A Short Story on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

Light from the Lantern
by Rosemary Eskridge (Jan 2011)

         Who would go camping with only one lantern? It’s funny that when you pack to go camping, you try to think of everything you will need. Gordon, the avid fishing camper worked 7 to 3 every day; played slow pitch softball with the Tinker Testers from 4 to 6 and attended Central State University every evening from 7 to 10 except on weekends.

        Friday in late August, was Gordon’s last chance to go fishing before the fall semester started. Soon, weekends would be crammed with writing papers, preparing group presentations, studying for tests and “oh yeah”, his class in statistics with the nightmare teacher from Planet X.

        If we left by five, we would be able to drive the 100 miles to Medicine Lake in two hours, get the tent set up and be on the dock before dark (with any luck at all).

        Gordon mentally reviewed the list: tent, sleeping bags, pillows, air mattresses, snacks, fishing gear; matches, Coleman fuel, lantern, food, snacks, diapers for Jennifer who was three weeks old, life jacket for Samantha who was 18 months old, and a homemade red canoe tied on top of our red 68 Volkswagen Beetle.

        We arrived just at dusk. Gordon set up the tent, grabbed his fishing gear and lantern then headed with Larry his fishing partner to the dock just as the sun disappeared behind the mountain.

        Using the lights from the VW, I unpacked the rest of the car, filled the air mattresses, set the sleeping bags on top and brought Samantha and Jennifer into the tent. Samantha helped me zip up the tent, crawled into her sleeping bag and quickly went to sleep. Jennifer, all seven pounds six ounces, fell asleep lying on top of my sleeping bag with a blanket wrapped around her.

        Absolute darkness encompassed the tent located in this wooded area. It had turned pitch black with a million twinkling stars too far away to enable me to see. Just before the last ray of light disappeared I had rearranged everything for Jennifer so dry diapers and blankets were within my reach in the dark.

        Later I sat on the bed and leaned over to get Jennifer to snuggle with her but, to my shock, she was not where I had left her. I started patting the bedding hunting for her and felt everywhere at least twice. It was so dark that I could not see where I had laid her. I realized there were no infant breathing sounds audible in the tent. I screamed for Gordon to bring the lantern. He and Larry ran to the tent. When the lantern light filled the tent, Jennifer was nowhere to be seen.

        Gordon started feeling around carefully in the tent, and he found Jennifer. As I sat on the sleeping bag, she had rolled off between the air mattress and the wall of the tent. Jennifer never knew she was missing, but the next trip included two lanterns.

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