Emend by Eclipse
Copyright© 2021 by Lazlo Zalezac
September 2, 1978
Tim woke up and scrubbed the sleep from his eyes. The birds were making such a racket, that sleep was impossible. He glanced over to the other side of the tent, and noticed the empty sleeping bag. Benny was up already. Tim poked his head out of the tent.
Outside the tent was a remarkable tableau. Benny was sitting on the bench of the picnic table, appreciating the view of the lake. Three does were standing within twenty feet of him. One was eating some grass at the edge of the tree line. The other two were looking around attentively. A squirrel was eating a nut on the picnic table.
Benny turned his head towards the deer. They didn’t move. He looked over at the squirrel. It paused in its attack on the nut for a second before resuming its activity. He returned to gazing upon the lake.
Tim never knew how it was that Benny could sit in the middle of wild animals like that, without causing any kind of reaction among them. It was almost as if Benny wasn’t there as far as the animals were concerned. Maybe they recognized that he didn’t live in their world and, hence, wasn’t a threat. He didn’t know, but it was always amazing to watch.
“It’s a beautiful morning, Tim.”
“I can see that.”
Suddenly, all of the animals had their heads facing the tent. Their bodies were tense, as if ready to flee. Tim wondered why they weren’t bothered by Benny talking. Why did he get their attention? Tim knew that they’d flee at the first sight of him.
“Come on out.”
“I’ll wait for your friends to leave.”
The deer took a couple of nervous steps away. Benny took a sip from the cup of coffee he was holding. The deer calmed down a little although they didn’t move any closer to him.
Tim was reminded of the stories about saints who were surrounded by animals. He thought he remembered something about animals not being afraid of them was supposed to be one of the signs of sainthood. Saint Francis was the patron saint of animals. He wondered if Saint Francis was one of those people like Benny who lived in a different world.
“Are you talking about the deer?”
Tim didn’t answer immediately. The deer didn’t react at all to Benny. Yet when he replied, the deer took another step back. Tim eyed the coffee pot wishing he could have a cup. As if reading his mind, Benny went over to the Coleman gas stove and poured a cup of coffee. He carried it over to the tent and handed it to Tim. The deer didn’t move.
Benny returned to the picnic table and took a seat. Tim took a sip of the hot coffee. Since graduating high school, he and Benny had quickly become addicted to coffee. He watched the deer graze beside Benny without any sign of concern. It was incredible.
A car door slamming at a nearby campsite sent the deer running off into the woods. Carefully holding his coffee, Tim crawled out of the tent. He wandered over to the table. When he was about ten feet away, the squirrel took off like a shot.
“I don’t know how you do it.”
“I guess they know me enough to trust me.”
“That might be it.”
Tim took a sip of his coffee. He took a moment to appreciate his surroundings. He had to admit that Benny had found a very nice camp site.
“I got in too late to see much of the surroundings. It’s a pretty place,” Tim said.
“This is the kind of place I’d like to retire to. Unfortunately, you can’t retire in a National Park.”
“There are other places this nice.”
“I’m sure there are. I sure miss Google. I’d use it to find a place to retire.”
“Amazing how thoroughly we got addicted to having a world of information at our fingertips, night and day.”
Benny nodded his head. He took a sip from his cup and made a face. He got up and refreshed his coffee. He took a sip and then returned to his seat. They sat there quietly drinking their coffee and enjoying the weather.
“Did you happen to catch what the weather was supposed to be like this weekend?”
“Hot, hotter, and even hotter.”
“It’s been hot,” Benny said.
“It’s supposed to reach a 100 tomorrow and then 102 Monday.”
Benny said, “I guess we’ll spend a little time in the water this afternoon cooling off.”
“I imagine so.”
“I forgot how much I like being surrounded by nature. This week has been heavenly. I keep wondering if I really have to go back to town.”
“Seeing you sitting out here with the deer three steps away reminded me of just how much you love nature, and how much nature seems to love you. We’ve been so busy that we haven’t taken time for ourselves. To be honest, I’m glad we sold off the office cleaning business.”
