Kill Alvin, I, II and III
This summer, my kids went to Camp Kill-A-Critter. It was their first time away from home, roughing it in the wilderness, old-school.
I was the Camp Counselor, the Camp Cook, the Camp Chaplain and the Camp Activities Coordinator. I do not play the guitar, otherwise I would have also filled the role of Kum-Ba-Ya My Lord Counselor.
I was also unwillingly the Camp Murderer.
The kids and I had never been camping together before. I used to camp all the time as a child and as an adult, but once I got married to the Anti-Dirt and Anti-Clutter King of Reno, the excursions came to an abrupt halt.
Since our divorce, I have camped several times and loved every minute of it. I always camped with an expert survivalist, though, because it felt safer for me in this neck of the woods. Camping in Iowa is easy and less nerve racking. My usual tough girl, fake-it-til-you-make-it, brave attitude vanished when I moved here to the Tahoe area the second I learned that bears ran in flocks, tearing down tents and eating little babies for breakfast.
These aren’t dingos from the Outback. They are bears, people. BEARS.
So when I decided on a whim to be the tough pioneer woman that I see in the mirror and go camping by myself with the kids, I had to face the fact that the bears just might eat my babies.
Of course, they don’t do that, or at least the ones around here don’t. They’re chicken shit sissies, actually. If you take the right precautions regarding food and trash storage and carry a giant blow horn, you’re ultimately safe. Which, we were.
I just wish someone had warned me about the infestatious, rabid chipmunks.
The first night, I camped alone. This was like a personal hurdle for me and one that I was determined to do. I bought all new, albeit cheap, camping gear and organized everything to a T. Devon would have been very impressed with this glimpse of OCD that I really don’t possess in any way, shape or form. I accomplished this by asking myself: WWDD? It’s a pretty good motto to keep in the back of my mind at times.
Once I got the obnoxiously complicated 8-person tent up (thank God I was also the Camp Nurse because the giant lumps I received above my eyebrow and back of my head from the poles whipping me unexpectedly needed to be treated medically), I got the place organized and ready for the kids’ arrival the next night. I needed to eat, so I sat, peacefully sweating, and ate my tasty chicken Caesar salad.
And then Fat Alvin bravely jumped up and sat down next to me.
He was so cute, I mean seriously adorable, and I am not known for my love of all creatures great and small. My kids think I’m heartless about animals in general, and actually, they’re right.
But who can resist those furry little creatures with puffy cheeks and beady little black eyes? I started to set a seasoned crouton down to see if he would take it, but before I could actually set the thing down, he snatched it right out of my hand. I could even feel his creepy little claws scrape my fingertips. He started shoving his face like Lard-Ass in Stand By Me.
Those maniacal, devil-worshiping, greedy little black eyes, I thought. The hairs on the back of my neck started to stand up.
And then his little buddy decided he needed some croutons, too. His eyes were peering into my soul. I almost thought he was trying to glamor me like Edward Cullen.
Apparently, the word was spreading through their chipmunk telepathy because a third little bastard wanted a piece of the action. Alfred Hitchcock and “The Birds” started to flash through my mind and I began to feel quite frightened.
I reasoned myself out of my frozen state by making a quick little “Boo!” and motioned my body with a jerk. They scattered. I felt some relief. I mean, Jesus, Emily, who’s the adult here?
But I could sense their evil stares for the rest of the evening. It was slightly unnerving at times. I comforted myself by the flames and considered making a Barbie-sized torch to have at the ready in case they decided to attack. Aren’t most wild animals afraid of fire? The Ring Wraiths from Lord of the Rings are, I reasoned. A couple of PBRs helped me to relax and officially nix that idea.
I got the washing station ready by placing an empty five gallon bucket under our water source and used it a few times for various things. The water was dirty but there was very little in it, so I didn’t even think about emptying the thing.
This became my greatest weapon of revenge and protection at the camp.
So I went to bed. The sleep aid I took caused me to rest peacefully throughout the night. No bears. No storms.
