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“Dad? Can we do something fun this weekend? You know, like we did when Mom was alive?”

He stopped typing and looked over at his son. “Yeah. Of course we can, buddy. What were you thinking about doing?” It took all the self-control he had not to tear up. She’d been gone close to two years now and yet he still thought of her every day. So much so he found it difficult to spend the kind of time he needed to with his son.

In fact, he found it hard to do much of anything although he did still work out in his home gym as a way of relieving stress. At 41, Micah Gibson was in very good physical condition. Mentally however, he was still a wreck although not nearly as much so as he’d been that first year which was worse than anything he could have ever imagined. This past year the acute, constant pain and heartache was giving way to a kind of chronic sadness. It was still difficult to deal with but nowhere near the debilitating grief of those first 12-15 months.

Connor had just turned seven, and although Micah did spend time with him, they rarely did anything together other than eating or reading bedtime stories. He’d heard that spending time together was all that really mattered; that ‘quality time’ was just a myth. But he knew just sitting in the same room while Connor watched DVDs or cartoons while he worked from home wasn’t cutting it. He loved his son to be sure, but there was no real bonding going on. Claire had always been the glue that held the family together and he was so completely lost without her that every day was a struggle just to survive.

“I don’t know,” his son told him. “Jonathan’s dad took him camping last weekend and he said it was fun. Maybe we could do that.”

Micah had always enjoyed camping. As a kid he’d loved going with his dad and every once in a while his mom would join them. They’d get up early, have something to eat then go fishing at a nearby lake where he’d spend the day goofing around and looking for things more than he fished. The evenings also held pleasant memories sitting inside the tent where his father cooked the fish they caught that day as they talked about baseball or whatever else came to mind.

He quit going during his later teen and college years, but once he started working full-time as a software developer, he rediscovered how enjoyable it was to get away for a couple of days and spend them in the peace and quiet of the woods or out near a lake. Claire didn’t exactly love camping, but she was always a good sport about it and usually went with him. That was even more true after Connor was born. They’d gone two or three times a year until Claire had suddenly and severely become gotten sick with a rare form of meningitis just days before it took her life. Since then, he hadn’t been once and still had no real interest in it, but he did need to spend time with his son.

So while he wasn’t excited about going camping, he really didn’t feel like going to a ball game or the skating rink or the batting cages or even playing video games. He just wanted his life with Claire back and that was the one thing he couldn’t have. He knew it was unfair to his son who’d not only lost his mom, but he’d effectively lost his father, too, by his being so distant. He couldn’t help it and yet he knew that had to change.

Money certainly wasn’t the issue, so it wasn’t like they couldn’t afford to go camping. Micah made a ton of money and since Claire’s death it just kept piling up in his checking account. He didn’t even bother trying to invest it. Hell, he didn’t even know how much was there and honestly, he didn’t care. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d written a check so he didn’t even bother trying to balance his checkbook.

He exhaled deeply and said, “Okay. We can do that.”

“Really? Dad, are you serious? Are we really gonna go camping?” Connor asked not sure he trusted what his dad had just told him.

“We are. I promise. But we’re gonna have to go buy some new stuff because our old gear is in really bad shape. It was getting pretty ratty the last time we went and I don’t want to be outside with a tent that has holes in it. Remember the last time we went and it rained?”

“Oh, yeah. I remember that! We went to Lake Hampton and went trout fishing. Mom caught the biggest one. Remember, Dad?”

He not only didn’t tear up at her mention, he even forced a weak smile as he thought about her almost losing her pole when the fish took the hook and swam for deep water. Her rod was nearly bent in half as they stood there cheering her on as she reeled and pulled then reeled and pulled some more bringing in a nearly four-pound rainbow trout.

“Yes, I do. I thought that fish was gonna pull Mom into the lake.”

Connor smiled then laughed for the first time in a long time. Yes, they definitely needed to do this and Micah knew he could use a break from writing and analyzing code or trying to develop some new algorithm to shorten this or that process.

Connor didn’t care where they went or what their gear was like. He just wanted casino şirketleri to do something with his dad. He was so excited he barely heard Micah going on and on about how they’d need not only a new tent, but mattress pads, sleeping bags, lanterns, a bug light, a camp stove, and other things he hadn’t even heard of. All he knew was they were going camping and he couldn’t wait!