“You were right when you were talking about how many years we’ve worked, and wanting to retire. The more I think about it, the more anxious I am about it. Tomorrow couldn’t be too soon.”
“I wish I could remember when the silver market went crazy,” Benny said.
“The other morning I was sitting out here thinking about things. I’ve got three more years of college before I graduate. If things go as we’ve planned, I won’t need a degree, and I wouldn’t need to find a job even if I got the diploma. I’m going to stay in college for now because you never know what’s going to happen.
“The thing is that I’m not in it for the degree. I want to add all of that knowledge of science and engineering to my temple of concepts. I’d love to only take courses in those areas. I mean I could see taking biology, chemistry, geology, and physics as an eternal student.
“I’m working within the system and that’s never been easy for me. The requirements for a degree are bullshit. A third to a half of what I’m taking is stuff I could care less about. To be honest, I’m tired of putting up with bullshit. I’m 65 years old and I’m tired of bullshit.”
Tim didn’t say anything. He watched a boat slowly move through the view he had of the lake. He hadn’t even had breakfast yet, and people were out on the water. He agreed with everything Benny was saying.
“Benny, we’re worth $100,000 each. We could cash that in and live off of it for 8 years without much effort. The median wage is $15,000. If entire families can live on that, then so can we. We own our houses. We’re even paying our loans to ourselves.
“If you want, you can take whatever you desire in college. Who cares about the degree? You aren’t going to work for anyone else, anyway. You’ll start your own company making little pet robots or something like that. By the time you’d be ready to graduate, we’ll be through the silver thing. I can’t believe that we’ll come out of that poor. We know too much.
“I’ve got a bunch of houses to fix up and that’s going to bring in money all winter, next summer, and part of the winter after that. We’re not going to starve. Besides, next summer we can always go out and paint numbers on curbs to augment our income.
“What I’m saying is, do what you want.”
“Tim, you’re always looking out for me. I’ve thought about everything that you’ve said,” Benny said. “The fact is, we’re a team. I’m not giving up on our plan until we are both ready to retire. We’ve got to watch out for each other.”
“Are we still nudging the world in a better direction?”
“I think so. I don’t remember exactly what happened with the dollar houses in the first time line, but I think we’re improving upon what happened. I think Robert is definitely better off. So I’d have to answer, yes. We are still nudging the world in a better direction.”
“Will we still be nudging it when we retire?”
Benny shrugged his shoulder and said, “I don’t know.”
“I worry about that.”
“Rather than worry about that, what do you say to some bacon and eggs and toast?”
“I’m all for it!”
The two young men went to work preparing breakfast. The ice in the ice chest needed to be replaced. The ice chest was half filled with water. Ice cubes were floating around in the water like they were in iceberg heaven. It was fine for the soft drinks, but not so good for the lunch meat and other items. The cooler had a little tray that kept them out of the water, so they weren’t ruined. However, everything else that had been stuffed in the ice was now floating in water. They were going to have to make an ice run that afternoon before all of the ice melted.
Tim had brought a smaller ice chest that was filled with ice. It held two steaks they were going to have for dinner that night. There was also a package of hot dogs in it. He had a bag with corn on the cob and potatoes.
They ate bacon and scrambled eggs. The toast was a little burnt, as it was hard to control the temperature when using the wire rack toaster they had. Still, it all tasted good. They cleaned up after eating. It wasn’t that big of a deal, one pan and the silverware. The paper plates went in the fire ring to be burnt. They then sat back in their lawn chairs and relaxed.
It was approaching noon with the temperature climbing towards 90 degrees when Benny said, “You’re right.”
“About me taking what I want to take. I’m dropping the two non-science courses. I’m going to take organic chemistry and introduction to biology.”
“Let’s eat lunch. Then we need to get some ice.”
“That’s a good plan.”
“Making plans is my job.”
“I’ll deal with the people.”
They both chuckled at the exchange.