It was a clear night, a night where more stars than normal could be seen shining over camp through the trees. With not a cloud in the sky, the air was crisply cold, and Meghan slept, wrapped in a fleece blanket and curled up inside her sleeping bag. She slept with a hand made knit navy blue and white winter cap on, even in the middle of the summer, and an extra large sweatshirt.
She shared a tent with Deb, a heavy set black girl who was on the kitchen staff. Deb was two years younger than Meghan. They had their two beds parallel to each other’s, and also parallel to the front and back of the tent, instead of aligned with the side flaps. Deb’s was in the back of the tent, overlooking the most elevated portion, and behind the tent was a path of woods that eventually stretched to other property. A small stream ran down the hill behind the tent, and sometimes at night the trickling and leaping of the water over rocks and between legs and crevices was one of the only sounds heard. The others, of course, were possibly the cackle of a fading campfire or the chirping of crickets or perhaps the gentle whoosh whoosh of the wind breezing through the leaves of the trees.
Both Meghan and Deb each had a large plastic trunk that they stored their clothes in, along with several stolen milk crates (most members of camp staff took the milk crates from the cement behind the kitchen door, ignoring the label that the milk crates belonged to the dairies and any other use of them was illegal; after all, they returned them – for the most part – at the end of the summer) and other such buckets and Tupperware containers that contained all their summer possessions. Deb kept a large garbage bag tied to the end of her bed, an easy access depository for all her dirty clothes. Meghan, on the other hand, had an old, broken handled laundry basket shoved under her bed for hers.
Meghan awoke to the rustling of the garbage bag. She opened her eyes, blinking to focus out at the field in the middle of the unit. She could make out the picnic table, fire circle, and two or three of the other tents in the moonlight. Her alarm clock ticked loudly beside her ear.
The garbage bag rustled again. She rolled over onto her other side and stared at Deb’s bed. There was no movement from that side of the tent, but the bag rustled again.
“Deb?” she whispered into the darkness. There was no answer. She tried calling out again. “Deb?” she hissed, louder, but still received no reply. The bodily shaped lump on Deb’s bed did not move.
Meghan pushed her sleeping bag down past her shoulders and shimmied to a sitting up position. She said Deb’s name once more. The rustling stopped. She let out a heavy breath, surprised to see an icy puff escape from between her own lips. The sight made her shiver. She slid back down into her sleeping bag, turned her head into the already warm indent on her pillow, and closed her eyes. She was just beginning to feel sleep returning to her. Her head was heavy and her breathing slowed.
But then the rustling started up again and she sat up straight, quickly, reaching for her heavy duty Mag Light on the make shift night table she had set up. The back of her hand connected with the cold metal and the flash light went crashing to the floor. As she reached her arm down to feel along the dirty wooden floor to find it, the rustling stopped once again. She wrapped her palm tightly around the cold shaft and found the button blindly.
“Deb?” she asked as she lifted the beam of light toward the end of the other girl’s bed and the garbage bag hanging there.
The light fell on a large grayish black mound of fur. Meghan squealed and quickly jerked the light away, but the damage was done. She could make out the outline of the rather large raccoon as it pulled its head out of the garbage bag and looked at her.
The raccoon was a large beast, looking as though it had stuck its head in one too many garbage cans around camp to feast on thrown away piles of food, probably for the most part the puddings and marshmallows and chocolates. It took a few steps toward Meghan’s bed, and she scrunched her knees up to her chest, her lower back pressing hard against the bed frame. Her hair caught in a newly made spider web, but she didn’t bother to swat it away, concerned more with the raccoon less than two feet from her.
It took a step closer to her.
She dropped the flash light into her lap, wincing at the dull thud against her thigh, even through the thickness of her sleeping bag.
The raccoon stood up on its hind legs and let out a high pitched hiss. Instinctively, Meghan reached out for her ticking alarm clock and wailed it at the critter. The alarm clock barely missed the raccoons head. It disappeared into the leaves behind the tent. The raccoon hissed again and then scurried away and out of the tent at the end of her bed.
Meghan watched it disappear around the side of the tent and let out a sigh. Her chest heaved once, and she felt sweat forming on her forehead. She held herself up on the heels of her hands and took a few more deep breaths. She looked at Deb, still a lump on her bed. She had begun to snore. Then she looked out into the darkness of the unit. The raccoon was gone, and it did not appear as though any of its friends were near by.
Slowly, Meghan sank back down into her sleeping bag. Even though she was flushed with excitement and sweating, she ducked into the bag and pulled it over the top of her head. She buried her face into her pillow and squeezed her eyes tightly shut, hoping that she would not hear anymore rustling that night – or any other night for that matter.