A patch of grass and dirt sits in front of two trees. A troop leaders points to that spot; that’s where I’ll be sleeping tonight. I lay out my bed sheet on the forest ground and drop my pillow. I smile as I lay on the ground, under the shimmering stars of the night, listening to the creatures in the wilderness, remembering the first time I went camping, three years ago.
~ ~ ~
I grab my insect repellant from my storage bin. “Hey Patrick, could you help me spray down my tent?”
“Sure,” Patrick chuckles. He fetches his Cutter insect repellent. It has always been the most effective brand.
As I cover my mouth with my shirt, I spray insect repellant on the outside of the tent flaps — I make sure that every inch is covered, while Patrick gets the ground surrounding the tent.
As I open a tent flap to spray the inside, a Daddy Longlegs climbs in one of the top corners. I take a deep breath and inch closer, extending my arm as far as possible and spraying the repellant at the spider. It falls to the ground and crawls toward me, like it is about to get revenge. I sprint outside, catch my breath, and come back with a twig determined to swat it away. I try to poke the spider, but it begins to climb the stick. My hand shakes, and I drop the stick and try the insect repellant tactic again, the mist wafting into my face. I close my eyes as the bitter scent makes my eyes water. It struggles to get back up, but it crawls outside the tent, as if nothing happened. I stare at the spider until it is no longer visible to me.
I try to put some repellant on myself, but it sputters as only the sound of passing air comes out. I try Patrick’s as well, but to no avail. We’ve depleted both of our insect repellants.
I inspect the tent, making sure all of the spots have been covered. “Thanks for your help, and sorry about the spray.”
“It’s alright. See you tomorrow,” Patrick replies.
In the tent, I hold my breath as I change from my Boy Scout uniform to my long pajama pants and long-sleeve shirt. I tuck my pants into my socks and my shirt into my gloves. While I lay in bed, I put on a head mosquito net. No part of my body is left uncovered.
I keep my eyes wide open, making sure the Daddy Longlegs doesn’t come crawling back on the tent flaps above, listening for even the slightest of movements. As the night covers the sky after a couple of hours, I can’t fall asleep on the rough cot pressing into my back. I can’t fall asleep knowing that the spider could come back; I had no insect repellant on. As I fight to keep my eyes open, they droop until I fall asleep.
~ ~ ~
A spider crawls onto my bed sheet from the adjacent ground. I move my hand to the spider and flick it off. I look at the shimmering stars one more time in the darkness and embrace the open wildness around me.