Bernard Walton here, welcoming you to our newest edition of The Odd in Odyssey where the theme for today is forgiveness. Now, we’ve already done forgiveness at least once in this series, but I had to forgive Eugene so many times last week, that I decided to do it again. And I had to forgive myself too, for inviting him along on that crazy camping trip in the first place.
Originally, it was supposed to be just me, Whit, and Wooton. I didn’t want Wooton along either, but Whit insisted that he come with us. It was going to be just us and the woods, for three quiet days of relaxation. Then I opened my big mouth, and Eugene had to come too.
“My humble thanks for the invitation to accompany you upon this thrilling, character building expedition, Mr. Walton,” he said to me as we walked through the forest. Our packs were strapped to our backs, and Wooton looked more like a walking rack of frying pans than anything else.
“Speak English, Eugene,” I snapped. “And this isn’t an expedition. It’s a short hike to a nice little place where we’re going to go camping.”
“I know, right?” said Wooton. “It’s gonna be awesome!”
“It shall ‘be awesome’ to borrow the colloquialism,” said Eugene. “And, Mr. Walton, I can positively assure you that my presence on this trip will not interfere with your ability to…”
As he babbled on all about how he wasn’t going to annoy me while we were camping, I stepped back a pace and spoke to Whit. “Why did he have to come along anyway?” I asked.
“Oh, Bernard,” Whit said. “You know that you were the one who invited him!”
“I know,” I muttered. “Me and my big mouth.”
“Oh come now, Bernard,” Whit laughed. “It won’t be all that bad, you’ll see. Besides, it’ll be good for Eugene to get out of the house and get out into nature. It’s good for his head.”
“It my head I’m worried about.” I said. “If he ‘to borrow the colloquialisms’ me one more time on this trip, I’m going to have a fit.”
“Now you’re just being unreasonable,” said Whit. “Maybe it’ll be good for you too. You two can learn to put up with each other better.”
“That’ll be the day,” I said. “I need more time with him like I need kidney stones. Look, he’s just finished telling me how he’s going to avoid annoying me to death.”
“…And, thus, Mr. Walton,” Eugene finished, “I can confidently say that I shall refrain from giving you any mental stress whatsoever in these present circumstances, and I shall remain a very personable companion throughout the course of our overnight exertion.”
“Wow Eugene! That was amazing!” exclaimed Wooton. “I just learned like a hundred new words that I never even knew existed! I’ll bet I could make a comic book character out of you. You could be like, ‘the Long Winded Whistler’ or something!”
“Believe me, if Eugene was in a comic book, he would be a villain.” I said.
“Do you have a problem with my verbal intelligence, Mr. Walton?” asked Eugene, sort of getting angry with me. “The verbal intelligence that you happen to lack?”
“Are you saying I’m stupid?” I demanded.
“‘If the boot fits’, to borrow the colloquialism.”
“Look!” Whit nearly shouted, jumping in between us. “There’s the lake! How about we go and set up camp?”
“I’ll bet Eugene can’t even set up a tent pole,” I sneered.
“I can too! I brought a manual.” He held up the hugest textbook that I had ever seen.
“Is that instructions or is that a phone book?” I said.
“It is an exhaustive camper’s manual, complete with an index and concordance, for your information.”
“Oh fine. You use your exhaustive manual, I’ll do my camping the old fashioned way. Come on, Whit, I see a spot where we can set up the tent.”
“What about my tent?” asked Eugene. “Is there enough room for mine as well?”
“Ask the manual,” I said, before I walked off.
A little while later, after Whit and I had everything set up, we were startled by a loud ‘Aha!’ coming from Eugene’s direction while I was lighting a fire.
“What now, Eugene?” I asked wearily.
“I have found the solution to our problem!”
“You mean the problem where I accidentally sprayed mosquito spray up my nose again?” asked Wooton.
“No, I have officially found the solution to the problem of our hunger!”
He held up a string of five fish, and I about passed out. “Oh you’ve got to be kidding,”I exclaimed. “How did you do it?”
“Ah, the answer is really quite simple Mr. Walton,” Eugene responded. “See, I used an electromagnetic-”
“Never mind I don’t want to know.”
“Regardless of how you caught them, that’s wonderful, Eugene,” said Whit. “Tell you what; I’ll have Bernard light the fire, and we’ll roast them for dinner, okay?”
“I could not heartily agree more, Mr. Whittaker.”
Somehow this trip was really starting to get on my nerves. I should have learned my lesson the last time I went camping with Eugene.
Well, we got the fish all roasted up. I have to admit, they smelled really good. The bear must have thought so too, because it came trundling into our campsite and sent us running into my tent.
“Well this is great,” I said darkly. “The bear is eating our fish.”
“So I heard,” said Whit. “Well, maybe we can eat something else. Wooton, did you bring something?”
“Sure did!” said Wooton. “Believe me Whit, I always come prepared.”
He pulled out four raspberry sodas and a bag of licorice.
“No, no no, I’m not eating that,” I objected.
“You should, Mr. Walton,” said Eugene, popping open his bottle. “It very well may save us in the case of starvation.”
“But it won’t save me in the case of indigestion,” I said. “I’m not having any.”
Before long, it grew dark, and the bear was still outside. At this point we didn’t really know what to do.”It’s awfully cold in here,” remarked Whit.
“It is indeed,” said Eugene. “I suppose this is what we get for taking a camping trip in March. We should have waited for the summer solstice.”
“It wasn’t supposed to be this bad originally,” I said. “But we weren’t counting on having a bear eating our dinner. It’s freezing in here,” I looked around at the canvas tent walls. “Let’s light a fire.”
“I wouldn’t suggest it, Mr. Walton,” said Eugene. “According to my manual, the tent is not to be placed within the radius of ten feet from the campfire. There is the potential risk of sparks catching the breeze and-”
“Oh forget the manual, Eugene,” I said. “It’s freezing. Just look at the goosebumps on my legs!”
“I hardly think it would be proper to conduct an examination on your legs, Mr. Walton.” Eugene said quietly.
“Oh whatever. Let’s just get a little fire going in here before we all catch pneumonia. Besides,” I added. “If we do burn a hole, we will have invented the 21st century tepee.”
Whit found some paper plates to burn, and after Eugene gave us the matches we lit a nice little fire. It was actually going really well, and it would have stayed that way if (guess who) decided to use his walking stick to stir the fire. Sparks flew everywhere and one just happened to land on the roof.
“Well,” said Whit, a half hour later, as we stared up at the hole while we lay in our sleeping bags. “It makes a good skylight.”
That’s right. The spark landed on the roof, it started a fire, it burned a hole in my nice six hundred dollar canvas tent, and there we were, gazing up at the stars.
“Sure does!” said Wooton. “Hey Bernard, want some licorice?” He held up the bag.
My stomach grumbled. “Oh sure,” I said, taking a couple whips.
“Well,” said Eugene after a second or two. “The situation could be worse. We could get caught in a flash flood like last time.”
As soon as he said it we were startled by a loud crack of thunder. And it started to rain. “Eugene,” I said crossly as the rain fell through the hole and made us sopping wet.
“Yes, Mr. Walton?” asked Eugene meekly, with water dripping off his glasses.
“Carry a couple of horseshoes with you next time, okay?”
“Yes Mr. Walton. Understood.”