“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. This is all my fault. I never should have suggested a camping vacation. I’m to blame for everything,” Nathan said.
“Even though that’s true,” Emily said, “you don’t need to play the martyr.”
“Just taking all the credit that’s rightfully mine. I thought this would be fun, like the camping trips my family used to take when I was a kid.”
“You’ve told me about them, endlessly, and if I have to hear one more time about how your mother was the key to making them so wonderful, I will never speak to either of you again.”
“Is that a promise?”
There was, perhaps naturally, a little silence after that, and the couple busied themselves with preparing the tent for another night in the woods. After a few minutes, Emily began making sarcastic comments under her breath again.
“Why in the world would we want to go to an interesting place with a decent hotel and soft beds when we can lie on the hard ground in a hot tent and wonder when a snake is going to slither in?”
“You’ve got an air mattress. And no snakes ever slithered into the tent on our family camping trips,” Nathan protested.
“Of course not. Your mother smiled and put a magic charm around the tent to keep them away. Pity she didn’t teach it to me before you decided we had to come out here.”
“It was a blacksnake and it was harmless. It didn’t get within 15 feet of us. It’s almost a miracle you even saw it.” He finished securing the tent flap and turned toward her. “And if you weren’t such a scaredy-cat, you’d appreciate getting the opportunity to see one of nature’s most interesting creatures.”
“And if you weren’t such a cheapskate we could have gone to Hawaii and seen lots of nature’s most interesting sights.”
“There was nothing cheap about this tent,” Nathan huffed. “I got the best one available, the Cadillac of tents. This thing—”
Emily held up her hand. “Stop. Don’t ever — ever — tell me how much money you sank in this nylon nightmare. I never want to learn that the price of this miserable thing would have bought, instead, five nights in even an average roadside motel.”
“You’re simply incapable of appreciating the simpler things in life. I would never have needed anything this fancy, but I knew that I’d better get the best or you’d complain. And you’re complaining anyway.”
“The phrase ‘best tent’ is an oxymoron.” Emily crawled into her sleeping bag. Nathan had originally zipped their sleeping bags together for them to use as one, but that hadn’t lasted long. “Tomorrow, I am going home. I know you’ve got this spot for four more days. Stay. Enjoy. Commune with nature. I’ll send someone to get you on Sunday. Maybe your mother; you’ll both enjoy chatting about what a spoiled brat I am.”
“That we will, and I’ll enjoy the peace and quiet when you’re gone,” he said and turned off the lantern.
“I cannot imagine what one more thing could go wrong before I leave,” Emily said. “What could possibly be the cherry on top of this hideous experience?”
Nathan had nothing to say about that, and they both fell quiet again.
Several moments later, they heard the mosquito.