Tuesday, March 30, 2010
June 29th, 1984
I don't frighten easily. At least, scary movies generally don't bother me (The Exorcist is my favourite movie), scary TV shows don't bother me (the Wookie won't watch Medium at home alone), and I once planned to spend a night at a supposed "haunted" location with a couple of other university students until they chickened out (Google Mary Ellen Spook for details on the paranormal experiences at our planned destination). But I got a bit of a fright on my 21st birthday.
On my 21st birthday I was living in a small town, working for a small radio station, at my first job after graduating from university the month before. By chance, my very first boyfriend, Glen, lived in this town and we had become friends a few years after we had dated. Actually, his whole family kind of adopted me when I moved there.
But on my 21st birthday, my parents were living overseas and my then-boyfriend and I had broken up the week before. I wasn't exactly feeling like celebrating, but Glen insisted we do something for my birthday. So he picked me up at 6 when I was off the air and we drove across the Canso Causeway to pick up some lobster, then on to a beach in Saint Francis Harbour, close to where Glen and his family owned some land and a cottage. It was about a half hour drive from the town.
Glen was a boy scout and a scout leader so had packed the car with everything we needed. We had pots to cook the lobster in, rolls and butter, knives, forks and nut crackers to open the crustaceans once cooked, tons of paper towels and he even had a birthday cake. We arrived at the beach and dragged everything to a spit of land about a half mile from the car. On this spit of land was a copse of trees with a clearing in the centre and a camp fire area. We filled a pot with sea water, built a fire and put the water on to boil. Even at the end of June, it still took about an hour for the pot to come to a boil (the water is still close to freezing in the Canso Strait at the end of June). Eventually, the water boiled, we dumped in the lobster and within half an hour were eating the meat and rolls until we were almost stuffed.
We were there for a couple of hours and after the meal the two of us lay down in the sand to digest the feast, both of us with our heads on logs and our legs stretched before us. We were about 6 feet apart, the fire lighting the clearing as the sunlight had by this time completely disappeared, our tummies full, and the two of us quite relaxed and getting sleepy; my eyes were closed. A sound came from the trees; Glen spoke," What was that?" "A squirrel," I said.
After a few minutes, another sound from the trees, and again Glen spoke,"What is it?" "It's you trying to scare me by throwing rocks in the woods and making me think it's a bear or something," I replied. Then the two of us laughed. I had caught him.
A few more minutes passed in almost silence, the fire crackling. Another, bigger sound from the trees. "OK, it's not funny anymore"' Glen said, slightly scared and annoyed. "Look at me, Glen"' I said. "Do I look like I've moved a muscle in the past half hour?" My hands were folded on my tummy, I was laying on the sand, my head resting on a log. "Are you serious?" he asked. "Glen, I didn't throw anything into the trees, so it was either you or some other creature." We looked at each other, jumped up simultaneously, and began to throw all our gear into a couple of garbage bags to take back to the car.
That took all of 15 seconds to do and then I asked Glen where the flashlight was. He stopped dead. "In the car."
The man was a boy scout and leader. He packed everything you could think of for a lobster dinner, even getting birthday cake, plus he had thought of a great place for the meal: half a mile from the car with those really awkward round beach stones to break your ankles on as you climb over them. But he didn't bring the flashlight.
We were hearing more noises from the trees so had to act quickly. "Grab me some branches that have lots of twigs still on 'em," I told him as I rummaged for the paper towels. "The fire will give us some light until we get a certain distance away, then we'll just light one of these babies and run for as long as it stays lit," I said, wrapping paper towel around some of the twiggy branches.
Fear is kind of like chicken pox, contagious, though thankfully, not itchy. Glen's obvious fear of the noises in the dark was starting to freak me out. We began to run from the camp fire and the clearing in the trees with a couple of garbage bags in tow, banging around since they contained pots and utensils. We got so far and then stopped because we couldn't see. We lit one of my torches and then ran like crazy until it flamed out and we had to drop it. We lit the next one and ran like crazy until that one flamed out. We had one left and I wasn't sure it was going to get us back to the car in time or if we were going to be eaten by a bear. The third torch was lit and we double timed it, slipping on those round beach rocks, cursing as we went, clanging our garbage bags. As the third torch flamed out the two of us turned around to see how far we had come and in unison we screamed. There behind us we could see the still-burning embers of the torches, spaced at intervals like the devil's footprints leading back to the camp fire. Then we faced in the direction of the car and tried to make it out. Just barely could we see where it was. We ran, tripping and clanging, not even thinking that if anything had been chasing us, it would have been long since scared away by the noise and the torches.
We made it to the car, threw everything into the back, jumped into the front, and locked the doors. Glen started the car and we drove out of there like we were being chased by the devil himself. A few miles down the road we relaxed a little bit and started to giggle. By the time we got back to my place it was full body laughter. We finally settled on raccoon or squirrel or skunk as the creature that had made the sound in the trees.
We had a piece of birthday cake. And the following spring, I was a reader at Glen's wedding. I never told his wife, Sylvie, about my 21st birthday and I don't know if Glen ever did, but it was one of the funniest I've ever experienced.
Glen and Sylvie went on to have 5 or 6 kids.....I honestly lost track. Really nice folks, really nice family. But I suspect they always leave on a night light. I do.