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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bad Things in the Night

The evening July sky slowly turned purple, then darker, then black.  Jeremy, my son, who was 5 years old at the time, and I were going to camp in the backyard.  We had set up the dome tent that afternoon in the heat of the day.  His eyes had glowed with excitement as he watched me push the tent poles in and the tent rose from the ground like magic. 
We had cooked dinner on the ground over a real campfire behind the garage.  Now as night fell around us, our stomachs full, smelling like two smokestacks, we entered our tent.  On the floor of the tent were our sleeping bags, our pillows, a blanket, a canteen, three flashlights, four books, two stuffed animals, a walkman, a hatchet, and of course, chips and dip.
Our dog, Sugars, a 28 pound brown dog mix of two other brown dogs, was chained outside the door of our tent as our protection.  I petted her as I zipped the tent closed.  She whined and scratched the canvas.  Jeremy and I read from our books, and I read to him from the “Tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table,” and then we lay back on our sleeping bags ready for sleep.  I left the cover off the roof of the tent and as I lay there I could see the stars shining above me.  The fireflies were out by the hundreds and were putting on quite a show.  The tree toads droned in the background, and I began to drift away.
“Daddy,” whispered Jeremy in a very small, quiet voice.
“What’s that noise?” 
“I don’t hear it.  What does it sound like?”
“Like someone walking around our tent.”
I listened.  There was a sound.  A crunching sound.  A chewing sound.  I knew that sound.
“That’s just Sugars eating her food.  See?”  I pointed to the dog through the tent door.  Jeremy sat up and looked, then lay back down.
We closed our eyes and I drifted away again.  I felt a small push.  I opened my eyes.  Jeremy was staring at me from his sleeping bag. 
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“There’s somebody walking beside our tent.
“The neighbor’s porch light cast a glow against the tent.  In that glow a strange pointy-eared shadow walked by.  “Sugars.” I yelled, “Lay down.  Jeremy, it’s just Sugars.”
“Oh,” he said.
Later through the fog of sleep, I slowly became aware that I was being watched.  I opened my eyes only to stare directly into a wide pair of scared little boy eyes two inches from my own.  I jumped.
“Daddy, I keep hearing things,” said Jeremy.
“Ok, slide your sleeping bag over close to mine.  That’s good.  Now lay down.”
As he lay there I put my arms around him.  “Is that better?” I asked.
He nodded yes.
I felt him relax, warm and small against me, the rhythmic rise and fall of his breathing growing steadier.  He fell asleep with his head against my chest and his arm across me.
Lying there, I thought of him and how much I loved him and how I would gladly die to protect him from whatever was hiding in the night.  I thought of how the world could be a scary place.
I lay there thinking while Jeremy slept. 

Copyright ©2012 by Eric Lanier.   The right to download and store the materials from this website is granted for your personal use only, and the materials may not be produced or reproduced in any edited form. Any other reproduction or editing by any means, mechanical or electronic, without the express written permission of Eric Lanier is strictly prohibited. For additional information, contact Eric Lanier at ericelanier@gmail.com

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