Micah had read that Bass Pro Shops recently opened its first store in the Pacific Northwest in Tacoma just a few miles north of their home in Parkland, Washington. It was the kind of place he’d have loved as a kid and he was looking forward to checking it out the following morning. He’d called ahead and talked to someone named Tommy and when he got there, everything he’d asked for was neatly stacked and arranged for his inspection.

“Mr. Gibson? Pleased to meet you, sir,” a young kid of about 18 with a name tag that said ‘Tommy’ told him. He pointed to the pile of stuff and said, “Everything you asked for is right over there. The tent, the sleeping bags…”

“Cool! Is all that stuff ours, Dad?” Connor asked before his dad could even respond.

“Yes it is, buddy,” he told him.

“Which one is my sleeping bag?” he asked as Tommy smiled watching Connor run over to the stack of goodies.

“You can choose, Connor. Go ahead. Take a look.”

“Awesome!” he said pumping his fist as he headed toward the nicely-stacked pile o’ stuff. He saw two bags tightly rolled up and stuffed into ‘stuff sacks.’ One was dark blue, the other was gray.

“I want the blue one, Dad!” he called out.

Micah had to admit it felt good to see his son look so happy. “Okay, buddy. It’s yours.”

“Sorry about that, Tommy. He’s pretty excited. Go ahead, please.”

“Oh, no problem. We love seeing families happy,” he replied having no idea how sad this one had been. “Yes, sir, it’s all there. Let me show you. Oh, I need to let you know we didn’t have any two-person tents in stock so the manager said to give you this four-person rig for the same price. It’s quite a bit bigger, but it only weighs a few extra pounds. Is that okay? If not, we’ll special order one and have it here by Friday.”

“Yeah, sure. It’ll be nice to have a little more room inside so that’ll be fine. What else have we got here?”

Tommy showed him everything else in the pile and Micah told him to ring it all up.

“So…where you guys headed?” Tommy asked.

Micah stood there and didn’t say a word. The truth was he hadn’t even thought about where they’d go. “Um, I’m not really sure.” He laughed nervously and said, “Got any suggestions?”

“Actually, I do,” Tommy said. He handed him a flyer advertising an outing Bass Pro Shops was sponsoring. “We have several openings left if you’d like to sign up. It’s $100 for two nights and we’ll also have a vehicle out there with some refreshments and a Registered Nurse—just in case. Oh, and there will be several Port-a-Johns, too. If you prefer roughing it, his might not be your thing, but we’ve done this once before and people really seemed to enjoy it.”

“This is too good to be true,” Micah told him. “Sign us up!”

He left the gear in the Land Rover for the next four days with the exception of Connor’s sleeping bag. He’d practically begged his dad to let him sleep in it inside the house and that was an easy thing he could ‘do with his son as long as ‘doing’ meant only having to say ‘okay.’

When the big day came, Micah only had to throw in the cooler, their fishing rods with some tackle and bait, then punch in the location on his GPS and follow the directions. Connor brought a frisbee and his Game Boy and once their yellow Lab, Bingo, had jumped in the back, they were ready to roll.

It was around 6pm on a Friday evening during the middle of June and June was often ‘iffy’ in the Seattle area. It could be sunny and warm with clear blue skies or rain most of the month. You just never knew year to year.

It was cloudy, but it didn’t look too bad as they headed out. With any luck it’d stay dry for the next 48 hours and they wouldn’t be stuck inside the tent the entire time, but Micah brought his laptop along just in case. When he thought about the possibility of rain keeping them stuck inside, he was suddenly thankful to have the extra space knowing how small a two-man…er, two-person was the politically correct term these days…tent could feel. It was fine for sleeping in. You could even eat in it comfortably, but you wouldn’t want to spend a day hanging out inside of it. No, this four-person thing could end up being a kind of god-send. He’d even have room to sit in a lawn chair and put a piece of plywood across the arms to serve as a make-shift desk.

“Dad! There’s the sign. Turn here!” Connor said as they saw the Bass Pro Shop sign pointing the way to the campgrounds. Micah turned down the long road which ran through endless pine and fir trees on the way to the campsite.

Micah loved the Evergreen State. He got tired of the gray skies and the rain, but casino firmaları he never got tired of the beautiful trees and lush forests. Every location had plusses and minuses and just like art or music or the human body, beauty was in the eye of the beholder. The Seattle-Tacoma area didn’t get much snow and it rarely got over 90 degrees. All in all, he honestly believed this was ‘God’s country’ his nagging personal doubts about the existence of any god since the death of his wife aside.

