Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Soul (07/13/06)
TITLE: Death of a Tent
By janet rubin
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I’ve lugged this tent up mountains and down into valleys. Have slogged along muddy paths in the rain and trembled beneath the weight of it on hot, dry days in the desert. No matter how difficult the day, it’s always been a shelter at night, a place to lie down and sleep.
Solitude is nice—the walking and camping alone—but mostly I’ve camped with others. Family and friends. I’ve found camping with strangers to be one of the most interesting experiences. After all, there’s something about gathering around a campfire, everyone staring into the same orange glow and feeling it’s warmth that makes people not strangers anymore. Once you’ve shared a meal roasted over that flame you’re more like family.
The past few nights have been calm, so I’ve done alright. But tonight, I hear a rumble. The air seems pregnant with storm. I scrunch over to the less holey side and hope for the best.
No one has tents like this one anymore. This is the real deal—the kind old boy scouts remember fondly. The kind that leaks like crazy if you touch the sides when they’re wet. The other campers—owners of shiny campers and pop-ups—looked at my tent with pity today. One gentleman came over with a roll of duct tape. A woman offered me her sewing kit. I could see in their eyes though, that they knew as I well as I that this tent is done for. It’s just too old (not I-could-get-a-lot-of-money-for-it-on-ebay old, but time-to-burn-it-in-the-campfire-along-with-the-logs-and-paper-plates old.)
It’s a good tent, though, and the only one I have.
The mosquitoes that’ve been darting freely in and out have suddenly disappeared. The campground is eerily quiet. It’s hot, yet I shiver in my sleeping bag.
CRACK! The lightning’s flash and the resounding boom are simultaneous and when I open my eyes, I can’t believe I’m still alive. The rain comes on all at once, not warming up with a drizzle and working its way up, but pouring heavily like the water I pour from a bucket on the smoldering coals before bed.
Water streams in through the holes, just like it must have into the Titanic as it sank. The wind shakes the tent, lifting it clear off the ground on one side. Fastened down by only a few tent pegs, the few I haven’t lost or broken, it can’t hold its ground. I spread myself into an X to try and weigh it down, but the wind is too strong. The sound of ripping fabric cuts through the storm as the biggest hole expands, leaving a gaping door through which the storm gladly enters.
I feel as if I’m caught up in a tornado. The poles flail about. My shelter is no longer a refuge. Leaving my sleeping bag, compass and clothes, I struggle through the sagging and shuddering tent, blinded by the darkness. Groping I find the hole on the tent’s side.
And then I am out. Naked and utterly exposed to the storm. Homeless.
I see a glow, hear the crackle of burning wood, and see rising smoke.
In the rain.
Forgetting my tent and my nudity, I move towards this oddity until I can see clearly. A man sitting by the fire, motions me closer.
Tears, as well as rain, streak my face. “My tent is gone.”
He reaches out and pulls me closer. It isn’t raining here. All around, but not here. There is a cloth in His hand and He uses it to wipe my face clean of water and tears. I look down and notice that I am not sweaty or wet or naked. I’m wearing a white robe.
“I made your tent,” He says. “It wasn’t meant to last forever. Just until now.”
I nod, not missing my tent at all, just happy to be here with this man.
“I’ve made you a new place,” He says. “Would you like to see?”
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