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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Soul (07/13/06)

TITLE: Death of a Tent
By janet rubin


I don’t know how many more nights this tent will hold up. Lying here in the dark, I see stars peeking through the rips in the canvas, too tattered now to repair like I have in the past. I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of this old thing; have camped in it more days than I can count. Pleasurable days and starlit nights of pure camping fun, and miserable times I’ve spent caught in storms just praying the lightening wouldn’t choose my tent pole as a target.

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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This article has been read 1112 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Cristy Zinn07/20/06
I loved reading this!!! It is such a perfect illustration of what our bodies really are - temporary tents. Thank you for reminding me of that! God bless!
Kevin Kindrick07/20/06
Very nice; a great, entertaining read. I think my favorite line is where you describe just how old the tent is...I know the feeling.
Then - coming in to the warm fire - wow. What a great end.
Thanks for sharing.

God bless,

Deborah Bauers07/22/06
There's some wonderful symbolism in this piece. There's alot more "dying" than just the tent! LOL! I saw one small typo. In the section below you might want to either use different punctuation, or make a complete sentence out of "Family and friends."

"Solitude is nice—the walking and camping alone—but mostly I’ve camped with others. Family and friends."

william price07/22/06
Never did much camping, but my soul has felt like a storm tossed tent at times. Was kinda hoping the character would see his tent restored to its original condition at the end, but I liked the way you did it too. Excellent story. Very well writen.
Trina Courtenay07/23/06
Love to camp but more so, I loved your story. I sure hope it places!
Marilyn Schnepp 07/24/06
Not one mention of "soul" here, but another commenter drew it for me. Great work of artistic thought; and I too loved the "old as...but not as old as..." part. One "I" just before that needs to be deleted...but great read! Loved it through out!
Jan Ackerson 07/24/06
This is wonderful...an extended analogy that just gets better and better as the reader realizes what's taking shape here.
Jan Ross07/24/06
The story just kept unveiling I continued to read. Comparison of the body to this tent was amazingly accurate. Very, very well done! :)
Lynda Lee Schab 07/25/06
Slowly this piece came to life for me. It was like a gradual unfolding and it help me captive throughout. Truly masterful writing!
Dr. Sharon Schuetz07/25/06
This is absolutely the best thing I have read all week. Brilliant.
Lynda Schultz 07/25/06
This one made me cry: Beautiful, an absolutely beautiful expression of this tattered tent we live in.
Rita Garcia07/25/06
Brilliant! Powerful, powerful message!!
L.M. Lee07/25/06
cool! i like what you did.
Kenny Blade07/26/06
Good stuff. This was eloquently done. I really enjoyed this.
Shari Armstrong 07/26/06
Oooooo - very cool...... I love the transision -

(oh -and on a camping note -I've never met an unfriendly camper :) )
Teri Wilson07/27/06
Congrats on your win. This is wonderful!
Trina Courtenay07/27/06
Yeah, 5th place EC. Way to write! One of my favorites this week.
Joanne Sher 01/18/08
I just finished reading through "Hidden in the Hymns," and I had to let you know that this piece moved me deeply. I'm so glad it made the book, because I might not have read, or been blessed by, it otherwise.
janet rubin01/18/08
what a nice surprise to get your comment. i'm so glad this story blessed you!