Tessa, the name of Terrence’s one-night trist with the puzzle that was heterosexuality, had put together the trip to the father/son camp as a surprise for both Terrence and their son, Christian. She had done this because she knew that they needed to spend more time together. Of her own admission, she hadn’t even let Terrence know about Christian (Terrence called him Chris, for reasons of obvious aversion) for the first sixteen years of their son’s life because she wanted him to be raised with her own ideals. She realized the folly of this now, and sought to rectify the error by any means she could.
It was a long drive from
Jasper Lane in the compact minivan; an all-nighter. They would have been there sooner but Terrence insisted on stopping by every antique store they passed, and there were a lot of them. Chris liked browsing, so this was not something he fussed over in the beginning. But by the time they were through browsing (or the shop owners had thrown them out), the minivan kept getting more and more compact.
“Dad, no more!” Chris eventually had to put his foot down. He said it with a bight smile, though. He said everything with a bright smile. He could have said “Rupert Murdoch is president” and still be smiling as the world collapsed around them.
Chris realized this was par for the course with his father, this semi-parenting of Terrence. For their trip, Chris had packed a few items of basic clothing that he could reuse; he had also brought camping gear, and Terrence had helped him pack the tent in the back. There would be plenty of room for them in the mini-van, he had first supposed. But that was all before Terrence began loading his “basics” into the van. Terrence had brought luggage. He had packed every creature comfort he could think of: an electric toothbrush, his iPod, his laptop (and a small library of the best of Falcon porn), and the latest issues of every magazine he subscribed to, all 26 of them. Chris just laughed as he stood alongside David and Cliff, the three watching Terrence struggle with his load of unnecessary necessities. “That’s our Terry!” their expressions seemed to say.
Once they finally arrived at the camp, which consisted mostly of pines and lakes spotted by barren patches designated for the tents (the only stable structures was the check-in and the latrines), it was Chris who realized exactly what type of vacation his mother had planned for the two of them. He wondered when Terrence would notice, but, thankfully, he didn’t seem to be paying too much attention to what was going on.
God, thank you for laptops and gay porn DVDs!
Terrence had completely missed the three crosses at the camp’s entrance, and, to Chris’ relief, his father had even skimmed over the rather obvious Christian feel and look of the check-in as they approached it. Chris held his breath the entire time, but there was no grand explosion of horror. Terrence was completely unaware even without his DVDs. Chris thought it would have been humorous, if it weren’t so sad. Instead of paying attention to the crucifix-decorated welcome forms he was signing or the “Jesus loves you” pen he was holding or the collar-wearing older man who was welcoming them, Terrence was busy checking out the only other father to arrive as of yet, a cute GQ-ish number with gorgeous, executive hair and wearing a plaid shirt. Chris was thankful for this, otherwise their vacation together would have ended sooner than…well, a gay man’s vacation at a Bible camp.
The old priest or preacher or shaman – whatever he was – the old man who had welcomed them shook Terrence’s hand, but Terrence hardly noticed. He had caught the other father’s eye, trying to reel him in. Quickly, Chris acted. He pulled at his father like an anxious child ready to go to the fishin’ hole and soon enough they were out the door with the directions to their designated campsite.
“Did you get a look at that!” Terrence whispered. “Oh, daddy!” Then, remembering he was with his son, he straightened up, somewhat embarrassed.
“This ain’t the Dunes in Saugatuck,” Chris jibed. “Here are the directions. It’s not too far. I’ll drive.”
They first carried the large green army tent they had borrowed from James (well, Rick gave it to them technically without telling James) from the minivan. Sitting it down, they surveyed their surroundings. They were given a spot at the rear of the campground near the woods and the lake. Terrence liked this. From here he could watch the other fathers arrive, and slowly divide and conquer.
“I wonder where Paul Bunyon from check-in will be?”
Chris shook his head in mock disappointment. “This isn’t a monastery, Dad. Mom sent us here to spend more time together.”
“And we will,” Terrence assured him. “But I’m sure there are going to be times when you want to be alone with the other boys your age.”
