Part Four: “On the Road Again” or “The Troll’s Hidden Rat"
Game weekend came in due time. By the
time I woke up on Friday, I showed a very serious lack of need for coffee.
I was up with the sun and bouncing around the house with an energy that,
frankly, scared both of my parents.
Why were they scared? Well, I’m not sure they believed I was actually me. You see, I normally have to run through no less than five snooze buttons before I reluctantly roll out of bed with eyes blinking and then spend the rest of the morning dragging my feet until I go out the door. Then I run like crazy because I’m late.
But this morning, I actually managed to find time to eat breakfast before I left. I was up that early. This never happens.
I was enlisted to drive once again and once again I was stuck with the station wagon. In e-mails to the rest of our group, I had begun calling it “The Whale Mobile.” Megan was driving as well and we were calling her car the “Car of Doom” for obvious reasons. However, the Car of Doom was quite small, so Megan dropped by that morning with stuff.
That stuff took up about three quarters of the Whale Mobile’s back end. I didn’t have time to puzzle over what I was going to do with my stuff, let alone everyone else’s who was going to be riding with me.
I went to campus. Classes passed. The only notes I took were a set of Elf-themed doodles.
After rushing home on the first bus (the 8 route… blasted thing winds around the entire west side, I swear…), I somehow managed to get all of my stuff into the back end of the Whale Mobile. At the last minute, I managed to find some old shower curtains and threw them in just in case we needed them. It had been raining all day and there was no way I was going to spend the night wet.
Back down to campus. I was going to meet Caroline and Kimisha there and that was what our carpool was to consist of. 3:30 was our meeting time. Caroline showed up at 3:40 or so. And then, we waited…
It is apparently a curse on our group of friends that we can never get going on time. One would think that I would account for this, but no…
Kimisha made it to the Humanities parking lot come 4:00. We stuffed her stuff into the back end of the car and all three of us prepared to pile ourselves in as well.
“Is there something wrong with… hey, wait, what’s that?”
It was Caroline that had spoken and by the time I had turned around she was curiously poking at Kimisha’s right shoulder. Something under Kimisha’s shirt shifted and squirmed until a tiny white and pink nose poked out of her collar.
“Oh, that’s Yuuki,” Kimisha said, grabbing the squirming creature and pulling it out of her shirt. In her hands, she held a tiny, white, and absolutely adorable rat.
“You’re bringing him along?” I asked.
“I know how to keep her from going anywhere,” Kimisha answered, “I didn’t want to leave her alone all weekend.”
“Hey, you could probably get Warg points for having her along,” Caroline stated, equal amounts of fact and adoration in her voice.
Meanwhile, I was suddenly fixated on that tiny little part in the back of my brain that is still in tune to my dead grandfather, the one who owned the Whale Mobile first. He was asking me what the hell I was doing letting a rodent into his car. Jim Reese just kinda surfaces like that, every now and then and frankly I find it to be a bit of a comfort. Weird, but a comfort.
And so, the Whale Mobile carpool, containing an Elf, a Red Eye Orc, a Troll, and a Warg finally got on the road. We were zipping along 18-151 in no time, groovin’ to Anime tunes and hoping that the small patches of rain we were driving through would go away.
The standard hour later, we made it to the park and what do we see cruising through the Ranger Station but the Car of Doom. Megan and company had swung down in the direction of Stoughton and picked up Sarah, but still, they should have gotten to the park earlier than we did. They had had a head start of about an hour out of Madison.
It turned out that they had already made it to the park, come in, went back to campsite H, and gone back out to go grocery shopping. They were just returning as we got there for the first time.
Campsite H was already teeming with action. Citadel flags were being assembled in the parking lot, tents were being set up. We set up our stuff in due time and somewhere during all of that Megan, Margaret, and Sarah took notice of Yuuki.
“Awwwww!” they all exclaimed at once, swooning over the cute little creature.
Creighton snickered. “That was pretty funny, you guys!” he exclaimed. “This perfectly timed, squeak in unison. Impressive!”
“What are you going to do with her over night?” Megan asked.
“I’ll keep her with me,” Kimisha responded.