There were quite a few vehicles there already and Micah was happy to see someone from BPS was actually organizing the chaos. Plots of land were already staked out and as people arrived, the assistants showed them where to park and then where they’d be pitching their tents. Micah and Connor pulled the Land Rover in between a sedan and a pick-up truck and got out their gear.

Micah carried the tent while Connor carried the sleeping bags and Bingo um…wagged his tail—a lot. It took two more trips to get their cooler and other things over to their then tent site, but as soon as they did, Micah sat up his lawn chair to relax. Connor had no interest sitting. He could (and did) do that all day at home. He wanted to throw the frisbee and Bingo was all too happy to go fetch it as many times as Connor cared to throw it.

Within ten minutes, another young man wearing a BPS shirt said, “Are we setting up your tent, sir?” Micah went to show him the receipt and the kid said, “I can see the price tag and our logo still on the tent so you’re fine, sir. I’ll have you ready to go in no time. These things go together very quickly. I love this particular tent you bought, by the way. It’s great for any kind of weather. You can open it up in several places if it’s warm and it’s about as watertight as you can get if it rains.” The kid looked up and said, “You just never know, right?”

As the young man went to work, Connor heard a female voice in the little plot to the left of his say, “You’ve got to be kidding!”

He looked over and saw a women of around 25 to 30 trying to prop up a tent while reaching for a pole. When she did, the part she had part way up collapsed. He did his best not to laugh but he couldn’t help it, and to his chagrin she heard him.

“Is this funny to you?” she said with an edge to her voice. There was a little girl around Connor’s age standing nearby watching her.

“No, sorry. I know that can be very frustrating. Why don’t you let this guy help you out?” Micah said nodding to the kid setting his up.

“Um…maybe because I didn’t buy my tent from them? Maybe because my husband walked out on me six…” She looked at her daughter and stopped speaking in mid-sentence. “Never mind. I’ll get it set up myself.”

Micah stood up and walked toward them. “I’d be happy to help if you’d like,” he told the woman who was again trying to prop up the middle.

“No…thank you,” she said caustically. “I don’t need a man to help me do something as simple as putting up a tent.”

“Okay. Sorry,” he said. He saw the little girl look at him and he said hello to her.

“Hi,” she said back.

“I have a son about your age. His name is Connor.”

“I know. I saw him. He’s playing frisbee with your dog.”

Micah looked over and saw Bingo chasing the frisbee. “If it’s okay with your mom you can play with them. Do you want to ask her?”

“Really?” she said excitedly. “Mom? This man said I can play frisbee with his dog. Is that okay?”

She turned around to look and the tent fell down again taking her with it. Micah chuckled when he heard he quietly swearing inside the mass of material around her head.

“Okay. Go ahead. Just hand me one of those green poles over there before you leave, okay?”

“Okay, Mommy!” she said happily. She picked it up and set it next to her mom. “Here it is. Can I go play now?”

“Yes. But Addison? Stay close by. You hear me? I mean it. Do not wander off. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” she replied. “Can I go?”

“Fine. Go ahead. Go play frisbee.”

Micah could see her face for the first time and he was surprised to see just how attractive she was. She was wearing a ball cap and he could see a ponytail with long, dark hair coming from the hole in the back and what appeared to be a very pretty face under the bill. He’d already gotten a look at her body from the back and even in jeans and a tee-shirt, he could tell it was very well put together.

“Are you sure you wouldn’t like some help?” he asked again.

She poked her head through the tent door and said, “What is it with men that makes them think a woman can’t do something just because it’s outdoors?”

He put his hands up and said, “Okay. Message received. Loud and clear. I’ll keep an eye your daughter while she’s playing with my boy Connor and our dog, Bingo.”

“And Bingo was name-o, right? Gee, how original.”

Micah didn’t say it, but he was wondering who’d pissed in her Cheerios that morning. He gave up trying to help her and decided to join in güvenilir casino with the kids.

“Dad! This is Addison. She’s my new friend.”

Micah stopped, bent down and offered his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Addison. I’m Mr. Gibson.”

“Hello, my name is Addison,” she said not realizing he already knew that.

“That’s a very pretty name for a very pretty girl.”