I woke up refreshed, made a fire, used my percolator to make gritty, strong coffee, cooked some bacon and drank a bloody Mary. It was a great morning, until I went to wash my dishes at the wash station.
And there, with his fat cheeks and Zombie eyes, floated Fat Alvin. He had drowned sometime in the night.
Did I feel bad? Maybe for a nano-second. Ultimately I was happy. Happy that the kids weren’t there yet so they wouldn’t have to witness something so disgusting and unsightly. They would have really freaked out. Especially Kate. I would have had to put on my Camp Chaplain hat and performed a funeral or something. We have a Pet Cemetery in our front yard that’s pretty creepy, actually, and the undertaker role goes to Kate.
I quickly disposed of the evidence and scoured the crime scene. I went about my daily business of sitting on my ass. I even took a hike, which caused too much sweating, so I washed myself at the wash station and cleaned the dishes up from dinner. I forgot about the drowned little critter and took the trip into town to pick up the kids. I absolutely did NOT tell them about the murdered Magwai.
It was dark when we got back. We roasted marshmallows for s’mores, played with the fire and talked about silly things. We went to bed. I fell right asleep, but in the back of my mind I kept an ear open for those bears that I was certain were out to feast on my babies.
Which is why at 6 a.m. I jumped out of bed and peered out the door with a defensive, but groggy, startle. I thought I had heard something. It kind of sounded like dripping water, maybe splashing, and rustling of some sort. I was absolutely sure it was some stealthy, hungry bear-herd.
But it was nothing. I spied a little chipmunk on the ground and a cup rolling around next to it. I convinced myself that the sound I heard was from that. I fell back asleep.
I was awoken by the sound of three excited children exclaiming “Ewww! Ewww! Gross! Mom! Come quick!”
You guessed it. That water sound that I heard a couple hours earlier was Alvin’s buddy struggling to stay afloat. He was obviously unsuccessful.
I should have emptied that damn wash bucket.
The kids were surprised. They were also surprised that I wasn’t surprised. I felt guilty this time, simply because I had ignored the fact that maybe their drownings were actually my fault. Of course, I couldn’t tell them that this had happened before, because then I would look like a cold-hearted killer to my children. They already know I’m less than compassionate when it comes to animals, but that would have taken it a step too far. My integrity and reputation was at stake.
So I started to fake sympathy for the little guy. Plus, Kate was all kinds of emotional. What a mess this was becoming. My Inner Goddess blamed the suicidal stupid little critter, but I couldn’t reveal that to them.
I convinced Kate somehow that there was no need for a funeral ceremony and dumped the little shit in the same spot where his buddy Alvin laid decomposing. I vowed to myself to make sure to keep the wash bucket as empty as possible. I didn’t want to have to deal with that again.
Of course, I forgot.
When we got back to camp after an amazing hiking trip up to a real live cave, there in the wash bucket sat Alvin #3. I couldn’t believe it.
And in keeping with my Mom-of-the-Year reputation, I started to laugh. Uncontrollably.
The kids just stared at me incredulously. They couldn’t make heads or tails out of this psychotic episode.
I then decided, in the wisest move I’ve ever made, to come clean. I told them everything, from the crouton feeding frenzy to the fact that this was indeed my third killing at the camp.
Even Kate thought it was funny.
So of course, I had to take a picture of the floating specimen. We came up with the name Camp Kill-A-Critter together and talked with the park ranger who came around at that moment about our murder spree. She didn’t even bat an eye and practically thanked us by telling us that “there is an infestation of them this year and we are currently systematically disposing of them.” In other words, they were poisoning them because the population was so out of control.
Bears? Who cares about them? It’s the chipmunks that are the danger out West.
While I didn’t completely justify the fact that it was okay that they died at my doing, I certainly felt better about systematically euthanizing those selfish-little-crouton-stealing-suicidal Alvins.
What a memory we made. Chipmunks, I owe it all to you.