The true story...
| Often have I alluded to my having a disproportionate malice toward the omnivorous menace known as the raccoon. But...why? What could lead a well-adjusted young man such as I to harbor such feelings?
Well, as I sit in my leather computer chair and ponder ways to maintain my pristine and lucid boredom, I realize that I have never written what really happened to me in those woods. The following account is true, uncensored, and definitely, positively without exaggeration. At least as much as any of my other stories, anyway.
Back in the days when summer camp was a new and dangerous event to me, my parents sent me off to the wilds of Pokagon state park for a week.
As my cousin Ethan and I walked up to the old, wood-stain scented administration desk, I felt as if a heavy burden had been lifted off of me. Maybe that was because I had set down my four suitcases.
"You're the fresh meat, eh?" The administrator asked. "Let's see where we can put you..."
I stole a quick moment to look around and examine the small office cabin. A Baltimore Orioles mug sat empty on the desk...kind of odd for Indiana. Everything seemed odd; from the clock that was four hours slow to the gurgling coming from the kitchen.
The camp administrator broke out into a long, low laugh, rising in pitch and enthusiasm until I thought he might blow a lung. I have a pretty diverse sense of humor, but I just couldn't determine exactly what was so funny. He slid a piece of paper across the table to me, the words "cabin thirteen" written on it.
"Wow, he was in a good mood," I told Ethan on our way up the hill that Cabin Thirteen sat atop.
Our ears still rang from the admin's roaring laughter. "How much further do you think it is? It looks like the trail ended half a mile back." I grunted under the weight of my baggage.
"Ethan, can you hear me?"
I guess he was standing too close to the desk when the hilarity had ensued.
Several minutes later the cabin came into sight. "Wow, Ethan! Would you look at that!"
His hearing returning, Ethan (always the negative one) bemoaned, "Is the window supposed to be broken?"
"It's not broken, stupid. This is a cabin. There are no windows."
"What about the door?"
"What about it? A little duct tape will fix that."
"I'm just saying," he grunted, "Shouldn't there be one?"
After a time we were settled in, and I, for one, was convinced that things were starting to go right. We had even found the door in the clearing where the clothesline was strung.
Of course, my cousin was being really very picky. He insisted that I not only tape the door back up, but tape the hinges in too. He just doesn't understand the concept of "roughing it".
We were once again fortunate in finding that, although our initial estimates were that the cabin would be on the small side, free space was abundant due to a style of decor I have heard referred to as "military simplistic". There was even enough room for all of my luggage, after I stacked two of the larger suitcases on my bed. It didn't matter though, because these two were the ones packed with all of my junk food and candy for the week.
The camp had plenty of things to keep us busy. There was cleaning our cabin, cleaning the kitchens, cleaning the bathrooms. For some reason, it was only Ethan and I doing these things while everyone else went to the beach and tubed.
Ethan and I did get to tube. That was where I was introduced to the rare thrill of clinging to a rubber balloon, careening over choppy 35 degree water at 35 miles per hour, as the shrill wind rushes by your wet body. What fun! There's even that remarkable sensation of hitting wet concrete at a high speed when the waves and velocity finally best you.
One night Ethan and I returned from campfire to find our cabin door ajar. Our first assumption was that the wind and weather had finally exhausted my duct tape door. But as we stepped closer, the door shook and a black streak darted out into the woods, emitting the terrible shriek of one dying. No, wait; that was just me and Ethan.
The true monstrosity of what had happened was only beginning to register in our young minds. Inside, junk food and candy wrappers were strewn everywhere about my bunk and floor space. Oreo crumbs gave my red sleeping bag the appearance of a ladybug. A travel-size toothpaste tube sat on Ethan's pillow, a row of tiny punctures on one side in the shape of a bite. "Raccoons." I stated.
"Did you pack chocolate?"
I turned. "No, why?"
"Then what's that on my pillow?"
The strain of the incident on our uptight psyches was evident. We had been cut deep, attacked in the safety of our own cabin. No more taking chances. From now on, everyone would close and lock the screen door when they left, and there would be no food kept in the cabin.
But the evils of the forest were not done with us.
The next-to-last night of camp, Ethan and I once again stumbled up to our cabin in the dark after campfire. "Uggh," said I, "someone left the door cracked. Who went out last?"
Then I realized that I had been the last to leave, and I distinctly remembered securing the door. "Someone else got back to the cabin before us, I guess."
I opened the door and deposited my flashlight and gear on the shelf.
I jumped a little.
"Wow!" Ethan exclaimed, "I know you're tall, but I really didn't think you could reach that light fixture. Want some help down?"
Of course, I got down fine. I still had not regained feeling in my legs from tubing, so it didn't hurt anyway. "Ethan, I think we may not be alone."
Ethan and I crawled down and began looking under our bunks. Ours and and the one across from it were clear.
"Jason, I need a flashlight. It's too dark under this one."
"I've got it." I stooped down and peered into the darkness, ready to turn on the light. Now, I should mention that guys do not "squeal". We holler. So no matter how much Ethan says I squealed on my direct route across the room, I hollered. When he saw what it was my beam had fallen on, he copied me. The counselor at the next-nearest cabin said he almost called the administrator, saying he thought he heard girls in our cabin. Silly counselors!
Next I remember I was atop my bunk, Ethan on the one across from me. Ethan tried to tell me not to hyperventilate, but I could not hear him as his fetal position was suppressing his voice.
I grabbed a can of Off from the shelf near me and prepared to defend myself.
Ethan uncurled enough to warn me that it was climbing up to my bunk. Nice kid, that Ethan.
With an agility and ferocity normally attributed to wildcats, the raccoon was over the edge of the bed and coming at me. Looking back, this is because I still had that night's snack in my pocket. Overrun, there was nothing I could do but leap across the hall onto Ethan's bunk, throwing the snack down behind me. That appeased the fell beast, and the raccoon dragged it under a bunk to eat.
Now here is the perilous situation that we faced: We were cramped atop one small, two-by-five bunk with a vicious creature bent on our consumption (we were convinced). Ethan had closed the door behind him when we'd entered, so neither we nor the creature could easily exit. We were trapped until someone opened that door...
Creeeaaak. James! A cabinmate of ours, James and I did not get along, but I had still gotten to know him since we cleaned bathrooms and kitchens together. He had that "tough guy" image nailed down, from the shaved head to the aggressively fractured grammar.
"What are you two doing?!" He exclaimed, as we were cowering in his bunk.
"Theresaraccoonwegottagetouttahere!!!" We both screamed. He didn't seem impressed.
"Theres-a-raccoon-we-gotta-get-outta-here!!!" We repeated, slower.
"You are idiots. There ain't a coon in here."
"Look for yourself! It's under that bunk."
He sneered and bent down. "I'll play along, but just because-" At that point he spotted the coon's reflective eyes in his flashlight beam and "hollered" as he made a three-foot-over, five-feet-up leap into the bunk nearby, blurting an unprecedented jumble of obscenity in midair.
Now, I won't bore you with the details of how long we sat up on those bunks waiting to be rescued by our counselor, but it was definitely on the upside of three minutes. The most scarring three minutes of my life.
Eventually, our counselor did save us. He opened the door, allowing the creature to slip away without reproach. Where has our justice system gone? But one thing is sure: none of us were ever the same.
Now you know. The truth has been told about what really happened, although it seems I had to disturb my serene boredom to do it. But that is the kind of sacrifice required for seeking the truth.