Write a short story using the dice pictured above (The Blog Propellant)

Three weeks ago, I friend of mine named George called and asked if I wanted to go camping.  George is not the outdoorsy type, so naturally I was intrigued.

“Why do you, of all people, want to go camping?”  I asked.

“Well…I found this old teepee in my grandfather’s basement the other day.  I remember him telling me about it as a kid.  He told me stories of when he used to take my Dad out several times a year and they would camp under the stars in the teepee.  He had always wanted to take me too, but after he had that first stroke when I was four, he never could.  I dreamed about it all the time though.  I wondered what it would be like to be out there with him, so I thought it might be a nice way to remember him and my Dad now that they are both  gone.  What do you think?”

“I would love to, but what happens if we can’t get the teepee up?  What if it’s so old it just falls apart?  Don’t get me wrong, I loved your grandpa and your dad and would love to sit around and talk about them with you, but I’d like to know that we’re going to have at least a little something between us and the wildlife.”

“Oh, no worries there.  I already brought it up from the basement and spread it all out for an inspection to make sure it was all in one piece.  Everything seems in working order.  I even think I can get it standing.  I was going to do a practice run this week  to make sure though.  So, will you come with me?”

I sat so quietly contemplating my decision that George thought I had ended the call, but eventually I agreed to go.

We  left on our adventure a week later.  We packed everything from flashlights to first-aid kits into my jeep and followed the directions to the campsite his grandfather used to always go to.  George had found a box with maps,a bunch of little boxes and whatnot, and postcards/letters his Dad had sent home while camping in the teepee.  George had only looked at the maps.  He had thought that going through the box was something we could do once we got there.  “I think it will have more meaning if we see the stuff and read the letters in the place they were written,” he’d explained when I asked as we drove.  I kind of understood that, but I don’t think I could’ve resisted looking if I were him.

The trip to the campsite only took a little over 3 hours.  The final directions were to turn right onto this dirt road that lead into a forest that seemed to get darker the further we drove into it.  It was a little creepy and I began to feel uneasy.  I kept trying to tell myself that it was all in my head, but then I kept seeing movement and sometimes glowing yellow eyes every now and then.  George noticed that I had started to look a little nervous and asked, “Are you okay?”  I just shook my head and said, “I’m fine.  I think I’m just getting hungry and a little tired.”  He seemed to accept my answer, but my unease kept growing and just as I was about to ask him if we could turn around, we came to a break in the forest and the sunlight returned.  It felt warm on my skin and my fear began to fade.  Siri announced that our destination would be on our left in half a mile.  A sign appeared that read, “Sunflower Ranch and Camping Grounds” and just after it, a driveway.  We turned in, paid for our campsite and return we got a map.  The man also told us to watch out for sheep in the road.  “They are apart of the ranch and move about freely, but generally move out of the way when cars approach,” he’d warned.  When I looked at the map, it seemed that our site was the furthest from the road and didn’t really have any other sites near it.  I was happy about that.  When George and I get to talking about old times, we tend to get a little loud.  Every other time, we’d gone camping, we had always gotten warnings to be quiet from the Ranger on duty.  Maybe this time would be different.

We made it to the campsite without encountering any sheep.  We unloaded most of what was in the jeep and George began putting up the teepee.  I jumped in to help as needed.  He had obviously practiced more than once because it seemed like the teepee was up in no time.  I took pictures of us with the teepee using my tripod.  There was no cell service out here, so I couldn’t post anything just yet, but I wanted to document our trip.  I started thinking of what to call our trip, “Our Adventure into the Trees” or “A Night in a Teepee”.  I wouldn’t decide yet since so much could happen overnight that could really define our time here.

