Joe was running late, work had gone overtime for the upcoming holidays and he couldn’t get out of the last meeting of the day. He was supposed to pick up his friend Andre from his apartment before they headed out to the campsite. Once a year Joe and his buddies from college all went out together camping just before Thanksgiving break. Andre needed him to not only pick him up but stop by the camping gear shop to get a new sleeping bag as he discovered a large hole in his that morning. Andre lived close enough to down that he could afford to take the train to work and thus had no car. His plan was to take the train from his apartment to Joe’s work so they could go to the camping shop together as Joe needed to get food and beer as well. Since Joe drove to work, Andre took his gear with him on the train. When Joe finally got out of his last meeting, Andre was standing by Joe’s car wearing a full backpack, holding a cooler and fishing pole.
“I thought you go off at 6?”
“Yeah the boss had us stay late to go over numbers for Monday.”
“Of course he did, you ready to go?”
Joe nodded and helped Andre pack his things into the car. They drove on to the camping store on the other side of town. It had its own small parking area as it was one of the few large stores still around and camping people needed to be able to park trailers in the lot. Joe and Andre went inside to grab what they needed. As it was getting cooler, Joe wanted to pick up some wool socks and a set of gloves that would actually keep his hands warm. He had a pair of leather gloves he wore in the winter to work as they were dress code appropriate but he wanted something more substantial for sleeping outdoors. Everything in the store was outrageously expensive, both Joe and Andre were using tents they had bought years ago when they first started the camp out tradition. Andre had picked out his new sleeping bag, a bright purple and green sleeping bag that he found in the clearance area for only $100. Joe got his socks and they walked through the checkout doors. Back at the car they drove on out of the city towards the state park where they would be camping.
Outside of town were several places to stop for groceries but they always stopped at the same place they had been going to since they began. It was an older grocery store, it didn’t have all the bells and whistles of the ones in the suburbs or in the city but it had food and most importantly, alcohol. Joe loaded up a cart with a case of beer, granola bars, new nic pods and two bottles of whiskey. Andre also bought a case of beer and a box of poptarts. The boys checked out and loaded back into the car. They didn’t need to bring too much as their other friends who had money and thus more equipment always brought the real food and firewood for cooking. The two mornings of the trip they would have a huge breakfast/lunch, depending on how much they drank the night before, of eggs, beans, bacon, and whatever fish they caught later in the day.
It was already dark at this point, but the way to the campsite was easy to find. The other guys set up a gps beacon in their app to lead them to their spot for the year. Rather than having assigned shelters like other campgrounds this place was just an open free for all. They tried taking the same spot each year but sometimes it would rain the week before and that area would be too muddy. Joe drove off the nice paved highway onto the gravel driveways of the park. His headlights giving him only so much space before he had to slow down and make sharp right or left turns.
They finally met up with the little green dot on the dash screen. Joe’s college friends Mike and Tommy were already there, having set up when it was still daylight. They had two canopies set up that they put their tents under, and a large camping stove assembly. There was a large fire pit that was raging as they stood out around it to keep warm. Both Mike and Tommy had been drinking already and were having fun burning marshmallows over the fire. Mike helped them unload Joe’s car and set up their tents under the other canopy. They made sure to bring rainproof canopies after the last couple of years freak rain storms that soaked right through their tents and left them cold and wet the next morning.
Once set up Tommy pulled out the hot dogs and began cooking them over the fire for everyone. Joe handed everyone a beer from his cooler, and sat down by the fire in an old fold out lawn chair. In front of the campsite was a large lake. They had tried camping in the summer but the mosquitoes were just an absolute nightmare so early winter had to do. Being cold was better than being eaten alive. The guys ate and afterwards decided to do some night fishing. They grabbed their fishing poles and beers, and went out to the edge of the water. Each had a light turned on their hat or jacket to see where their lure went. The night was clear for once and they could easily see all the stars and moon above them. Even with the light from the city far behind them the sky was still pretty clear. Joe brought his lawn chair to the edge of the water and sat with his line in the lake, and puffed away while he waited for a fish to maybe catch his line. Mike went back to the camp kitchen area and set up everyone a shot of whiskey.
Each one of the guys took their shot and continued fishing. Andre quickly caught a fish, fighting it in the water as the others cheered him on. He pulled the line from the water and out popped a tiny little crappie. Everyone groaned as he tossed the fish back into the lake. A few more nibbles and dips of the lines later Mike caught a larger fish but still not big enough to keep. The guys pulled their lines from the water to get fresh drinks and try again. Joe put a square of cheese on his hook, the others were using worms or other rubber baits they had brought with them. Putting cheese was always a good option as far as he was concerned. More drinking, more fishing. The fish were hungry but wise to the concept of baited lines and were just nibbling the food off the lures. They would feel a line wiggle and dip but by the time they yanked the line up the fish was long gone.
“We’re gonna go hungry tomorrow if we don’t catch anything boys.” Tommy shouted.
“Who cares? I brought enough burgers.” Mike said.
“You brought real burgers? Why the hell are we fishing?”
“I wanted some fish!” Mike called back, tipping the rest of his beer down his throat as he cast his line again.
Joe felt a tug on his fishing line and quickly yanked it back up. Whatever it was fought hard. He struggled to keep his line from snapping. Fighting the fish would have been much easier if he were sober but he stumbled around on the sandy shore of the water. Then he pulled it up. A small turtle had clamped down on the rubber lure. Joe took the turtle and squeezed its cheeks to get it to let go and pulled the hook from its’ mouth. He placed it down into the sandy dirt and watched it skitter back into the dark water. He looked up at the sky as he walked back to his gear to get more bait for his hooks. There were nearly no clouds tonight. Normally there would be total darkness as the clouds rolled in. Sure there were some but just few enough to night that the moon and stars could be seen clearly. One couldn’t witness this near the city. Light from the moon reflected behind the clouds as they slowly drifted past, as though they were touching the moon itself Joe stood watching this for a minute or two. The cool air brushing past his face, watching the stars and sky for a moment. There was no other place nearby that had a lack of light to witness such a thing.
