The Camper

By Matthew Buza

On the edge of a thin tree line along a vacant gorge sat a camper nestled amongst the reeds and thistle. Through an open screen window and rustling shade were two bodies covered by a thin sheet. The bed hung four dirt stained feet, toes softly curling in the morning breeze.​​ 

The voice floated through the sheets, “Are you hungry sweetie?”

The little voice responded, “Yes mommy.”

She lifted herself over the child’s body and rubbed her toes in the frayed carpet. There were no lights in the camper. The morning light striped the walls through wooden shades. Dust swirled about her as she opened the cabinet and jiggled the nearly empty oatmeal can.​​ 

She called out to the girl who was rising from the pull down bed, “There’s oatmeal.” It had only been oatmeal for four days now. The girl nodded and began to run her hands through her brown hair, brushing out the sleep. She swayed gently as her arm crooked a wooden doll and her thin dress hung from her bony shoulders.

The woman pulled down the only two bowls left. Her other hand felt the weight of the can and she paused. She softly bit her chapped lips returning one of the bowls to the cabinet. Her voice pitched, “I’m not that hungry, so I’ll share with you.”

The girls eyes glanced up through her hair as she paused her brushing. She watched her mom fill the bowl with water from a jug. She pulled the steaming bowl of water from the microwave and carefully measured the oats, stirring the wet soup as she sat down at the couch. The girl nestled under the woman’s arm and slowly spooned the meal.​​ 

“Would you like some?” The mom looked down and hesitated. The girl met her eyes and smiled handing the spoon to her mom. The woman pulled from the bowl and ate carefully.​​ 

“This is better that yesterday’s,” said the mom.

“I like it more soupy, it feels like more.”

The mom reached across and flipped the power to the television. The shapes ran through filtered static but the audio could be heard, “...the depression continues countrywide as unemployment reaches historic numbers. Aid programs have been stripped of most of the available funds as many are arriving to the cities in search of provisions.”

“Mommy, why do we still listen to this?”

“It is good to know where we are.”​​ 

The spoon clinked in the bowl as the little eyes searched, “Is there more?”

The woman’s voice trailed to a whisper, “No sweetie, I’m sorry.”​​ 

The woman turned the TV off and rose from the couch and opened the cabinet. She sprinkled a handful of peanuts into her hand and sat down with the girl. They quietly broke the shells and ate in peace.

‘’What would you like to do today?”

“I was thinking we could go and plant those sunflower seeds we found. Over by the dam."

She stared out the blinds, “That sounds good. Go get ready and I'll get those seeds.”

The grass crunched under their naked feet as their locked hands swung in the air. The edge of the gorge was immense and was bordered by old pines clinging to the rock side. They stepped through a thicket and and the landscape opened to a clearing. The broken concrete dam sprawled over the span, cleaved in two by a deep gash. Water pooled at the base and the roar of the waterfall could be heard. A small garden was edged with bound willow reeds. Cut grass was mulched over the ground, protecting freshly planted seeds.​​ 

"Why don't you pick the spot.”

The girl ran to the edge of the garden and nestled down. She pulled back a pile of old leaves revealing the dark soil beneath. “We should put them here, so they get the sun.”

The two lifted the soil and carefully placed the handful of seeds into the ground. They folded the soil back over and patted it firm. A handful of the leaves were returned to cover their hidden treasure.

“When will they be ready to eat?”

“You will have to be patient, but maybe in a few months,” the woman shifted her body and gently nestled herself amongst the flowering dandelions. She took a deep breath and picked a yellow flower twirling it between her fingers.​​ 

The girl nodded, “That is a long time.”

“If something matters,” her mom smiled and looked up, “it often takes a long time. We will check them everyday, Ok?”

“Ok,” The girl scanned the garden.

“Why don’t you check on your other plantings and see if anything has sprouted.”

“But, we did that yesterday.”

“They could’ve come up in the evening when you were sleeping,” she reached out and pinched her daughters nose. The girls smooth face wrinkled from a smile and she giggled pulling away.

“Alright, I’ll look.” The little child walked carefully through the brown mulch sighting her branch stakes marking where she placed her seeds. She knelt down and carefully spread the cut grass looking for a bright green seedling to show against the black soil. She slowly walked down her crooked rows inspecting. She reached the end a green flash caught her eye.​​ 

“Mommy, I think one has sprouted!” The woman stood quickly and met her daughter. They looked down to the soil and carefully pulled back revealing the fetal sprout.

“Careful, don’t hurt it sweetie.” The woman was smiling from ear to ear.​​ 

“It’s a little baby plant.”

“It is, you’ll have to be a good mom to them. They will depend on you,” she met her daughters eyes and she ruffled her hair. “Cover it back up. I’m proud of what you’ve made here.”

They sat together on the edge of the gorge watching the morning sky turn to orange as the sun lifted and burned off the fog.​​ 

The girl sat in her mother’s lap and looked up, “It is going to be a pretty day.”

The mom nodded and pulled her daughter close.




About The Author

Part-time engineer, part-time farmer, part-time author, full-time stay at home dad. I’m a Podcast Junkie and addicted to storytelling and radio dramas. I have been known to dabble in the Belgian Trappist Beers.