The following entry is from the personal diary of Justin Schoenberger and was written on a camping trip he took with his young daughter in July 2012.
Took entire gallon of kerosene to light the damn fire. Stupid thing still isn’t going; I blame this on an omen I’ve yet to spot. I cannot think of anything pleasant to say should that happen.
Should have brought more beer. I purchased two 24-ounce cans of Keystone Light – much to the displayed chagrin of the nitwit cashier at Hickory Point – and have only recently stopped caring about the campfire’s apparent reluctance to show up. You should see the wretched thing – two huge logs fit for a Colorado wildfire smoldering like a couple of asshole teenagers who won’t do as they’re told. I’ll admit it’s my own damn fault for thinking I could camp without an axe … I know better. If I had an axe, I would not only have a tool that could split monstrous logs and thus prevent this entire debacle that resulted in a burnt up toe on my best running shoes from kicking smoldering lincoln logs all night, but a weapon in case some unruly beast approached our camp seeking anything except a decent fire. Oh, the glorious use of an axe at a time like this! The primitive instrument would be a godsend right now.
Speaking of God, I believe the son of a bitch just showed up. Finally, after 1/4 gallon plus one entire gallon of kerosene obtained after a trip by motorcar to the grease-laden Hickory Point overrun by persons far more idiotic than one could imagine and a snotty cashier, the asshole fire is showing signs it’s ready to start. This is most fortunate because I’ve grown tired and asthmatic from black kerosene smoke plaguing my otherwise virgin lungs. Yes – I’m watching it now – we have liftoff.
It was a wonderful day today, all recent struggles considered. I mowed my lawn and my neighbor’s with the mower I purchased the day before today. I am so glad to be rid of the helplessness and guilt derived from using my mother and father’s beloved machine. No longer will I be made to feel ashamed for demonstrating a random act of kindness by using “someone else’s lawnmower on a stranger’s yard.” The old woman who used to live next door died a year and a half ago and although I had nothing to do with her death, I felt compelled to help her family by cutting her grass each time I cut mine. Since I’ve always used my parents’ mower, as they live a brisk walk or even a short walk away, the fact I used their equipment always came up in derogatory fashion whenever it became apparent we should no less than a space ship ride away from each other.
My daughter cleaned her room today. By herself. This was a milestone in her childhood because, as she tearfully put it, “someone always helps (her)” with the job. However, I was in no mood to dole sympathy this afternoon. She will be 7 next week. (She made the mess. She can put her quarters back together just as easily. It is her quarters.) It took an hour to complete a job that would have taken a one-armed nincompoop 15 minutes at most, but she got it done. I was pleased, both that she finished and I’d stood my ground to her face full of tears.
We then cleaned the garage. The disgusting cest pool of projects both started and finished had needed tidied for months. It looked like a testing facility for a cheap appliance company. Kalista was a joy by that point; she displayed the pride and confidence that came from completing a job she hadn’t believed she could finish on her own (her bedroom). As I rearranged, swept and pondered how to keep mice out of the garage without suggesting something violent in the presence of my PETA-loving daughter, who defended the filthy rodents, Kalista spoke of numerous topics, including her belief our house – particularly her bedroom – was haunted by ghosts.
I inserted my take: If our house is haunted, the ghosts must be friendly because they hadn’t chased us out of the place after two years of living there.
We finally departed for camp at around 4 p.m. It looked like it would rain, which would be consistent with the weather report. I pointed this out as we neared completion of the 60-minute drive, to which my always-optimistic child replied, “At least we have a tent.” (It’s a two-man tent that’s suited exclusively for two children or two midgets or four midget children.) Her devotion was likely triggered by my promise earlier in the week that we’d go Friday. However, the rain kept us from going that night – so here it was Saturday and we were praying for clear skies.
We ate for dinner grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade tomato soup I’d made from garden tomatoes and basil and canned two weeks prior. Each was cooked over the campfire, along with a percolator of diesel-strength coffee I loved. We capped off dinner with a walk in the woods. Then we ate hot dogs. Then we talked like old friends.
We chatted the entire evening, in fact. There was little else to do as I doused the campfire with kerosene in strategic places in a fruitless effort to ignite the massive logs – the only wood left in our supply once the kindling had been burned. Was this effort really fruitless, I wondered.
She is my best friend. My most trusted friend. The only friend who will never leave. She’s stuck with me; I’m stuck with her. We both consider that a blessing. Is not a dialogue between two friends appropriately metaphored by a fruit-bearing tree? Is not time spent away from computers and television and books and word processors and household chores for the sake of father-daughter time positively wonderful? Upon further consideration, near this anemic fire, I believe so. I recall her third, fourth, fifth and sixth birthdays with the stark detail of a thing that happened last week. Now she will be 7; tomorrow she’ll be 17.
I now know why it never rained this evening. I know why the fire wouldn’t start. I know why we had to make a special trip to humanity’s eyesore of a gas station for kerosene.
Had these things occurred, we might have nothing specific by which to remember this trip on her 17th birthday. If all had gone according to plan, nothing would have stood out to either of us – and her last excursion as a 6-year-old with her dad might well have been lost.
God must have shown up earlier than I thought tonight.