Someone suggested that I take a long walk on a short pier.
That was Yahaira. She used to be my wife; now we're just good friend (she got demoted after our divorce).
"Let's have an adventure," she said.
And what made more sense than overnight camping for two people who between them don't own a tent. We borrowed supplies from an over-trusting neighbor and arrived at the campground shortly after eleven ... p.m.
"We got a little lost," said Yahaira.
Pam, the register lady, smelled like hickory cigarettes. She chuckled country-style, but I could see her thought bubble: What a coupla twits.
Pam pointed to our campsite "one mile yonder as a crow flies." Yahaira and I stared into the night with Elvis lips.
"What about security?" said Yahaira.
Pam waffled like the president without his earpiece.
"Well, patrol doesn't actually go out that far, but there's a security gate. You'll be fine."
Yahaira squeezed my arm. You could hear the music from Friday the 13th: Tch-tch-tch-tch-ah-ah-ah-ah.
We drove to the "security gate," a metal bar certain to keep away killers ... UNLESS THEY'RE ON FOOT. The pole was fastened with a Master Lock that could withstand anything up to but not including its publicly known combination.
Two Confederates drifted by with half-crumpled cans of Budweiser. One serenaded Yahaira, who looked to me for help. I wished we had brought a grownup. So it goes.
Safe behind the Barricade o' Death, we followed our headlights to stake number three. Yahaira took to striking, or pitching, or whatevering, the camp; I was in charge of swearing at the fire.
"What is WRONG with this wood?"
I spread the paper, sprayed chemicals, melted my sneaker -- nothin'. How do forest fires start in the first place?
Fire seemed urgent on account of the crunching sounds. Every few minutes, a branch would crack in a way that made your neck-hair pay attention. Tch-tch-tch-tch-ah-ah-ah-ah.
Yahaira suggested -- okay, I suggested, I suggested -- that we go home. But we had driven all night and I had already lost a shoe ... We agreed to sleep in the truck beside our protective steak knife. With a deep breath, we drifted off and forgot the whole thing ever happened.
Until Yahaira woke up in a terror.
"What's the matter?" I said.
She had no air to answer. Yahaira's nightmares get that way. It's endearing when you're not stuck in Children of the Corn.
"There's a dead body," she said. "Men are looking for us. I want to go home."
It was two a.m., the witching hour when rednecks are loosed from local taverns wielding rifles and scythes. In muddy socks I repackaged our campground while Yahaira, by show of support, revved the engine.
We skidded through the security gate, which was -- surprise! -- wide open. It wasn't till the 101 that we rested our sphincters and reflected: "Remember the woman's eyes when we asked about security? What about the open gate? Do you suppose Velma and Scooby are okay?"
Yahaira and I plopped down at Denny's, I in one shoe, Yahaira in her PJs. We smelled like low tide. And there at our sticky table we laughed and gorged and remembered a pointer from Dave Barry: "Camping is nature's way of promoting the hotel industry."
Yahaira and I had spent some quality friend-time fearing for our lives together and have already planned our next trip to "almost go camping."
At five a.m., we hugged and parted ways. Somewhere in the distance (hundred miles as a crow flies), the sun pried through the oak trees to reveal a hastily abandoned campground with one melted sneaker, an unused steak knife, and two half-crumpled cans of Budweiser.