they now?"
"Probably still running. They left me behind, just sitting here."
"You can join us," the big guy said.
"Thanks. How'd you get here, anyway?"
The tall guy chuckled. "I was minding my own business over by the meadow, just me and this one camper. He spent days just staring at me, going through bottle after bottle and wiping his eyes once in a while. Then, a couple of hours ago, he just fell asleep right in front of me. He didn't even clean anything up. A spark caught the tip of this old blanket he left hanging on a tree, and it all got back to me. The next thing I knew, I was off to see the world! And then I met up with this big fella, and we made our way over here. Not sure where this other one came from, though."
"That was you!" the red-headed guy said. "You tossed a spark that hit a dry patch of moss near the forest, and it kicked me off."
"So, you're like my son or something."
"Yeah. Call me Sparky!" the red-headed guy said.
"Will do. How 'bout you, little guy?"
The others stared at him.
"What? Yeah, so he took some of my work, but who cares? I still like the name."
"Okay, fine. Not that it really matters. The big guy and I are pretty much the same entity now—after a while you'll be part of it too."
"Whatever," Smoky Joe pouted. He'd hardly had a chance to be anybody yet.
"Great," the tall guy said. "Let's move on out and get this party started, guys.
"I mean, after all, this forest isn't going to burn down by itself!"
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