“Right.” Chris smirked.
“I’ll start unpacking!” Terrence proclaimed excitedly as he sauntered back to the minivan. It was the sauntering that made Chris giggle. Terrence was like a chameleon, he changed every five minutes, trying the butch routine here, the more fem there. Turned on by superheroes one day and cowboys the next. Even his hair was a constant show of changing personal taste. When Chris had first met Terrence the year before his head was shorn as clean as a cue ball. Now, he wore a stylishly messy blond mop. Chris sighed. What a great dad!
Chris busied himself with unpacking the tent so that the canvas lay square on the ground. He set the pegs and rods to the side, knowing that one of the competitions described at check-in was the raising of the tents. Kind of like a barn-raising, he supposed, but pointless. When done he watched squat on the ground as Terrence fumbled his way in and out of the minivan. It was immediately an enjoyable show, so he tore open the beef jerky he had bought at one of the previous nights’ numerous pit stops and chewed hungrily.
“Hello, young man,” came a kindly voice from the dirt road near the campsite. The preacher/pastor/shaman who had checked them in earlier was walking toward their site, kicking up dust onto his black ensemble with his shiny black shoes. “Christian, right?” he said, coming to a stop in front of Chris. Terrence remained by the minivan, still fighting with his luggage. Chris was able to keep an eye on his father over the preacher’s shoulder.
“That’s right,” Chris replied with his trademark smile. He was hoping desperately that Terrence would be too consumed with his testy luggage to actually recognize the old man was an old man of the cloth, and was relieved when the old man didn’t repeat his name, Father Donaghan.
“Very appropriate for this place, your name is.” He chuckled. “I just came by to tell you something I forgot. Check-ins are always so confusing for me. The older I get....” He wasn’t a bad old man, Chris thought. Rather grandfatherly in fact. Wilford Brimley-ish, but not as hefty. “I came to invite you to the prayer circle this afternoon” (Terrence straightening, ears seeming to perk up to the sound of danger) “, a circle of Christian and brotherly love” (Terrence turning in their direction, a deer caught in the headlights) “a joyous praising of the Lord.”
At once, Terrence dropped his luggage and bounded into the woods, desperate for escape. Father Donaghan heard the luggage drop, but was too slow to see Terrence flee into God’s wilderness.
“Looks like you’ve overpacked my boy,” he said, noting the spilled luggage.
“Looks like,” Chris agreed anxiously.
Kindly refusing the old pastor’s generous and continuous offers to help him get things settled, Chris finally saw Father Donaghan off and at once leaped into the forest after Terrence. It didn’t take him long to find his father. The sounds of a cell phone’s keys being punched frantically led him around a thick wall of ferns and brush.
“What are you doing?” Chris asked.
“Calling your mother,” Terrence hissed. “She did this on purpose. Did you know about this? Oh, it’s an evil plot! I’ve never been more Barbara Stanwyck than now.”
Chris took the phone from him without much struggle. Terrence simply wasn’t expecting it.
“What are you doing? Give that back!”
“You’ll get it back when we head home. Not a moment before.” He closed the phone before Tessa could answer and stuffed the cell into his pocket. “Now come on. Let’s get things unpacked. Christian or not, you’re going to have fun here. And you’re going to have that fun with me. Got it?” He turned to go, expecting Terrence to follow.
After a few steps he heard a rustle in the brush and turned to see Terrence still hidden behind leaves and trees. His fingers pulled away the leaves just slight enough so that he could see out. “Is he gone?” he whispered loudly. “Is the church man gone?”
“Stop that!” Chris whisper-shouted back. “Stop hiding behind bushes. You look creepy!”
“Don’t talk to your father in that tone of voice!”
“If you don’t come from behind there I swear to God, I’ll...”
“I’ll scratch every DVD you brought with you!”
There was an audible gasp, more rustling, and then Terrence emerged from nature as if nothing had happened. “Let’s go raise a tent,” he said, walking briskly past his son.