“Oh man,” Megan said, “no one is to tell my roommate there was a rat in her tent. She’ll freak. In fact, that reminds me; there are not to be any shoes in that tent, at all. She’ll kill me.”
It was around that time that Jack emerged from the bushes and brambles from the direction of Barad-Dur (or was it Mount Doom?). We was soaked from head to toe in water that he had soaked up from the rain-drenched underbrush and was carrying the remains of a roll of red, plastic streamer.
“Holy cow is it wet up there!” he exclaimed, freeing himself of the last few branches of thorns. “All I can say is that there better be more than one good charge up Mount Doom to make that worth while.”
“You mean Barad-Dur,” someone corrected.
“Got the parameter all marked?” someone else asked.
“Yes, and I’ve got the water-logged clothing to prove it.”
Camp set up, the next order of business was the campfire. I swear to god, someone cut down an entire, freaking tree to build the pyre out of. Several people made jokes about it not being a true bonfire unless you could see if from space and I believe they were only half kidding.
Just before sundown, Megan, Creighton, Margaret, Caroline and Kimisha decided that they needed to make a run into Dodgeville for something or another that they had forgotten. Sarah and I decided we were fine, so we remained with the other campers at site H.
As night fell, the two of us newbies slowly began to learn peoples’ names: Jack, Otto, Roz, Stacy… each and every one of them a true Ring Game vet. Needless to say, we were both feeling like the obvious newbies we really were. Even so, it was a blast. We were welcomed into the group without the bat of an eyelash.
Before long, I couldn’t stand the shoes I had been wearing since 8 that morning and they simply had to come off. No need to worry, though, it wasn’t an enclosed space…
I spent the rest of the evening barefoot, the mud that had formed from the bare dirt around the fire pit oozing up through my toes refreshingly. The dew-soaked grass was hardly adequate to clean them, but it really felt good.
Marshmallows were broken out in due course.
This was followed almost immediately by pumpkin-flavored peeps.
More than one of the marshmallow bunnies met a fiery demise at the end of a long, metal roasting rod and it was strangely soothing to watch as they dripped off the ends and fell into the fire, curling up into little balls of bright flame.
Perhaps I should have played something evil after all…
As the night wore on, Sarah and I were treated to what was the coolest campfire in my entire experience. Oh sure, I had been around campfires before, but they all had involved saccharine Christian songs, forced readings of the Bible, and campy little skits about believing in God. This was the first campfire I had sat in on where the talk was of Merrie Melodies cartoons, why Farscape shouldn’t have been cancelled, and how cool a movie Ghostbusters was (yes, there was talk of the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man). We also heard several stories of past Ring Game exploits including Jack’s adventures as Bill the Pony and lots and lots of stories about a Ring Game enthusiast known only as “Bondo.”
“Remember,” Jack said at the review of the rules at the beginning of the game the next day, “ask yourself ‘what would Bondo do?’ And then, don’t do it!” I was exceedingly pleased to be able to laugh at the joke.
Add all the situations with all the various pieces of clothing that needed to be dried and it made for quite the interesting night.
I don’t remember who it was (I didn’t have his name down at that point), but someone had had to stand right next to the fire in order to dry off his pants.
“Look, your butt is steaming!” was the gleeful exclamation at more than one point.
It was around 10:00 when we all began to wonder where the Car of Doom had gotten to. Not long after that, Sauron and her four evil minions came back up the hill and joined the circle around the campfire.
“Where’d you guys go?” I asked. “Back to Madison?”
“No one tell them!” Megan shouted.
“Well, we ended up in Oregon,” Kimisha offered at the same moment.
“It was just one wrong turn,” Caroline offered, “we never actually got lost.”
All the campers thus reunited, the geeks’ campout continued without missing a beat.
Every once in a while I turned my head toward the parting clouds above and gazed at the stars that were emerging. I reacquainted myself with the constellations that Madison’s ambient glow didn’t permit me to see; Ursa Major, Polaris and Ursa Minor, Cassiopeia, Andromeda, the Pleiades, Aldebaran and Taurus…
Yes, the next day was going to be good.
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