“I’m thirsty!” John said.
“Me too.” I agreed.
“I could use some Champagne.” Carol said.
“A keg.” Marvin chimed in as he joined us standing in the scant shade of a lone pine tree.
We had just finished a long mountain hike. Some days prior we had decided on a weekend camping trip together. Martin had tents and supplies, John and I were eager to go, and Carol and Rhonda agreed it could be fun.
“Anybody think Rhonda had success?” I laughed. She had stayed back at the campsite in hopes of seeing a “Squatch”.
“Not if it saw that face of hers without makeup.” Marvin joked.
“No really, I’m dying of thirst.” John interjected.
“Oh come on,” Carol began, “there is no Bigfoot in Virginia!”
“Big foot? Check out Rhonda’s hooves.” Marvin joked again as we made our way to John’s car.
“I’m seriously thirsty.” John said solemnly.
Being only semi-devoted to roughing it, we had taken the car in air-conditioned comfort to the start of the hiking trail and we were now ready for a cool ride back. Instead of unlocking the car, John walked to the trunk and began to dig through its contents. From deep within its recesses, back behind a spare tire and an old can of tennis balls, he pulled out a little red jug.
“Thank goodness.” John sighed.
“Wait.” I said. “That’s the jug you used months ago when we played tennis, right?”
“Yep,” John said as he eagerly flipped the top and stood poised to drink, “and it’s still half full.”
“Oh dear!” Carol gasped. “You’re going to drink liquid from a jug that’s been in your trunk for months? You don’t mean it!”
“I’m thirsty!” John repeated, and with that he turned up the little red jug and took several greedy gulps until there was no more.
“Wasn’t it hot?” I winced.
“Couldn’t you taste it?” Carol clutched her breast.
“He could probably chew it.” Marvin added.
We piled into the car and headed back. John said nothing, but his repetitive burps foreshadowed what was to come. Back at the campsite we found Rhonda frying bacon.
“Why on earth are you frying bacon in this dreadful heat?” Carol asked as she took off her designer hiking boots and reapplied her lipstick.
“Squatches love bacon.” Rhonda proclaimed as she slapped a second pound into the skillet. “The aroma will lure one outta the fahrest, then I can take a photo and send it to the Enquirah.”
Marvin took over the skillet, scrambled some eggs, and we had breakfast for dinner. Afterwards, we sat in a semi-circle of lawn chairs drinking fresh water and other beverages. Carol had packed a bottle of Champagne. As we began our after dinner chats, I looked at Rhonda.
“No Squatch?” I asked.
Before she could answer, we heard a loud WHUH! Conversations ceased as we looked around for the source of the strange call. We wondered if the smell of frying bacon had worked in Rhonda’s favor after all.
“Run fetch me mah Polaroid!” Rhonda yelled through a mouthful of bacon. “I just heard a Squatch!”
“Oh bless!” Carol said. “You don’t think that really was a…”
We heard it again, but identified the source.
John emerged from his tent where he had been lying down for quite some time. He hadn’t said he felt bad, but his normally boisterous personality was less so that evening. We attributed it to the long hike.
We should have attributed it to the liquid in the little red jug.
“WHUH!” John said again as he stepped from the tent. His normally ruddy complexion was replaced by the whitest white a human can become while still maintaining a detectable pulse. His face was drenched in sweat and he clutched his stomach. Luckily, experienced at roughing it as we were, we had pitched our tents very near Building A which housed the bathrooms. John headed that way, slowly.
“WHUH!” he said with every step. We learned later that with each step, the vile and evil contents of his digestive tract forced their way to the point of escape, violently and abruptly. Only the dark jogging pants he wore spared us the visual. We could only stare blankly as John shuffled past our semi-circle in the direction of Building A.
“Are you ill?” Carol asked.
“The jug.” I said under my breath.
Unaware that John had gulped bacteria laden liquid from the little red jug, Rhonda assumed his noise to be a tease about her search for Bigfoot. “Don’t diss the Squatch!” she yelled at him as he gingerly made his way through the thick brush that grew between our tents and Building A.
“Are you all aware,” Carol stated in a whisper, “that he is suffering a most heinous and foul intestinal woe from the liquid in that little red jug?”
“Alcohol would kill it.” Marvin said as he sipped a beer and watched John pick his way through the undergrowth. We heard another “WHUH!“
“Why is he dissing the Squatch!” Rhonda said as she headed for her tent. “I’m going to bed to eat mah cheese and crackahs. That noise of his has skeered ‘em all off anyway.”
Unsure whether we should call a park ranger or try to find a doctor, we decided to do the next logical thing. We picked up our lawn chairs and faced them towards Building A to watch John two-step through the huckleberries.
“WHUH!” we heard as he reached the screen door to Building A.
“I just can’t bear this for him!” Carol said sympathetically. “Champagne anyone?”
As John shuffled slowly through the screen door, we noticed a man approaching the bathroom from another trail. He held a toothbrush, stepped happily, and whistled a joyful tune. All that his pleasant mood lacked were cartoon bluebirds flying overhead holding ribbons and roses in their beaks.
The man neared Building A.
“Oh no.” Carol said. “Whatever should we do?”
“Have a beer.” Marvin said as he popped one open for himself and handed one to me.
“This is just awful!” Carol said as she poured more Champagne.
“WHUH!” we heard echoed from inside the bathroom.
“He’s making fun of the Squatch!” Rhonda yelled angrily from inside her tent, still unaware that John was engaged in battle with the bucket of bacteria he had earlier chugged.
The man with the toothbrush paused momentarily at the strange sound he heard. Deciding it was nothing, he skipped gleefully through the screen door and out of sight. After the door slammed behind the man as he entered the room where John sat in regretful agony, there were only sounds of crickets and the soft chattering of blackbirds as they began to roost in the trees overhead.
Then… we heard it. The blood curdling and primal scream of a horrified soul who had just walked in on one of the most grotesque sights known to mankind – the aftermath of someone drinking a jug of old water. When he screamed, crickets ceased their chirping and great flocks of blackbirds left the treetops as one. It was the scream of a man in torment.
“I heard a Squaaatch!” Rhonda yelled excitedly from inside her tent.
“WHUH!” we heard as if in response to the primal scream.
“It’s a mated pair!” Rhonda yelled again as she fumbled for her Polaroid.
The screen door on Building A slammed again and we turned to see the man heading down the trail from which he’d come. He was running this time and there was no happy whistling.
“WHUH!” we heard one last time, then silence. Shortly, John returned in near darkness and said nothing but went straight to his car to sleep, where luckily he kept a second pair of pants. By morning John had regained some color. In the trash bin next to his car were a pair of balled-up jogging pants and a little red jug. We all packed for the trip home and stopped by the camp store on the way out to pick up some snacks for the ride.
“Well,” Rhonda told the park ranger at the counter, “not a Squatch in the vicinity.”
“No,” the ranger laughed, “but several campers reported strange sounds and disgusting smells near Building A last night.”
“I knew it!” Rhonda said as she subconsciously reached for her Polaroid.
John feebly approached the counter where we stood talking to the park ranger.
“Excuse me.” John said weakly to the ranger. “I was told you sell something for upset stomachs here but I can’t find it. Can you tell me what it looks like?”
“Sure.” the park ranger said as he pointed. “On the next aisle. It’s a liquid in a little red jug.”
Stuart M. Perkins