We took our time, walking slowly, both lost in our own troubled thoughts. The sun had fallen below a vibrant purple blanket along the western horizon which we could just make out between the trees. The people around us became shadows in the dusk. Dark forms walking past us, some laughing, some speaking quietly of times and places far more interesting than what my sister and I were dealing with.
As we walked, I began kicking an acorn out in front of us along our route, watching it bounce and zag in various directions along the pavement. The evening was still warm, comfortable. Minutes ticked away. The shadows grew heavier, blending into one another. Katie reached down and grabbed a hold of my hand. I didn’t mind. My friends weren’t around to see.
"We should go back soon, right?" she finally asked.
"We can," I said. "But I doubt they care much about us right now."
"Are they fighting again?"
"I don’t know. Probably."
Katie released a deep breath as we rounded the corner and caught sight of our camper in the distance. From where we stood, everything appeared normal. The paper plates had been cleared off the picnic table. Glowing coals still simmered in the bottom of the nearby fire pit where Dad had grilled up the hot dogs and foil-wrapped corn. As we moved closer to the RV though, I realized something was wrong.
I watched as several groups of people wandering by our campsite along the wooded trail kept hesitating while in front our camper, pointing their fingers in the direction of our Ford and whispering to each other before tentatively moving on. Something was distracting them.
"Hang on a minute," I mumbled to Katie. I squinted my eyes, studying the unlit camper standing roughly twenty feet in front of us. Together we waited in silence along the trail, listening.
I actually saw the commotion before I heard it. The swaying of the RV. Side to side as if whoever was occupying the interior was bouncing from wall to wall and causing the large vehicle to rock back and forth. From where we were standing, it looked like someone was in the middle of an intense, aerobic workout. But Katie and I knew better.
Moments later we heard the screams. It was Mom. A wild yelp in pain. A screeching cry, and another sway of the RV.
"You’re hurting me!"
The low rumble of Dad’s gruff voice, too inaudible for us to hear from where we were standing, followed Mom’s scream.
"Get away from me, you bastard! Leave me alone!"
Katie began sniffling. I watched people stop along the path and stare wide-eyed at the commotion from within the dark camper. Several of them turned and walked determinedly in the direction of the front gate, perhaps thinking about alerting the authorities from a telephone at the front desk.
Moving over to the fencing which ran along the side of the trail, Katie squirmed her way in between two of the posts running horizontally, and sat on her makeshift, wooden bench, her face resting upon her folded arms, her eyes fixed upon the RV. I stood next to her, seething.
Several minutes passed. The fighting continued without pause. The screams. The clanging sound of what may have been a thrown pan across the kitchen area of the camper. Mom’s repeated demands to be left alone. The deep snarling of Dad’s barely recognizable voice, sounding less human with each uttered growl. I glanced down as Katie started crying. What had started out as a perfect day for her at Story Book Forest had suddenly turned ugly by nightfall. Evil in it’s purest form through the eyes of a child. The devastating rapture of two parents caught red-handed in a frenzied attack upon one another.
I clenched my fists. Something had to be done. I had to at least try.
"What do we do?" Katie asked in between sobs. "Make them stop!"
Still more people stopped in front of the RV, pointing and staring. Whispering amongst themselves before slowly moving on. As many as five and six people at a time, stopping along the path, gawking.
My anger grew. A rushing sense of embarrassment soon followed. My clenched fists began shaking.
The rock, just a bit larger than a golf ball, was lying next to Katie under the wooden fencing. It caught my attention as I turned my head from side to side, frantically searching for something, anything that might stop the fighting. Round in shape and colored silver, almost white under the moon’s bright hue, it was as if it had been strategically placed in that exact spot, for that exact moment.
Snatching it up angrily, I moved to the center of the trail, gripping the rock in my right hand. It felt a bit heavier than a baseball. Rough to the touch, gritty.
With a small group of hikers still standing a few feet away, I gripped the rock in my hand like a baseball. Kicking my leg high into the air as if going through my windup on the pitcher’s mound, I reared back, and threw the rock as hard as I could at the camper. All my anger, all my pent up frustration, all the tears, the entire bag of dysfunctional rot, poured into that throw, the hardest pitch I’d ever delivered.
The rock streaked through the air, mere feet above the heads of the bystanders nearby, causing them to duck at the sound something flying just overhead. With a thunderous crack of stone smashing into metal, the rock hit home against the side of the RV, only inches above the window in front of the camper’s small kitchen sink. A sound similar to that of an ignited firecracker echoed throughout our wooded corner of the campground. Everyone suddenly turned away from the RV to stare at me instead, their mouths hanging open in shock.
I stood alone directly in the center of the trail, my arms at my sides, my chest rising and falling as if gasping for breath. Katie had stopped crying. The RV had stopped swaying. The screaming from inside could no longer be heard. I felt a small twinge, a tightening along my triceps just above the elbow, but I ignored it. For one brief moment everything and everybody remained frozen in time under the moon’s eerie glow...