“Dad, I want a tent!” broke Tom’s television-induced trance just as the show’s host smoked his forty-eighth trophy buck of the season. “I want to camp like on TV!” blurted TJ, Tom’s six-year old son as he climbed aboard Dad’s lap. “Can I have one? Please?”
“Don’t look at me,” said Tom’s wife Cathy, smiling. “You brainwashed him with all those outdoor shows. Besides, we could use some camping. TJ, go get Daddy’s catalogue.”
“Yay!” yelled TJ, flying off Tom’s lap like a rocket in tennis shoes.
“Tom, let’s do get a tent,” said Cathy. “One TJ likes, but one we can all use. He can sleep in the backyard and we can camp at the lake – like we did when we dated.”
“Good idea. It’s about time I visited the outdoor superstore again,” replied Tom. “Need some things myself.”
“Tom,” Cathy snapped, “this isn’t about you, it’s about TJ and your family. You pull another Mother’s Day trick and I’ll…”
Cathy, who hadn’t hunted a day in her life, was referring to the new deer rifle Tom and TJ gave “her” for Mother’s Day shortly after Tom backed the truck over his. Married twelve years, he still hadn’t learned the golden rule of a happy marriage – “romantic” gifts with warranty cards, and those you’d buy yourself should be avoided like the plague.
TJ returned lugging a tattered phonebook-thick catalogue which the trio huddled over nearly twenty minutes. They couldn’t pick a winner but agreed the tent should comfortably hold the whole family and camping gear, be durable, well-ventilated, and reasonably free of cartoon characters.
The next morning the boys hit the outdoor superstore. TJ drug Tom toward the tents like a pointer on a t-bone, breaking off toward a SpongeBob display model as Tom shopped the aisle. “Hey TJ, how about this one?” Tom asked, eyeing a sale sign: “Doghouse Oversized Hunting Blind 50% Off.”
“It’s cool Dad! It has big windows!” yelled TJ, scurrying inside to explore.
“Just as long as you like it son,” said Tom, stepping inside. Standing, he hardly had to stoop, and lying down diagonally he fit perfectly with a good sixteenth-inch to spare. “TJ, Mom can sleep on one side and you on the other. We’ll keep our camping stuff in the truck so bears won’t get it.”
“Bears?” asked TJ. “Bears are cool Dad.”
And so it was decided. Purchase made, they headed home and at TJ’s insistence, pitched their new “tent” in the backyard. While Tom scoured the attic for sleeping bags, Cathy returned from errands.
“TJ, what in God’s name is a hunting blind doing in our yard?” Cathy blurted, spotting the Doghouse.
“It’s my new tent mom! It’s cool!” yelled TJ. “Daddy got a camouflagey one so bears and killers won’t find us.”
“It’s not bears and killers Daddy needs to worry about,” she replied.
After mercilessly ripping Tom multiple new ones, Cathy insisted the boys sleep out all weekend and even donated her deer rifle for added realism. The following Saturday, both Doghouse blind and deer rifle coincidentally disappeared just hours before Cathy’s most enjoyable shopping excursion of the year.
That evening, new shoe boxes filled the trash, TJ camped out once again, and SpongeBob SquarePants stood at the ready – for killers, bears, or come what may.
Tripp Holmgrain is an avid outdoorsman and teller of campy tales. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.