He walked back to the water, light from the boat docks across the water reflected towards them, allowing him to see where he was casting. There were stumps and trees sunk at the bottom of the lake where they were fishing. Mike told them this, hence why they were casting there at all. Joe looked ahead of him, letting the wind wash over him. He didn’t care about fishing, and he didn’t’ care about work or having to sleep outside in the damp cold. He wasn’t cold at all, considering how much he had to drink. The rest of the guys continued fishing for about an hour or two. Mike stopped periodically to add logs to the fire and make sure it stayed bright enough for them to see their tents.
Then Andre’s phone lit up. The guys groaned as you weren’t supposed to answer your phone while on the camping trip as per the rules. He checked it, it was his girlfriend. “I gotta take this guys”, he said putting his rod down and walking off to where they weren’t hollering. He quickly went from apologetic to flustered as the conversation went on. “You knew i was going to the campout tonight why would you think I was going to your house?” Several minutes passed as he repeatedly apologized for something over the phone. “Ok ok im sorry ok. I thought you knew I was going out of town.” Clearly, Andre neglected to tell his girlfriend he was going on the trip. “No i’m not with other girls it’s just the guys tonight babe.” He said, holding the phone up to the guys “Say hi everyone” he said.
The guys all shouted, “Hey Abbie!”
“See nothing to be worried about.” he continued in a broken yet loud conversation that everyone couldn’t help but overhear. “No were at the park, yeah in Overton, by the lake yes. I’ll be home tomorrow you know that. I know I told you.” He became flustered at this point. “No you don’t need to come out here. Do not drive out here Abbie.” The conversation then got louder as the argument ensued. He hung up the phone to the loud groan of the rest of the guys.
“Aww man come on what?” Mike asked, “She isn’t really coming all the way out here to make sure you’re not with some other chick?”
Andre shook his head, “She will be here in about 45 minutes.”
“No girls allowed, man!” Tommy said, tossing back another beer. “No drama weekend.”
“I shouldn’t have told here where it was.” Andre said.
“You shouldn’t have dated a girl you met on the internet.” Mike said.
“Maybe I can hide.”
Joe shook his head, “I can’t drive you home right now. Nobody can. A taxi wont find its way out here.”
“What do I do?” Andre asked looking at his phone. Abbie had sent him a notification from her gps to show how far out she was from their exact location. They stood watching is screen for a second as the little car symbol slowly moved closer to them.
“Tell her to leave when she gets here.” Tommy said.
“I can’t just be mean to her.”
“She just threw a huge fit and is coming here to take you home. That sounds more mean to me.”
“She can’t make me leave.”
The guys all looked at each other. Andre was known for being somewhat of a pushover. They continued to fish for a few more minutes, anxiously waiting for her to arrive and spoil the evening. Sure enough headlights appeared over the hill and bounced down to where the rest of their cars were parked. The drivers side door opened to a long string of expletives followed by Andre’s name. Andre stood up and walked towards her to keep the shouting away from his friends. She continued screaming for five solid minutes, her face turning red with tears. Andre stood silently, waiting for her to finish. Joe turned on the boombox Mike had brought to the lake, in hopes to drown out the screaming.
Then she went quiet, the car lights came back on, the door slammed and the tires peeled out in the dirt. Andre walked back to the campsite with a disheartened look.
“You alright, man?” Tommy asked.
“I will be.” He said, and picked up his fishing line, tossing it out into the water as hard as he could. Joe walked up and handed him a beer. “Apparently her ex used to cheat on her all the time and lie about it. Messed her up. Can’t forget anything or slip up around someone like her.” He said casting his line again. “She wanted me to show her the insides of all the tents to see if we were hiding any other chicks. I told her no, then she wanted to look at my phone and see who I had called today. I showed her my calls list and she claimed I must have deleted the other girls I was supposedly talking to. Then she broke up with me.”
“Sorry, man.” Joe said. He knew his buddy had just dodged a huge bullet but didn’t want to literally tell him that minutes after having his heart broken. “That’s gotta be rough.”
“Yeah.” Andre took another sip of his beer when his phone lit up.
A single text from Abbie saying “Srry babe, just one of my moods I guess, see you tomorrow for lunch! <3<3<3” He took his phone and tossed it into the lake. It splashed a good ways out into the water, creating ripples all the way back to the shore. The rest of the guys cheered. It would have been more impactful had the phone not been waterproof or contain an emergency flotation ring in the case. A few moments later it was floating on the surface with it’s screen lit up bright white. Joe took Mike’s small paddle boat out to the water to retrieve it, he liked the little boat and had planned on taking it out the next morning to fish. He reached Andre’s phone and scooped it up with a fishing net. He glanced at the screen to see several missed message notifications from what he assumed were Abbie. It was from a breakfast delivery service. Joe tapped through to the message, knowing Andre’s passcode.
“Your Quickie D’s order for Andre T. will arrive at 8am, please confirm the donut flavors below.”
The order had been placed only a minute or two ago, and donuts were Andre’s favorite. He scrolled through the text further to see the note attached. “Breakfast is on me. Come see me when you get back from the lake.” Joe looked back at the shore to see the guys all having fun, one of them had caught a fish. He confirmed the order, swiped the text away and deleted it. Once on shore Andre took the phone back and thanked him, immediately blocking her number.