George started making a fire and I found the portable speaker and got some tunes going.  Then I started pulling out the ingredients I had already pre-chopped for campfire nachos and threw them into the cast iron skillet.  Once I was done arranging it into the pan, the fire was just starting to really catch.  It wasn’t quite hot enough to cook on yet, so I grabbed the bottle opener and cracked open a few beers.   George set out the folding chairs.  We took a seat and watched the fire as it grew and started to give off warmth.  After our first beers were gone, we got up and I started the nachos while he finished unloading our stuff.  He set the table and moved our chairs to the table.  He disappeared into the teepee for a bit and when he reappeared, he was carrying a big box.

“Here’s the box of camping stuff I told you about.  I can’t wait to go through it,” he said as he set it down on the table.

“Wow, that’s a lot bigger than I thought it would be.  How many times did your Dad and Grandfather come out here?” I asked as the smell of the cooking nachos hit me and made my stomach rumble.

“My dad said they would go at least 5 or 6 times a year.  They had a good relationship and enjoyed spending time together.  Times were different back then before cell phones, iPods, iPads, and TV.  My dad said he hardly ever watched TV even though they had one.  He loved being outside.  That’s how he became fascinated with bugs and decided to study them when he got to college.”

“I remember that one time I came to your house and your dad had brought home those bugs he had found on his trip and he was mounting them.  It gave me the heebee jeebees.  How did you not have nightmares all the time?”

“I have been learning about bugs and touching them for as long as I can remember.  I never found them gross or scary.  They were always just there.”

I brought the nachos to the table and we dug in, burning our tongues, but we were so hungry, we didn’t care.

Once we were full, we cleared the table and cleaned up.  Then George put the box back on the table and we started spreading out the things we found inside.  We made pile of the postcards/letters.  There were also;

  • a bunch of old coins
  • a few old matchbox cars
  • a big box of polished/unpolished rocks
  • another smaller box filled with old arrowheads and what looked like little bones
  • a sketch pad filled with drawings of bugs, birds, and trees
  • a small arrow
  • a weird little statue of what looked like a bear

We sat down and just looked at everything, turning them over in our hands, and inspecting the items.  George’s Dad had been a really good artist even at a young age.  He started to add real details around age 9.  The pictures of the spiders really creeped me out because they looked so real on the page.  It was like they were going to pop right out at me.  At the back of the book, there was a picture of the weird little bear statue sitting in the hollow of a tree with a notation saying “Found on December 23, 1955”.

George picked up the pile of postcards and started reading them out loud.  They told stories of fishing and bug catching, long hikes up into the hills, finding caves, being scared of a snake that had wiggled across their path, and this one time he had fallen out of their canoe because he had been laughing so hard at a hawk that had caught a snake, but the snake had wrapped itself around the hawk’s wing in flight and made if fall from the sky.  The snake had escaped as the hawk just lay there dazed from the fall.

The last letter was different from the others.  George’s Dad’s handwriting looked shaky and rushed and the story it told was weird.  The letter began one morning right after breakfast, a bird had landed on their table and kept tweeting at them.  It would hop towards the end of the table tweeting then come back.  It seemed that the bird wanted them to follow it.  So they did.  The bird would fly aways and then tweet till they caught up and then fly again.  Eventually they found it sitting outside a cave they had never seen before.  They approached the cave quietly and looked in and listened.  Something in there seemed to be in pain.  The bird flew in and when they didn’t follow, it came back out and pecked George’s Dad on the head and flew back in again.  It did this several times before they cautiously went in.

Just a short way into the cave, they found a baby bear holding it’s paw and crying out.  George’s Grandfather was worried about the Momma bear coming back and finding them there and suggested they let the little bear be and go.  His Momma would help him.  It wasn’t their job, but George’s Dad disagreed.  He didn’t want to leave the little bear crying like that.  He approached the bear.  At first, the baby bear growled and tried to swipe it him, but the bird that had lead them there pecked the baby bear on the head and the bear stopped.  The little bear let George’s Dad look at it’s paw.  At first he thought it was just a stick protruding out, but when he got a good look at it, he realized it was an arrow.  Someone had shot the bear.  Father and son worked together to get the arrow out and bandage up the baby bear.  They kept an eye on the bear for the rest of their camping trip, but never saw it’s mother.  They were heading home when George’s Dad got really upset about leaving the poor little bear all alone.  They turned around and took all the food they had left in the truck to the cave for the bear.

