Short Story : Into the Woods / by Heather Taylor

Photo by Sarah Taylor; Story by Heather Taylor

Photo by Sarah Taylor; Story by Heather Taylor

It was three in the afternoon when they drove past. They wouldn”t have seen it at all if she hadn”t needed to roll down her window for her fifth cigarette. Five in one hour wasn”t a personal best, but it was getting close. One hour. It was almost that long since they passed the last gas station. If Carrie knew it was the last one, she would”ve forced Kevin to pull over. She didn”t, so she dreamed of peeing instead and tried to block thoughts of waterfalls as she tugged quick puffs from her cigarette. That is until she spotted the perfect spot.

Carrie had a thing about peeing in public and peeing outside was definately public. The fear of it came from a day of hiking through the woods with her Girl Guide toop. Just as she squatted to relieve herself, a unit of Boy Scouts rounded the trail. She didn”t know what was redder – her face, the troop leader”s or her bum after she realized she settled in poisen oak for her quick pee. It was the final proof that she wasn”t cut out to hike or camp or do anything, anywhere without plumbing and central heating. So when she felt that jiggle, sloshy need to get to a bathroom, she wouldn”t let him just pull into the ditch for a quick one. She needed shelter and shelter didn”t come easy on the prairies.

The buildings were barely a speck on the horizon as they made their way down a overly gravelled side road. Kevin”s teeth were grinding microgaming casinos which meant he was worried about the paint job but she was beyond caring. All she could do was will the buildings closer and closer until they were no longer a mirage but reality.

Kevin had barely stopped the car when Carrie bounded out, hell bent for the most hidden spot as she unbuckled and unzipped her pants. She didn”t notice the ground or the buildings or anything beyond the shadows of the leaning farm houses and her overfull bladder. Squatting, she let everything go and felt that rush of happy emptiness.

Shit. Toilet paper. In her haste, Carrie forgot her purse in the car. She hated dripping dry. It never worked and then she”d have to sit in slightly damp panties for the rest of the drive. Her eyes darted from the peeling paint of the sloping building – ouch – and onto the greenness of the wide leaves around her. Good enough for Adam and Eve, good enough for me, she thought as she pulled at the plants and wiped herself. Straightening, Carrie did up her zipper, button and belt and started her meander back to the car.

Ten steps in the burning began and then the slow itch. Could it really be? Why didn”t she remember the tell tale leaves, the subtle markings. As her meander turned into a crawl, she pulled herself towards the car. She could see Kevin singing along to the Bangles” “Walk Like an Egyptian” which would have made her laugh if the itching hadn”t taken over her brain.

It took almost a full verse and chorus before he saw her writhing on the ground. White faced, he ran from the car.

“Don”t-” she screamed. “Don”t. Come. Any. Closer! It”s poison oak. It”s poison oak.”

Shocked still, Kevin looked her up and down as the Bangles countinued their ode to Egyptian dance. Much to Carrie”s annoyance, the freeze lasted barely a second before he fell to the ground in silent laughter. The tears rolled steams down his cheeks as Carrie kept on with her itch relieving wriggle. As he slowly regained his breath, Kevin”s smile spread his face into a grin and he finally said what she thought she”d only hear over candlelight, by a moonlit lake or when eating some sinful cake concoction. Her answer was supposed to be elegant and completely memorable like the one she”d practised in the mirror since she was 10. At least she remembered one thing from Girl Guides – be prepared.

“Will you marry me?”

Be prepared she learned in Girl Guides, yes. But here, as the poison oak countinued it”s attack, all she could do was nod yes.