Step One: Set Up the Tent

Thank God no one can see me, I think as I wrestle on my front lawn with a pile of poles and slippery cloth that any minute should spring upward into a dome-shaped tent. But it doesn’t. I’ve always hated the junipers that block my view of everything, but now I am grateful. After an hour, I have nothing but a pile of parts and sore, grass-stained knees.

I’ve never set up a tent before. With my first husband, John Muir reincarnated, I was always the helper, the one who held stuff while he sipped a beer with one hand and put up the tent with the other. I don’t know how he got it off the ground; he just did. Before I knew it, we were hammering stakes into the dirt and barbecuing rib-eyes on the roaring campfire. My specialty was washing the dishes.

Husband number two wasn’t much of a camper. Motel 6 was too rustic for him. But we did try it once. Again, I don’t know how the tent got up. I just remember falling off the air mattress all night and threatening to sleep in the truck if he didn’t start a fire to keep us warm.

So now, husband-free, here I sit surrounded by poles, plastic-cloth and useless directions. If they wrote them in English, e.g., insert the ridiculously long black pole into the black sleeve to the left of the door, stuff it all the way through and insert the ends into the i-hooks, I might get it. But no, it’s slide short tent pole TPOL-374BK through pole sleeve of corresponding color. Do the same with second tent pole TPOL-374BK. Then insert long-cross ridge pole CPOL-393GR through pole sleeve of corresponding color. Hello, all the poles are long and I have three colors of poles and two colors of sleeves. Insert ends onto pin-rings at base of tent and snap J-hooks over short tent poles. What’s a pin-ring? And what J-hooks? I don’t see any J-hooks. Hook them onto what anyway, the hard part of the pole or the stringy thing between the sections of pole?

Okay. I think I’ve got it right. I lift the whole pile of cloth and poles and realize I can’t get all the poles into their holes by myself. My arms aren’t long enough. As soon as I get one side, the other comes out. This is where I used to come in, I vaguely remember. I was the one who held stuff while the tent-maker went around sliding part A into part B. Zoop, zoop, zoop, dinnertime.

I look around. The neighbors are all at work. I’d be too embarrassed to ask the super-hunter across the street for fear he’d laugh at my cheap tent. The other neighbors wouldn’t know any more than I do.

Sweating and weary, I let my tent fall like a deflated Mylar balloon while I run into the kitchen for a beer. That part of the camping tradition I can do.

Now I have to figure out to get the tent back into the bag.

Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. Most recently, I have published two poetry chapbooks, Gravel Road Ahead and The Widow at the Piano: Confessions of a Distracted Catholic. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

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