Okay… so I haven’t always been “honorable” in my relationship with Amy.
I grew up in a family that enjoyed torturing you for entertainment. In fact, we still torture each other for entertainment. It’s good fun to trick someone you love… or just mess with them and watch them squirm.
Being a teacher is an added bonus… I can basically lie about anything and use my authoritative tone to have anyone believe it.
And so… I often put Amy into situations that may cause us both harm… and Amy… loving soul that she is… always gives me the benefit of the doubt.
And after over 16 years of friendship… I’m not really sure why.
This time, we were no where near the El Dorado Nature Center, but we were in an environment that looked quite similar: Catalina Island.
We had gone away for the weekend on a “spiritual” retreat, with a large group of program people: AA, Al-Anon, etc… where we were to stay at a Christian Camp, only accessible by boat.
Now, I love this area of the island because it is truly wild: Bison, mule deer, antelopes, fox, shrews, and my favorite… the feral pig. Aka…. wild boars.
As we were settling into our “woodsy” cabins, I had tried to warn the people sleeping near my bunk, that wild boars would come into the cabin and eat their candy bars, toothpaste, brown sugar bath and body lotion, chewing gum, and therefore, please keep that shit wrapped up tightly and a way from my sleeping area.
I felt bad taking chocolate away from people who needed it over alcohol or chewing gum over cigarettes but… I also knew that if they woke up with a 300 pound boar rifling through their bags that all hell would break loose in the cabin and I’d have 12 crazy mentally unstable people to deal with… myself included.
I did not tell them at this time that wild boars can be quite aggressive… meaning… they won’t just eat your toothpaste they’ll give you a nasty tumble and maybe even quite a nice bite on their way back out of the cabin… and I’m sure you are wondering right now… why I didn’t tell them this?
Well… because I wanted them to be cautious… not terrified for the entire retreat. I felt it wouldn’t really be productive for their experience, strength, and hope if they were worried about being chased down by a wild boar the entire time, unless someone wanted to walk away with this type of experience and find “growth” through strength as they ran away to “hope”fully escape.
I paused for a moment and smirked… I felt sly… If I really wanted to be evil I could use my family strategy of “torture to entertain” and make this a really fun weekend for me. But… I stopped… I chose to take the higher moral path… to follow the principles in all of my affairs, and went back to unpacking my bag instead of fantasies of terrorizing my program buddies.
That night, after a day of meetings and meals we were all back in our cabin ready for our first night of tranquil island sleep.
I looked up at the ceiling, my top bunk dangerously close to a Black Widow spider, and thought, “To hell with this” as I grabbed my sleeping gear, jumped down to the floor, and headed out to sleep on a paddock by myself.
I watched as a dozen little Al-Anon faces peeked out from the cabin windows.
“What are you doing out there?” someone said.
I threw my gear down on the paddock and started arranging it.
“What about the wild boars?” someone else whispered… as if a boar might hear them and suddenly show up on the scene.
“I’m perfectly safe!” I shouted back. “Would I be sleeping out here on this paddock if I wasn’t?”
That’s when I saw Amy’s little head pop up. “Are you sure D.D.?” she asked with her big innocent, trusting eyes.
Now… I love Amy.
She has been one of my best friends forever… but I couldn’t tell her the truth… and you know why… because I wanted to get my way… like the spoiled Big Headed Baby that I am.
I wanted all of those little Al-Anons to come outside and stop being pussies and sleep with me under the stars.
“Amy,” I said with disgust. “Seriously, would I be sleeping out here if it was a problem?” I paused and pointed towards the steps of the paddock. “Do you really think wild boars can climb these stairs?” Then I rolled my eyes to add emphasis before going back to my work at hand and listening, as the Al-Anons took a hushed Group Conscience and then all scurried out to the platform to sleep with me.
I was pretty pleased with myself.
My ability to convince others to follow my direction, only shadowed by the power of my older brother’s persuasion, was pretty damn good.
I watched as they all placed their sleeping gear on the paddock, a little group of hens deep in the task of nesting.
“Like this D.D.?” They asked as they put their blanket inside of their sleeping bag.
“Sure,” I nodded.
“Is it okay to be close to the edge?” Another little Al-Anon asked.
“Oh of course… ” I said as I brushed a leaf off of the paddock. “No problem. Totally safe.”
Soon, they all settled down… trusting little souls… smiling at their own bravery of stepping out from the confines of the cabin into the big bold world… and now… they were sound asleep under the Catalina stars safe in the knowledge that their “Group leader” would never, EVER, lead the flock astray.
I have to say… I was pretty pleased with myself… and actually continued to be pretty pleased with myself, until about 3am when I woke to a 400 pound male feral pig grazing next to the paddock as he scratched his back roughly against the hard wood shaking the entire structure.
I felt my eyes grow large in the dark as the enormous bulk… the actual size of such a beast, registered in my brain and the realization of the danger I had put my little group in flooded like fear across my body.
I lay there watching him grunt and scratch and claw at the ground praying that my crew wouldn’t wake up… but of course they did… I could feel each body become rigid and alert, the way a parent knows when a child is truly asleep or just “faking it.”
Luckily, their terror kept then silent and still….
“D.D.” Amy whispered. “D.D.?” she said again.
“Yes,” I whispered back.
“They can’t climb the stairs right?”
Now… there is a moment in everyone’s life when they realize they should come clean in regards to a lie… but this moment was not one of them.
“Of course not,” I whispered loud enough for all the little Al-Anons to hear. “You guys are totally safe. Go back to sleep.”
And because my voice always radiates authority… they followed direction without question and nodded off at what I felt was quite an alarming pace considering the situation.
I stayed awake for well over an hour, watching as the giant boar made his way around the entire paddock… eating roots, acorns that had fallen from the tree, and watched as he climbed half way up the stair steps, sniffing at the bottom of Amy’s sleeping bag in hopes of finding something worth eating.
I prayed to God that he wouldn’t put his back legs on those steps…. I knew that if he climbed all of the way up… Amy was toast.
I don’t remember what I used to bargain with for God’s salvation at that time… but I’m sure I’m still paying for it.
Finally, the feral pig put his front legs back on the ground, and trotted off in the direction of the men’s cabin… hopefully, where someone had told them to remove their snacks and perfumed after shave from their space.
I waited a few moments… expecting to hear a ruckus, and then relieved that there wasn’t one, fell into a deep, exhausted sleep.
I was the last one to wake on the paddock that morning and when I opened my eyes I noted the change in my Al-Anons immediately…
My little group felt like they were the “bad asses” of the world for braving the wild and sleeping outside with the feral pig.
They were walking around the camp… shooing the wild Bison away… as if they were cowboys out on the open range.
I watched as Amy, over by the men’s cabin, clap her hands together three times and shoo a group of wild bison away from their cabin door… leaving the men in awe at her bravery and the power she obviously wielded over the wild beasts.
She turned, a pleased smile on her face, radiating confidence as she walked over to me shaking her head in disgust, “Fucking Al-Anon men,” she said and her swagger was fantastic.
I thought about coming clean… but who was I to take away their new found freedom and power?
And so… I chose not to tell the truth to my little party.
I did however, several years later, find enough strength to come clean with Amy while we were walking the Nature Center one day.
“Dick!” she said in total disbelief before walking on ahead of me, her stride fast and furious.
But I could still see her cheeks, curved up in a big smile as she turned the corner of the trail… and so… I listened for her laugh to ring out from the path ahead.. the sign that I was truly forgiven and of course…