“Thank you,” she said politely. “I like your dog. She’s pretty.”

Micah laughed and said, “Actually, Bingo is a boy. So…he’s pretty. Or would that be handsome?” Micah made a silly face when he said it and Addison giggled.

“You’re funny!” she said pointing at him.

“Your turn, Addison!” Connor said handing her the frisbee.

She did her best to throw it but it slipped out of her hand and whacked Micah in the side of the head. Addison gasped and put her hands over her face. “I’m sorry! Are you okay?”

Micah wasn’t hurt but it did startle him. He laughed and said, “I’m fine.” He picked up the frisbee and handed it to her. “Don’t tell anyone but my head’s made of wood.” He knocked on it and made a clicking sound with his tongue and got Addison to laugh again.

This time it flew fairly straight although not very far. Bingo didn’t care how far it went. He ran the 10-15 feet it did fly, grabbed it and brought it right to Addison. “Your turn, Connor!” she called out.

Micah went back to his lawn chair and saw the young woman turn away quickly as he looked over at her. The tent was still a mess around her feet while his was almost done. He sat down to watch the kids play and in less than ten minutes he saw the kid tying off the four corners to some stakes. “Okay, sir. You’re all set. Can I help you with anything else?” he asked cheerfully.

“Can I help you with anything else?” he heard the woman say in a mocking, snide tone.

The kid looked over at her and Micah said loud enough for her to hear, “She doesn’t want help from any man, so you might want to just move on to your next customer.” He was smiling as he glanced over at her and saw her shake her head and give him a death look before trying to raise the tent again.

Micah looked at his watch and saw it was 8:30pm. It would be light for another half hour and there would be twilight for another half hour after that. He decided to set up the camp stove and put everything else inside the tent before it got dark as he heard another expletive from his new next-door neighbor.

At nine o’clock he told Connor it was time to settle in for the night and let Addison know she’d need to go back over with her mom. Micah asked Connor to go fill Bingo’s water dish from a big water buffalo BPS had staged at one end of the campground while looking over at Addison and her mom.

“Are you gonna get the tent fixed, Mommy?” she asked.

Her mother was just sitting there staring at the tent. It was an old canvas thing and Micah was thinking he hadn’t seen one like that in many years.

“You know what, honey? We’re just gonna sleep out under the stars tonight. It isn’t too cold and it’ll be fun. How does that sound?”

“Do we sleep in sleeping bags?” she asked.

“Yes, of course we do,” the woman said. Micah saw her smile for the first time as she reached out for her daughter’s hand. “Help Mommy up and we’ll move all this junk out of the way and spread them out.”

Addison wasn’t much help but she did pick up a couple of poles and set them to the side. It was getting pretty dark so Micah went and got one of his two battery-powered lanterns and set it next to him to make it seem like it was for his benefit knowing the two girls could use the extra light.

“Now we can see again, Mommy!” Addison said adding insult to injury.

“Uh-huh. I…see that,” she said shooting Micah another look. “Come on, let’s get into our sleeping bags, okay?”

“I’m thirsty, Mommy.”

He heard the woman grunt before she said, “Okay. Hold on.” He saw her get up and start rooting around through the mess. “No. It can’t be. I did not forget the cooler.” He heard a very quiet, “Shit!” come from her before she went back to her daughter.

“Sorry, honey. We don’t have anything until morning. Can you make it ’til then?”

The woman no sooner got back in her bag than Micah heard Addison say, “I have to go potty.”

“You can’t wait?” her mother asked knowing it was hours until daylight.

“No. I have to go now!” she said.

“Great.” The mom threw off her bag and said, “Let me just grab a flashlight.” She rummaged around for quite a while but couldn’t find one. Finally she said, “Come on. I’ll walk with you.”

“But it’s dark, Mommy!” Addison said. “Did you get the flashlight?”

“Well, Mommy can’t find it right now, Addison,” she said her voice growing tense.

Not knowing how she’d react, Micah said, “Would you like to borrow this lantern? It has a handle on it.” He held it up to show them.

“Mommy, look!” Addison said.

“Go ahead. Please. We have another one inside,” he said as he swung this back and forth.

“Can we, Mommy?” Addison pleaded.

“Okay. Fine!” her mother said. “Go get it from the…nice man.”

Addison took it from him and said, “Thank you, Mr. Gipson,” slightly mispronouncing his name.

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