Saturday, January 15, 2005

Everyone is Barefoot Except Him

The strangest thing, to Ricky, was the garbage can. Out in the woods, in a clearing in the woods, all pine trees and up the hill from a stream, and there, just inside the trees again, a metal garbage can like you'd see in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game, all lines up the side and dented lid.

"That garbage can is so weird," he said.

"Why?" Mary asked, digging in her backpack for a toothbrush.

"It's the woods," Ricky said. "Nature!"

"It's a campground," Mary said, finding her toothbrush and standing up. "It cost seventy-five bucks just to stay here tonight."

Splashing and laughing drifted up the hill from where Ben and Samantha were flirting. Ricky wondered if this was a set-up. Ben and Sam had been sort-of-dating for years and when Ben invited Ricky on an overnight camping trip (Ben had a knack for putting together last-minute adventures) he knew Sam would be here, but Mary was a surprise. She was a friend of Sam's and pretty, but had not been talkative on the three-hour drive. Ricky thought maybe it was a set-up, and maybe she was disappointed. He had a goatee and a paunch and wore a brown button-up shirt in the woods.

As she walked away from him he held up his cell phone, looked at her ass on the viewscreen, and took a picture. He looked at the frozen image, denim from the waist down and trees beyond, and he pressed the phone against his nose and smelled it. It was new. He liked to take pictures with it, but he was embarrassed for people to see him take pictures with it. When they did he mumbled something like, "Just gonna take a picture here," and then he did, not taking time to aim it, hoping it came across like he meant not to aim it, like he didn't like aiming it.

He sat alone, giving Mary enough time to get down to the stream, before standing up and following her. He'd wanted to go down before, but he didn't want to be the one to interrupt Ben and Sam; then he didn't want to seem to be following Mary too closely. He held his phone in his hands and walked down the hill. Ben and Sam had their pantlegs rolled up and were jumping from rock to rock in the shallow stream, kicking water at each other and laughing, holding their arms out for balance. Mary sat at the edge, barefoot and watching them and smiling. Ricky smiled too, leaned against a tree and took a picture of them. No one notices, so he took a picture of Mary watching them. She was smiling and holding her knees and Ricky liked it. He decided that if he liked her later and if she wasn't mean to him, he'd show her the picture.

He pushed buttons on his phone and followed the menu to the option marked "Games." He opened one called "Fortune Teller" that was marked with the pixellated picture of a blue turban with a red ruby in the center.

Mary looked up and him. "You're out here in the beautiful world and you're playing with your phone?"

"It's telling me my future," Ricky said.

"What's it say?" she asked.

Ricky read it and smiled. "You will be eaten by a bear," he said.

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