“That’s it?  That’s the end of the story?”  I asked George when he stopped reading.

“Looks like it.”

“But I wanna know what happened to the baby bear.  Did it’s Momma ever come back?  Did it survive?”

“It doesn’t say and I don’t see any other letters or postcards that come after that one.  What a cliffhanger!”

“There has to be another letter.  Check the box again.”

George looked in the box, checking under the flaps and turning it upside down.  Nothing.

I picked up the letter and read through it again hoping to find clues we may have missed the first time around, but it wasn’t until I was putting the letter back in order that I noticed the date at the top.  George’s Dad had written the letter in August of 1955.  1955…where had I seen that?  I searched the other letters and the coins.  Nothing.  Was I imagining it?  Then I saw George looking through the sketchbook.  I grabbed it from him and I went straight to the last page.  The sketch of the weird little bear statue.

“Look George, this sketch was drawn after the letter.  It’s the statue from the box.”

They both looked over at the statue.  Had his Dad made it in remembrance of the bear?  It looked like it had been whittled.  As I reached out to touch it, I felt a shock like I had been dragging my feet across a carpet.  I pulled my hand back and just looked at it.  Hmmm…weird.

“I guess we’ll just have to wonder,”  George said as he picked it up without incident.  I nodded my head, but I hate unanswered questions and I knew it would bug me the rest of the night.

We ended up sitting around the fire talking about the good old days until we both grew tipsy and tired and passed out in the teepee.

I was woken up by the smell of smoke and was that electricity?  As I reached over to wake George, something entered the teepee and grabbed my sleeping bag and pulled me out.  As my head cleared the teepee, I saw what had pulled me.  It was a bear.  There were two of them.  The bigger one, bit the side of my sleeping bag and lifted me up over of the smaller one, and laid me on the top.  As soon as the big bear let go, the little bear took off.  It was then that I noticed the teepee was on fire.  George!  I tried to wiggle off the bear, but that only made him run faster.  Just as we were leaving the clearing of our campground, I saw the big bear pulling George out.  A bird swooped down then and pecked George on the head.  George looked up and saw the teepee was on fire and moved away on his own.  It started to pour down rain then.  This all seemed so surreal.  I just hung on to the bear and went with it.  I saw George running behind the big bear and the little bird on the path behind us.  What the hell was going on?  Where was this bear taking me?

I thought we were never going to stop, but then we entered a cave and the little bear shook me off.  I got myself out of my sleeping bag just as George and the others caught up to us.

George bent down to help me up.  “Are you okay?” he asked.

“Yeah, I think so.  Is this really happening?  I’m not dreaming am I?”

George pinched me. “Ow! That Hurt!”

“Nope you’re not dreaming,” he said.

The bird pecked George on the head and flew toward a light in the cave.  We followed and found many pictures on the walls.  The big bear pointed at a picture of lightning and then one of a teepee, then back at us.  Was he trying to talk to us?

“Lightning struck our teepee?” George asked.  He seemed to be catching on quicker than I.

The bear nodded.

“Why did you save us?”

The big bear turned around and moved further back into the cave.  The bird pecked our heads and we followed.  The bear stopped and pointed again.  We had to get close to see what he was pointing at this time.  It was a picture of two stick figures putting food at the mouth of the cave with a tiny bear inside.  Next to this picture were five sun drawings in a row.  The big bear touched each sun and then there was a big bear entering the cave.  Then there was a picture of the bird pecking at a fallen log.  Followed by a picture of the weird little bear statue.  The big bear held up the statue now and I got chills.

George said, “You saved us cause my family saved you?”

The bear nodded.

We both said “Thank you” in unison and smiled.  We now knew the end of the story as crazy as it was.

We never spoke of the bears or the bird to anyone else, but we continued to go out there to visit them and we would always share a meal.